Which football team does London support?

Arsenal vs Spurs, earlier this year. Image: Getty.

I’m sorry, but football’s not coming home. This is perhaps an even bigger grievance to me than you’d think, as I’d hoped this article would take advantage of the sudden interest in the sport that many of us have found over the last few weeks.

Nonetheless, I hope that football fans may find solace in another article about football – and that everyone else can find solace in another article about maps.

Back in 2013, Oxford University’s Internet Institute did a fantastic bit of work on localised football support. It aggregated the number of tweets about Premier League teams over the 2012 season, and mapped it out here. (Since the latest data is six years old, Crystal Palace don’t feature, but QPR do.)

I’ve had a play around with the website and tried to fit the postcode data more-or-less around the London boroughs to see what it says about which boroughs support which teams. (As the data is postcode-based, not population-based, you should take the results with a pinch of salt.)

Obviously, some of the results won’t come as much surprise – Islington supports Arsenal, Haringey supports Tottenham. More interesting, however, are the places with no local Premier League team – Westminster, Camden, Lambeth, for example.

Here’s what my comically mistimed research uncovered.

The boroughs, colour coded by football support. Image: Haydon Etherington.

North London isn’t red

“North London is red, red, red, red 
North London is red, red, red, red 
North London is red, red, red, red 
Red, red, red, red”

…is how Arsenal’s highly original chant goes, I’ve been informed.

Well, as well as a certain lack of lyrical flair, this ditty is based on a fairly misinformed premise. Tottenham saw off the opposition in 11 boroughs and around 60 postcodes, whereas the supposed rulers of North London managed a measly three boroughs, only twio of which are in the North.

This isn’t to say it’s all doom and gloom for the Gunners – they are the most popular team in 25 of London’s postcode areas. Unfortunately, this leaves them third place in a two-team game, coming behind their north London derby rivals Spurs, and east London’s West Ham.

Still, maybe Arsenal fans can console themselves with the fact it’s just Twitter data – you’re the silent majority, I’m sure.


The City can’t make up its mind

Of course, with its history of being just a bit different from the rest of London, the City couldn’t even decide on a football team to support.

Despite having a population of just 9,000 people, well below even the smallest borough, they manage to support 4 football teams equally: Arsenal, Spurs, West Ham and QPR.

Who else can’t make up their mind? Merton manages to hold together a coalition of warring factions, with equal support for the North London and Manchester Derby teams; whereas Greenwich is slightly less indecisive, and has a direct fight between West Ham and Spurs.

West Ham exists

Aston Villa West Ham ultra, David Cameron rejoice. Despite a spate of fairly average performances in successive Premier Leagues, West Ham dominates the east of the city. The Hammers have majority support in nine London boroughs and nearly a quarter of London’s nearly 250 postcode areas.

Even more surprising is that this feat was managed despite being relegated to the Championship for the 2011-12 season: talk about a recovery.

Curiously, the leafy suburbs of Richmond and Kingston support the team, despite being on the opposite side of the city. Which makes London a sort of West Ham sandwich.

Chelsea doesn’t support Chelsea; Fulham doesn’t support Fulham

One of the interesting quirks of the data is that the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea appears to (just about) support Spurs in more areas than it does Chelsea.

Something fans can take some pride in, however, is that neighbouring Hammersmith and Fulham don’t support their local team either – preferring to opt for Chelsea, even in the areas surrounding Craven Cottage.

The other of the West London teams in the Premier League at the time, QPR, didn’t manage to get a single borough, picking up only 11 postcodes spread across the city.

So much for local pride.

South London doesn’t much like London

Speaking of which, South London doesn’t seem to really support London at all. Both Manchester teams enjoy a dedicated support base across the South, with Man City topping the list in Croydon and Sutton, while Lambeth opts for Man United.

West London is not much more loyal. There, despite pockets of support for London teams, we see support for Man City in Hounslow and Everton in Ealing (I know, I’m surprised too).

A table summarising the full results. 

It doesn’t look like this has much to do with how central you are: 11 out of 12 of the inner London boroughs support local teams (although Greenwich isn’t clear-cut, it’s definitely between Spurs and West Ham), whilst 15 out of 20 of the outer boroughs support London clubs. That’s about 90 per cent of inner boroughs vs 80 per cent of outer boroughs.

More likely is that the proximity to a Premier League team determines both support, and the enthusiasm for London football with which this is associated. The boroughs home to Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham, QPR, Tottenham and West Ham all support a London team; so do most of their neighbours. But none of these lay south of the river.

If the Institute were to conduct the study again, we may well find that the inclusion of a South London team gives us a slightly different picture.

 
 
 
 

What's actually in the UK government’s bailout package for Transport for London?

Wood Green Underground station, north London. Image: Getty.

On 14 May, hours before London’s transport authority ran out of money, the British government agreed to a financial rescue package. Many details of that bailout – its size, the fact it was roughly two-thirds cash and one-third loan, many conditions attached – have been known about for weeks. 

But the information was filtered through spokespeople, because the exact terms of the deal had not been published. This was clearly a source of frustration for London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who stood to take the political heat for some of the ensuing cuts (to free travel for the old or young, say), but had no way of backing up his contention that the British government made him do it.

That changed Tuesday when Transport for London published this month's board papers, which include a copy of the letter in which transport secretary Grant Shapps sets out the exact terms of the bailout deal. You can read the whole thing here, if you’re so minded, but here are the three big things revealed in the new disclosure.

Firstly, there’s some flexibility in the size of the deal. The bailout was reported to be worth £1.6 billion, significantly less than the £1.9 billion that TfL wanted. In his letter, Shapps spells it out: “To the extent that the actual funding shortfall is greater or lesser than £1.6bn then the amount of Extraordinary Grant and TfL borrowing will increase pro rata, up to a maximum of £1.9bn in aggregate or reduce pro rata accordingly”. 

To put that in English, London’s transport network will not be grinding to a halt because the government didn’t believe TfL about how much money it would need. Up to a point, the money will be available without further negotiations.

The second big takeaway from these board papers is that negotiations will be going on anyway. This bail out is meant to keep TfL rolling until 17 October; but because the agency gets around three-quarters of its revenues from fares, and because the pandemic means fares are likely to be depressed for the foreseeable future, it’s not clear what is meant to happen after that. Social distancing, the board papers note, means that the network will only be able to handle 13 to 20% of normal passenger numbers, even when every service is running.


Shapps’ letter doesn’t answer this question, but it does at least give a sense of when an answer may be forthcoming. It promises “an immediate and broad ranging government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and future financial structure”, which will publish detailed recommendations by the end of August. That will take in fares, operating efficiencies, capital expenditure, “the current fiscal devolution arrangements” – basically, everything. 

The third thing we leaned from that letter is that, to the first approximation, every change to London’s transport policy that is now being rushed through was an explicit condition of this deal. Segregated cycle lanes, pavement extensions and road closures? All in there. So are the suspension of free travel for people under 18, or free peak-hours travel for those over 60. So are increases in the level of the congestion charge.

Many of these changes may be unpopular, but we now know they are not being embraced by London’s mayor entirely on their own merit: They’re being pushed by the Department of Transport as a condition of receiving the bailout. No wonder Khan was miffed that the latter hadn’t been published.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.