Manchester United lead social numbers in Premier League clubs' global support

It is a myth that London has more Manchester United supporters than other clubs.

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Social media has overtaken the terraces for football debate and opened up brand new avenues for fans to follow their club. After sourcing data on the activity of over 1.2 billion football fans via Facebook Audience Insights, we can reveal how each Premier League club's support fares locally, and around the world.

England's top flight is not only the world's most watched league, but also the most diverse in terms of player nationality. Its overall reach mammoths that of any other football nation and this study shows there is no limit to where the support of all 20 clubs can go.

What do supporter trends tell us? In the UK, the results help to defeat some familiar myths around where fans might reside, and surprise us regarding who the most supported teams in certain areas actually are.

  • Out of the two big Merseyside clubs, it is Liverpool with the greater social fan base around town by quite some distance - 467% higher than the UK average. Despite significantly trailing their more decorated rivals, Everton's fanbase are still 2.5 times as likely to reside in Liverpool than the rest of the UK.
  • A popular tease among football fans is that more of Manchester United's support reside in London than Manchester, however the location of their Facebook fans reveals you are one-fifth less likely to be a United fan in the capital than the UK average, and over 100% less likely than someone who lives in Manchester.
  • People in Manchester are 93% more likely than the rest of the UK to support the Red Devils. However, you are twice as likely to meet a United fan in either Salford or Ashton-Under-Lyne as you are in Manchester.

Globally, with a little more insight, we see strong connections between the clubs and countries that can be traced back to famous ex-players, legendary coaches and other lesser-known stories.

  • Portugal has the highest concentration of Chelsea fans globally (275%)
  • Chelsea's most decorated manager will have contributed to the rapport between club and home nation, but so will the club's legacy of talented Portuguese players: José Bosingwa, Ricardo Carvalho, Deco, Paulo Ferreira, Henrique Hilario, Maniche, Nuno Morais, Filipe Oliveira, Ricardo Quaresma, Tiago Mendes.
  • The Portuguese speaking nation of Brazil also ranks highly for Chelsea fans. Since 1999, Chelsea have signed 14 Brazilian players, including three currently in the first team squad.
  • Uruguay has the highest concentration of Liverpool fans globally (600% average), twice as many as second-placed Ireland (300%).
  • Luis Suarez, one of Uruguay's greatest modern exports, gave the reds plenty of fond memories. Thanks to Liverpool's exports of coal being shipped in the opposite direction, the South American nation actually created its own Liverpool Futbol Club who have donned red kits in dedication since the 2005-06 season.

While the data does not correlate with what some fans might have perceived about their club's fellow supporters, we can also see plenty of logical links between the popular locations of Premier League supporters due to events from their colourful history.

The Premier League boasts an estimated 1.2bn fans worldwide, but how does its online following fare among each club? Using data from Facebook's two billion users, new research has uncovered where each of England's top flight team's strongest and weakest support lies.

This is a slightly more advanced data gathering that Facebook Audience Insights use, based on fans interacting with the club's pages - i.e. liking posts, sharing and tagging them - not just liking the actual page. So the numbers are higher than simply how many Facebook likes each club's page has.

1 Manchester United 95m
Chelsea 75m
Arsenal 42.5m
Liverpool 32.5m
Manchester City 32.5m
Tottenham Hotspur 22.5m
Everton 8.5m
Southampton 7.5m
West Bromwich Albion 7.5m
Leicester City 6.5m
West Ham United 6.5m
Crystal Palace 2.8m
Stoke City 2.8m
Sunderland 2.8m
Middlesbrough 2.3m
Hull City 1.8m
Swansea City 1.8m
Watford 1.3m
Bournemouth 750k
Burnley 750k

This article was first published on January 9, 2017