Football. The centre of the sporting world for most, the core of the sporting universe for many. The beautiful game draws in fans from across the globe. Whether it is a Burnley fan in Algeria with a penchant for Robbie Blake or a Middlesbrough fan in Bangladesh re-enacting that famous Fabrizio Ravanelli celebration, it is fair to say that football is a truly global game.
However, just how far does the incredibly long arm of the Premier League stretch? With the top flight boasting an incredible 1.2 billion fans we looked to the 2 billion Facebook users in a bid to finally uncover which Premier League club has the world’s biggest fanbase and just whereabouts the majority of team’s supporters live.
On a basic level, it comes as no surprise that the club with the most Facebook fans is Manchester United. The Red Devils dominate the social media sphere and their fanatical support, the highest concentration of which are in Tunisia, totals an incredible 95 million on Facebook alone. That is more than double that of Arsenal and pretty much triple the amount that their arch rivals Liverpool have accumulated on the networking sight. Bragging rights to Manchester.
Perhaps surprisingly, it is Chelsea who sit in second behind Jose Mourinho’s men in the Facebook league table, still a massive 20 million fans off the pace, but over 30 million ahead of the Gunners in third. Nevertheless, when their influence is compared with that of United on a worldwide scale, it becomes pertinently clear just how much of a monopoly the north-west club hold.
The Pensioners are big in Brazil, where they outweigh United but the Premier League’s most successful club can count the remaining parts of South America as their own. The rest of the Americas, the whole of the Middle East and the entirety of Australasia, bar the Philippines and New Zealand, see United fans outnumber those of a Blue persuasion.
Gianfranco Zola has claimed Italy in the name of Stamford Bridge, while, now ironically, Jose Mourinho has done the same for Portugal, but Europe is United’s too. They may not be as dominant on the pitch as they once were but the Red Devils’ influence off the field has not waned in the slightest.
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West Brom have gate-crashed the top half of the Premier League this term under Tony Pulis and they are doing just the same on Facebook, sitting pretty in ninth with an impressive 7.5 million followers. Not bad for an area of under 140,000 people.
The Premier League is often seen on British shores as very much ‘our’ competition but the stats beg to differ. It may be that the teams who compete in the ‘greatest league in the world’ reside in the UK but a quick glance at the concentration of clubs’ supporters across the world shows that, in fact, only two top flight teams, Bournemouth and Crystal Palace, have their largest popiulation of fans based in the UK.
Weirdly, it is Senegal who top the charts. Maybe it has something to do with the El Hadji Diouf and Salif Diao-led wave of imports after the 2002 World Cup, maybe they can’t get enough of seeing John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi struggle with the art of defending, but the African country is home to the highest concentration of Manchester City, Southampton, Everton and Stoke supporters on the planet.
Another strange trend displays Croatia’s love for English football, with three of England’s elite having the core of their support in the country. The names of Tottenham and West Ham can be explained through the means of Luka Modric and Slaven Bilic but the Croatians hankering for Swansea City must have to be put down to an unerring love of a pristine white kit and Lee Trundle.
It may well be a case of the players bringing a club to a nation, Liverpool’s power in Uruguay and Finland surely has something to do with Messrs Suarez and Hyppia, or it may just be down to a club’s historical success, but the Premier League’s power and status around the world is phenomenal. It truly is the world’s favourite league.