There is no doubting what part Social Media plays currently in our day to day lives and that statement is arguably most apparent when it comes to Football. The world of Football on Social Media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can be a particularly murky one with tribalism at the forefront with each set of results that pass.
Each of the 20 Premier League clubs has its own weekend army so to speak but just how well could they be mobilised? I’ve analysed the correlation between a club’s stadium size and the amount of Social Media followers that they possess.
First let’s look at the capacities of each of the 20 clubs in the Premier League this season and to make it more interesting I’m going to rank from largest to smallest
|Tottenham Hotspur||Wembley Stadium||90,000|
|Manchester United||Old Trafford||74,994|
|West Ham United||London Stadium||60,000|
|Manchester City||Etihad Stadium||55,017|
|Newcastle United||St James’ Park||52,354|
|Southampton||St Mary’s Stadium||32,384|
|Leicester City||King Power Stadium||32,273|
|Brighton & Hove Albion||Falmer Stadium||30,666|
|Stoke City||bet365 Stadium||30,089|
|West Bromwich Albion||The Hawthorns||26,688|
|Crystal Palace||Selhurst Park||25,456|
|Huddersfield Town||John Smith’s Stadium||24,169|
|Swansea City||Liberty Stadium||21,088|
Tottenham fans may be able to take some joy at the fact that they are finally top of a league. Unfortunately for them it’s not the one they would have wanted, not only that but they’ve had to move to Wembley for a season in the process.
That said even when the move to their new home is complete they will still become the London club with the highest stadium capacity with their new digs set to house no fewer than 61,559, something that will undoubtedly raise the ire of Arsenal fans.
But how does the size of the stadium compare to the number of followers on Facebook for example. The Premier League may be an English league in name but there is no doubting that it is a competition followed by all corners of the globe and this can be reflected by the follower base of some of the countries biggest clubs.
Here is the Premier League table if it was ranked in order of Facebook followers:
|Manchester United||Old Trafford||73,726,286|
|Manchester City||Etihad Stadium||25,327,737|
|Tottenham Hotspur||Wembley Stadium||8,463,365|
|Leicester City||King Power Stadium||6,691,354|
|Newcastle United||St James’ Park||2,138,147|
|West Ham United||London Stadium||2,055,710|
|Southampton||St Mary’s Stadium||1,665,342|
|Swansea City||Liberty Stadium||1,341,599|
|Stoke City||bet365 Stadium||1,303,269|
|Crystal Palace||Selhurst Park||1,045,173|
|West Bromwich Albion||The Hawthorns||751,147|
|Brighton & Hove Albion||Falmer Stadium||196,569|
|Huddersfield Town||John Smith’s Stadium||93,237|
It probably comes as no surprise that the ‘Big 6’ clubs in the division also fill the top six spots in this table but the fact that Leicester have the 7th largest Facebook following will certainly raise some eyebrows. The cynic in me would suggest they are still riding on the crest of the wave after their league success back in 2016.
The next question is how do these two league tables compare when placed next to each other and just what correlation there is between the size of a stadium and the amount of Facebook followers a club currently possesses.
If we rank the two metrics together in this chart we can see how they side by side (rank 1 for largest, rank 20 for smallest)
|Team||Capacity Rank||Facebook Rank|
|West Ham United||3||10|
|Brighton & Hove Albion||12||19|
|West Bromwich Albion||14||15|
But how would that look if we were to put the data in a graph showing the variance between the two charts. Which club benefits from having such a large Facebook following in relation to the size of their stadium
As you can see Chelsea and Swansea have a far greater Facebook following than in relation to their stadium size. The defending Premier League champions may only have the eighth largest stadium in the country, but they have the second largest amount of Facebook fans. This suggests that the club has a global reach with supporters in every corner of the globe.
While Swansea’s Liberty Stadium may be 18th largest ground, one that would put them in the relegation zone if Football was won or lost by bricks and mortar alone, that said they do have the 12th largest following on Facebook. This could be down to a more concentrated fanbase in South Wales with few geographical rivals vying for fans attention.
While Leicester once again seem to buck the trend as their Facebook following is four places higher than that of their stadium size. The King Power is the 11th largest ground in the division but they rank seventh in terms of followers. It’s amazing what a league title win can do for your image.
Spare a thought for West Ham who may well have the third biggest ground in the Premier League but just like their exploits on the pitch this graph does not make for particularly good reading. They have the joint biggest disparity between ground size and followers on Facebook. You could make the argument that their current home is perhaps too big for them and should they get relegated at the end of the season the situation would only worsen.
Another way to look at the correlation between stadium size and Facebook followers is to see just how many times you could fit a clubs Social Media metric into the ground on any give matchday.
On the assumption that all these teams are playing at home then this is how many times over you could fill each of the twenty grounds with their followers on Facebook.
Chelsea may be the defending Premier League champions and they also top this chart. Antonio Conte’s side could fill Stamford Bridge a staggering 1153 times over with all their 48m plus followers. This extra statistic perhaps lends extra credence to the fact that they are planning to make their current home a lot bigger to keep up with their top six rivals.
As mentioned early Tottenham have moved to Wembley this season and therefore they have a much lower capacity to follower’s ratio than that of teams that currently sit near in the Premier League. In comparison Spurs can only fill the national stadium 94 times with everyone who has hit like on Facebook.
To give that statistic some extra credence if they were still at White Hart Lane then with their current social media standing they would have been able to fill that ground 233 times. An increase but still 920 times lower than that of Stamford Bridge and Chelsea.
Second in the table in real life and in this chart, are Manchester United. Their 73m plus followers would be able to fill out Old Trafford 983 times If they all attempted to get a ticket on the same afternoon. To get the better of Chelsea in this list they would require another 12 million followers to the huge amount they already have.
Manchester City may well be running away with matters in the Premier League at present, but they do not have things all their own way as find themselves fifth in the capacity vs followers ratio table. They can fill the Etihad 460 times with all their fans have ticked follow on their Facebook page. Still some way short of their crosstown rivals United.
But what about the teams at the other end of the scale. The bottom two spots are filled by newly promoted clubs with Brighton and Huddersfield sitting at the foot of the table. Chris Hughton’s Brighton side also had the joint highest disparity between stadium size and Facebook following and they fare little better here.
The AMEX would only be filled six times what with the 200,000 followers that they currently possess, thankfully for them their standing on the pitch is a lot better as they currently find themselves 9th in the Premier League table.
However, it is Huddersfield that sit at the foot of the table as the John Smith’s Stadium could only be filled four times with their current social standing. Once again though they will be glad that their on-pitch performances do not reflect their savviness in the digital world. These figures give credence to the fact that both Brighton and Huddersfield are most definitely punching above their weight right now.
If the season ended today and we handed out the prizes based on the above metric then it would be another success for Chelsea while Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool would have to make do with a place in the Champions League next season.
Manchester City would only have the Europa League for comfort while being joined by Leicester and Tottenham. Spare a thought for Burnley who along with Brighton and Huddersfield would face the drop.
But it’s not just Facebook in which the 20 Premier League clubs can mobilise an army of fans as other such popular platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat being used on a frequent basis by a majority of the teams in the English top flight.
Each of the 20 teams has a Twitter an Instagram account which is used to it’s fullest effect in a bid to keep fans up to date with the latest goings on with their favourite clubs and 18 of the 20 also utilise the messaging app Snapchat, that said there are two very notable exceptions.
Brighton may well have been promoted to the Premier League this season, but they are still lacking in the social media department. That is because they are yet to register a Snapchat account on the South Coast and are still giving up ground to the nearest rivals.
That means there is one other team that does not feel the need to Snapchat its fans and surprisingly it is Manchester United. They may well top the charts when it comes to Facebook, but they are bottom of the table when it comes to Snapchat.
Although the club do not have an official account their players do tend to be very active on their own individual accounts so perhaps the powers that be in the United hierarchy do not feel the need to set up a club branded one.
Manchester United may well have scored an Own Goal when it comes to logging onto Snapchat but they have done the double as far as Facebook and Twitter are concerned as they also have the most Twitter followers of all the 20 Premier League teams.
Here is the Premier League table if it was solely based on people clicking follow on the respective Twitter accounts:
|West Ham United||1,330,000|
|West Bromwich Albion||766,000|
|Brighton & Hove Albion||157,259|
It probably comes as no real surprise as to the fact that the Big 6 dominate the top spots in the Twitter table, the worldwide platform gives access to fans across the continents and Manchester United seem to do that the best with just short of 16million followers.
Arsenal are well known for their Social Media presence especially when it comes to voting for such polls as Match Of The Day’s ‘Goal Of The Season’ they have a very respectable 12.3million followers on Twitter and it comes as no surprise that brands such as ArsenalFan TV have been such a runaway success over the past couple of seasons.
Spare a thought once again for newly promoted Brighton and Huddersfield who sit bottom of the Twitter table, but as teams who are making their debut in the Premier League this is not to be unexpected. Should they go on to be established top flight clubs in years to come then there is no reason why their follower base cannot increase.
That gives us a snapshot of how many Twitter followers a Premier League team has but at the same time just how willing are clubs to give a like back in return.
If we now look at the amount of accounts the 20 clubs follow and a ratio to their own amount of followers
|Team||Twitter Following||Follow to Follow|
|Brighton & Hove Albion||157,259||279||0.177%|
|West Bromwich Albion||766,000||930||0.121%|
|West Ham United||1,330,000||230||0.017%|
When we ranked the percentage of accounts followed back in relation to their own followers from top the bottom then we see the above results.
Liverpool have been criticised as of late for having a leaky defence and this no different here as they follow back a hefty 386,000 accounts in return. That is a follow for follow ratio of 4.25% that perhaps does not sound all a great deal but when you compare it to the other 19 clubs in the division then they are streets ahead.
They and Arsenal are the only two clubs to follow back more than 100,000 accounts while only four clubs follow back more than 1,000. It seems as if you have to be someone pretty special to get a follow back from a Premier League club account.
While if we look at the lower end of the spectrum the gatekeepers of the accounts of both Chelsea and Manchester United do not seem to be in the mood for reciprocating any follows. The current league champions only follow back 255 accounts, making up 0.002% of their Twitter following.
While the Red Devils are even more stingy when it comes to sharing the Social Media love, they currently only follow back 104 accounts. Making up a miniscule 0.001% of their own Twitter following.
But there are two clubs that are even more tougher to please when it comes to following back, Newcastle only follow a minute 93 accounts while Leicester are the meanest of the lot when it comes to reciprocating follows. They like just 66 Twitter accounts in return, a ratio of 0.006%
Analysing the data certainly tells a very interesting story but a question also needs to be asked. That being just what responsibility Social Media accounts run by football clubs need to take. There is no doubting that fans are tribal that what makes the game as beautiful as it is but it can have a habit of rearing it’s ugly head at times.
You only have to look at furore caused after the North London derby when the official account replied to a tweet the day before with a tongue in cheek caption of Mesut Ozil. The reply was in jest after a journalist commented on a Spurs/Arsenal XI with just 11 players from last season’s runners up.
It was a humoured response from whoever was runners the Arsenal Twitter account that day but unfortunately a lot of their fans then jumped on that reply to start sending a tirade of unjustified abuse at the journalist of the original comment.
That is where Social Media can turn dark and with following’s bigger than some countries Premier League clubs do have to be mindful of just what they send out on their Social Media plaftorms, that said at the same time they cannot be responsible for policing the accounts of 10million or so users.
You only have to look at the reach the tweet in question received – at the time of writing it has received just under 7,000 retweets and 15,000 likes. That’s 0.13% of their followers who have taken the time to like that tweet and there is no doubting that many more would have raised a chuckle also.
But for the ills that Twitter and Social Media by extension may offer from time to time there is no doubting that it is a powerful tool that has made clubs far more accessible in this day and that can only be a good thing.
Not only that but Arsenal know what it is like to be on the wrong end of some Twitter humour, you only have to go back to March to witness them getting suitably trolled by the official Bayern Munich account after their 10-2 aggregate thrashing in the Champions League.
If we divert our attention to Instagram then Manchester United are on course for an unprecedented treble, as they record a clean sweep of being top of all three platforms. Who needs a Snapchat account when just about everything else has been covered.
Here is what the Premier League table would look like if it was played out on Instagram
|West Ham United||475,000|
|West Bromwich Albion||165,000|
|Brighton & Hove Albion||71,200|
Manchester City may be miles clear in the race for the Premier League but there is no doubting that Manchester United have won this one at a canter, they have nearly 20million followers and have more than 9million more than the second largest followed club which is Chelsea.
There is no doubting that Manchester United have a strong Social Media game and one that matches that arguably out performs their current on pitch exploits while once again it is Leicester who buck the trend of the teams who currently lie in the top 6 of the actual league table.
The question is whether the ‘Big 6’ continue to mop up fans from around the globe with more and more success that follows, it’s only natural that teams that win trophies will get increased support but just how much of a chasm will we begin to see?
At the end of the day though it is not Social Media in which the trophies are won and lost it’s on the pitch and whoever you support there is still plenty of football to be played this season and I’m sure there will be an abundance of likes and shares to go with it.