“Big” clubs not popular

September 19 ~ Since 1997 we have been measuring, via the WSC survey, readers’ liking or disliking of 24 clubs ranging in size from Cowdenbeath to Real Madrid. We have posed the same question of the same list of clubs in 1997,1999, 2004 and 2014, merely asking for a tick in either the like or dislike column or leaving blank if no opinion either way. You have probably waited long enough to find out what, if anything, we have learned. The 24 clubs can be reasonably divided into two equal groups of clubs with "international” or “local" appeal.

And there are two measures of interest: how many people offer an opinion (the size of the image), and the balance of opinion (the likeability of the club). On the size of the image there is a clear finding.

The “international” clubs provoke more opinions in 2014 than in 1997, in aggregate by 13 per cent, while the “local" clubs inspire ten per cent fewer opinions. Given the increased and extensive media coverage of major clubs through pay-TV and the Champions League this is no surprise. The big winners in terms of size of image are the Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona and the now post-Abramovich Chelsea. Juventus and AC Milan by contrast have scarcely moved. Manchester Utd and Newcastle Utd show declines of around ten per cent.

Among the “local” clubs Middlesbrough, then in their Juninho pomp, show the steepest decline of 29 per cent while Hull City have climbed by 11 per cent. Wimbledon too have fallen. When in the Premier League WSC readers’ interest in the Dons was twice the level of Real Madrid: now it is equal.

The scores on likeability show what is driving the increase in the size of the image of “international” clubs: it’s dislike. In aggregate these clubs are 66 per cent more disliked now than in 1997 while the aggregate likeability of the “local" clubs is essentially unchanged. Chelsea lead the charge here having wrested the title of most disliked club from Manchester Utd but Liverpool, Newcastle, Real Madrid and even perennial fan-favourites Barcelona and Celtic all fall back on this measure. By far the best performer here is the post-Wenger Arsenal with an improvement of 30 per cent points to plus seven per cent. Is there more stable and gentlemanly image producing a small dividend here?

Among the “local” clubs only Blackburn’s likeability has noticeably declined, perhaps due to the Venky’s era of management. Partick’s struggle to stay alive and then reach the Scottish Premiership drew some support. Middlesbrough’s position has improved to one of indifference as they have lost their nouveau riche Premier League aura while the only obvious factor to account for Hartlepool’s rise is their constant promotion by Sky’s Jeff Stelling.

Overall there appears to be a lot of negativity out there for the eternal big-money clubs and clubs that fail to show what might be termed as class in their public profile and dealings. These trends and figures beg the question: to what extent do we follow matches on TV in order to see the teams we know lose rather than win? Roger Titford

Further analysis of the 2014 WSC survey can be found in WSC 332, on sale now





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