I love waking up on Saturday, making a pot of coffee, and watching the EPL while the eloquent British announcers wax poetic about the best teams in the world.
But, I’m an American, and I have no real allegiance to any one club. This makes my mornings relaxing, because I am just there to watch good matches. But I’d like to feel a bit closer to a team, and to do it based on something more than which All or Nothing I watched most recently.
To that end, I analyzed the fanbases active on each Premier League team’s subreddit. From the league-leading Arsenal’s r/Gunners to Southampton’s r/SaintsFC at the bottom of the table, I sampled ~1,000 users who had commented on the team’s subreddit, and then looked at which other subreddits those users commented on. Do Chelsea’s fans tend to comment in Political subreddits? Are Leeds fans into standup comedy? I wanted to find how each club indexed on different interests.
This method isn’t perfect. It only captures users based on their comments, which is a small percentage of users on reddit. And it makes the assumption that users that comment in a team’s subreddit are fans of that club (and not, for example, fans of a rival). But, I think it gives good visibility into some interesting characteristics of each team’s fanbases.
Find your EPL team based on your interests
You can play with the data here. Pick a subreddit you’re interested in, and see the teams ranked by their fanbase’s interest in that subreddit. Interested in gardening? You might be a future Nottingham Forest or Newcastle fan.
The Most Popular Subreddits for Premier League Fans Overall
I analyzed the data to get a sense of each team’s fanbases’ interests. To start, we can look at the subreddits that were most popular with the from all the teams’ fans in aggregate. The results makes sense: r/soccer is the most popular, followed by r/Askreddit which is one of the biggest subreddits. A few UK-specific subreddits follow, including r/CasualUK which I had never heard of and seems like a nice place for British people to talk about being British.
In general, the top subreddits are what I would expect: the biggest subreddits related to soccer and the UK are represented, along with some other sports subreddits.
It is more interesting to understand the differences between the clubs, and to see which subreddits fans of each club post in with irregular frequency.
What are the most popular subreddits for fans of each Premier League team?
I used the excellent Tidy Log Odds R package to analyze which subreddits are disproportionately favored by different fanbases. In essence, the analysis surfaces the subreddits that a given team’s fans comment in more frequently than fans of other teams.
As an example, commenters on r/NUFC, the biggest Newcastle United subreddit, also disproportionately comment in r/NewcastleUponTyne, r/nufcirclejerk, r/NewCastleUnited, r/Leeds, and r/DIYUK:
This makes sense: lots of Newcastle fans live in Newcastle and so are more engaged with r/NewcastelUponTyne than the average premier league fan.
Things become more interesting when we remove the subreddits related to the cities the teams are in (which are obvious) and can see the fanbases’ more nuanced preferences. Below are the results for the current top 9 in the league, with subreddits related to the clubs’ cities removed:
Some interesting patterns emerge:
- Brentford and Brighton fans are disproportionately likely to comment in UK-related subreddits like r/CasualUK and r/AskUK. This makes sense to me: of the top 9, they are the clubs with the lowest international profile, so their fans are more likely to be British.
- Fans of the “Big 6” (Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City, and Man United) as well as Everton disproportionately comment in subreddits related to countries outside the UK.
- In the case of Tottenham, r/Korea is the most heavily favored subreddit which I have to assume is due to Korean national Heung-Min Son’s immense popularity.
- Everton fans comment disproportionately in subreddits for American sports teams, perhaps because Americans Tim Howard and Landon Donovan played there and inspired fandom in the US.
- The biggest clubs’ fans overindex on Asian subreddits, especially India and Singapore. I am curious to what extent the clubs target specific markets as they look to expand their global footprint.
The global nature of the biggest clubs’ fanbases is unsurprising to me but it is cool to see how cleanly it plays out in the data. Looking the relative popularity of r/AskUK, a subreddit where people can ask questions about life in the United Kingdom, is illustrative. The biggest clubs are at the bottom 6, while clubs that have smaller fanbases (presumably with much smaller international fanbases) are at the top.
I am very curious to understand how clubs grow their fanbases in foreign markets. I expect TV deals are a big part of it, and perhaps exhibition matches. If anyone has any insight, let me know.
These are the favored subreddits for the rest of the league. It’s fun to look through these and imagine what is driving them. For example, is snooker more popular in the north of England, and so more popular with Leeds fans? Do Leicester City fans really do a lot of drugs? One wonders.
Thanks for reading! If you have any thoughts or questions about the article, email me at joe @ this website or reach out on twitter.
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