What Makes a ‘Big’ Club?

The lunacy of the FIFA rankings system (that currently sees England ranked higher than Brazil and Argentina) should be enough to demonstrate the point that there is more to listing teams than current results and a complicated matrix.  However, being fond of a treat, rather than try to improve the FIFA system for international teams, lets take a look at English club sides.

What makes a ‘big club’ is a source of constant debate amongst football fans, with “We’ve won six FA Cups” often being countered by “We’ve won the league more than you” and “Our ground is bigger than yours.”

Whilst it is obvious that Manchester United are a bigger club than Rochdale (no offence Dale fans), are third tier Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday bigger than Premier League Wigan Athletic?  Does Preston North End’s history make them a bigger club than Norwich City?

The notion of being a so called ‘big club’ is relatively new, linked the excessive hype that is given to the modern game.  It is however also a come back for supporters of clubs that may have a glorious past who may be struggling in the modern game.

What is needed to settle this argument is a spreadsheet and some maths.  Listing all 92 league clubs was the easy part, deciding what factors to consider and how to weight them was slightly more difficult.  Is a league title win in the 1800s as relevant as making a Champions League final in the modern game?  Does an average attendance from the all-seater era have any more relevance than the figure from the 1980s?  After finding a source of information in the guise of the wonderful the European Football Statistics website, the following formula was devised.

An average attendance from seven seasons, starting with the most recent (2011), going back in five year steps (2006, 2001, 1996) and then ten year steps (1986, 1976 and 1966).  Points are awarded per thousand, so an average attendance of 23,000 equates to 23 points.  Figures are rounded up or down to the nearest thousand.

Number of league title wins (2 points per title)

Number of FA Cup wins (2 points per win)

Number of FA Cup runner ups (1 point per final)

Number of League Cup wins (1 point per win)

Number of European Cup/Champions League wins (5 points per win)

Number of European Cup/Champions League runner ups (2 points per final)

Number of UEFA Cup/Fairs Cup wins (3 points per win)

Number of UEFA Cup/Fairs Cup runner ups (1 point per final)

Number of Cup Winner’s Cup wins (3 points per win)

Number of Cup Winner’s Cup runner ups (1 point per final)

Number of seasons in European competition (1 point per season)

Divisions the club has been in the last twenty seasons

  • 1.00      point per Premier League season
  • 0.75      points per Championship or equivalent season
  • 0.50      points per League One or equivalent season
  • 0.25      points per League Two or equivalent season

Taking in to account recent history with regards to what division a club has played in goes some way to balance the argument that some clubs with an illustrious past will have an inflated score.

After feeding all of those figures in to the Footy Ramblings super computer, also know as Microsoft Excel, the final results are as follows.

1 Manchester United 204.3
2 Liverpool 202
3 Arsenal 147.3
4 Everton 108.1
5 Aston Villa 106.1
6 Chelsea 105.9
7 Tottenham 103
8 Newcastle United 102
9 Manchester City 86.36
10 Leeds United 85.86
11 Sunderland 66.36
12 Nottingham Forest 65.32
13 Blackburn Rovers 64.96
14 Wolverhampton Wanderers 64.46
15 West Ham United 64.11
16 West Bromwich Albion 57.86
17 Sheffield Wednesday 56.93
18 Ipswich Town 53.96
19 Derby County 50.75
20 Bolton Wanderers 47.64
21 Southampton 46.29
22 Sheffield United 46.29
23 Middlesbrough 44.36
24 Leicester City 43.43
25 Portsmouth 42.75
26 Birmingham City 40.82
27 Coventry City 39.5
28 Burnley 38.29
29 Norwich City 38.14
30 Preston North End 35.75
31 Stoke City 35.54
32 Huddersfield Town 35.11
33 Charlton Atheltic 34.21
34 Queens Park Rangers 34.07
35 Fulham 33.18
36 Crystal Palce 32.68
37 Cardiff City 31.54
38 Watford 28.29
39 Reading 25.75
40 Bristol City 25.25
41 Millwall 24.75
42 Barnsley 24.54
43 Brighton & Hove Albion 23.64
44 Blackpool 23.46
45 Wigan Athletic 22.17
46 Hull City 21.86
47 Bradford City 21.64
48 Swindon Town 21.43
49 Plymouth Argyle 20.64
50 Swansea 19.82
51 Oldham Athletic 18.82
52 Notts County 18.64
53 Port Vale 16.29
54 Oxford United 16.14
55 Gillingham 15.93
56 Bristol Rovers 15.71
57 Bury 15.39
58 Walsall 15.32
59 Southend United 15.32
60 Brentford 15.07
61 Crewe Alexandra 15.04
62 Chesterfield 15
63 Peterborough United 14.82
64 Rotherham United 14.14
65 AFC Bournemouth 14.11
66 Northampton Town 14
67 Tranmere Rovers 13.64
68 Carlisle United 13.32
69 Leyton Orient 12.25
70 Colchester United 12.07
71 Wycombe Wanderers 11.65
72 Doncaster Rovers 11.32
73 Scunthorpe United 11.21
74 Hartlepool United 10.79
75 MK Dons 10.17
76 Shrewsbury Town 10.04
77 Exeter City 8.857
78 Torquay United 8
79 Rochdale 7.964
80 Yeovil Town 7.1
81 Hereford United 6.667
82 Cheltenham Town 6.6
83 Barnet 6.45
84 Macclesfield Town 5.35
85 Aldershot 3.571
86 AFC Wimbledon 3
87 Dagenham & Redbridge 2.75
88 Morcambe 2.75
89 Accrington Stanley 2.65
90 Stevenage 2.5
91 Burton Albion 2.5
92 Crawley Town 1.667

If you have the required software you can view the whole table including calculations here. Big Clubv2

As expected, Manchester United and Liverpool are way out in front due to their league title wins and European Cup successes.  Perhaps more surprising is Everton sitting in 4th place.  Despite their current financial hardship, the Goodison outfit remains one of the most decorated clubs in English football history.  The top 20 has five Football League clubs (Nottingham Forest, West Ham, Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich Town and Derby County).  Swansea City are the lowest placed Premier League club, sitting in 50th position.

So there you go, a scientific, if not a little rough around the edges way to argue how ‘big your club is.  It’s just a bit of fun, and I hope your club scored well…

*Some data manipulation was required for the attendance figures of some clubs who are newly formed, reformed, merged or who played at lower levels and don’t have available attendance information.

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10 Responses to What Makes a ‘Big’ Club?

  1. Olly says:

    Cracking piece mate, an argument settler once and for all…

  2. leeyiankun says:

    So, using that ‘system’, even if to say “Rangers” were to went out in administration, came back under a new name. It would have a total point of 0, making them the least successful in the SPL. There for not a ‘Big club’ any more. And you know in your hearts that it’s not TRUE. Even if your sheets says otherwise.

    Dumb argument from the start! A team is big as long as it performs on the pitch and does well in the business side. History isn’t a factor. You can win everything in the early 1900’s and win naught in the recent decade, your club will be a small club, END OF.

    History is just that, history. The future is where teams should be looked at.

    So Everton is still the mid-table side that they are, regard less of what your sheet says. It is accepted widely, and thus it shall be the perceptive truth. Ask any 100 fans, you’ll get quite similar answers.

    • If Rangers were liquidated they would cease to exist and a new club would have no claim to Rangers FC’s history. I do however imagine they would be a big club on the basis of support, therefore not having 0 points.

      Thanks for your comment, but the opinion is spread very differently, with some fans saying it should be on the present season only, and some saying history has to count as part of the bigger picture. Cardiff could win the League Cup on Sunday, would that make them a big club? Liverpool haven’t won anything for five years, are they not a big club? As the article said, it is all subjective.

    • Mike K says:

      I’m guessing you’re a City fan!

      History is a massive part of a club.

    • Jamesy. says:

      Everton mid table? They weren’t then and they definitely aren’t now 🙂

  3. markdbiram2011 says:

    excellent work mate. of course history counts because a club’s fanbase, fame, marketability etc are all based on the club’s achievements and history. clubs like liverpool or manchester united are widely supported outside their home cities for those reasons. huge injections of outside cash blur the picture of course, i don’t recall seeing chelsea shirts in the north of england pre-abramovich but it happens from time to time now.

    51st for my club oldham is a fair reflection, i’ve no complaints! the writer is right in saying that the ‘big club’ debate is a classic pub topic, only a mentalist would argue oldham are a big club though,! i just enjoy when oldham beat a ‘big club’ (or someone who thinks they are) and we have to listen to a tirade of bile and bitterness about what a poxy club oldham is!!! big club fans can be really arrogant with us smaller clubs. as i get older it just makes me chuckle. they can call us the most miniscule club in the history of football, but it won’t get them the lost 3 points back!!

    my main concern is the long-term survival of our football league structure. like the fa cup it is something special, something italians or spaniards can’t understand, with their real madrid b teams in the 2nd etc. all our clubs are part of their communities and generate passion amongst them.

    • Slightly delayed, but thanks for the comment Mark.

      I think the finances of lower league clubs are under more stress, but totally agree, would hate to see Chelsea reserves made up of foreigners playing in League One at the expense of an Oldham Athletic or Yeovil. More clubs need to embrace the community element, and even explore fan ownership as an alternative to the ‘local businessman done good’ that used to be the norm.

  4. Pingback: Gonzo Sports Guest Article; What defines a big club? | Gonzo Sports Desk

  5. Pingback: What Defines a Big Club? – Jac Talbot

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