What are Europe’s Most Popular Football Clubs?

I recently had the opportunity to interview Simon Kuper about his new book Soccernomics, which in classic Kuper style is an educational and page turning must read. Kuper has an interesting table in his book listing the most popular football clubs in Europe. These are not rankings of domestic fans but for throughout the continent.

(numbers in millions)

  1. Barcelona     44.2
  2. Real Madrid  41.9
  3. Man U            37.6
  4. Chelsea 25.6
  5. Zenit St Petersburg    23.0
  6. Liverpool   23.0
  7. Arsenal  21.3
  8. AC Milan   21.0
  9. FC Bayern  19.8
  10. Juventus   17.5
  11. CSKA Moscow 11.1
  12. Inter            10.3
  13. Olympique Lyon   9.4
  14. Olympique Marseille 9.4
  15. Galatasaray 9.0
  16. Spartak Moscow  8.1
  17. Fenerbache  7.3
  18. Wisla Krakow 6.5
  19. Ajax   6.5
  20. Dynamo Moscow 5.7

As Kuper demonstrates with his research most of the top clubs tend to be from outside the large capital cities of Europe, with six of the top nine clubs hailing from provincial towns, many that were large industrial centers.

This trend particularly holds true in Western Europe. It can be pointed out that prior to 1917, St Petersburg was the capital of Russia, but the development of a football fan culture in Russia is much more recent than the collapse of the Tsarist Government.

Additionally, Istanbul was the capital of the Ottoman Empire, but since the 1920s Ankara has been the capital city, and Istanbul thought the largest city and visible symbol of Turkey is not the capital.