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The Derby – Rivalries on and off the pitch

Tuesday 9 October 2018 Catchment AnalysisData Insight & AnalyticsDemographic Data

Nathan Edwards's picture
By Nathan Edwards

The Premier League is back in full swing. It’s an incredible world of huge wages, astronomical transfer fees, elite sportsmen/women and an army of diehard fans who seemingly pick which team to support based on a childhood whim. Or is there more to it? The Premier League is full of stories and each season is another chapter.

This is part one of two articles looking at this country’s top division. I will look at key features of the ‘Beautiful Game’ and uncover some of the hidden secrets that are only possible through analysing data.
 

The Derby – Rivalries on and off the pitch

What is a derby? Generally, this is a match between two geographically local teams. But derby matches often go beyond locality, often combining deep historical differences, feuds and genuine competitiveness. How would this change if a derby was based on the clubs with the most similar demographics around their stadiums?

By looking at it this way, we get a different picture altogether. The map below shows the dominant Acorn group in a radius around the clubs’ home stadiums. The radii are defined by the population reaching the capacity of the stadium itself (i.e. if the club’s fans were the capacity population in the immediate area around the stadium) - in a sense, this map shows the true ‘home’ of each club. For instance, Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium has a maximum capacity of just below 60,000, meaning that the radius would extend 0.7miles until it reaches a population as close as possible to this figure.

Click here to see the full size map

CACI’s Acorn is a powerful consumer classification that segments the UK population by analysing demographic data, social factors, population and consumer behaviour. Find out more here.
 

What this enables us to do is to look at the similarities between the populations situated within these radii. Using a statistical correlation on these factors we can find the clubs with the most similar demographic composition in the area around each home ground (1 is the most similar and -1 meaning complete opposite). The table below matches each club to their best demographic match, as well as matching the club to its nearest neighbour:
 


 

Despite this change in definition, the Manchester and Merseyside derbies are barely affected, and the London clubs maintain their rivalries within the city. This can be largely attributed to the close proximity of the clubs within the same unique city environment.

Outside of these examples however, very few maintain this location/demographic link and on only six occasions do the correlation match the shortest distance. In the case of a club such as Newcastle, the most northerly club in the list, it actually has a much more similar demographic profile to clubs on the south coast; which is about just as far apart as can be.

Newcastle, the most northerly club in the list,  actually has a much more similar demographic profile to clubs on the south coast

This is an interesting way to look at club rivalries and may make a derby more relevant for the most loyal club fans. At the very least this is all something to bear in mind when you next find yourself shouting profanities at the TV because ‘your’ beloved Bournemouth are playing Southampton. In this case, maybe you should wait for the Cardiff match before unleashing your best torrent of abuse (not that we condone that sort of thing of course…).

Derby matches are a highlight of the season, but are determined by geographical location and/or a rich history of competitiveness, rather than the similarities between the club’s fans and local population. When the paradigm is shifted to this view, we find that location plays a much smaller role. Although, Manchester and Merseyside clubs are understandably still fierce rivals, regardless of methodology.

Keep an eye out later in the week for part two in this series, looking into the price of football.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the insight CACI can uncover, please get in touch.

The Premier League is back in full swing. It’s an incredible world of huge wages, astronomical transfer fees, elite sportsmen/women and an army of diehard fans who seemingly pick which team to support based on a childhood whim. Or is there more to it?

The Derby – Rivalries on and off the pitch

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