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How Some New Fans to the Premier League Find Teams to Follow

frame of soccer on tv How Some New Fans to the Premier League Find Teams to Follow

It’s easy to live in a bubble when following soccer in the United States. Ninety
nine percent of my interactions are with hardcore soccer fans, so when I talk to a
fan who’s new to the Premier League, it’s often revealing.

One of my friends posted on Facebook asking for suggestions of which Premier League
he should follow. It’s a valid question.

I half jokingly suggested Swansea City, but then offered Fulham or Everton as
follow-up choices.

His reply was profound and cut directly to the real reason why new soccer fans pick
the teams they do. He said he wanted to pick a team that was guaranteed to be on TV
most of the time.

It’s a circle. The teams that garner the biggest TV ratings are the ones who are
shown more often. The teams that are shown most often on TV are the ones who get
most of the new fans.

I don’t see that formula changing anytime soon. In order to attract fans, clubs need
to spend money. Manchester City and Chelsea are examples of teams who have
significantly grown their global fan bases by a combination of spending tons of
money on players, winning trophies and marketing themselves worldwide through preseason tours.

Manchester City could be the last English team for the next decade that grows their
fan base that quickly.

While the revelation that soccer fans often pick teams that are more often on television isn’t earth shattering, it’s still interesting to get insight into the thought process of new fans to the Premier League.

This entry was posted in Chelsea, Leagues: EPL, Manchester City, Premier League. Bookmark the permalink.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
View all posts by Christopher Harris →

32 Responses to How Some New Fans to the Premier League Find Teams to Follow

  1. Jason Gatties says:

    I’ve been able to watch every Fulham match live (or slightly delayed) for the past 4 or 5 seasons.

    This isn’t 2000 when I first started following Fulham on a fluke and had a hard time following.

    • The Gaffer says:

      True, but the article isn’t about the hardcore fan. It’s about the new fan who may only subscribe to ESPN and ESPN2, and probably doesn’t get FOX Soccer. Or if he does, he certainly doesn’t get FOX Soccer 2Go.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  2. IanCransonsKnees says:

    Funnily enough we have picked up 2 or 3 new American fans on our messageboard this season. I’m guessing due to Geoff Cameron and Maurice Edu joining us.

    It depends how rabid a fan you intend on becoming I suppose.

  3. Reid says:

    This is actually my first season closely following the Premier League. I spent last season with an app that gave me goal updates and researching the teams.

    I definitely think I made the right decision for me by picking Tottenham. But I do have the advantage of being technologically inclined enough to get streaming games, so watching is not a problem.

    For me, I did not want to pick a team that just won. That would be like deciding you wanted to follow baseball and be a Yankees fan. But I also wanted to find a team that would not be in the bottom 3rd of the table either. Having an American player was also something that was important to me for my initial selection.

    I think this speaks to the disadvantage leagues have when they let broadcast contracts limit easy online viewing access. To break into countries with establish sports, viewing access is essential, and the internet is the best tool to provide that access.

    Great Article.

  4. Joseph Eddington says:

    I wanted to pick a team close to my grandparents, the live just outside of Portsmouth. My grandad doesn’t follow the EPL, but had told me not to like Rooney and ManU in 2004. I lived in Mexico for a couple of years and began to love the game. Portsmouth happened to be Playing Chelsea in the FA Cup 2009. I liked the way Chelsea played and started researching them. I am anti red so Blue kits were perfect. I married a Chelsea, though that was 2008 before I liked the team.

    • Mark the Dog says:

      I picked Chelsea similarly 20 yrs ago. My family were all from London, so it had to be a London team. In high school in the US, the only exposure I had was Soccer Digest. Man U was mentioned several times and I didn’t like red. Therefore…London…Blue…CHELSEA!

  5. Philsfan08 says:

    When I got into the Prem back in 2010 I decided on Spurs because their history and fan base came the closest to my 30 + year history with my hometown Philadelphia teams. I related to so much of it it was uncanny. Also I support Blackpool because the first game I really watched was the playoff final in 2010 when they went up. Now I have a favorite Championship team as well!

  6. Dean Stell says:

    I’m a newer EPL fan and TV availability was absolutely involved in my choice. I know a lot of these games eventually get shown on Fox Soccer, but I want to watch the games live so I can play along with the people on Twitter. Watching live is just better.

    So, I “picked” Manchester United. I know a lot of people complain about that, but who cares. I want to be able to watch my team and with United you can watch LIVE almost every EPL/League Cup/FA Cup/Champions League game they play. To me (as a newer fan), that’s SO vital to really learning because I get to see the ebbs and flows of different players form, who’s injured, which young players are playing in early Cup games, etc.

    • 89Norcal says:

      It only makes sense that fans overseas tend to choose the bigger clubs. Besides, choosing a random, smaller, obscure club just to satisfy other people is ridiculous.

      I began watching the EPL 8 years ago and Newcastle were the perfect fit for me. The similarities in sports culture they share with teams in my native northern California were uncanny.

      In my case it was a slow process to becoming a fan. Admittedly the “Goal!” movies sparked my interest then I watched more games and slowly found myself rooting to New castles victories. Now I know the club inside and out

    • Marc L says:

      A lot of people pick on United supporters but before a few years ago it was very difficult in a lot of places to actually see your club play if it wasn’t one of the (then) big 4.

  7. jeffb says:

    I’ve always told people who asked that question to watch games for a couple of months and then pick according to their conscience. Generally, front runners and bandwagon jumpers will pick the obvious clubs for the obvious reasons … but sooner or later one club will jump out and appeal to you based on your own priorities.

    Still though … I’m a Villa fan because my kid picked them for unknown reasons back in the late 90s. I blame Dion Dublin and his enigmatic appeal. My own club is Celtic.

  8. Nelson says:

    3 years ago I started following Chelsea. I tried to get into it. Bought a shirt and watched all their games for about a season. During this time I took a certain fondness to Spurs. Passionate fans, huge rivalry with ars*nal, attacking play, under dog history, blinding speed and most importantly their challenging of the big four. I soon fell in love with Spurs and became disenfranchised with Chelsea. Abromovich pissed me off and the rampant buying of players at all costs to win trophies made it less appealing. When Torres was bought that sealed it for me. So the Premier League team picked me in the end. Now I hate ars*nal and dislike Chelsea just as much after their CL “win”.

    • Nelson says:

      With that said, I live eat and breathe Spurs. The more I’ve learned about them and their history and gotten to know their fans the more Im validated that this is my team.

    • Gaz says:

      You bought a Chelsea shirt and then switched supporting Spurs.

      And you said that the decision was based, “…most importantly their challenging of (sic) the big four…”

      Yuck.

  9. krazymunky says:

    I started watching EPL in 2000 (from Hong Kong) and the play style of Bergkamp/Henry got my attention. So ive been following the Gunners since then.

    I was able to convert a friend to watch soccer this year. at first he wanted to support liverpool…but i told him that they are owned by owners of the Red Sox. He was a Dodgers fan so he decided to support Everton instead lol

  10. Matt says:

    I recently went through the process of narrowing down the list of EPL teams to pick one to follow. I landed on Everton for several reasons, one of which is their great iPhone/iPad apps. Even if the game isn’t televised, I can always watch a 20-minute condensed version of their games. I know that’s not the same as getting to watch a full match… but for a dad who is often on the go, and little on time, it works out beautifully :)

  11. FCAsheville says:

    One also needs to pick a team in a city that would be worth visiting some day.

    The SportsGuy on ESPN did a great two-part article on picking a team;

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/060719

  12. Bob says:

    I had my team pick me.

    I was playing football manager with no real knowledge of the EPL, just managing a lower league team and eventually got offered a job in the premier league by Man City.

    After a while managing them, i found out i could watch my players for real on TV, and got hooked.

    That was back in 2007 or 2008 before they got all the money, so it wasn’t a case of jumping on the band wagon.

    • Evan says:

      I became a city fan in 2007 as well. I loved the blue kits and the the passion of the fans (among other things but the list is too long) so it was an easy choice.

      its already been an incredible ride since 2007.

  13. Craig says:

    I grew up following the younger versions of Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher, and Steven Gerrard. I have loved and lived Liverpool red since.

  14. NIrav says:

    I watched england in the Euros 2004 and became a fan of Lampard. Thats how I started following Chelsea.
    Used to watch rare La Liga games as a Figo fan before that. But was too difficult to get to watch all their games (Real Madrid) due to timing issues ( Matches getting telecated as 1 – 2 AM :( in my country).

  15. Steve says:

    I started falling in love with soccer in the mid 90′s. I was big into film coming out and Trainspotting was a new favorite of mine. This was around the same time as the FIFA game series game out for the Sega Genesis. I started playing as Rangers just as a team to play because of the Scottish connection to the film. I am still a Rangers fan (R.I.P.)

    Also around the same time I was Thrift Shop hopping and came across a Liverpool scarf. I knew that scarves had a bit of significance in the soccer world so I picked it up. Still have it and am a die hard Liverpool fan to this day (also R.I.P.)…I think it’s just doom for any team I like.

    • Steve says:

      EDIT: there was not really a TV factor in my choices. Back then you were lucky to catch any EPL game. Most of the time it was a week old match on at 3am on a Tuesday night…..

  16. Marc L says:

    I’m a New York Mets fan and when I got interested in the sport about ten years ago I heard people refer to Man U as the “Yankees” of the EPL. So I picked City to follow based on that reason alone.

    Kind of shallow, I know, but once you start following a club the original reasons for doing so become less important.

    Now if only the Sheik or someone like him could buy the Mets!

  17. coachie ballgames says:

    there should be no shame in a new fan picking a top club to watch. if a non-American started watching baseball, I would hope that they’d watch for a love of the game itself and not for a story. Thus, wouldn’t that non-American want to watch baseball played at a high level and pick a perennially good team like the Yanks? If I were trying to get someone into the NBA, I wouldn’t show them Bobcats or Pistons games.

  18. Bruce Gottesman says:

    I’m in South Florida. When MLS contracted our hometown Fusion in ’01, they were probably the most exciting side in the league. They were managed by a former Strikers player named Ray Hudson, whose way with words is familiar to most hardcore soccer fans. I just got FSC, and I started watching the EPL. I didn’t want to choose ManU – way too easy. I almost settled on Arsenal, but then I found out that Hudson had played at Newcastle, and was from there, they were a Champions League contender, and had the best striker in the country in Alan Shearer. I checked out a fan-run site called NUFC.com and they cracked me up. So I chose Newcastle. Not long after I realized I was rooting for the English equivalent of the Cubs…

  19. Taylor says:

    Gaffer, how about having the “aha !” moment ? I grew up in the 80s watching Liverpool, like them but never a fan. And in 1990 I was watching the Battle of Trafford 1: after a lunging tackle from Winterburn on Denis Irwin, McClair and Irwin both kicked Winterburn while he lay on the floor, sparking a 21-man brawl. And it was my “aha” moment that United was my team. So i didn’t pick the team, it was just an instant moment when I felt I became part of the team.

    Curious to hear whether anyone else had similar experience. I am not a big fan of “you have to pick a team based on x, y and z” – but have no problem with that. I

  20. Pedro says:

    This household has an Everton fan, that’s me (why? American as mainstay in goal, David Moyes, long club history, plus there was Donovan w/potential permanent move), a Wigan fan for my wife (Roberto Martinez at the WC2012 being a very personable guy & his positive style of play), Manchester City for one kid (light blue is a cool color and they’re really good), and Chelsea, other kid (cuz they’re good).

    Though I’ve picked a side, I think there’s a lot to be said for NOT having a team, though. The EPL is great because there are so many stories to follow, if you’re tied so tightly to a team that you’re not force to you can’t really enjoy that as much.

  21. MG says:

    I just feel, in a nutshell, that what is most important is whether you follow United or Wolverhampton is actually getting to know your club and, if you are so inclined, your club’s history.. No matter where you are in the world. I generally don’t like United fans, because most do pick them 99% based on success, but if you know your club and are interested in their history and tradition (this goes mainly for Americans and non-Mancunians/Englishmen), then you are good in my book.

    That’s it.

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