The micro-ethno-geography of football.

Well, I went to the pub on Thursday when the Millwall/Leeds match was on. Support your local team and all that. (Though what support they get from me drinking a few pints I don’t know)

But what really is the local team? My mate Dave insists it ought to be Charlton. But then he was from Woolwich or some such place.

All the pubs round our way are Millwall if they are anything at all (not that that many pubs are open at all any more) And I think that local kids at the schools my daughter went to tended to be Millwall, if they supported any South or East London team. And I see far more Millwall than Charlton insignia in the local council estates. You don’t have to go very far to see more Charlton – just the other side of Lewisham High Street – but our exact location is more Millwall.

Just going by who turns up to drink in our local pubs when the footy is on TV, at a rough guess I’d say Arsenal actually gets the largest barstool following. Especially from black people (something I only noticed quite recently, I must be slow on the uptake) ManU and Chelsea are closely behind them. Though practically any Premiership game will draw a few viewers in.

Nerdish as it sounds, I actually have been counting the “extra” people in the pub when there is football on. For the recent Euro semi-finals, the Arsenal/ManU games got about 50 extra in when they were on Sky and about 30 on ITV. Chelsea/Barca was about 35 and 12. The management actually charged entry to the pub on a couple of those nights. Though of course those games sort of rate as internationals and so get more attention. For ordinary Premier League games both the ManU/Wigan and Newcastle/Middlesbrough matches got in about a dozen. They didn’t charge for the Millwall matches though!

Millwall aren’t on the telly that often of course, and when they are it tends to be one-off big games, so its not strictly comparable. The few matches that get shown on the TV in the pub tend to attract a big following though – the largest crowd I ever saw there was the day Millwall was in the FA cup final. Much, much, larger than the last couple of year’s finals.

But of the London sides that aren’t anywhere near the top of the Premiership, Millwall is clearly the most popular locally. Some support for Charlton, but not as much. Palace are all but off the radar – they seem to attract about as much comment as Fulham and QPR.

Maybe someone should produce a map of local and ethnic affiliations to London football clubs.

Are there actually Fulham neighbourhoods and Chelsea neighbourhoods? Or are they all mixed up together? Do they tend to split by class or race?

How far out into Essex does West Ham go? All the way to the coast I suspect, but I don’t know.

Is there still anyone in South West London who counts MK Dons as a local team? And is the hole in South-West London left by the defection of Wimbledon filled by Chelsea? Or Palace? Somehow I suspect it isn’t Brentford.

And who on earth supports Brentford anyway?.

And who is your local team if you live in Brixton? Certainly not Millwall – they fizzle out somewhere about Camberwell Green. Again I suspect Chelsea or just possibly Palace, but I’m not at all sure and am more then willing to be informed.

And while we’re at it, going south of London where is the cut-off line between Crystal Palace (Palace? Palace?) and Brighton? Or is it all Chelsea in posh Surrey? (For those few who support a local team at all I mean)

And is Hammersmith locally Fulham/Chelsea (as I would expect) or QPR (as a taxi driver from Shepherd’s Bush implied the other day? Though he also claimed that the reason West Ham have hammers on their badge is because they used to be connected with an ironworks which sounded totally spurious to me but seems to be true)

And are there or have there ever been any teams in London whose support is anti-Protestant or anti-Catholic (as you find in Scotland, and used to just a little bit in Liverpool and even Manchester)

How much truth is there in the stereotype that racist East Enders are more likely to support West Ham, but anti-racist ones either Arsenal or Spurs? (As famously portrayed by Warren Mitchell, the lefty Jewish Spurs supporter playing Alf Garnett as a Hammers man)

And if you are a posh Hampstead socialite, what is your local team? I suspect Arsenal somehow, even if QPR is closer. Bet it isn’t Barnet.

This is all valuable anthropological and ethnographic information! It should be documented somewhere!

Like the real Millwall chant, which seems to consist of some of them howling “Mill” as loud as they can, drawing the vowel out for maybe ten seconds, and others singing “wall” (a syllable which contains no consonants in a South London accent) at the same time (maybe they start together but they end in different places) so the combined noise is roughly a completely wordless “eeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrr” (or “uuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhh” for rhotic Scots and Americans) Though how they thought anyone could hear them in Leeds is beyond me. But it was bloody loud where we were.

And incidentally is, I think, a deliberate playing-up to the media stereotype – portrayed as inarticulate thickos they have a laugh by acting the part. Why bother with words in your chant when no-one listens what you are saying anyway? The thing is a stance, a pose, an attitude. Not particularly a pleasant one to be honest, but a slightly different one from that affected by supporters of some other teams.

And Millwall are going to Wembley!

4 thoughts on “The micro-ethno-geography of football.

  1. I think a Glasgow analysis could be pretty interesting! I live not that far from Ibrox, and nowhere near the East End, but the two pubs on the corner of my road are both Celtic pubs. And of course I’m just down the road from Hampden, home of Queens Park when it’s not home of Scotland. I think I’ve met more Celtic supporters than any others in my travels round the city.

    When I lived on Lee High Rd the free papers were all full of Charlton coverage. In Brockley I didn’t get a free paper (probably due to the post office systems not realising my house existed) but am sure that if I had it would have been full of Millwall.

  2. Too many issues here! My contributions to the mapping project:

    1. On Jack the Lass and the free papers: I think it’s just that the free papers in Lewisham are actually mainly Greenwich-based (the Newsshopper at any rate) so they have a bias towards Charlton.

    2. I always assumed in Glasgow that the divide was purely Catholic v Protestant. Is that less true now?

    3. In London, there has been a historic connection between blue Chelsea and the Protestant/Loyalist Scottish teams, while Arsenal historically had a conection with the red/Republican teams Man U and Celtic. At any rate, Arsenal has traditionally been the main team of Irish Londoners, and its support stretches across Irish North London for this reason.

    4. When I used to go to live football in London (late 80s/early 90s), you’d never see black people at Chelsea or Fulham, a few more at Leyton, many more at Arsenal. I never went to any of the South London sides, even though I later became a South Londoner. Over the years, I’ve noticed that Arsenal has become increasingly the team of choice for black kids.West Ham was the only place I witnessed really serious racism, and that was actually from Liverpool away supporters.

    5. I think Millwall’s ethnic affiliation is complicated. I used to read The Lion Roars, the fan magazine. You often used to get people talking in it about the Irish heritage of the area, but also a few far right pro-Loyalist viewpoints too. And there were always black fans, despite the racist reputation of some followers. In the 80s, some of the hooligan firms famously had large Turkish/Turkish Cypriot contingents, as well as black membes.

    6. Arsenal was once, of course, based on this side of the river, and many Woolwich people are Arsenal loyalists despite the crossing of the river.

    7. When I lived in Brixton I used to drink at the Old White Horse that later became Bar Lorca. The main team supported there was definately Palace.

    8.I am fairly sure that Fulham has very little support across the river, but that Chelsea does: that Clapham and Wandsworth are Chelsea territory. This might relate to the QPR support stretching further east than you might expect. I don’t know any QPR fans, unless you count that twat Robert Elms, who grew up in what I would image to be Arsenal territory.

    9. On Spurs’ leftism. I think that this is just Spurs’ Jewishness. I had a friend who used to have a space in a box at White Hart Lane owned by a syndicate of Jewish Communist accountants and lawyers. I’ve never met a non-Jewish leftist who supports Spurs. I have, on the other hand, known East End non-Jewish leftists who support West Ham, though I know they have a strong reputation for racism.

    10. Finally, Celtic apparently has more fans in Japan than there are people in Scotland!

  3. P.S. Millwallism stretches very far out of SE London among white people. Places like Downham and Bellingham are Millwall, because the white people there are descended from people from Deptford and Bermondsey. Millwall fandom follows the lines of working class white flight into Kent and towards Croydon. I think the same working class white flight happened out from the East End into Essex, so the East London teams have followings far out into Essex. I don’t know if there have been the equivalent journeys into Surrey, as Surrey is too rich for upwardly mobile working class people, so that must make a difference to West London teams’ geographies.

  4. Hah! Thanks for that Bob!

    Maybe this can be the next London walking project – explore the boundaries of football areas. Of course to do it properly I would have to visit pubs. What a burden…

    I know what you mean about the outer suburbs and Kent. But as you say I suspect they will be people with come personal or family connection. Teams like Millwall are unlikley to pick up any new supporters in the suburbs – unlike Arsenal and Chelsea. Or even Spurs.

    It works the other way as well. When I first turned up in SE London, from Brighton, I met about eight people I knew in Lewisham, Almost as if you come in, find you can’t afford it, & move out homeward until you can…

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