Football fan maps

We recently came across this great use of Ordnance Survey maps to display an answer to a very old question – where do the supporters of different football teams actually live?

This question has been debated for some time, but the Oxford Internet Institute came up with a great idea to solve it using digital media.

The team consisted primarily of Joshua Melville and Scott Hale and they created a map that displayed Twitter mentions (tweets) of Premiership football teams, using geo-tagging to show the fans locations. This was based on tweets/data collected between August 18 and December 19, 2012.

Initially the team used pinpoints or dots to show each tweet/mention, but the data quickly overwhelmed the map background, so the decision was made to aggregate the locations to post code areas. This proved a more effective way to display their findings although more processing/geographic data was needed to achieve this.

Dr Mark Graham, Research Fellow and Director of Research at the OII at Oxford University comments:

…we want to know what data shadows tell us about places. What insight do the data that we can collect from social media give us about broader social, economic, political, and environmental processes.  Although geo-tagged tweets will never fully or accurately reflect underlying patterns or processes in any particular place, this is often the best data we can get on a broad scale.

In the case of trying to understand the geography of football team support, it would be too costly to survey every postcode to ask householders what football teams they support, but through creating a Twitter map, we are able to plot the geography of those fans and at least see what they are talking about.”

This method could be used for much wider purposes. In times of crisis we could see what was being said on social media sites about hurricanes or riots, and these data might give us insights that would otherwise be extremely difficult or impossible to obtain quickly and over a large area…

The map was powered by a number of data resources, including Ordnance Survey’s Code-Point Open product and data from the NISRA, to produce an interactive map of different teams and to show popular team rivalries as a contrast.

If you don’t want to know the results, look away now… otherwise please click here to view the fan map.

Further research into the challenges of visualising data continues at the Oxford Internet Institute. We look forward to their next digital creation to answer other questions using the latest online products. Thanks also to Mark and Joshua for their help creating this post.

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3 Responses

  1. An excellent map/website, great to see. It definitely confirms the fact that the supporter base of the lower ranked clubs (e.g. Wigan, Southampton, Reading etc.) are much more concentrated around the teams location whereas the fan base of the more successful teams (e.g. Chelsea, Arsenal and the Manchester clubs) seem to be much more widely spread. I guess that is an unsurprising trend but this website definitely provides a clear demonstration of that fact.

    I also wonder to what extent media coverage plays a part in the number of tweets/mentions? For example QPR, frequently in the media at the moment, are a lower ranked team which appear to have a similar distribution of fans to that of a much higher ranked club?

    Anyway, a great website.

  2. Hey there,

    great post – I partly agree with Ed on this (post above) about the fan bases and how they are spread out, although that being said Newcastle united for example the concentration is understandable as there is only one team in a fairly large UK city.
    It would be interesting to see a demographic spread globally by team and see how far out some of the fan bases really are.

    any way thanks a lot for sharing this information

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