It’s funny how this myth goes around that Manchester is a City supporting location. Mancunians opt to support the blues, whilst United fans claim their fanbase from the home counties. Of course, this is perfect logic, isn’t it? One of the most widely supported clubs in the World couldn’t possible appeal to people from Manchester, could it? We’d all shun United and support City, obviously.
The same myth doesn’t apply to Liverpool, or any other two-team city though. You’d never catch someone saying ‘proper scousers support Everton, not Liverpool’, yet for some reason, the same moronic statement is applied to Manchester and Mancunians.
United fans have glory fans because we’re a glorious team. I’m not of the opinion that fans of our club whose initial reason for supporting the team was ‘glory’ are a bad thing for the club, as long as they don’t fuck off to support Arsenal, or Chelsea, or any other team that happens to be flavour of the month. You wouldn’t catch any self-respecting City fan jumping on to United’s bandwagon, in the same I wouldn’t expect any self-respecting United fan from the south, or any other place for that matter, jumping ship when United go through times of trouble.
However, it is often the retort people who support their local team, whether that be Grimsby, or Peterborough, or anywhere else, use to attack United fans. Of course they do. They’re bitter that they’ve stuck with their local side whilst their mate from down the road gets to enjoy the success Manchester United brings them.
A study from 2001 and a banner at Maine Road in 2003 tell the story in its reality though, as Manchester is Red.
Last season I was reading Red Issue before a game and came across a short little story from one of the regular writers. They overheard a City fan, who happened to be working on his house at the time, speaking to his mate on the phone ahead of the weekend’s matches. They were debating over which pub they would be heading to in order to watch their team play. It made me consider something I hadn’t previously given too much thought to before.
The builder or plumber or whatever he was had a bit of a dilemma on his hands, as United were kicking off at the same time as City. “No, we can’t go there, they’ll be showing the United game,” the Red Issue writer heard. “Nope, not there either…” For a City that is supposedly packed to the rafters with City fans, they certainly do find it difficult to find a pub that shows their game ahead of United’s.
Of course, there are blue areas of town just as there are red areas, where you’ll be guaranteed to watch the club of that particularly district at your local on the telly. However, in all the areas that fall in between, United are the club of choice.
In 2001, a study was conducted by Man Met over where season ticket holders in Manchester lived. ‘Do you come from Manchester?’ it was called.
7,808 of the 27,667 season ticket holders at Old Trafford in 2001 came from an ‘M’ postcode. 6,678 of the 16,481 season ticket holders at Maine Road were from the same area.
1.58% of City season ticket holders came from M14, the area of Maine Road, whilst 0.77% came from M16, the district of Old Trafford.
These figures are the ones United fans may expect, but those who claim United fans don’t come from Manchester might not. Of course we’re going to have a smaller percentage of season ticket holders coming from Manchester than City, given that we do have so many more fans from them in other areas of the country, but for close to one third of our season ticket holders to reside in Manchester goes against the myth.
The study goes deeper, looking in to where the most popular areas for United and City season ticket holders are to live. M33 is where most United season ticket holders come from, 882, which is roughly a ten minute drive from the ground. In comparison, City’s most popular area is SK8, Cheadle, in other words, with 664, which is a greater distance away from the ground, and also, not technically in Manchester. City’s biggest area for fans is actually in Stockport.
So, the biggest red area is in Manchester, but the biggest blue area isn’t, but United fans must have loads of fans from the south taking up the rest of their season ticket seats, right? Wrong.
72% of all our season ticket holders (19,788) come from the North West, in comparison to the 78% of City’s (12,864).
In terms of the importance of football – and these two clubs in particular – to the city and region, these findings suggest that both retain strong local links and remain embedded in their host areas.
This evidence also suggests that, despite the huge changes in football’s finance, organisation and consumption in the last decade or so – processes which have suggested to some that football has become ‘gentrified’ and has lost its association with ‘place’ – hard core support for both clubs remains strongly regional and local. As such we can see a vibrant and thriving local football culture within what is a globalised cultural form. The tensions between these two forces – one localising and one globalising – will be explored further in future publications.
Further, despite the contrasting fortunes of both clubs since the formation of the Premier League, patterns of Season Ticket holder location remains strikingly similar. For both clubs, there remains very strong support in the hinterlands of Manchester and across the North West, with the heaviest concentrations in Lancashire and Cheshire.
But if that doesn’t do it for you, just ask the bitters themselves…