Premier League team support on Twitter
Hundreds of millions of people now share ideas, links, and conversations through Twitter. While our work has previously show how Tweets can be used to map flooding, earthquakes, and racism, we wanted to explore how content in Twitter might illustrate a more everyday passion for much of society: football.
The data used include all geocoded tweets mentioning any of the Premier League football teams and their associated hashtags (e.g., #MUFC) that were sent between August 18 and December 19, 2012. The tweets were then aggregated to postal codes in order to see a fairly fine-grained geography of results.
What do the data show us? In Manchester, for instance, there is the oft-repeated stereotype that Manchester City are the 'real' local team, while Manchester United attract support from further afield. Our map doesn't really support that idea though. There are only a few parts of Greater Manchester in which we see significant more tweets mentioning Manchester City than their local rivals. We also, strangely, see more support for Manchester City in Scotland and Merseyside, and more support for Manchester United in Northern Ireland.
The Merseyside rivalry (Liverpool vs. Everton) is another interesting one to map. There we see that Liverpool have the slight edge in the postcode that is home to both team's stadiums. However, there is no clear winner in the rest of the region: with most postcodes having a fairly close split between the two teams. Interestingly, many postcodes in Scotland seem to have more mentions of Everton; while many in Northern Ireland have more mentions of Liverpool.
We can also zoom into particular postcodes and see which teams are most mentioned there. The academics in Oxford (for some strange reason) mention Manchester City more than any other team. Central Edinburgh (when not focusing on Hearts or Hibs) has more mentions of Everton than any other Club. And the Queen's home of SW1A goes for West Ham.
There is no doubt that using Tweets as a proxy for fandom is messy and not always reliable. But, the data do give us a rough sense of who is interested in (or at least talking about what), and where they are doing it from. It allows to begin to counter myths (e.g. that Mancunians don't support Manchester United), develop new insights about places that we don't necessarily have good data about, and most importantly, have some guesses as to which team the Queen might support.