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South West v North West

shoddycollins

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I was thinking about this last season and the fact I'm still thinking about it this season makes me think I might have a point.

The geographic balance of football is changing.

In League Two right now you have the top four made up of three south western teams (Cheltenham, Exeter and FGR) and also Newport who I'll include with the South West for the purposes of this as they are very close to it (call it South West England and South East Wales). These teams were all in the mix last season two while another south western team in Swindon won the title and Plymouth got automatic promotion.

Not everything is rosy for the South West mind, as Bournemouth were relegated from the Prem and Bristol City and Bristol Rovers finished mid table in the Championship and L1 respectively but even these three teams have had more promotions than relegations of late and may all feel they are enjoying a good spell and this is more about teams climbing out of the basement and improving their stature long-term the South West is doing well in this regard.

This season so far, of the eight automatic promotion places in the top five divisions, over half (five) are occupied by South Western teams (inc. Newport) while FGR are just outside the automatics. Even the National League North currently has a South Western team at the top (Gloucester).

Now, when you look at the teams that have been struggling this past few years, especially those who are being mismanaged or were being mismanaged until recently, and whose future is under threat, you see a lot of north western teams. Bolton, Bury, Macclesfield, Blackpool, Oldham, Wigan in particular but also the likes of Northwich Victoria being a historic club now defunct. There are a lot of north western teams compared to teams from other areas among the so called 'fallen giants' teams who historically were much bigger than the level they currently compete at. Bolton, Stockport, Chester, and Wrexham (just like Newport has a lot of connections with South West England, so Wrexham does with North West England).

Again this is not a blanket thing, indeed north western teams are still among the strongest in the Premier League but the number of north western teams in the top two divisions seems to be falling.

My thoughts are, that the North West was historically the heartland of football, there was a time when almost all the professional clubs in existence were from there (or just outside it, such as Stoke). However this has left the North West over-represented in terms of professional football clubs, many of these clubs date back to when the North West was the industrial powerhouse of the UK and relied on a large working class population to attend but the population has been declining and also changing in socio-economic status and this has been accompanied by falling attendances. Demographic changes mean these clubs are fighting for a slice of a shrinking pie and are more vulnerable to financial mismanagement. This is made even harder by the legacy of the North West's importance to football meaning many of the UK's biggest teams are from there.

In contrast, the South West is a growing market for football. There are no superclubs hoovering up all the support and the clubs in the South West still have a lot of untapped potential. The population is growing and is also a bit wealthier than in the North West, the main competition is Rugby Union and clubs like Cheltenham, FGR and Exeter have been steadily drawing fans in from the Rugby. Most of the clubs are well run because they represent a good business opportunity and aren't just attractive to asset strippers or charlatans. The South West isn't doing too well in League One at the moment but give it time and I think we'll start to see a strongly south western oriented League One and a number of clubs progressing from there to become Championship fixtures, while north western clubs playing below their historic level will become an ever increaing feature of League Two and the National League.
 

Bottega Don

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This is a very interesting post, I think you could compare this to the fall in popularity of Rugby League and rise in popularity of rugby union.

RL is traditionally a working-class sport with all the teams bar a few in the M62 corridor. The sport has massively struggled in recent years, a lot due to mismanagement but in parts due to the socio-economic challenges that the North West of England faces.

We're seeing the same with football in the North West. As the UK continues to move towards a post-industrial economy, we are seeing far fewer primary and secondary jobs. These sectors were the lifeblood of the North West, far more people are working in tertiary and quarternary jobs which are often located in the South East but also the South West. The North continues to falter while the South thrives.

Unfortunately, I think the idea of football clubs being the life and soul of our communities is becoming a thing of the past. You can see that with just how many fans of PL clubs you can see in your local area. There are more Man United and Liverpool fans in Scunthorpe than Scunthorpe fans. That's also been shown by the lack of government care regarding our football clubs.
 

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Bournemouth aint South West. The South West haven't had a Premier league club, ever. I think we have a lot of catching up to do before we are taken remotely serious. Especially with Exeter Chiefs doing so well (English and European champions) it makes it rather hard for footy to grow locally.
 

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I would blame the Premier League and rise of the super power clubs, in the NW you now have super clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City that are now global names so has sucked up the local younger generations, especially as you can support them on TV.

In the SW with all due respect to these clubs the biggest local sides are Bristol City and Plymouth!
 

Devon_Lad

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I would blame the Premier League and rise of the super power clubs, in the NW you now have super clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City that are now global names so has sucked up the local younger generations, especially as you can support them on TV.

In the SW with all due respect to these clubs the biggest local side is Bristol City!
Amended for factuals
 

denzel ecfc

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What people in this thread fail to comprehend is that just as many people in Exeter support Premier league clubs as they do in Bury or Carlisle.
We have to battle to get every fan, many would rather sit in their armchair and 'support' Liverpool or Man U, or occasionally go to Old Trafford as a treat.
Just because there isnt a 'big' club on your doorstep it doesn't make it a guarantee they will come to support you.
Additionally, its well known that it's much harder to attract players down here, they would rather stay in London or the North West. Which is one of the reasons that we have had to develop the academy, we cant just do a Brentford and buy everyone.
I dont think having the Chiefs in town (actually out of town, by the M5) affects us one way or other. Few people have gone over to support them, some watch both but our gates have stayed pretty much the same for the last 5 or 6 seasons.
And as for our 'success', well we aren't doing any better at this stage than we have done for our last five seasons.
 

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Newport has always been a rugby town first and foremost. Newport RFC / Dragons have always drawn larger crowds. Despite the Welsh Rugby Union doing their best to destroy the game below the national team level I don't see this changing, unless the number of rugby regions in Wales shrinks to 2 with one team in the west and one in the east, which is rumoured. If that happens the east Wales team would be based in Cardiff and Rodney Parade, which is owned by the WRU, sold for housing.
 

shoddycollins

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Bournemouth aint South West. The South West haven't had a Premier league club, ever. I think we have a lot of catching up to do before we are taken remotely serious. Especially with Exeter Chiefs doing so well (English and European champions) it makes it rather hard for footy to grow locally.
Let's not have another thread descend into nitpicking over regional distinctions. According to the government, Dorset is south-west, therefore I include them.

Also in reponse to some other replies, I wasn't suggesting clubs in the South West have it easier, it seems that is how it was taken; just that the geography of football is gradually shifting south westwards into an area that historically has had few professional clubs per head of population and away from an area that has historically had lots.
 

shoddycollins

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What people in this thread fail to comprehend is that just as many people in Exeter support Premier league clubs as they do in Bury or Carlisle.
Carlisle isn't a great example as we are a long way from the urban centres with the big clubs but I'm sure Bury had the issue that even within Bury itself, Bury FC was only the third most supported team behind the two Manchester giants, but also has little in the way of rural hinterland, there is a still a reasonably sized population in Devon (or indeed Cumbria) that falls within the local club's catchment areas, whereas you only have to venture a few miles from Gigg Lane and Bury are no longer the closest club.
 

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Let's not have another thread descend into nitpicking over regional distinctions. According to the government, Dorset is south-west, therefore I include them.

Also in reponse to some other replies, I wasn't suggesting clubs in the South West have it easier, just that the geography of football is shifting south westwards into an area that historically has had few professional clubs per head of population and away from an area that has historically had lots.
I've never heard anyone refer to Bournemouth as South West, ever. That's the only reason I mentioned it - I know people from Bournemouth too and they definitely wouldn't consider themselves SW. But if you compare league positions now to 20 years ago are they really much different? We were L2, Plymouth were a steady championship club flirting with play offs to prem at one point. We also had Torquay in the football league who aren't anymore. I just can't see much evidence to back it up that we are doing that much greater than before. FGR are doing well but that's because of a big money investor - They'll go back down to the national league eventually. Yeovil also were in the championship like 5 or 6 years ago and now they are back down to non-league..
 

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Carlisle isn't a great example as we are a long way from the urban centres with the big clubs but I'm sure Bury had the issue that even within Bury itself, Bury FC was only the third most supported team behind the two Manchester giants, but also has little in the way of rural hinterland, there is a still a reasonably sized population in Devon (or indeed Cumbria) that falls within the local club's catchment areas, whereas you only have to venture a few miles from Gigg Lane and Bury are no longer the closest club.
Sky Tv and BT really hurt lower league clubs in the long run. Why spend £20+ in the freezing cold rainy weather when you can go to the pub probably watch a better game of football for same price. Unless you are brought up watching your local lower league team its very unlikely that you will ever watch them.
 
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Let's not have another thread descend into nitpicking over regional distinctions. According to the government, Dorset is south-west, therefore I include them.
Fair comment but please do NOT describe Pl*muff as "south-west".

They can only ever be described as being located in the seediest part of the seventh circle of hell. (I mean, bejezus, even Cornwall don't want them)
 

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I'm not sure we are taking many of the rugby fans away from Gloucester. It's often said that Gloucestershire is a rugby county, and I would agree with that to an extent, but there are far more armchair Premier League fans in Gloucestershire than anything else. Even in the rugby clubs, they have Soccer Saturday on.

I actually think our attendances have plateaued in terms of home fans. When we first won promotion to the League in 1999, and for the few years after, we had a hardcore of around 3,500. I'd say that hardcore is now around 2,500 - even when we were in the playoffs in the early 10s. We can sell out the ground for a big Cup game, or take a good few thousand to big away games (nearly 5,000 to Spurs in 2012, the same to WBA in 2002), but there's little the club hasn't tried to get more footfall. Given how we ended last season, and the hopes for this, we only sold 919 season tickets - well that's how many we have now, some might have got a refund when the club announced it, and a few may have simply decided not to due to Covid.
 

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Just as a matter of interest in your opinion where does the south west start?

I've always thought that Bournemouth, Salisbury, Swindon and up as far as Worcester as south west but Reading, Oxford Basingstoke and Southampton are the south.

I can accept having to change my views.

Casey
 

GEORGE

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Just as a matter of interest in your opinion where does the south west start?

I've always thought that Bournemouth, Salisbury, Swindon and up as far as Worcester as south west but Reading, Oxford Basingstoke and Southampton are the south.

I can accept having to change my views.

Casey
I would clasify Swindon in the South West but none of the others mentioned above. Teams from the South West are :- Bristol Rovers,Swindle,Plymouth,Exeter,FGR(,maybe Cheltenham) & The Shit.
 

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Cheltenham is very much the South West - Gloucestershire is the most northern county in the south west region.
 

Casey

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Hereford and Weymouth south west?
 

shoddycollins

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Just as a matter of interest in your opinion where does the south west start?

I've always thought that Bournemouth, Salisbury, Swindon and up as far as Worcester as south west but Reading, Oxford Basingstoke and Southampton are the south.

I can accept having to change my views.

Casey
According to the official South west region, its Cornwall, Devon, Dorset Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Bristol.

But I had in mind a much more nebulous area which historically hadn't been a football stronghold but which currently has a lot of ambitious and growing clubs... Hence my inclusion of Newport, and in contrast to the North West which has a lot of clubs whose glory days are behind them and a lot of dodgy owners.
 

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According to the official South west region, its Cornwall, Devon, Dorset Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Bristol.

But I had in mind a much more nebulous area which historically hadn't been a football stronghold but which currently has a lot of ambitious and growing clubs... Hence my inclusion of Newport, and in contrast to the North West which has a lot of clubs whose glory days are behind them and a lot of dodgy owners.
Hampshire is south England, not South West. It's closer to Dover than it is Penzance. If you don't want to class it as just South, then put it down as South East.
 

BarraMatt

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Our struggle over the last 50 years has been a general apathy towards the club, a very minor few even had the mindset that they were happy to see us struggle under the ownership of local businessmen, to the point where they would have just shrugged their shoulders if we ceased to exist. As mentioned above some would rather spend the price of admission on five pints watching the afternoon's PL in the pub. There's hundreds of Man Utd, Liverpool supporters in the town that have never set foot inside the Old Trafford or Anfield.

The last 18 months was a perfect storm, everything seemed to go right for us, good manager who brought the best of a team, backed well by a hard-working board. If it was said it was a 1 in 50 year chance to get promotion back into the league I don't think it would have been far from the truth.
 

shoddycollins

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Hampshire is south England, not South West. It's closer to Dover than it is Penzance. If you don't want to class it as just South, then put it down as South East.
I didn't say Hampshire.

And just like that another thread descends into a geography debate :/

Anyway, these are the official regions, the ones actually used for governing the country.
1607078541046.png

I don't know why it's a German map, but it's the only one I could find that shows which counties are in which region.
 
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FGR Stroud

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Cheltenham is very much the South West - Gloucestershire is the most northern county in the south west region.
Gloucestershire is on the cusp between Midlands & South West.
Cheltenham fans watch Midlands tv while FGR fans watch West Country tv.
Cheltenham is far more Rugby dominated than is the Stroud Valleys.
But is is good news that both the Shire clubs are in the promotion mix.

BTW someone mentioned that no club from this area had ever been in the Premiership. Hang on, there was football before the Premiership and Bristol City have played in top division.
But agreed that Bristol is the largest town/city in the UK never to be represented in Premiership.
 

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I'm 50/50 on whether Bournmouth is "South West". Southampton definitely isn't, but Bournmouth is marginal. I'd describe it as "South" but if there is only SW or SE I guess it would be SW.

Anything north of Bristol is midlands in my book.
 

Robshep

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Our struggle over the last 50 years has been a general apathy towards the club, a very minor few even had the mindset that they were happy to see us struggle under the ownership of local businessmen, to the point where they would have just shrugged their shoulders if we ceased to exist. As mentioned above some would rather spend the price of admission on five pints watching the afternoon's PL in the pub. There's hundreds of Man Utd, Liverpool supporters in the town that have never set foot inside the Old Trafford or Anfield.

The last 18 months was a perfect storm, everything seemed to go right for us, good manager who brought the best of a team, backed well by a hard-working board. If it was said it was a 1 in 50 year chance to get promotion back into the league I don't think it would have been far from the truth.
There's hundreds of similar everywhere. Know everything there is to know about the Premier League except how to get into the stadiums.
 

Reremnart

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There's hundreds of similar everywhere. Know everything there is to know about the Premier League except how to get into the stadiums.
As we know all too well. And of course they are real die hard football fans because they support, albeit from their armchair, PL clubs whereas we, who probably go to more games a week then these clowns have been to in their entire lives, know nothing about the game as we don`t support "proper" clubs. What makes we laugh is the way they put their football shirts on to go to the pub to watch the match. And of course there are ones who really piss me off who turn up at their local FL club to watch a game and insist on wearing their PL club shirts when they do it like it makes them superior beings. Tossers !!!
 

Casey

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Shoddy; I apologise I didn't mean to derail the post which I thought had some well made and thought out points about the relative trajectories of w/so football.

As things stand (an Arab oil well or two could change things) Bristol City are the only sw club that has a chance of reaching the top tier in the foreseeable future. The finances and fan base see to that but they do seem to have grasped the nettle of being well run ad sustainable is better than blowing the next decades income on a dream.

As for fans watching the Premier clubs and ignoring us , its everywhere. As a overspill town though (family ties to major London clubs ) we seem to get it exceptionally bad.

Casey
 

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I'm 50/50 on whether Bournmouth is "South West". Southampton definitely isn't, but Bournmouth is marginal. I'd describe it as "South" but if there is only SW or SE I guess it would be SW.

Anything north of Bristol is midlands in my book.
Geographically speaking it's closer to the most south east point of England than the most south west point.
 

Si Robin

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Gloucestershire is on the cusp between Midlands & South West.
Cheltenham fans watch Midlands tv while FGR fans watch West Country tv.
Cheltenham is far more Rugby dominated than is the Stroud Valleys.
But is is good news that both the Shire clubs are in the promotion mix.

BTW someone mentioned that no club from this area had ever been in the Premiership. Hang on, there was football before the Premiership and Bristol City have played in top division.
But agreed that Bristol is the largest town/city in the UK never to be represented in Premiership.
I wasn't talking about TV regions, I was talking the former Government Office Regions.

As this map shows (similar to the one Shoddy found), Gloucestershire is in the South West region. As Cheltenham is in Gloucestershire then the town also falls into the South West region. The fact our aerial signal picks up Midlands Today is irrelevant. FWIW, my BBC signal is Midlands, but my ITV signal is very much Points West.

1607107582984.png


EDIT:- Here's the Wiki page on the English Regions - Regions of England - Wikipedia
 

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