Some of you may have seen the piece in The Irish Times recently where the results of a survey about which soccer teams people in Ireland support was published. The survey was carried out by Empathy Research for the forthcoming book ‘An Atlas of Irish Sport’, to be published later in the spring by Cork University Press.
The survey threw up no surprises, but was still a useful exercise, as is any updated poll on teams, bands, clothes, politicians or whatever. Likes and dislikes go out of fashion quickly, depending on the subject matter; in the case of which soccer teams we like here, little seems to have changed in recent times though.
The survey results indicated that about half of our population support a soccer team. Manchester United and Liverpool remain the biggest draws at the box office, with more than a million combined supporters in the Republic. Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham also featured in the Top Ten, with the other places in it going to Barcelona, Celtic, Cork City and Dundalk. No Real Madrid, no Bray Wanderers, no Rochdale!
The placing of two SSE Airtricity League Premier Division teams in such a national poll, albeit on single figure shares of the vote, was a relief to see. These are the two sides that have dominated the game here for the last decade, and if that hadn’t filtered up to some kind of national-level support then you would have to worry about the futility of success at a domestic level.
The poll complemented its national findings with a deep-dive into the regions to find out how support differed on a more granular level in these areas. While the big teams from the English Premier League still dominated, there were decent showings for Sligo, Galway and Finn Harps in Connaught-Ulster, and Shamrock Rovers, St Patrick’s Athletic and Bohemians in Dublin.
The survey had some interesting results from the questionnaires the participants filled out. For example, people gave their reasons for supporting their team of choice. Amongst the predictable answers such as living in the catchment area, liking the strip, liking a particular player or friends or family supported that team so they followed suit, some participants picked their side because of a historical link or just liking the name of the club.
Of course, we are in the unreal situation at the moment of not being able to follow our team or teams of choice. We will hopefully get back here in June but the UK leagues look like being declared void. Strange days indeed.