Quicklinks: Fans, Chants, Fans in London, Rivalries, Hooligans

Not only is England the home of football, it's also the origin of fan culture. It were the stadiums in England, where chants and hooligans emerged first. So for almost every football fan in the world, attending a match in England, is like watching the Red Sox play at Fenway Park or drinking a beer at Munich's Oktoberfest. It's as authentic as it gets. But if you want to go to London to hear a crowd sing for 90 minutes or to see some hardcore hooligan action, you will more than likely be dissapointed. The atmosphere in the stadiums has become worse over the last years, just like in many other countries as well. It's an inevitable result of increasing ticket prices, different crowds, the conversion of terraces into seating areas and so on. However there are still matches where the atmosphere is just stunning.

Rookery Watford

The English Fan

It's hard to give a general description of what the English fan is like. Like everywhere else in the world, there's a broad range of supporters. However some things are characteristic for almost every English fan:

In general, the English supporter is a lot more interested in the sport football than most fans from other countries. The people in the stands tend to be very involved with what's going on on the pitch. They also have a deep respect for sportsmanship, e.g. it's not rare that even the players from the opposing team will get a round of applause from time to time. Since sport is the reason why people attend matches, there's no need to turn a football match into a "family event". There's no stupid pregame or halftime entertainment brought to you by sponsor x or sponsor y. A couple of songs from the PA, that's it. Most fans wouldn't be interested in a pregram show anyway, since they get to their seat shortly before kickoff. Before (and after) they're at a pub.

Another thing about English supporters: They love to travel to away matches. Even in lower divisions, there's always a good number of away supporters. No matter how far the distance, no matter if the match's on the weekend or during the week. Even European Cup matches on the continent are a popular and the English club will more than likely need the full away ticket allocation for its supporters.


As mentioned above, it's the sport English supporters are focused on. That influences the chants as well. When a team has a lead, the fans will sing their hearts out, as soon as the teams down, the fans will be quiet. Of course there are exceptions but the famous saying "You only sing when you're winning" describes the atmosphere at English stadiums well.

As England's the home of fan culture, there's a large variety of chants. Compared to many other countires, English chants are oftentimes real songs with lyrics and content. Not just plain lalalalala-stuff like in southern Europe. A good website for football chants is www.footballchants.org. Additionally there are books, such as "Dicks Out" that contain a lot of chants as well.

In contrast to many other countries, there's no special area in English stadiums, where fans gather together to sing. Of course there are stands in which the die-hard fans have their season tickets (e.g. Cold Blow Lane End at Millwall), but chants are started throughout the stadium, even in stands with expensive seats and everyone turns in.

Charlton at Chelsea

Spurs at Charlton

Supporters of clubs from London

There's no way to say which club from London has the "best" supporters. All of them have a solid fan base. The Premier League teams have an average attendance of 95% to 100% of the stadium capacity, with Fulham being the only exception.

When it comes to the atmosphere, it's hard to judge, as chanting strongly depends on how the team's doing on the pitch. But just like everywhere else in the world, the clubs with lots of blue collar supporters (Millwall, West Ham) have the reputation of having a noisy crowd.

The question to which club someone from London gives its symapthies to is often determined by the area they live in (e.g. East London = West Ham, North London= Spurs or Arsenal). So it's automatically also a matter of class, as people in West London tend to be wealthier than people from East London. However than big, successful clubs such as Arsenal or Chelsea have fans from all over London and beyond.

Small clubs like Orient, Barnet or Confrence teams are often seen as a second club by many fans of the big clubs,

Furthermore, there's a large number of fans in London, who follow other English clubs, such as Liverpool or ManUtd (so called Cockney Reds).


London has nurmerous clubs that are all located within a 50 km radius and that have played each other many times in their history. Fans of different clubs meet each other every single day in their daily life, so it's just a matter of fact, that some of the clubs and their fan base share an intense rivalry. This is why London's derbies are something very special.

The most intense rivalry in London's football is the one between Arsenal and Tottenham. This is due to two reasons: Both clubs are located in North London and it's just 6 km from White Hart Lane to the Emirates. Besides, the duel Arsenal vs. Spurs has been the battle for the crown of London for decades. This has changed after Abramowitsch decided to give some of his millions to Chelsea, but the rivalry between the Gunners and the Spurs is still the same.

Another huge rivalry is the one between Millwall and West Ham. Both clubs have their roots in the docks, both were founded by dock workers, both clubs rely on a working class fan base, both clubs have had infamous hooligan mobs in the past. The rivalry has cooled off a little bit over the last years, as it was rare that these two clubs met on the pitch. Still the rivalry was portrayed in the movie "Hooligans", which was released in 2005.

Due to sugar daddy Abramowitsch, Chelsea is not too popular with any of the other clubs' fans. The fans of Arsenal aren't too happy to have another competitor for the crown of London, but Chelsea is hated most by QPR and West Ham fans. The latter enjoy chanting "From Stamford Bridge to Upton Park, stick the blue flag up your arse" every time they get to play Chelsea.

The latest addition to London's football rivalries is the one between Charlton and Palace. This one dates back to the last matchday of the 2004/05 Premier League season. Palace was playing at the Valley and desperately needed a win to avoid relegation. Although they were up 2:1 for quite some time, Palace didn't get the three points as Charlton shot the equalizer in the 82nd minute. As Charlton's fans "celebrated" Palace's relegation, the relationship of the two clubs hit rock bottom. As a result Simon Jordan (chairman of Crystal Palace) insulted Charlton's fans as "morons", which did not help to improve the relationship either.

Besides Charlton, Crystal Palace has another intense rivalry with Brighton. It's actually not rare the London's clubs have rivalries with clubs from cities of London's outskirts. The fans of the East London clubs for example don't seem to like Southend too much.

Some of the London clubs don't have any remarkable rivalries. As a family club, Brentford for example has no desire to cultivate any rivalries. Other clubs like Fulham or Dagenham are just too low profile to attract any rivals.

Additional information on the rivalries in English football can be found in this highly recommended book: Rivals: The Offbeat Guide to the 92 League Clubs

As always: A strong police presence at the Den


Most certainly, you won't get in touch with any hooligans at English stadiums these days. Just like in many other countries, this "problem" has dissapeard completely fro mthe grounds, due to increasing ticket prices and CCTV surveillance. The occasions in which hooligan trouble makes it to the papers or TV are rare. However that doesn't mean that there still isn't a scene.

The fact that England suffered severe hooligan problems in the past influences the sport until today. Some rules are very strict compared to other countries. There's a general rule that fans sitting in the wrong part of the stadium (e.g. away fans in home sector) have to be ejected from the ground, if they make themselves known (e.g. by cheering). To prevent this from happening in the first place, there are certain matches for which there's no ticket sale on matchday (so called all-ticket-matches). Additionally, many pubs have a strict policy of not allowing away fans.

When hooliganism reached its peak in the eighties, some teams from London were well known for their mobs (West Ham's ICF, Millwall's Bushwackers or the Chelsea Headhunters). Although there were huge rivalries between these groups, it is said that there was a general accepted agreement not to fight another mob from London outside the city borders.



ManCity at Fulham

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