“Swansea City is way bigger than (arbitrary large town/small city) FC”, “Swansea is a massive club”, we’ve heard them all. The my-football-club-is-bigger-than-your-football-club boast is about as popular as the playground my-Dad-is-bigger-than-your-Dad taunt and perhaps about as mature, too.
It seems to be equally popular with fans and players. If we were talking about our cars we could be accused of regarding the car as an extension to one’s… erm… manhood! Quite clearly, when it comes to football clubs; size matters.
This leads me to question two points; how does one measure the size of a football club and should it really matter, anyway? Actually, I derive no satisfaction from the notion that Swansea City FC is a bigger club than, say, Yeovil Town. Likewise, I am not consumed with shame to admit that Swansea City FC is smaller than Liverpool FC.
If Swansea City is indeed a massive club then how would Manchester Utd be described? Red Giants? Bigger does not necessarily mean better; a point we hammered into Leeds Utd and Nottingham Forest last season.
Similarly, from the perspective of the fans of Leeds Utd or Nottingham Forest, there seemed to be some consolation that in spite of their defeats to Swansea City they were nevertheless bigger clubs than us. I’ll concede that point every time we play them if we get the three points.
In actual fact, we all have an intuitive idea of the relative size of a club but it is difficult to quantify; we all know a big club when we see one.
In recent times I have read that the following metrics may be used to determine the size of a club:
• Position in the league structure,
• Honours & titles,
• Stadium capacity,
• Average home gate,
• Number of world-wide fans,
• Some vague notion of the status of a club,
• Value of club.
Doubtless, there are many more factors that could be listed, however, the 10 points listed will suffice. Some of these points have some merit and some are red-herrings. Let’s have a closer look. The league position of a club has some merit but clearly is inadequate on its own.
Is Doncaster Rovers really bigger than Leicester City? My intuition says not but their league position would suggest so. As for honours and titles, these, too, have some merit but are inadequate on their own. It occurs to me that honours and titles have a certain shelf life beyond which their relevance diminishes.
Nottingham Forest make a deal of noise about their double European Cup titles, but is there any member of their current playing/coaching staff who was involved in these title winning sides?
If not, how relevant are these titles to the current squad? The next three points relate to the club’s level of support. Now this certainly has merit although even here you will find anomalies. My issue is with the size of the stadium.
Did Swansea City suddenly become a bigger club the day it locked up the Vetch and moved into the Liberty Stadium? Well, actually, I think it did. But then does Darlington’s 25 000 capacity Arena stadium make them a big club even though their average home league attendance this season is only 3061.
The anomaly is even stronger if you consider Scottish league 2 side Queens Park, whose home ground is Hampden Park. It is often claimed that Manchester Utd are the world’s biggest club by virtue of their world-wide support. Again, this has some merit. Their support cannot be measured in terms of average attendances because every game is a sell-out.
So the attendance metric is saturated at the capacity of their stadium; clearly many more would attend if the stadium could accommodate them. However, for clubs who do not regularly sell-out, home attendance is a fair indicator of size. My next point concerns the club’s status.
This is another immeasurable quantity. Actually, it is a quality of a club which hinges on factors like international representation, stardom and appeal of the club (often outside its catchment area), level of press coverage and the influence the club has on footballing matters.
If one could measure status one might also have a measure of size. My last four points are all related to the club’s financial position. The turnover of a business is often used as a metric to judge its size and applies equally to a football club but otherwise I think that financial matters are in the red-herring category.
I certainly regard the expense of transfer fees to be somewhat irrelevant, even misleading. Nottingham Forest’s £4.5 million summer spending spree certainly makes them big spenders.
Swansea City’s prudence over the summer suggests we are a far smaller club. Some are concerned that we are trying to compete on the cheap. Do you really get what you pay for, is there really no such thing as a bargain? It’s early days yet but I am beginning to believe that (a) you can get ripped-off and (b) there are bargains to be had if you shop wisely. The debt of a club was a serious suggestion but a laughable one.
The truth is that a club’s size is a combination of all these factors, red-herrings aside. We tend to give them differing priorities when we weigh them all up in our minds. As in the nature of football, it gives rise to endless debate, which may be enjoyable but is ultimately pointless.