What is the actual definition of a ‘football fan’?
Realistically, there isn’t a universal definition. We can all support who we want in what ever way we want to do so. Whether that means buying every single season’s new kits, or turning up every Saturday with your tatty club branded cap on that your grandad sported each weekend. Football is a community, and it should be accepting of all different calibre of supportership. That’s part of our DNA here at FanHub.
Down in League One and League Two is where you get the typical ‘die-hards’. You, of course, get these types higher up the pyramid too, but when your 300 mile round trip ends in the lush setting of the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, then it’s hard to compare that to the lengthy trek ending in the windy, tight surroundings of Forest Green’s New Lawn or that infamous away end at Gillingham. Being a supporter at this level is much more rewarding in many ways, too. You instantly feel a closer part of your club when you’re sat amongst 5,000 ish of your fellow town’s folk, and the fact that £20,000 is a hell of a lot of money to them – instead of it being a drop of what a player earns per week at the top level.
In League Two, there are some big clubs with huge fan bases. There are also a lot of smaller clubs with equally loyal and brilliant fans. It is a great league; one that a lot of foreign football fans and players are jealous of.
But who has the best fan base in the league?
5. Newport County
Something that we have to remember is that it’s not ALL about the numbers.
It’s safe to say that the South Wales outfit don’t come particularly close to being the most supported club in League 2. In fact, according to WorldFootball, their average attendance from last season was 14th in the league. An average of 3,867 loyal Welsh fans stuck by their squad during a league campaign that was full of ups and downs. Last season might’ve ended fairly uneventfully, but there is actually one stat that Newport County can boast about.
County’s supporters were named as the ‘best behaved’ fans in Wales and England (announced in September 2020). The Home Office produced their statistics over the number of banning orders throughout elite football in the English leagues, with Newport coming out on top. They’ve only got six banning orders in place at the time of writing; only one of those from last season. Well done Newport fans.
It’s also very much worth noting that Newport is a supporter owned club. In 2015, the Exiles’ supporter’s trust raised the vital £195,00 needed to take control of their football club. The fans acted.
Since that day it’s not all been plain sailing, but they’ve managed to keep their club in League 2.
4. Carlisle United
We are only taking a short step up on that average attendance table.
Sitting in 13th are Carlisle United. They averaged 4,140 fans per match last season. To put this into some context, EIGHT League Two clubs averaged an attendance in the 4000’s last year – including 6th place Port Vale and their 19,053 capacity stadium.
Carlisle United, just like most clubs at this level, have faced real adversity in the face of the faceless coronavirus. With finances already stretched at the club, their ‘Carlisle REunited’ scheme was created to help out.
Initiated with the Carlisle United Official Supporter’s Club (CUOSC), the fans have so far raised a handy £11,193. The scheme isn’t just about the donations though. As the CUOSC put it, it’s about ‘maximising revenues’ and encouraging the fans to return to Brunton Park once it is safe to do so. There is an overwhelming urge to reunite their club, with some fans that they’ve lost along the way.
3. Bolton Wanderers
As a fan of an EFL club that have been a L1&2 outfit for all of my time supporting them, I struggle to relate to the pain and suffering that Bolton Wanderers’ fans have had to go through over the past few years. They’ve gone from Premier League regulars and starring in the UEFA Cup to drawing 3-3 to Barrow AFC in League Two (no offence to Barrow fans). When your club goes to dire straits, near expulsion, and near implosion, then it wouldn’t be surprising if you look elsewhere for your football fix. But not at Bolton.
During their relegation year in League One (2019-20), the Trotters were heroically bad at times. Their off-field issues matched their on-pitch problems. But the attendances barely dropped. They averaged 11,480, which amounts to being 4th in attendance league (for League One). They had a total of 183,680 fans that season (not a unique number. It is all the attendances added together, so one person would count multiple times – if that makes sense.)
The University of Bolton Stadium is an epic arena for football – especially at this level. If their average attendance last season was matched for this one, then they’d sit second in that table.
You have to take your hats off to the devotion that the Wanderers have given their club – it’s something that we all feel we would be like if it were to happen to us. But it actually happened to them.
2. Bradford City
I said earlier that it’s not all about numbers. But it’s time to polish of my A in GCSE Maths because I’m about to hit you with some big ol’ numbers.
Remember that average attendance table for last season? Yeah? Well Bradford City smash it to pieces. They sit top, with an average of 14,309 fans per match. All together that works out to be a huge 257,563 – which is 61,142 more than 2nd place Plymouth Argyle. Their highest attendance last season stands at 17,668. It was a game against Grimsby Town. A huge attendance for League Two.
Let’s throw that 17,668 into some context. In the German Bundesliga, Bradford would sit above Paderborn, Union Berlin and Freiburg in last season’s attendance charts. It would sit them in 8th (out of 18 teams) in the 2. Bundesliga; and it would put them 4,000 fans above the 3. Liga (German 3rd tier) average attendance table leaders. Their supporter base is absolutely nothing to be sniffed at in terms of size.
I’ve been away to Bradford a few times. The pure intimidation that comes from the roar of ‘Country Roads’ is tremendous. It feels as if the stand is shaking. It’s up there with one of the best sights in L1&2 football. In ‘Football Ground Maps’s survey on best football atmospheres, 41,867 people voted Bradford to the top of the L2 list – ranking four out of five stars.
It’s not all about numbers and noise, though. In the FA Cup first round, Bradford drew an away tie at Tonbridge Angels. The 0-7 scoreline on the Saturday lunchtime kick off shows the disparage between the two clubs. The National League South side were sucker punched when they were forced to play behind-closed-doors, meaning none of that 14,309 could travel down. Despite a nice sum from the TV rights, money is still horrifically stretched for the Angels. But when Bradford fan Jamie Carrington helped raised an extra £6,000 from fellow City fans, it will actually significantly support the Angels going forward.
1. Exeter City
When it comes to English clubs being fan owned, there are none bigger than Exeter City. Sitting deep on the south coast, Exeter have been a regular fixture for many years in League Two. Having this renewed stability since the supporters’ trust took over in the early 2000s is great, however the fact they’ve suffered so much Play-off Final heartbreak in recent years means still being in League 2 is as frustrating as anything. At least they still have a club though. In 2003 it looked all doom and gloom, when the Grecians were in deep financial problems. So much so that their former chairman was actually jailed due to it.
But a group of more than 3,000 City fans created their supporters’ trust, who are now the key owners of their club – the dream in many respects. Four of the eight directors are nominated by the supporters’ trust, allowing the fans to have a huge say on how their club is run. When Paul Tisdale was forcibly removed from the managerial position, it was due to the supporters’ trust not believing that his ‘2-year rolling contract was sustainable’.
Since they’ve taken control they’ve invested a lot into their youth set up. And that is something that has reaped the rewards. Ethan Ampadu, Matt Grimes and Ollie Watkins are just three of the bigger names to have come through the Grecians academy, and gone on for fairly big money. The only reason Exeter City aren’t in League One is due to a large number of play-off finals that have gone to pieces.
Exeter City: Let’s talk numbers…
Harking back to that average attendance table, Exeter sit a respectable 7th. Their average is 4,847, but their highest attendance last season was 7,924 – a crowd suitable for their derby against Plymouth Argyle. (Who expected League One Plymouth to get so many mentions here huh). Adding to this, Bradford might sit top of the atmosphere charts, but Exeter aren’t too far down. They place a respectable 4th – getting three out of five stars.
So, there is our top 5 list of League Two fans! What do you think? Have I missed anyone? There can be many honourable mentions, such as Leyton Orient’s supporters trust raising £51,000 for their club over the last 12 months. So tell us, why do you think your club has the best fanbase?! Are you your club’s biggest fan?
Check out our evaluation of the best League One fanbases here: https://fan-hub.com/2020/11/12/which-club-has-the-best-fans-in-the-efl-league-one/