Football reigns supreme in hearts of young adults, even without the Super League

Rishad Dsouza
April 29, 2021, 2:02 PM GMT+0

As the row around the now-suspended European Super League brewed, one of its key advocates, Madrid President Florentino Pérez, made the case that the tournament would do more to attract a new generation of fans.

"Young people are no longer interested in football,” he said in an interview about the proposed breakaway before any of its founding members backed out. “They have other platforms on which to distract themselves,”.

We look at data from YouGov Global Fan Profiles to understand football popularity among young people (aged 18-34) compared to the general population, both globally and in the individual markets which were set to have Super League clubs – UK, Spain and Italy.

According to the data, people in the 18-34 age category globally are only marginally less likely to be football followers compared to the rest of the population. In Italy, younger people are just as likely to be football fans as the general population, while in the two other countries where Super League Clubs were due to be based, younger people are only slightly less likely to be fans.

The difference is starkest in Spain, where the younger group are 4% less likely to be avid followers than the general population (33%). In the UK, which was slated to provide six of the 12 clubs in the inaugural Super League, there was only a 2% difference between the groups.

The data also finds that football is comfortably the most popular sport amongst youngsters in each market, especially in UK and Italy.

Even in Spain, where the popularity contest is a lot stiffer, football is five points clear of second-placed basketball in terms of avid followers amongst young adults. Football continues to enjoy unparalleled attention among young sport followers in key Super League markets. And if we look at a trend for a football property in the shape of the English Premier League, for example, we see the opposite trend to the one Pérez states – younger British people are now more likely to be customers of the Premier League than the rest of the population, rather than less.

A YouGov Direct study conducted on April 19 reveals that an overwhelming majority of football fans in the UK, including supporters of the six UK-based Super League clubs, reject the idea of the Super League. In fact, only 14% of fans of the “Big 6” clubs felt there shouldn’t be punishment for European Super League member clubs. Almost half (44%) of them voted for Super League clubs’ “expulsion from domestic leagues”.

Could this negative sentiment translate into current supporters of Super League teams turning their attention to other teams in the Premier League, even with the league seemingly dead in the water? We look at data from YouGov Profiles to understand which teams could be beneficiaries in this case, using the “Consideration” metric under FootballIndex, which asks fans to pick the teams they consider likeable.

With one in four fans (25%) of Super League clubs picking them, Leicester City was the Premier League team that emerged most likeable among supporters of the Big 6. Wolverhampton Wanderers (18%), Southampton (16%), Everton (16%) and Newcastle United (14%) made up the top five list.


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Methodology: YouGov Global Fan Profiles, which includes data from 38 markets, is based on continuously collected data from several sources, rather than from a single limited questionnaire. Data referenced is based on a sample size of between 543 and 58,879 adults. Online interviews were conducted in April 2021.

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