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  • Writer's pictureLara Clarke

Who's the biggest of THE BIG 6 ?

We all know who the ‘Big 6’ are but who’s the biggest of the football Superpowers? Let’s try and answer the big question for you. From carrying out our research for the development of our Big 6 Fanzone exhibit for Football Mania Live – the UK’s biggest football fan event we think we can shed some light on this debate.

Let’s start with the emergence of ‘The Big 6’ – Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspurs, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United, all of whom are some of the most popular clubs in the world, each have a world-wide fanbase with great brand recognition globally. It helps to be consistently top contenders for the Premier League title as the Premier League is the most watched sports league in the world – watched in one billion homes in 188 countries!

The origins of these 6 football superpowers can be traced way back to the early stages of the English Football League, which itself was formally created and founded in 1888 by 12 clubs - Accrington, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Derby County, Everton, Notts County, Preston north End, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion and Wolves – ironically none of whom are in the ‘Big 6’, interestingly some of the Big 6 clubs were actually founded before the football league was even officially formed but later joined as the league established itself nationally. Arsenal, one of the most successful clubs in England, holding the record for longest unbeaten streak and longest run in top-flight English football, was founded back in 1886 in the city of London. Having grown out of the 38,000 seat stadium at Highbury they are now based, since 2006, at the iconic 60,000 capacity Emirates Stadium

Titles and Successes Arsenal can boast 13 first division/Premier League titles, 14 FA cup wins, 2 league cups and 1 UEFA cup winners cup. ). Arsenal won their first major trophy in 1930 beating Huddersfield Town 2-0 in the FA cup. This started a journey of success for the Gunners through the ‘30’s when they claimed 5 league titles and another FA cup trophy. In more recent times, what has become known as ‘The Wenger Era’ Arsenal became formidable under the then unknown French manager Arsene Wenger – the period between 1996 and 2004 is particularly noteworthy as Arsenal claimed 3 league titles and 3 FA cups. The 2003-2004 season stands out in club history as they did not lose a single game in the Premier league – the squad earning the nickname ‘the Invincibles’

Two Arsenal legends hold prestigious records; David O’Leary – most games played (558) and Thiery Henry – the top goal scorer (228).

Fanbase Arsenals army of fans now extends worldwide with reportedly, over 100 million Gooners around the planet making them the 3rd largest team in terms of supporters. Just by looking at Arsenals online and social media supporters and followers we can summarise the numbers as; Facebook: 38,98 M, Instagram: 20,8 M, Twitter: 18,4 M, YouTube: 2,56 M, TikTok: 1,7 M, Other: 53 K; Total: 82,5 M

Brand Power and Value Arsenal’s ownership is different to most other clubs in this list being owned by a parent company – Arsenal Holdings PLC which, since 2018 is controlled by the majority shareholder Stan Kroenke – owner of Kroenke Sports Enterprises. The PLC reported balance sheet in 2022 was £294m with football revenue of £ 328m. Arsenal brand power is among the 32 UEFA clubs with highest enterprise value still worth over £1.5 billion as at December 2022,

However Forbes values the club at £2.3 billion as at 2023. Arsenal are currently enjoying continued success under Mikel Arteta as they surely move forward to new conquests and title victories which may come to be known in time as ‘The Arteta Era’ only time will tell… Tottenham Hotspur FC was founded in 1882 and in1908 the club became a member of the Football League Spurs resided at their home ground known as White Hart Lane from 1899 to 2017 relocating to the new state-of-the-art Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in 2019. The new stadium has a seating capacity of 62,062, considerably greater than the 36,000 of White Hart Lane. They made history by becoming the first British team to win a European trophy, as well as winning the first UEFA Cup ever organized.

Titles and Successes Save for a single FA Cup in 1921, the next five decades were fairly uneventful for the club. The appointment of club legend Bill Nicholson as manager in 1958 heralded a new era for the club. Nicholson's time with the club is widely recognized as the greatest period in Tottenham's history; during his sixteen years at the helm, he led the club to a League title (1961), three FA Cups (1961, 1962, 1967), two League Cups (1971, 1973), one Cup Winners' Cup (1963) and the inaugural UEFA Cup (1972).

Overall they have won 52 titles, from their major honours the trophy room contains 8 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 1 Cup Winners' Cup and 2 UEFA Cups. In addition to their long tradition of cup success Spurs can also boast two League titles in 1951 and 1961. Spurs all time top goal scorer is Jimmy Greaves with 266, but hot on his heels and likely to exceed this long standing record is Harry Kane currently on 265. The player with the most appearances for Spurs in Steve Perryman with an impressive 854 appearances.

Fanbase Spurs claim to have over 180 million fans worldwide. Spurs have a combined social media following on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Tik-Tok of nearly 60 million.

Brand Power and Value Since 2001, Tottenham Hotspur FC is owned by the investment company ENIC Group with owners/majority shareholders Joseph Lewis and Daniel Levy in control. In 2022 they reported football revenues of £ 360 million and a club value of £ 1.6 billion according to Forbes for 2023. Liverpool FC, founded in 1892, has been synonymous with fame and glory. Internationally, Liverpool is the most successful British club of all time with plenty of European trophies on their record. They are one of the most popular football teams in the world, Liverpool FC still reside at their ancestral home, Anfield Road, with a 53,394 capacity. Two of the clubs most prolific players hold records for most games played: Ian Callaghan (857) and top goal scorer: Ian Rush (346)

Titles and successes Early on, Liverpool established themselves as one of England's top clubs, winning League titles in 1901, 1906, 1922 and 1923. After claiming their fourth League title in 1947, the club entered a period of mediocrity which culminated with their relegation to Second Division in 1954. Things took a turn for the better after Bill Shankly was hired as manager, During the reminder of Shankly's tenure as manager, they claimed an additional two League titles (1966, 1973), two FA Cups (1965, 1974), as well as their first European trophy – the 1973 UEFA Cup. After claiming their ninth League title in 1990, Liverpool entered a downward spiral. With only a couple of Cup trophies and some mediocre league finishes in the 90s and early 00s. This period led to a well deserved return to the top - Liverpool was close to win Premier League as runners up in 2002, 2014 and 2019. Jurgen Klopp, widely regarded as one of the best managers in the world, was appointed manager of Liverpool in 2015. He guided the club to successive UEFA Champions League finals in 2018 and 2019, winning the latter to secure his first – and Liverpool's sixth – title in the competition. In 2020 everything began to fall into place, Liverpool pulled away from the competition and the sky turned red when the league was finally decided.

Liverpool’s cache of trophy success include: First Division/Premier League: 19; FA Cup: 8; League Cup: 8; European Cup/Champions League: 5 and UEFA Cup: 3

Fanbase Liverpool now have over 300 Official LFC Supporters Clubs (OLSCs) in 100 countries worldwide - Billy Hogan, Liverpool FC CEO, once claimed that Liverpool have got over 580 million fans globally. Liverpool is most definitely among the list of football clubs with most fans in England and the arrival of Jurgen Klopp as manager saw a drastic increase in the number of supporters of Liverpool.

Liverpool FC online and social media supporters and followers break down as: Facebook: 40,82 M, Instagram: 34,6 M, Twitter: 18,8 M, YouTube: 6,56 M, TikTok: 5,9 M, Other: 167,8 K; Total: 106,85 M

Brand Power and Value Fenway Sports Group LLC, which is managed by John Henry and Tom Werner, recently celebrated their 12th anniversary as owners of Liverpool Football Club having taken over in 2010, parting with £300 million for that honour.

The club was valued at £3.6 billion by Forbes as of May 2022. Chelsea Football Club based in Fulham, West London. Founded in 1905, the club competes in the Premier League, the top division of English football. Stamford Bridge has been the Chelsea stadium since the club was founded with a seating capacity pf 41,600. One of the most important periods in the club's history was the promotion they won to the top tier of English football in 1984.

Moving forward and shortly after Roman Abramovich took over the club in 2003, Jose Mourinho was appointed as the manager to take his Chelsea empire to the next level. He made a very good start by winning the Premier League title in 2005 and started the club's most successful period in its history by winning five major trophies in the "Special One's" time at Stamford Bridge.

Titles and Sucesses 29 is the total number of titles that are stored in the vaults of Stamford Bridge currently. Almost a quarter of those 29 honours are made up of FA Cup victories - eight times Chelsea have lifted the worlds oldest cup competition, the first in 1970 and the most recent in 2018. Domestically, the club has won six league titles, eight FA Cups, five League Cups, and four FA Community Shields. Internationally, they have won two European Cups, two UEFA Cup Winners' Cups, two UEFA Cups, two UEFA Super Cups, and one FIFA Club World Cup. In terms of overall trophies won, it is the fourth-most successful club in English football.

Fanbase Chelsea have won five EPL championships and two UEFA Champions League titles since 2003. In turn, its fanbase has increased from less than 10M fans to between 150 - 200M+ fans around the world and is constantly growing.

Chelsea’s numbers in terms of online and social media supporters and social media followers break down as Facebook: 51 M, Instagram: 31,5 M, Twitter: 18,9 M, YouTube: 3,44 M, TikTok: 5,4 M; Total: 110,22M

Brand Power and Value The American billionaire Todd Boehly-led consortium, Clearlake Capital, completed a £4.25bn takeover of Chelsea in May 2022, ending Roman Abramovich's 19-year ownership of the club. This made the deal the biggest takeover of any sports club in history. This was clearly a commercial deal as Forbes had Chelsea valued at £2.5bn in May 2022.

Manchester United, the 'Red Devils', were founded in 1878 with their first name as the Newton Heath football club but later changed its name to Manchester United in the year 1902 and moved to their stadium which is known as the Old Trafford in the year 1910.

They are still considered the most successful club in England in terms of the total number of titles won despite not winning any major title since 2017. They have been struggling in every competition in recent years to the extent they could not qualify for Champions League football ahead of the 2022-2023 season.

Old Trafford, the theatre of dreams, home to Manchester United, is the biggest stadium in the English Premier League, with a capacity of 74,310. It is the second-largest football stadium in England, behind only the national stadium, Wembley, which has a capacity of 90,000.

Titles and Successes Manchester united is the biggest and most successful football club in England having 67 trophies to their name.

Manchester United are currently the record title winners in the English topflight having won the division a total of 20 times since 1889. They have also won the world’s oldest domestic soccer competition, the FA Cup, 12 times, most recently in 2016. This figure is surpassed only by Arsenal FC, who have lifted the cup 13 times. The London team pulled ahead of Manchester United after claiming their 13th title with a 2-1 victory against Chelsea in the 2016-17 season.

The majority of Manchester United’s championship wins came since the inception of the Premier League at the beginning of the 1992/93 season under the leadership of manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Indeed, United’s most recent title came in the 2012-13 season, which was Ferguson's final season of management before his retirement.

Two of Manchester United’s club legends hold the prestigious records of top goal scorer and most appearances; Wayne Rooney tops the list of all-time goal-scorers for Manchester United, having scored 253 times in 559 appearances for the club and the club's record appearance maker is Ryan Giggs, who made 963 appearances between 1991 and 2014.

Fanbase Manchester United have been named as the world's most popular club in new figures released.

Research from global market research agency, Kantar, shows United have a worldwide fan and follower base of 1.1 billion, an increase of over 400 million since a similar survey was conducted in 2012.

The Red Devils loyal fanbase of social media supporters has swelled to: Facebook: 76,13 M, Instagram: 53,5 M, Twitter: 29 M, YouTube: 5,46 M, TikTok: 11,6 M, Other: 240 K; Total: 175,9 M

Brand Power and Value At the turn of the millennium, Malcolm Glazer had his sights set on European football. At the time, Manchester United were one of the most successful clubs in the world, winning an array of silverware under Sir Alex Ferguson. Between 2003 and 2005, Malcom Glazer acquired ownership of the club by buying out existing shareholders for around $790 million. Since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, the club has enjoyed consistent success and growth with popular players such as Eric Cantona, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Roy Keane, Bryan Robson, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.

The popularity of these players coupled with its distinguished tradition and history, and the on-field success of the first team have allowed Manchester United to expand the club into a global brand with an international follower base.

Now, according to the Athletic, Manchester United’s most recent valuation of the club was worth £3.7bn at May 2022 but is now more like £3.85bn. Manchester United is undoubtedly one of the biggest football clubs in the world. While success on the pitch has been lacking in recent years, the value of the brand off the pitch continues to grow. Manchester City originally founded in 1880 but went through a number of changes to be reformed as Manchester City FC in 1894. The club home stadium was originally at Maine Road (1923-2003) then In 2003 they moved to the City of Manchester Stadium in east Manchester which was originally built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games. The Abu Dhabi ownership influenced a name change for the stadium, selling the naming rights for a record £ 150 million to Etihad Airlines, changing the name to Etihad Stadium in 2011. The Etihad Stadium holds an impressive 55,000 spectators, making it one of the biggest stadiums in Premier League football.

Two of Manchester City’s players hold the records of most games played: Alan Oakes (682) and highest goal scorer: Sergio Aguero, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest and deadliest strikers of his generation, had an incredibly successful spell at the Etihad, scoring 260 goals in a career that lasted a decade.

Titles and Successes Manchester City have won 29 major honours throughout their history – 8 league titles, 6 FA Cups, 8 League Cups, 6 FA Charity/Community Shields and 1 European Cup Winners Cup. Manchester City’s rapid rise to the elite of European football began when Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour took over the club in 2008. In the years under Sheikh Mansour, City have won five Premier League titles, two FA Cups and six EFL Cups. But even after the £2.5bn of Abu Dhabi money that has reportedly been invested in the club since Mansour’s takeover, the coveted Champions League has continued to elude the blue half of Manchester.

A high point for City was the league victory in the 2017-2018 season when City became the first team ever in the Premier League to collect 100 points in one season. City also made a new record in consecutive league wins (18). Manchester City won the 2021-22 Premier League title for the 8th time in the club's history.

Fanbase Manchester City can boast over 330 official supporters clubs with a truly global network of branches around the world. The rise of the global fan means that just one percent of Manchester City’s supports actually live in the UK.

Manchester City have an impressive following on social media made up of Facebook: 41,48 M, Instagram: 28,5 M, Twitter: 11,2 M, YouTube: 3,77 M, TikTok: 5,6 M, Other: 96 K; Total: 90,65 M

Brand Power and Value A takeover by the Abu Dhabi billionaire Sheikh Mansour (Abu Dhabi United Group) in 2008 signalled a new and triumphant era. Now one of the richest clubs in the world, City immediately started getting busy on the transfer market, acquiring many big-name signings for record fees. The five years following Mansour's take over the club spent over £500 million on players.

The crown jewel of City Football Group, which is owned by Abu Dhabi United Group, is Manchester City FC, which Forbes valued at £3.4 billion in May 2022. Summary – the results are in…. If we apply some logic to the data with a little science added in by weighting the facts and figures of global fanbase, brand value, club successes and trophies won it demonstrates a fairly clear picture of the ranking from the biggest downwards. Despite each of the Big 6 clubs having their individual records, triumphs and accomplishments we find that the Big 6 can be ranked in order as follows;

1. Manchester United still by some margin 2. Liverpool FC 3. Manchester City and Arsenal come out joint 3rd 4. Chelsea ranked 4th but only missing out on joint 3rd by a small margin 5. Tottenham Hotspurs

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