Football is the single most popular sport on the planet. From Asia to Africa, Europe to Australasia, and the Americas, you don’t have to look long before you’ll find a bar, cafe, pub, shop window, or someone’s front room with the day’s biggest match on the television.
Although England has only got one trophy to its name, the English Premier League is widely considered the best league in the world. Many players would give just about anything to play in the top flight of English football and to hear their names being chanted in unison by a sea of passionate fans.
So which are the best cities in the UK for football fans to visit or even move to?
Join us as we explore just a handful of the best football cities the UK has to offer.
Where are the best towns and cities to be a football fan?
Although there is no single sports city in the UK, London has by far the most top-level football clubs. Outside of the capital, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Birmingham, Sheffield, and Newcastle are all fantastic football cities.
We are going to look at some of the places with the fiercest footballing rivalries and the most loyal and renowned fans.
So let’s jump in and start with the city with perhaps the most famous football club the world has ever seen.
When it comes to footballing cities, there is no place on Earth that is more closely associated with the beautiful game than Manchester. Home to two of the biggest clubs in the world, the streets of Manchester are rarely without networks of sky-blue or devil-red jersey-clad fans congregating at pubs and sports bars to watch their team play.
Along with Real Madrid and Barcelona, Manchester United is one of the most supported football clubs in the history of the sport and one of the biggest sports teams in the world, which explains why Old Trafford remains the largest football stadium in the Premier League. You could find yourself in the most far-flung corners of the planet and still not be surprised to see people sporting the instantly recognisable red shirt. Although the last few years haven’t been the best for United, their die-hard fans remain resolute and strong-willed, and the city is alive with their love of the club.
Manchester City was long seen as the second club of Manchester, even though most locals are supporters. This is because they simply didn’t have the silverware or the superstar names that United boasts. However, this has changed in recent years, and City’s current incarnation is now regarded by many as among the greatest football teams ever to grace the sport.
So whether you are a fan of the sky-blues, the devils, or just a neutral lover of the game, the city of Manchester is a natural home for all football fans, whatever their stripes or colours.
London has got it all. Theatre, music, history, and, of course, football. Wherever you are in the big smoke, come a Saturday afternoon, you can only be a stone’s throw away from the nearest heaving stadium. There are too many professional football clubs based in the capital for us to name them all (17, to be precise), but here we will look at some of the best-known clubs with the richest sporting histories.
Arsenal Football Club is London’s most successful football team, with 44 trophies to their name, at the time of writing. After a slump at the end of the Arsene Wenger era and the years following, Arsenal is now on the up and looks to be returning to its previous lofty heights as one of the best teams in the world.
Just down the road from Arsenal’s ground is White Hart Lane, home to Tottenham Hotspur. The Arsenal/Tottenham rivalry is one of the fiercest in the game, and the North London Derby (or ‘NLD’) is always a great one for neutral sports fans.
Fulham is the oldest club in London, having been founded in 1879. Known for its beautiful river-side stadium called ‘Craven Cottage,’ Fulham has returned to the top flight after a year in the Championship.
Chelsea is the only London club to have ever won the Champions League, the highest accolade in club football. Chelsea has always been a popular club, but it wasn’t until Roman Abramovich took over in 2003 that it became the giant it is today. Since then, Chelsea has gone on to be one of the most decorated clubs in English football.
West Ham, Crystal Palace, and Brentford are the three other London football clubs currently competing in the Premier League. And Millwall and QPR deserve special mentions for their (sometimes infamous) notoriety in the game.
Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, plays host to one of the oldest and most embittered rivalries in the game. In one corner is Celtic, with 52 Scottish Premier League titles under their belts and the largest victory in the head-to-head (7-1 in 1957). In the other corner is Rangers, with 55 Scottish Premier League titles and the most wins in the head-to-head (168 in total).
So fierce is the rivalry that it has even acquired its own name, the ‘Old Firm.’ Over the years, the Old Firm has reflected political, social, religious, and sectarian divisions within Scotland. Celtic fans are largely from Catholic backgrounds, while Rangers are protestant, which, along with other divisions, lies at the heart of the split in support.
The two clubs of the Old Firm are by far the most successful in Scotland, with both teams regularly qualifying for European football tournaments and one of the two usually winning the Scottish Premier League.
Although the clashes between the sides have been known to get ugly, the intensity of the occasion and the superlative standing of both clubs within Scottish football makes Glasgow one of the great footballing cities of the world.
Newcastle is home to just one professional football team, Newcastle United FC. While this means it lacks the heated rivalries of other footballing cities, it also means that the city’s fans congregate around the club through thick and thin.
Although it never won the Premier League, Newcastle has won the old First Division and boasts a clutch of FA Cup trophies. The club also experienced success in the 1990s and early 2000s when its star striker Alan Shearer became the all-time top Premier League goal scorer.
Newcastle was recently bought in a controversial take-over by Saudia Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. While this move was mired in outrage, it has signaled a new era of financial investment for the club, which aims to compete for top-level European football in the next few years.
But regardless of the owners, the finances, or the success, Newcastle FC has some of the most dedicated and vociferous fans in the footballing world.
Liverpool FC and Everton FC are the Merseyside rivals that belong to an elite group of six clubs that have never been relegated from the Premier League since its inception in 1992.
Similar to the Glasgow derby, the Merseyside derby is, in part, split along religious sectarian grounds. Everton is traditionally the Catholic club, while Liverpool is favoured by protestants.
However, unlike some of the other rivalries we have explored, the Merseyside derby is often known as the ‘friendly derby’ due to the number of families and friends that are split in their support of the two teams.
One of the most moving moments in the history of football was when the two groups of fans came together after the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 to sing a rendition of the Liverpool song You’ll Never Walk Alone, showing to the world that, for all their differences, they stood together as Liverpudlians and that was what mattered more than anything else.
So, whether you are Liverpool or Everton, red or blue, Liverpool is a fantastic city for lovers of football, and both Anfield and Goodison Park are unmissable stadiums with heart and spirit like nowhere else.
Birmingham is the UK’s second-largest city and lies in the heart of the Midlands. Although the city’s eponymous club Birmingham City is not currently in the Premier League, it is still one of the best football cities in the country. While Birmingham City FC is no stranger to top-flight football, Aston Villa is the Birmingham-based football club with the most success.
The derby between the two clubs is known as the ‘Second City derby’ and is always a hotly contested battle, with each club being the other’s most loathed rival.
Down the road from Birmingham City FC and Aston Villa’s stadiums is Wolverhampton Wanderers, often known simply as ‘Wolves.’ Although not technically in Birmingham, Wolves are another top-level Midlands club that many in Birmingham support.
Sheffield is home to two professional football clubs, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday. Though technically not in Sheffield, Rotherham United also plays down the road.
The United/Wednesday derby is known as the ‘Steel City derby’ due to the city of Sheffield’s association with the steel industry. United is the bigger of the two clubs and plays at Brammall Lane, while Wednesday, which has the most wins in the historic head-to-heads, plays at Hillsborough.
The derby is one of the biggest in English football, partly because Sheffield Wednesday is one of the oldest football clubs in the world, having been founded in 1867. This, combined with yoyoing successes of both teams, has meant that the city is steeped in footballing history, and you can’t find many better places to be on a Saturday afternoon.
There is no other sport quite like football, and there is no other footballing nation like the UK. Not only are we home to some of the greatest football clubs, but we also have the best leagues, and our fans are amongst the most passionate of any sport in the world.
So if you love all things football, try visiting some of the cities on our list and buy a ticket for an upcoming match; we promise you won’t regret it.