Off-Pitch Focus: London’s gravitational pull on the Premier League is limited

Some might think Londoners have it easy when it comes to following their team home and away. All those local derbies a walk or a short bus ride away – convenient for both the fans and the team – who should see rewards on the pitch for savings on energy and travel exertion throughout the season.

However, the numbers are not so conclusive in the capital’s favour. What they do tell us, however, is that the distance a team travels in a 38-game season may have a bearing on where they finish in the table.

When the 2016/2017 English Premier League season kicks off on August 13th and 14th, 10 of the teams will play in their own stadium. Half of the country’s football fans will wear their opening day optimism in the place they feel most comfortable – home.

For the remainder, it will be a summertime road trip. A chance to reacquaint themselves with away day habits.

From Emirates Stadium in North London all the way to West Ham’s new home at the Olympic Stadium in the East, with stops at newly promoted Burnley, Hull and Middlesbrough along the way: Premier League clubs will travel a combined total of 59,570 miles before the champions are crowned in May.

On average each of the 20 top-flight clubs will rack up 2979 miles, fulfilling 19 away fixtures. That average obscures some pretty significant difference though. While West Bromwich Albion will spend 2327 miles on the road, Sunderland, who survived by the skin of their teeth last season, are rewarded with 4154 miles of away day transit.

miles_graph

 

Breaking the country first into two parts, London and outside of London; the picture appears to clearly favour teams from the capital. Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea travel an average of 2723 miles, whilst clubs elsewhere spend an average of 3088 miles on the road.

However, that second figure is skewed by a certain other region of the country, the North West.

The average distance travelled by North Western clubs including the Manchester sides and Liverpool is only 2680 miles. Once you remove them from the outside London grouping, the average for that category jumps to 3315 miles.

Of course, if you’re Sunderland, you love your five trips to the Northwest and don’t look forward to the six treks down to London, never mind the 340 miles to Swansea. And vice versa, Southampton have to travel more than double the distance to fulfil their five fixtures in the Northwest (1115 miles) than for six away games in London (534 miles).

Strikingly, all of the teams in the top nine in distance travelled finished in the bottom half of the Premier League table last year, barring Burnley and Hull – who well – weren’t in the division.

First-time champions Leicester City have only two more miles (2329) than Tony Pulis’s Baggies to travel this coming season. Claudio Ranieri’s side will face Champions League commitments challenging their reliance and squad depth. They can take comfort knowing, while they may end up flying to Donetsk for a midweek game, some of their rivals are clocking extra miles week in week out. Of course, if you take Ranieri’s recent claim that the main goal for the season is survival at face value, then those extra competitor miles increase.

So while Arsenal do have the luxury of jogging four miles to White Hart Lane and one more to the Olympic Stadium, they frequently have to make the journey considered most fateful by Londoners, all the way to the North!

And as the Gunners take on the MLS All-Stars this Thursday night in San Jose, California, bear in mind that MLS teams will travel more than 1000 miles on average per away match! By comparison, Sunderland is really just next door to London!

*The mileage used in this analysis is based on road travel not as the crow flies, using figures from Sport Map World.

 

Read more from Ciarán here!

You can follow Ciarán on Twitter @keep_score

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