Following on from yesterday’s post I’ve added in Birmingham to the analysis. Though I didn’t make it completely clear the reason I omitted it before was that at I was interested in looking at cities, as opposed to conurbations such as London or Birmingham where we can assume the population can comfortably sustain a number of professional teams. I did include Manchester which also falls into the conurbation category as a comparison, but reflecting on this I think it was probably a mistake not to include Birmingham from the outset as it just feels incomplete without it.
Just to repeat the whole premise. The theory I’m trying to test is that due to the changes to the economy of football – more open markets, newer bigger stadia and crowds, higher wages and freedom of movement – the balance of power is shifting to major urban areas such as Manchester and London which have larger populations and more resources.
Caught up in this shift however, are the cities which have in the past boasted two football league clubs. The theory posits that in the new footballing economy these cities will find it increasingly difficult to sustain two top clubs resulting in a decline in status for one, or both.
Once again I have produced a graph with a starting point of 1990/91 – the point at which football stood on the cusp of a new era, just two seasons before the Premier League. My gut feeling was that Birmingham, with a population of over one million would be more likely to exhibit the same pattern as Manchester, and Liverpool rather than Sheffield, Bristol and Nottingham. Largely it has too, thanks to Birmingham City’s steady improvement throughout the period. though in the last couple of years fortune appears to have reversed, it remains to be seen whether this is a temporary blip – much like the one experienced by Manchester City – or a change to the long term trend.
In any case Birmingham being one of the most populous cities in the analysis actually seeing an improvement over the period, for me lends strength to the theory that outside of these large population centres maintaining two top professional clubs has become increasingly challenging.