Saints and Pompey: Mapping the Rivalry

Saints Pompey MapFor anyone on the south coast with (or even without) an interest in football it is hard to escape the rivalry between Southampton and Portsmouth’s respective football clubs. More than one book has been devoted to the subject – one of the best being Colin Farmery’s Seventeen Miles from Paradise and it’s a rivalry that I’ve always found fascinating as I am born in Southampton, but have worked in the Portsmouth area for some time.

I had the idea of plotting the two teams spheres of influence on a map, so decided to run a simple survey. In April 2014 I asked supporters of both clubs for the first half of their postcode and which team they supported; Saints, Pompey, or both. In total 166 supporters responded;  87 Southampton supporters 74 Portsmouth Supporters and  5 who followed both. This allowed me to create the map, but beyond this the results of the simple survey showed some other interesting things about the two clubs support base.

The Heartlands

The Saints Pub SO16
The Saints Pub SO16

For each clubs the survey responses suggest around a quarter of their support comes from four postcode areas. In Portsmouth these are in order PO2, PO4, PO3 and PO6 which together account for 27% of the clubs supporters. In Southampton it s SO18, SO16, SO19 and SO31 which together account for 23% of support. Interestingly these areas bear a number of similarities, the heartlands tending to be older suburbs which lie within the city boundaries. A walk around heartlands will also reveal numerous signs of the respective teams whether it’s crests stencilled on pub windows, flags in cafes, or water towers painted in team colours.

Pompey top 4

Saints top 4

The fringes

Almost immediately outside of the city boundaries the number of respondents identifying as supporters of either club appears to fall dramatically. Just outside of the Southampton City boundary the SO30 postcode which covers Hedge-end and SO50 postcode covering Eastleigh had only one response each, whilst in Portsmouth none of the 74 Pompey supporters who responded  to the survey came from the PO10 Emsworth and PO12 Gosport areas. Many of these areas have their own non-league teams which may claim some allegiances however, it could well be that dwellers in these outer suburbs and satellites feel freer to support clubs like Chelsea, Arsenal and Man Utd via their televisions.

No-man’s land

Old maps of the area show Southampton and Portsmouth as two separate and very distinct entities however over the last 50 years the areas in between have become increasingly developed and enmeshed to the point where you can travel from the heart of one city to the heart of the other without ever straying from a built -up area. One question this raises is at what point in this conurbation do allegiances switch. Mark Sanderson, writing for WSC magazine, puts this at Locks Heath, a point roughly equidistant between the two.  This would appear to be backed up by the survey. Locks Heath lies at the very edge of the SO31 postcode area and SO31, which also covers Park Gate and Hamble, was overwhelmingy in the Southampton camp, however a step over the line into the PO14 postcode, covering Stubbington and Titchfield sees the sole Southampton supporter  outnumbered by two Portsmouth supporters

no mans land three

The Island

Often overlooked when talking about the rivalry is the Isle of Wight, but as the survey showed the island has a part to play accounting for .6% of Southampton supporters and 4% of Portsmouth Supporters. The island, which does not host a league football team of its own, is closely connected to the two mainlaind cities being linked by the ferry ports at Cowes and Ryde.


For both clubs a significant amount of supporters who responded to the survey were from outside the Southampton, Portsmouth and Isle of Wight areas. In the case of Portsmouth this was 34% and for Southampton 44%. Some of these came from other parts of the wider region, including the New Forest, Salisbury, Guildford and Reading areas but in both cases at least a fifth of supporters came from areas beyond this, from places like Birmingham, Norwich, Glasgow and even South Africa. This could be related to both the clubs profiles – Southampton in the Premier League and Portsmouth having won the FA cup in 2008. This level of profile may attract fans from beyond the clubs geographic region. More likely though is that, people have had a connection with one of the cities, through having lived there, studied there, worked there, or having close family members from there. A prime example being one respondent, a Saints supporter, now residing in Singapore mentioned they had previously lived in the SO22 postcode.

Supporters of both

It will be surprising to many to hear that there are indeed people who identify themselves as supporters of both clubs. This though is not without precedent. Rumour has it that up until comparatively recently there would be people who switched between grounds when one team, or the other was playing away. There is also the phenomenon of the ‘star-chasers’ – Southampton residents who travelled to watch the great Pompey teams of the immediate post-war period at a time when
Southampton were a second division club. In total though there were only four respondents in this category. Three of
these lived in the PO postcode area and one outside the region. None were from the no-man’s land area which stretches in-between the two cities.

saints pompey by areaSaints pie chartPompey pie chart

both chart

rivalry table

With thanks to all those who completed the survey

Response to some criticisms 14/09/2014

Well, the interest in this post has been phenomenal. Almost 1000 views in the past three days. There has though been some criticism of the survey. I have addressed these points more fully here, and in the comments section on this post, but as a brief recap here is a point I wish to make about the survey:

This was intended primarily as a bit of fun, to satisfy some interest which I, and quite clearly other people, have  in the topic.  Ideally I would have taken a random sample of people in each postcode in proportion to the overall population of the areas, but this takes time, money and a list of addresses, or phone numbers – no online survey will ever be fully representative. If other people want to do this then they are welcome to.

In the event 166 people responded. As with any survey response size can affect the results. I have made no secret of how many  responses were received and the methodology I have used.  The map has been made based on the responses received and it is up to people to draw their own conclusions from this – it is what it is.



  1. Very few people were aware this survey was taking place. Perhaps you could try again on the main message boards of each club? Saintsweb and the Ugly Inside would probably provide you with more than a thousand respondents.

    • Attendances and all other statistical sources, such as the Twitter football league table, indicate that there are at least twice as many Southampton fans as Portsmouth fans so trying to get an equal number of respondents from each club will actually completely distort the real picture.

      • Ian,

        Thanks for your comments. Funnily enough I recently did a football clubs on Twitter analysis thing a few posts ago. Agreed it does show a very good indication of a clubs level of support – although there are issues in determining whether the extent to which a Twitter follower is a fan, especially if they follow several clubs.

        The aim of this exercise was to try and produce a map, mainly to try to find the dividing line between Saints and Pompey on the south coast which wouldn’t have been possible based on twitter followers. I publicised this on Twitter and a couple of forums, getting a few retweets from fan groups. In the end the response wasn’t great, but for something which is aimed as basically a bit of fun, and as a talking point I’m quite happy with it.

        One issue is that Gosport and Emsworth are Red! Although these were the results, I don’t believe this bit for one second. One issue with the response rate was that both sets of fans were quite concentrated in just a few post code areas, leaving relatively few in the peripheral areas. This meant that it was easy for them to be skewed by sampling variability, and this is what’s happened in those two areas.

        If I, or someone were to repeat this, but would get say 1000 responses undoubtedly the issues with Gosport, Emsworth and the rest would be ironed out, but I think the result says something interesting though about both clubs support. I was quite surprised how few of the 87 Saints fans who responded were from places like Eastleigh and Hedge End, but thinking about this – as I mentioned in the write-up – it seems that compared to the core areas within the cities there is far fewer people in these areas identifying themselves as fans of either team.

        As I say though, this is all basically intended just as a talking point – which it seems to have succeeded in doing!

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