To do this, we captured the number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers for the first 32 teams of each of the following four countries: Spain, England, Italy, Germany. Why 32? Well, actually, because we used NFL teams as benchmark. Basically, 32 teams for each of the European leagues meant having the whole first tier, and a selection of the second tier, with some teams from the third tier. Twitter and Facebook data were summed (yup, you are right: there is a big difference between following your town foe, and actually liking it on Facebook, and yes, there is multiplicity both across teams and across social platforms, but we hypothesized this wouldn’t bias differences between leagues), and just the “home” twitter account was counted, leaving out the international replicas, based on the ground that people from outside the team’s own country may be both followers of the original twitter account and its translated version.
First, the totals: Spain and England are able to drag as many as around 190 million people worldwide, while Italy lags behind at around as many as its inhabitants, and Germany stops at approximately 43 millions. For comparison, NFL teams are followed by less than 90 millions.
The striking difference between NFL and football leagues in Europe was, instead, on the way these figures were distributed: if we rank the 32 teams in order of the numbers of fans, and consider the cumulative values, relative to the overall audience, as a function of the cumulative number of teams (nothing new, it’s the Lorenz curve overused in economics), the behavior changes dramatically between NFL and Football Leagues in Europe, as the figure below shows. From the Lorenz Curve, a measure of skewness (Gini would have said inequality) can be also calculated.
Lorenz Curve for Facebook + Twitter followers: cumulative share of teams from lowest to highest number of followers (x-axis), and cumulative share of number of followers (y-axis)
While most of the european leagues stood on the "unequal" side of the coefficient (with Spain leading with a Gini coefficient value of 0.82, and all above 0.75), NFL displays a whopping 0.30 (in economics, this would have meant socialism!), which basically highlights the ability of NFL to have each team in the league being followed by a relevant share of the overall audience. And this is reflected also at the social level. Even if the number of fans is not necessarily related to the ability of each team to win a league, We predict that these numbers may end upin having an effect on the overall equality of a league (and, as a result, on the interest it draws). After all, Vitrue said that one fan is worth around 3 €/year...