Cities of similar size to Sevilla and their major football clubs

This suggestion by the ever-insightful @mooreporfavor (oh wait, that’s me…) got me thinking about this assertion, which is empirically testable, but which I made without actually knowing whether it was true. I decided to do a little research for the good of the order. You may have asked yourselves, “What cities in countries with major football leagues are of similar size to Sevilla, say, a population between 1 and 1.6m?”

And if you did, in fact, ask yourself that question, here’s what you would answer (to yourself) upon asking that question.

Largest metropolitan areas under 1.6m, by country, and their football clubs (SPI ranking in parens):
Bari, SSC Bari (473)
Palermo, Palermo (489)

Toulouse, Toulouse (136)
Bordeaux, Girondons (216)
Lille, LOSC (57)
Nice, Nice (73)
Marseille, l’OM (73)

Düsseldorf, Fortuna Dusseldorf and maybe Monchengladbach (372/44)
Nuremberg, Nurnberg FC (423)
Hannover, Hannover 96 (425)
Leipzig, Red Bull Leipzig (14)
Bremen, Werder Bremen (81)

Tyne and Wear metropolitan area, Newcastle/Sunderland (39/348)
Sheffield, Sheffield United/Sheffield Wednesday (109/327)
Portsmouth-Southampton, Portsmouth/Southampton (429/82)
Nottingham–Derby, Notts County/Nottingham Forest/Derby County (none/121/322)

Valencia, Valencia/Levante (50/154)
Malaga, Malaga CF (482)
Sevilla, Sevilla FC and you know who (38/32)

I would absolutely LOVE if someone ran with this and did a different hypothesis test, namely, digging through the SPI from top to bottom and either B) seeing the average size of the seat of top 50/top 100 clubs, or B) how many top 50/top 100 clubs come from a city of less than 1.6m.
Both of these are actually more interesting analysis, but ones I didn’t want to take on because of the data needed to pull it off. Perhaps it’s already been done on the internet, but I didn’t stumble upon it while poking around the internet.

Conclusion: Since I didn’t actually define a hypothesis, I don’t know what this really means, per se, but I found it interesting, at a minimum. Largely it does seem like Sevilla is HUGELY overperforming as a middle-small metropolitan area, and in this limited sample seems to be the only city with TWO high-performing clubs, albeit with one of them more deservedly high-performing and the other wearing green. I’m sure if you broaden the sample to metropolitan areas under 1.6 m, you’d surely find some tiny city in England with two big clubs, but I didn’t want to keep digging deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole.

PS - Since I was pulling this together on the cheap (budget: $0 and 30 mins), I likely missed some clubs in these metropolitan areas, especially places like England where there are a million historic clubs with nonsensical names.

Methodological note: Defining metropolitan areas is notoriously tricky, and Germany really vexed me (someone else give 'er a try, there are far too many cluster-cities, making it a mess!). I did my best without any deep knowledge, and for anyone asking, I used metropolitan areas numbers, not cities, because city population numbers are notoriously whack (e.g. Barcelona is only 1.6m if you only look at the city itself) given the way municipal boundaries are drawn. I used data from the European Spatial Planning Observation Network and reasonably similar sources, but didn’t really want to over-think this. Hopefully the peer-reviewed journal Monchi’s Men Weekly will let this through their publication filters


With apologies to all the wonderful Europa League regulars who aren’t in Big 5 leagues. Surely there are a few other well-ranked teams from similar sized cities. Anyhow, not a deep FiveThirtyEight-esque analysis here, just a bit of football novelty. I’ve always felt like being in a smallish city is a reasonably large disadvantage in European football, and while that seems to be roughly the case, this isn’t meant to follow the logic of “let’s not be ambitious with our aspirations in the long term”, I do suppose my underlying logic of looking into this question was to help us be a bit realistic about how challenging it has been for teams from smaller cities to break into the category of galáctico.

Any thoughts or analyses to add, @ShendM @Rene2 @ChrisLail @sterusebn @Edinho @SurreySevilla @jdecourcey @TimSpence2 , others?


Just that Sevilla proper is around 700k and Sevilla Province is 1.95 million.

No doubt that Sevilla (both clubs) punches above their weight. But we are used to that and our threshold for success is set at 4th. We aren’t trending toward 4th.

Villareal has 50.000 inhabitants and Sinsheim has 35.000. In their first year after promotion they fought with Bayern for the titel and were even herbsmeister (midseason leader). It’s fine to be ambitious and the excuses to not be allowed to be it, are quite weak honestly.

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Yeah, the data I (albeit quick and dirty) attempted to use looks at more functional metropolitan areas, which in the case of Sevilla would be more than the city limits population but less than the whole province, as a big chunk of the province is clearly not metropolitan, eg. the town Navas is from, which if I recall is Sevilla province but not part of the metropolitan city (Rusty on this point… could be mixing provinces)

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Interesting analysis. It is definitely true that a club coming from a smaller city / population will have a disadvantage compared to the big city clubs. However, if a club is properly managed, financed and ambitious enough, the location will not matter that much at the end of the day.

A little story: I have received VIP tickets for a football match tomorrow night from my friend Arsim Kabashi who owns CIMA Construction, one of the largest construction companies in Kosovo and the region. He owns FC Ballkani, who play in the play-offs of the UEFA Conference League tomorrow night against Shkupi from North Macedonia. It will be the most important match in the history of Kosovo club football.

FC Ballkani won the title last season and is now the best club in Kosovo, miles ahead of other clubs. You know where the club is headquartered? In Suhareka… a town with 10k inhabitants and 50k in total in its municipality including villages.

What is the capital city’s biggest club FC Prishtina doing? They’re having management issues and sleeping, letting clubs from other cities take over. FC Prishtina is special because it was the only club from Kosovo in the ex-Yugoslavian League playing week in week out with the likes of Dinamo Zagreb, Hajduk Split, Rijeka, Partizan Belgrade, Red Star Belgrade, Maribor etc.

The stadium with a capacity of 13,500 is sold out for the match. This photo was taken by the media earlier today, showing people trying to get the last available tickets:

So tomorrow at 8 PM I will be in the stadium watching the club that is making the people of Kosovo proud, and all of that because of this guy’s and his team’s proper investment and passionate management:

Ironically the match will be played in Kosovo’s main football stadium named Fadil Vokrri, an FC Prishtina icon. The same stadium where some of the best teams in the Balkans have played when facing FC Prishtina during the Yugoslavia era.


That sounds like a really special football night ahead for tomorrow. Enjoy man.

Exactly, the disadvantage in size will always be there, so you have to compensate it in other ways, which is precisely the challenge that makes it fun and special when it works out, and if not to keep trying. But without ambition nothing is possible.


This would be an interesting project. I also wonder if there is a study or breakout of the percentage of Sevilla vs :poop: fans in Sevilla. There are parts of the city which lean more in one teams favor over the other. My WAG (guess) is :poop: would be slight favorites percentage wise.


Enjoy the game Shend and good luck to FC Ballkani,


Why are you still awake at 1 am Kosovo time, is the bigger question? Better rest up for the big match. Good luck!


In my town in Sevilla province (pop around 12k) I would say it’s a 75/25% split in favour of :poop:.
There is still the opinion that :poop: are the working mans team and only those with money support Sevilla.


I have good friends in La Algaba. My two oldest went there and spent their 8th grade years there. We would visit and hang out in the local bars for weeks at a time and there was a definite heavy bias towards :poop: there.


My point here, if I had one, is not to imply that it’s not possible for small clubs or small cities to do great things in football. SevillaFC has clearly already done great things, hence our current place among the greats of football.

My point here (again, assuming I was aiming to make any particular point other than explore my own curiosity) is that a club whose maximum local fan base is 10 or 20% of nearly all the “big” clubs, has a certain natural equilibrium in terms of positioning and economic power that lies well below where Sevilla currently sit.

I’m happy that we have a management who hasn’t settled for mediocrity out of expediency sake. I also think pushing SFC management to spend money we don’t have so that we can perform in ways that aren’t realistic doesn’t end well for anyone. I wish it weren’t true, but my read on the economics of football is that a Sevilla who thinks they’re trying to win LaLiga every season is a Sevilla who ends up bankrupt and relegated.

Can we win la Liga? Hell yes, we can! (And VAMOS!!! This year, next year, any year! Let’s fight for it! I sure as hell am the last one to stop dreaming of glory!) But … Do you expect a club from a city the size of Sevilla to pay for the types of coaches and players who can regularly and consistently battle for 1st and 2nd and UCL semis/finals for 10-20 years in a row? You haven’t been watching enough football… In the last 30-40 years of football, that is the business of giant clubs in giant cities. And if you believe it, give me a call sometime, I have a bridge to sell you.

In summary, my motto is consistent fiduciary responsibility rather than ever-growing pipe dreams and delusions of grandeur. Give me a club consistently placing fourth over a club who buys up expensive pipe dreams to “play exciting football”. If Monchi can make the numbers work to buy Camavinga, Modric, Kroos, and Vini Jr, I’d be all for it, but we don’t play in that League. Too many sevillistas clamoring for us to play in that league, not enough getting excited for our own league. In our league, you can’t afford to can a coach 2 weeks or even 4 weeks into the season. Maybe if you’re playing the relegation avoidance game, you need to fire your bargain-contract coach quickly to make sure you scrape by and get safe before it’s too late. And maybe if losing a couple matches means you might dare to finish 2nd and not 1st. But we’re in neither of those leagues, so let’s put on some big boy pants, stop complaining so much about Lopetegui and cheer our boys to victory like our life depended on it.

Vamos mi Sevilla, vamos Campeón!

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Why does it lay well below, on a sports level it doesn’t? When you are the fourth biggest city in Spain. Who, yes, shared the city with a big rival but I would say this actually works in its favour and promotes football in the city even more.

From the financial part I agree, it’s over the level we should and it’s bad. Since now all players want to come to Sevilla, but none want to leave all with big pay checks. You don’t get to 200m annual salary by accident. That’s what has been creeping up, and that’s what lead to higher expectations logically so.

If you saw where Barcelona was last season financially and on the field, nowhere. You get chances to outperform top teams like this. And we didn’t have balls and failed. It’s incomparable but Barca do change things, and they are ambitious and recover quick. Chance missed.

Also nobody is asking for 60m buys like Camavinga or Vini. We just want smart, eager and talented players combined with the occasional Iborra or Sergi Gomez. Instead of this international mix of veterans who come to play 2 years on a decent level and that’s it. The change in philosophy and the involved manager will start to hurt more.

You do you not need expensive signings to play exciting football.

Nobody expects to play CL semis or even finals. Can you even imagine how close Villareal was to doing something that incredible, they are brave and played against the actual biggest of Europe and beat them in their ways. With some brilliant football included.

Also nobody expects us to be challenging for the title every year. Nobody. But the circumstances had it, and our situation was exceptionally well to do it last year. And if you then see how eagerly we were playing to create those chances, get those wins* I meant those 17 draws yeh, there’s a mentality problem.

What’s the fun in ending fourth, when you’re weekly watching paint dry? Are you even fan of the game or just a stat fanatic. I can’t even comprehend this mindset. Like watching a scoresheet and a table, and that’s football for you. I would gladly be, 7th,7th, 3rd, and when the stars align and you get a good group, great manager and perfect circumstances get that 1st place. And then you will be there cheering to be 4th again.

If you want to achieve another, hommage to Unai Emery you got it here, spectacular, brave, passionate manager and tactician. Hope he can rise to even higher highs.

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Las Vegas Lights

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So comparatively by size my hometown of Glasgow, Scotland and Sevilla are very similar. Glasgow has the two most famous teams in Scotland, and is in the top 2 largest cities in Scotland so it doesn’t quite compare with Sevilla in that sense… Just wanted to shout out my city! :smirk:

However, the clubs I would contrast Sevilla with are Juventus & Napoli of Italy and Porto of Portugal. Now none of these teams are a direct comparison, there are elements in their stories that do align with Sevilla’s.

The following TLDR can be summed up as lack of ambition and/or progressive planning = Stagnation and drop-off.

Juventus have a long and storied history, only a couple of years ago they were on 10 league titles in a row, domestically. However poor financial mismanagement coupled with a blind ambition to with CL has led them to fall from grace. Their attempt to revive the glory days, led them to re-appoint Max Allegri, who plays a very pragmatic style of football, despite having previously replaced him with managers who they hoped would make the team more exciting. Their midfield has no creativity and despite bringing in Dusan Vlahovic, they’re not exactly scoring hatfulls of goals. While they’re not in free fall, they’re really clinging onto 4th position, helped somewhat by Napoli’s decline…

Napoli have in recent years, been one of the teams competing for the league title, only to fall short in the end. They’re a very well run club, financially, but the fans are running out of patience with the perceived lack of forward thinking. What they’ve seen is diminishing returns from an ageing squad(s), a refusal to pay the demands of their best players and replace them appropriately when they inevitably go elsewhere. Now there’s outright hostility towards the owner and manager as fans feel the club are sleepwalking their way through each season.

Lastly Porto, who in recent years, have been forced to sell off their best players, in order to address a debt issue caused by one Julen Lopetegui’s demands… After firing said donkey, they eventually brought in a former player (Sergio Conceicao) as manager and got him to rebuild the team using their prodigious scouting and youth systems, which led them back to domestic silverware. It should also be said that they’ve had mixed results in CL, but have made the quarter finals several times since Conceicao took over.


great discussion and great post Ryan!

i think its a really interesting and relevant comparison to make (though also don’t have time/bandwidth to research further). of course we don’t want to put a cap on our ambitions, but its also delusional to imagine that the constraints one faces trying to establish/expand a team in a small market are the same as those with bigger natural fan bases on which to generate local advertising money and ticket sales.

i think the right approach is not so far from what the team has done in recent years. create financial solidarity by making the champions league with as much regulartiy as possible. i did another post a few days ago (that im pretty sure very few of you read, but ryan’s writing is way funnier than mine, so i cant blame you either) on transfer values in and out… we did have a few years where we went for it. but we fell flat. simply put, Monchi missed on his big spending targets. maybe if given free reign again he’d do better having learned from his mistakes, but we burned the buffer we established up to that point.

people point to last year and how we should’ve gone for it. that we missed an opportunity because of Barca and Atleti being off form. i see that view. and i agree in general that we want to be in position where we’re always competing and can selectively go for it when the conditions are right. but i also maintain that we were slightly delusional last year. our point total far exceeded our goal differences in the first half of the year. the second half was, at least in part, a regression to the mean. though also to be fair, i wasnt able to watch very closely last year, and i understand that the actual on field product increasingly failed the eyeball test as the season went on… but just tossing that perspective out there.

anyway, gracias a todos for the interesting/non-trivial discussion. i always find the team management questions the most interesting and part of why i enjoy supporting Sevilla so much more than i’d ever enjoy rooting for a mega team with boundless resources.


Meanwhile Shendms visiting the Ballkani game celebrating the historical moment after the 1-0 victory. Congrats to them!


congrats @ShendM !!!

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Thanks a lot guys… it was a historic night for our country’s football.

Another 3 matches at home secured in Uefa Conference League GS and hopefully we’ll face Villarreal so that I can get to meet Emery and tell him how much we miss him at Sevilla :stuck_out_tongue: