LONDON: A new social media football league has revealed that Europe’s biggest clubs have more followers than the entire population of their home nations.

Spanish superclubs Barcelona and Real Madrid top the list compiled by London School of Marketing who looked at the social media presence of clubs competing in this season’s Champions League.

They analysed each club’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram followings to see who’s getting it right on the global stage and who’s lagging behind.

Barcelona topped the table with 143 million followers, with almost 93 million of those on Facebook about twice the population of Spain! In contrast, bottom of the social media league is premiership club West Ham with just 2.7 million followers across the three channels.

The data also analysed the percentage growth in followers over the course ov the season from August 2015 to May 2016.

West Ham rise

Interestingly, West Ham saw the biggest growth in their social media presence increasing by a massive 56pc; French club Paris St Germain also saw an impressive growth in followers, climbing 31pc.

Experts put this increase down to investment and attention totheir social media channels and using them effectively and interactively.

Recent premiership winners Leicester City have more than 5.6 million followers across the channels but did not qualify for the table as they were not in the Champions League this past season.

Other UK clubs fare better with Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal all appearing in the top five with Manchester United having more than 76 million fans. Manchester City are somewhat behind their biggest rivals coming in at 11th place on the table with just over 27 million followers.

Global presence

Commenting on the research, Jacques de Cock from the London School of Marketing said: “The way we watch and talk about football has changed considerably over the last decade. These clubs have become global entities and part of that we can put down to social media.

“Someone living in the UK can find out and follow Barcelona just as well as someone living just a few miles away from the club.

“They can watch their games live on the TV, they can read every match report online and they can find out exactly what the club is up to through their social media feeds.

“This is turn has turned the star players into big names globally and this has given them massive power when it comes to sponsorship and brand endorsement. For instance a large part of Leicester City following is in Italy and Algeria because of its manager and star striker

“For the fans, this is great news and the power of social media will allow these clubs to continue to win more global fans and that means the future for football based marketing is bright.

FIFA effect

“Football is the only real global sport with a passionate and faithful following and despite events at FIFA, the football brand remains relatively unscathed.

“It is still the top European clubs and leagues that are followed around the world and it’s the UK which is leading the world with the most lucrative, competitive and watched league.

“Football will continue to dominate in the sporting arena. Global fans want a ‘predictable’ successful team they feel proud to support so the major teams will find it easier to grow substantially internationally.

“Global brands will help reach these global fans and football clubs, who have only recently started to manage these global networks commercially and systematically, will see a better way of developing these relationships for the club, its partners and the fans.

“The downside is that with this increased commercial viability we could see more clubs transform themselves into predictable, risk minimising and soulless corporations.”