The Argentina Football Association and its president Chiqui Tapia released a report of statistics for the football clubs in Argentina’s top two divisions. Surprisingly, it was far from dull and includes numbers and metrics that help us understand how the clubs stack up against one another in terms of fan support. One thing is clear and you don’t need numbers to back it up, Boca and River are clearly the two biggest clubs in Argentina. Period. End of statement.
But how do the other three clubs in the so-called “Big 5” compare to the two giants? Which are the biggest clubs outside of Buenos Aires? Which clubs have the most fans and how does that compare to stadium attendance and paid clubs members (socios)?
The data contained in this report, though not as important as actually being at a stadium and seeing the passion for yourself, does help to paint the picture of fandom in Argentina. The report was created from September 2018 – July 2019. For some reason, not all clubs were included in this report, most notably, Newell’s Old Boys, Lanús, and Banfield. Others including Gimnasia de La Plata, Aldosivi, Central Córdoba, Patronato, and Arsenal were also not included. So take these numbers and rankings with a grain of sand.
Social Media Followings
There is no metric that can tell you how many fans each team has, to get those numbers you would need to perform a census of the entire country, and even that wouldn’t be able to capture fans that are now living abroad. But one metric that possibly gets close is the club’s social media followings. To follow a club on social media, it says that the follower at least as some level of interest in that team. The levels obviously vary; I follow almost all first and second division clubs on Twitter, but I clearly am not a fan of all of those teams. But I would assume that I am not the norm and the majority of people follow only the the handful of clubs they care about the most.
The report provides total number of followers for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. In many cases, there will be a significant overlap of followers between the social media platforms, but it still gives us a solid understanding of how many people are “fans” of each team. Combining the followings for the four social media platforms, Boca has 15.7 million followers and River has 14.9 million. Nothing too shocking there, but the gap down to third is outrageous. San Lorenzo has the next most followers with only 2 million. The next two are the remaining of the big five, Independiente and Racing.
The large gap between the top two and the rest of the teams likely has to do with the international reach of Boca and River. No other clubs in Argentina can compare. While those two clubs are household names in other football loving countries, very few, if any have that international impact.
Defensa y Justicia has the smallest social media following in the Superliga with only 106 thousand. The fewest number of followers in the second division is Guillermo Brown with just over 7 thousand.
For some reason in this report, Belgrano is listed in the first division. If we remove them and place them in the Primera Nacional where they should be, they lead all second division clubs with just under 850 thousand folowers. The next closest is the other Primera Nacional club in Córdoba, Insituto who has almost 200 thousand followers.
Looking at some of the rivalries and comparing the clubs, Boca edges out River. San Lorenzo (2 million) dominates Huracan (292k). Lanus (260k) and Banfield (239k) are almost identical. Rosario Central (876k) has slightly more than Newells (776k). Even with the Maradona bump, Estudiantes (834k) still beats out Gimnasia (631k). Talleres (1 million) takes the top spot in Córdoba over Belgrano (846k). And in Santa Fe, Colón (486k) nearly doubles Unión (243k).
Note: As mentioned above, Newells, Banfield, Lanús, and Gimnasia were among the clubs not included in the report, for this information I had to go directly to their social media accounts to aggrate their followings.
Once again, Boca and River have the most people attending their matches, the only two clubs with an average attendence above 40,000. But unlike social media followings, the next few clubs are not included in the Big 5. Talleres comes in third followed by Rosario Central. San Lorenzo is the biggest shock of the group with an average attendence of only 17 thousand. Which speaks very much to El Cuervo’s undying desire to return to the neighborhood of Boedo and build a new stadium.
Before I tell you, can you guess which club has the fewest supporters at their matches. Here is a picture:
Godoy Cruz averages only 4,000 people at their matches. Which is made a whole lot worse by the fact that the stadium seats more than 40,000 people. Needless to say, Godoy Cruz with a stadium only 10% full is the worst. So which club has the highest percentage of butts in available seats? Belgrano at 93% capacity.
The clubs that have greater than 70% of their stadium filled include Estudiantes (83%), Defensa y Justicia (81%), Boca (79%), River (78%), Rosario Central (74%) and Independiente (70%). Other than El Tomba Argentinos was the only other club with a stadium capacity below 20%.
Club Members (Socios)
One thing is to be a fan. Another is to be a Socio.
To over-simplify it, Argentine clubs are owned by their fans or Socios. A socio is a paying member of the club. Each team structures it a little differently, but most clubs charge a monthly, quarterly, or semi-annual fee to those who want to be socios. In most cases, this will include your entrance into the stadium for the matches as well as other club benefits such as discounts on merchandise and access to club owned facilities.
Boca has the most socios, greater than 200 thousand, once again followed by River with more than 150 thousand. For those fans, being a socio does not guarantee you access into the matches as there is a far greater number of socios than available seats. But being a socio is not just about being a season-ticket holder, it is a matter of pride and is probably the best stat we have to gauge the number of true supporters for each club. So, it is no surprise that the rest of the top five are Independiente (83k), Racing (70k), and San Lorenzo (61k).