Gareth Southgate’s England have got young fans on their side, study shows

The debate over whether international football is being left behind by the club game rumbles on, but a recent survey of England fans suggests that the younger generation are very much on Gareth Southgate’s side as this summer’s European Championship looms.

The study, conducted by bookmaker Paddy Power, shows that 47% of football fans in the 18-29 age group prefer international football over club football. It’s a surprising statistic, especially when you consider the culture that surrounds the club game and the money and prestige associated with the biggest tournaments.

Going up through the age ranges, the balance swings in firm favour of club football, with 36% in the 30-44 age bracket preferring international football, and just 23% in the 45-60 group. One explanation is that the tribal nature of football fandom has been more deeply instilled in older age groups, with younger fans enjoying football in a more wide-ranging way.

England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 must also be taken into account. A feel-good atmosphere gripped the nation that summer before Southgate’s men just fell short against Croatia, and it’s a simple knock-on effect that younger football fans would be more enamoured with the international game as opposed to those who have seen England fail miserably on the international stage for so many years.

There is also the fact that Southgate is very youth oriented in his squad selections. Among the 33-man provisional squad named ahead of the Euros, three teenagers have been included, along with a host of other young players.

England are one of the favourites to win the tournament in the odds for Euro 2021, and there is evidence that the fans have faith, with over 50% of the survey respondents stating that they are confident that Southgate can deliver England’s first international trophy since the 1966 World Cup.