The Global Portrait of World Cup Fandom in 2022 report was conducted across Footballco’s GOAL website which reaches 64m fans a month.
A Winter World Cup Globally Popular
When it was announced in 2015 that the 2022 World Cup would take place between November and December, rather than the traditional June-July timeframe, it was met with derision from European football fans and journalists, as well as threats of legal action and requests for compensation from leagues that would be affected by the change.
Likewise, brands and media buyers were concerned that a World Cup competing with Christmas would limit the tournament’s impact and reduce the spike that a summer tournament usually drives for sectors including hospitality, consumer electronics, supermarkets and alcohol.
However, according to Footballco’s research, while 51 per cent of European fans feel negative about the tournament schedule, only 21% of fans in South East Asia, 18% of fans in Latin America and 17% of fans in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are against it.
The divide is most pronounced with fans from Saudi Arabia, the UK, Brazil, and Germany. Only 15% of fans from Saudi Arabia and 14% from Brazil oppose the new schedule, compared to 80% in the UK and 87% in Germany.
Alex Chick, VP of content at Footballco, said: “Despite European misgivings, we’re confident that once the football starts, fans will lock into the tournament completely.
“The wider cultural impact could be the main point of difference. World Cups often take on a summer festival feel in Europe; we may have a new public mood to convey, as the 2022 tournament reaches casual fans differently.”
The Great Club and Country Divide
The ‘Global Portrait of World Cup Fandom’ report also showed that across the globe, a little over half (52%) of fans prefer their club team to their national team.
Broken down by regions, national pride trumped club favourites in North America (56%), MENA (63%) and South-East Asia (55%), while European (60%) and Sub-Saharan African (72%) supporters remain notably more loyal to domestic teams whose matches they watch and engage with every week.
Success is a proven supercharger of football patriotism – recent major tournament winners Italy (Euro 2020) and France (World Cup 2018) fans bucked the club-over-country trend amongst Europeans, being 50% more likely to prefer their national team.
The picture changes when looking at gender, with 67% of female fans globally favouring their national team over their club. In countries like the US, where their female world champions have become icons on and off the pitch, this isn’t just about the men’s game.
Mark Patterson, content director for Footballco said: “The U.S. women’s team combine excellence with a determination to use their platform to push for equality across a range of social issues,”
“Supporting the team can also be a statement about the kind of country you want to live in, and who you feel are the best ambassadors for it.”
Morgan Brennan, creative lead for Footballco’s women’s football brand, Indivisa, said: “National team games can often provide a more welcoming, less intimidating and family-friendly atmosphere for female fans who are new to watching football.
“The history and rivalries associated with club football, traditionally the men’s sides, can be toxic and, in turn, isolate female and non-binary fans.”
Footballco’s full ‘Global Portrait of World Cup Fandom in 2022’ report covers other areas relating to fans’ anticipation of this year’s World Cup, as well as their media habits, who they will watch it with and the players and teams they’re most looking forward to watching.
The full report is available now and can be downloaded from here