What is a “big club”?

For years, decades, and probably as far back as John Houlding booting Everton out of Anfield for not paying their rent, people have argued over the definition of a “big club”. It’s not just a case of typing it into google or wikipedia and getting an answer; it’s an infinite arguement; there will always be difference of opinion.

Is it purely a success thing? A combination of on-pitch success and size of fan base? Average attendance, wealth, success and history? Or can it be based purely on the size of a club’s fanbase? I don’t think there is a definite answer, but for me, it’s a combination of all, with wealth of the club being at the bottom of the list and fan base at the top. Pumping £500m into a club like QPR doesn’t automatically make them a big club; the same applies to Chelsea.

The debate has raged amid the return of 2,000 tickets to Barcelona earlier in the week, as Chelsea fans failed to sell their allocation of just over 4,800 tickets. Would a “big club” ever return nearly half of their allocation for a European Cup semi final in Barcelona? No chance.

For me, there’s only two giants in this country, and they are Liverpool and Manchester United. Everybody else lags miles behind. Just as Real Madrid and Barcelona stand head and shoulders above the rest in Spain, Liverpool and Man United stand tall on these shores.

They are the two most successful clubs in the country, with a far bigger fan base than any other club. Both have fans all over the country and all over the world. Go into any little town all over the country and you’ll find United and Liverpool fans. Most of them have no idea where Anfield or Old Trafford are, or even care; but they exist. The same cannot be said for any other club. But that does not mean there are no other “big clubs” on this island of ours.

The likes of Everton, Tottenham, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday, Derby, West Ham, Newcastle are all big clubs. Some may debate that, and feel free, but all attract large crowds on a regular basis no matter what their prediciment at the time. The biggest sign of a big club for me is a strong fan base. Everything else comes secondary. I’ve no doubt missed a few clubs off that list, but I think we all know who they are.

Would all of them clubs sell out an allocation of 4,800 for a European Cup semi final in Barcelona? Without doubt. Chelsea are an average sized club with money; nothing more.

What does get to me though, is that Chelsea used to have a massive following in the 70’s and 80’s; taking thousands away from home week in week out, yet all those fans and the traditions of their fan base have long since disappeared. How can a club change so much just from the influx of money? Have that generation of fans disappeared from Chelsea forever?

The big club debate can rage on and on, but one thing is for certain; Chelsea are not one. Last week’s return of tickets confirms that beyond all doubt for me.