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Why do no football teams use London in their name? Quirk of England’s capital city soccer clubs explained | Sporting News



Team sports often include the names of the towns and cities in which they’re based in order to maximise local support and honour their heritage. Football, for the most part, is no different.

Some of the world’s major cities are prominent in the official titles of their football clubs. Paris Saint-Germain are the most famous team from France; Bayern Munich are serial winners of the German Bundesliga. Manchester boasts United and City, Madrid has Real and Atletico, and Milan has Inter and AC.

Then there are those clubs who use the city name as their team name. Liverpool, Barcelona, Porto, Copenhagen, Roma, Napoli, Sevilla, Marseille — sporting success and local pride run right through the heart of these famous old sides.

Modern football was founded in 1863 in London, England. Wembley Stadium is often referred to as ‘The Home of Football’. There are seven Premier League teams in the 2023/24 season from London, and a further 10 clubs in the top five divisions of English football. And yet, not one of them uses the word ‘London’ in their team name.

Why is that?

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Why don’t any football teams use London in their name?

While there is no cast-iron rule that says London clubs can’t use the name of the city, the reason they don’t is largely local pride. Essentially, each club is representative of — and has an historic attachment to — the region of London in which they were founded, rather than the wider city.

As the capital of England, London was the heart of the sprawling British Empire in the 19th and early 20th centuries: a vast, bustling city with a dense population. While there are many more populous cities around the globe today, London is still home to more than nine million people, a figure behind only Paris (~10.9 million) and Moscow (~12.4 million) in Europe.

As London grew in size and citizenry, communities emerged and developed in different areas of the city, eventually becoming what are now known as the 32 London Boroughs. The football clubs that were founded in these regions were named after them as they represented these local communities.

Fulham, the first major club in London, were founded in 1879 as Fulham Church St Andrews Sunday School FC. Next came Leyton Orient, formed by members of the Glyn Cricket Club, many of whom were college students in Hackney, near Leyton.

Millwall were founded as Millwall Rovers by workers of a local canning factory and took the name from the small district named for its 19th-century windmills. Arsenal went through a few name variations before settling on their current identity, but all were in tribute to the club’s founding munitions workers from the royal military arsenal in Woolwich. Chelsea founder Gus Mears initially tried to lease the newly bought Stamford Bridge to Fulham; when they rejected the offer, he set up his own team, choosing the name of an adjacent London Borough since Fulham was already taken.

To this day, every London club has a name inspired by or directly referring to the local community that created them.

How many football clubs are there in London?

There are 17 professional football clubs in London playing in England’s top five divisions (the Premier League, Championship, League One, League Two, and National League). There are, of course, many more at lower levels of the semi-professional and amateur scene.

As of 2023/24, there are seven clubs in the Premier League who are based in London.

Professional football clubs in London (top five divisions)

Club Home stadium League (2023/24)
Arsenal Emirates Stadium Premier League
Brentford Gtech Community Stadium Premier League
Chelsea Stamford Bridge Premier League
Crystal Palace Selhurst Park Premier League
Fulham Craven Cottage Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Premier League
West Ham United London Stadium Premier League
Millwall The Den Championship
Queens Park Rangers Loftus Road Championship
Charlton Athletic The Valley League One
Leyton Orient Brisbane Road League One
AFC Wimbledon Plough Lane League Two
Sutton United Gander Green Lane League Two
Barnet The Hive Stadium National League
Bromley Hayes Lane National League
Dagenham & Redbridge Victoria Road National League
Wealdstone United Grosvenor Vale National League

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Which is London’s oldest football club?

London’s oldest professional club are Fulham, who were founded in 1879. Two years later, Royal Arsenal — who would eventually become the modern Arsenal — were the first team in the city to turn professional in 1891.

However, the oldest extant football club in London are Cray Wanderers of the Isthmian League Premier Division, the seventh tier of English football. They were founded in 1860, three years before England’s Football Association was formed.

Sheffield FC claim to be the oldest football club in the world. They were founded in 1857.

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