They are the Johnny-come-latelies who want a share of the glory but can’t name a player – and now researchers say millions of online football ‘fans’ are in fact frauds.
Of the 157 million Instagram followers of Premier League clubs almost a quarter – some 36 million – have been identified as fake or non-existent.
Researchers used online tools to spot signs of a fake fan, including bogus addresses and false names.
Of the 157 million Instagram followers of Premier League clubs almost a quarter – some 36 million – have been identified as fake or non-existent (file photo)
Surprisingly, Premier League minnows Burnley, whose most famous fan is Labour’s former Downing Street spin doctor Alastair Campbell, has the highest percentage of fakers at 36 per cent – accounting for 124,959 of the club’s 345,000 online supporters.
By comparison, Leeds United, followed by Hollywood actor Russell Crowe, boasts the highest proportion of genuine fans. Just 17 per cent were found to be fake.
South London club Crystal Palace, followed by Liam Neeson, is second in the fake fan table with 35 per cent or 386,980 of its 1.1 million following being fake.
Surprisingly, Premier League minnows Burnley, has the highest percentage of fakers at 36 per cent – accounting for 124,959 of the club’s 345,000 online supporters (pictured: Burnley manager Sean Dyche)
Manchester United has a lower proportion of false fans than most, but a much higher number, with 7.7 million of its 38.2 million followers – 20 per cent – fake.
Researchers identified which fan accounts had a profile photo, their names, how many followers they had and how many of those followers were also fans.
The resulting data indicated millions were fake or created by robots.