Biggest Football Rivalries In Britain – Top 25

7. Cardiff vs Swansea (South Wales Derby)

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The South Wales derby is played between Welsh clubs Cardiff City and Swansea City and is regarded as one of the most fierce rivalries in British football. Despite both clubs being in Wales, they play in the English football league system and have won English honours: Cardiff the FA Cup in 1927 and Swansea the Football League Cup in 2013.

In the 1990s this was one of the toughest fixtures to police, and Swansea fans still wear swimming caps and armbands after they chased Cardiff fans into the sea after a particularly gruesome fixture in Swansea in 1988.

6. Manchester City vs Manchester United (Manchester Derby)

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Manchester City and Manchester United are two of the biggest clubs in England. These clubs have millions of supporters worldwide. This huge fan base makes this game one of the most anticipated fixtures, not only in Manchester or England but in the whole world.

The first meeting between the two teams occurred on 12 November 1881, when St. Mark’s – who would later become Manchester City – hosted Newton Heath – who would later become Manchester United. The game finished 3–0 in favour of Newton Heath.

The biggest victories have been to City who have won 6–1 on two occasions, both times in the away fixture at Old Trafford, on 23 January 1926 and 23 October 2011.

5. Millwall vs West Ham

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Millwall and West Ham United rivalry is also known as Dockers derby and is one of the longest-standing and biggest football rivalries in Britain

The two teams, then known as Millwall Athletic and Thames Ironworks, both originated in the East End of London and were located under three miles apart. They first played each other in the 1899–1900 FA Cup. In 1910 Millwall moved south of the River Thames and the teams were no longer East London neighbours. Even so, the derbies retained their passion and both sets of supporters still consider the other club their main rival.

The teams, however, didn’t meet much as West Ham was mostly in a division or two higher than Millwall. However, whenever they did, hell broke lose. The 70s and 80s were the dark ages of English Football. That was a time when football hooliganism was at its peak across England, and sections of the fan base were more interested in clashing with the rival firms than letting their teams fight it out on the pitch. A nadir was reached when a Millwall fan was killed in 1976 after a brawl with the West Ham fans at the New Cross Station. In the aftermath of his death, leaflets were handed out in The Den which declared ‘A West Ham Fan Must Die To Avenge His Death’ a week before the match.

4. Newcastle vs Sunderland (Tyne-Wear derby)

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Tyne-Wear derby is an inter-city rivalry in North East England with the two cities of Sunderland and Newcastle just twelve miles apart.

Newcastle and Sunderland are two of the best-supported clubs in the country in a region where everyone, whether they like football or not, is aware of what is happening at the two biggest clubs. The first meeting of the two sides took place in 1883, with the first competitive fixture being an 1888 FA Cup tie, which Sunderland won 2–1.

Despite all the support, both these clubs have suffered from a lack of Silverware. Sunderland have not won a major trophy since the FA Cup in 1973, Newcastle have not won one since the Fairs Cup in 1969. They are two of English football’s greatest underachievers. This derby is ranked fourth in ‘biggest football rivalries In Britain’.

3. Arsenal vs Tottenham (North London Derby)

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North London Derby is one of the biggest football rivalries in Britain. Both Arsenal and Tottenham fans have recognised each other as one of their biggest rivals and the derby is one of the fiercest in English football.

The first meeting between the two teams was a friendly on 19 November 1887, when Arsenal were known as Royal Arsenal. The match was abandoned 15 minutes before it was due to end due to darkness with Spurs leading 2–1. The first League match between the clubs was in the First Division, on 4 December 1909; Arsenal won 1–0.

However, a proper rivalry between the two teams did not begin until 1913, when Arsenal moved from the Manor Ground, Plumstead to Arsenal Stadium, Highbury, just four miles from Tottenham’s White Hart Lane; by doing so, they became Tottenham’s nearest neighbours and thus began a natural local rivalry.

2. Man Utd vs Liverpool

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Liverpool – Manchester United rivalry is second in our list of biggest football rivalries In Britain. It is considered to be one of the biggest rivalries in football and is considered the most famous fixture in English football.

The rivalry runs much deeper than football, a natural consequence of having two major cities 35 miles apart – they vie with each other in terms of culture, commerce, science and just about everything else as well. Most people date the rivalry back to the building of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894 leading to huge job losses in Merseyside.

Players, fans and the media alike often consider games between the two clubs to be their biggest rivalry, above even their own local derby competitions with Everton and Manchester City, respectively.

They are the two clubs that are the most successful English teams in both domestic and European competitions, and between them, they have won 39 league titles, 9 European Cups, among a host of other trophies.

1. Celtic vs Rangers (Old Firm derby)

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The Old Firm is the collective name for the Scottish football clubs Celtic and Rangers, who are both based in Glasgow. The rivalry between the two clubs has become deeply embedded in Scottish culture and has contributed to the political, social and religious division in Scotland and also beyond.

The clubs have large fan bases around Glasgow but also supporters clubs in most towns throughout Scotland and Northern Ireland and in many cities around the world.

In general, the typical Celtic fan is a Catholic and a nationalist, i.e. they distance themselves from being British and see themselves as Scottish—or as is the case from their large following from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, they see themselves as Irish.

It’s a stark contrast to the Rangers fan, meaning the clashes between these two teams are not only about who emerges victorious in the football match and wins the SPL title, but about who wins in the battle of religion, and the battle of politics.

A Celtic win is a victory for Catholicism and nationalism, while a Rangers victory is another step forward for the unionists and the Protestants.

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A sports addict! @subhamchaurasia

8 thoughts on “Biggest Football Rivalries In Britain – Top 25

  • May 12, 2017 at 10:18 am

    There is no dld firm. Rangers died in 2012

  • August 7, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    Rangers were liquidated in 2012

  • November 14, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    Rangers? Sorry mate, they were liquidated back in 2012.

  • January 25, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    Would it not be more correct to say the Celtic v “the Rangers” rivalry is the *result* of the ethnic and religious divisions in Glasgow, rather than a contributor? In fact, the divisions are so strong that they need the rivalry, to the point that it managed to survive the death of one of the teams; if the rivalry led to the divisions, the divisions would have become less significant when Rangers died, instead those divisions led to the creation of a new Rangers side that everyone pretends is the same team.

  • December 21, 2020 at 4:55 pm

    Who writes this. Think you have missed Palace v Brighton one of the biggest in English football.

  • December 22, 2020 at 4:12 am

    #1 should of been Sunderland v Newcastle

  • February 18, 2021 at 6:41 am

    Thanx for the detailed discussion about this topic and being a Manchester United fan myself, it was quite overwhelming for me give this a read. But let me tell you about a different kind of rivalry which is also one of the oldest of all time. Hope you have heard about it, It’s between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. If you haven’t, I have written a piece myself. u can give it a try if you want.

    From Subhra

    Blog Link: https://www.bengoalie.in/asias-biggest-rivalry-east-bengal-vs-mohun-bagan/

  • March 26, 2021 at 6:33 pm

    Your unwashed readers just need to check the official records. It’s no 10IAR for celtic and 55 titles for the worlds most successful team whether you like it or not. Well done Rangers.

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