English football is popular the world over. But the fan-base in Norway is astonishing. here's why.
As I write this I'm sitting in my Oslo apartment watching a popular Norwegian TV channel, TV2 Zebra, sort of the Channel 4 of Norway. Any guesses as to what I'm watching?
A two-hour English football special, featuring five pundits live in a studio talking about transfer deadline day.
Back in December I stumbled into a packed bar in Tromsø to find everyone's eyes glued to the Liverpool match.
A few weeks ago in Lillehammer, the only lively bar I could find on the Saturday evening was a sports bar. There were at least 30 pairs of cross-country skis lined up in an orderly fashion outside, with their owners inside watching, yep, the live Premier League match.
When I first moved here I found the experience odd, but as the months went on it soon became normal. The fact is, English football is just as popular here as it is in England. It's certainly more popular than domestic Norwegian football, which is a very poor standard in comparison.
If you want to test this theory, ask a native Norwegian which football team they support. Sure, they'll support a local team. But listen to their response…
“Liverpool and Lillestrøm”
“Leeds and Rosenborg”
“Arsenal and Viking”
The English team will be first. All the Premier League clubs and a whole host of others have a very active Norwegian supporters club. Leeds, Manchester City, Arsenal, the list goes on and on. But the most popular, by far, is Liverpool.
You'll Never Walk Alone in Norway
The Norwegian love affair with Liverpool Football Club is hard to fathom. At first I thought people were being over the top and just wanting to make conversation about English football. But no, there is a genuine passion here for Liverpool just as strong as anything back on the Mersey. It's recognised by the club too.
Last year the first team came over to Oslo to play a pre-season friendly against Vålerenga and it was one of the rare times the Ullevaal Stadium was full for a Vålerenga home match.
The match took place shortly after the 22nd July terrorist attack and it was touching to see Liverpool fans and officials adding to the memorial outside the cathedral. The match itself was an entertaining 3-3 draw:
The Premier League really is a business now
Being out here, well it's hit home what a huge worldwide brand the Premier League really is. I heard it all the time on British TV, but it's only now I'm living abroad that I really appreciate the truth of those words.
I subscribe to TV2 Premier League, a Norwegian pay-to-view TV channel that allows me to watch live Premier League games all weekend, in HD, including multiple options at 3pm (well, 4pm here!) on a Saturday afternoon.
Every Saturday and Sunday there is a Sky Sports style studio with three Norwegian presenters, plus a guest British pundit. Once you get used to the mix of languages (which is VERY confusing at first) it's an entertaining show! The anchorman is Erik Thorstvedt and he is joined frequently by Claus Lundekvam and Lars Bohinen, amongst others.
It's always a bit of a lottery which special guest will turn up from the UK. Most of the time it seems to be Phil Thompson, but a few months ago I was shocked when none other than Paul Gascoigne, one of my football heroes from my youth, turned up in the studio.
To be perfectly honest he struggled through the show mumbling and appeared a shadow of his former self, but it was captivating stuff.
But perhaps the biggest surprise of all has been a true Northampton Town legend getting regular airtime on Norwegian TV! Goalscoring extraordinaire Trevor Morley, who scored 39 goals in 107 games, is a regular guest on TV2 Premier League.
According to his Wikipedia page he's now living in Norway so if you're up for a beer Trev, get in touch! (Update: I interviewed Trevor about his life in Norway – read it here)
What's next for Norwegian football?
There's no denying the popularity of English football (and to a certain extent, German and Spanish too) has a big impact on the domestic game.
Even though most matches kick-off at 7pm on Sundays and half the season takes place during the English summer, attendances are low and a transfer deal in England is more likely to steal the headlines than a Norwegian result.
The failure of the national team to qualify for Euro 2012 hasn't helped matters. Neither has the failure of all the Norwegian teams to make it past the qualifying rounds of European competitions this season.
Perhaps Ole Gunnar Solskjaer leading Molde to their first ever title in his debut season in management might be the start of something, but will Norway hold on to their home-grown hero once the Premier League comes knocking, as seems inevitable?
So, what's next for Norwegian football? You tell me.
19 thoughts on “The Norwegian Obsession With English Football”
A correction dear. The Scousers have only played here twice against VIF (as far as I know) in a friendly since I moved here. It isn’t ‘regular’. Indeed summer 2010 it was Barca who played us here [it’s a game arranged to tie in with the Norway Cup (the largest footballing tournament in the world)]
The main reasoning behind English football’s popularity stems from the days in the 1960s when BBC broadcast the games, and they were also shown here. Hence you will also find a lot of Stoke, Derby, Forest, Wolves fans etc.
Thanks! Correction made. A drunken conversion we had not remembered properly. Shocking, I know 😉
I’m loving your blog. It’s interesting to see an outsider’s point of view on life in Norway.
Thanks very much Elisa. Keep reading 😀
NP sweetie 🙂
A few years ago, back before SportN got re-branded into Viasat Football (and made into a PTV channel), they actually showed Stags v M’boro in FA Cup.
And they had Jon Olav Hjelde doing the half-time chat etc. 😀
(And yes, I recorded it and still have on the hard-drive *blush* )
Very interesting read our kid. It is wonderful to see the Norwegian people have a sublime taste in chosing LiverpoolFC as their favourite English team. Therefore it must be a fact that Manchester Utd must be the most hated English team in Norway. Great to see Sir Trevor is doing the buisness out there too….LEGEND. All they need now is Woody to go out and do his little bit of punditry,now that would be entertaining. Take care bro’. xxx
As one of the Norwegian Liverpool fans myself, I can tell you that your assumption about Manchester Utd unfortunately isn’t true. Liverpool and Utd basically tie when it comes to where Norwegians’ alliances lie. Every time Utd wins, half of my Facebook wall are celebrating. Same goes for Liverpool fans when the lads win. We love to enjoy the misery of the Utd fans, but they enjoy our misery just the same. I think the Norwegian Liverpool fanclub is barely bigger than the Utd one, they are about the same size.
I’ll put together a piece on lower divisional Norwegian Football and the culture as a whole in the near future.
Hi mate, I am an English man living in Alta. I am looking at buying a TV provider but unsure which one I need to get in order to receive TV2 Sport. Do I need a certain cabel tv? Can I get it if I have Canel+?
I had RIKS tv before and got it via that provider but I have just moved and unsure which one to buy.
Blimey, how did you end up in Alta? Check out the website for a list – http://tv2-fotball.no/ – just make sure it’s “TV2 PL” you order, as “TV2 Sport” is different, that carries the domestic league amongst other things. You can also order an online-only subscription, although I’ve not tried that…
Hi mate. Great blog. Read a few of your posts. Like it. But in this post its so much wrong. Erik Thorstvedt is not an anchor, its not called TV2 Zebra but TV2PL. Anyway. Great stuff
Hi! Thanks for the comment, I’m glad you enjoy the blog. However please read the post more carefully 😉 Two years ago when the post was written, TV2 Zebra broadcast the transfer deadline day special that I was writing about. Also two years ago, Erik was anchorman on the specific shows I was writing about 🙂
Hi there, I am heading to Tromso in December with my husband and have taken a lot of notes from your blog, especially about the music scene and good music shops and bars so thank you! I was wondering if there was a bar you would recommend for watching the football in Tromso? There is a Newcastle/Liverpool match on whilst we are there and I know my husband would be pleased to not miss out on the toon getting trounced yet again!
Hi Danielle, thanks for reading and for your comment. I haven’t been to Tromsø in a while so can’t recommend a specific place. Best to ask a local when you arrive. Your hotel receptionist will probably have a good idea!
The connection of Norway and Liverpool runs deep. There was a large Norwegian community in Liverpool, due to the large number of Norwegian merchant vessels docking in the large port and Liverpool being the emigration port for America. I am from Liverpool with Norwegian in my family from the 1800s. Norwegian surnames were common around me. The historical associations go further back than football.
Also, there are large numbers of place names in and around the Liverpool region whose names derived from the Vikings. Roby, Irby, Thingwall, Bromborough, Tranmere, Toxteth, Crosby, etc. Thingwall was the Viking parliament of Britain, with the last battle between the Anglo Saxons and Vikings being at Bromborough on the Wirral. The Vikings losing. If the result was the other way, the UK may be very different today.
Tranmere Rovers in Birkenhead is the only football club in the UK that has a Norse name. Breck Road, near Liverpool F.C.’s stadium is a Norse name. The Norwegians have always been at Liverpool and Everton football matches, mainly the many sailors in the port, but since cheap air flights many come in directly from Norway .
The city and Norway share a dish, Lobskause. A dish brought in from Norway by Norwegian sailors. The people of Liverpool adopted the dish which ended up being clipped to Scouse.
I know I’m a few years too late on this thread but thought I’d add that I saw Liverpool play an exhibition against the Norwegian national side in Oslo in the summer of 1994 (I think). As one of the previous posters noted, it was done in connection with the Norway Cup.