The English Premier League season is renowned for being one of the most intense competitions in world football, especially when you consider the pace at which it is played, though one thing that many do not take into account is the distances that teams have to travel in a season and the possible effects that this can have.
This becomes even more relevant when you consider that some teams have to travel further than others in a season, because of where they are located in the country and how this can have a knock-on effect on team performance on the pitch. Especially when you get to halfway through the campaign and some teams may have travelled further than others already.
Of course, there are many other factors that can determine a teams’ performance on the pitch and this perhaps makes up for a small percentage of it, though when you start to dig a little deeper, there could be some justification that travel distances for some clubs could relate to league positions at the end of the season.
Then, there is the fan element. For season ticket holders who go to every game, there isn’t just the time spent travelling on a weekly basis, but also the cost of getting to games, depending on if they live near their club and where about in the country it is based.
As a result, we looked at every club’s distances for the Premier League 2020/21 season for every game and also were able to ascertain which clubs will travel the shortest and longest distances for the campaign. Every travel distance is worked out to the nearest mile, using Google maps, based on the quickest road distance, one-way, at the time these data were complied. It may not be accurate for every journey depending on traffic, road closures, etc., but gives you an idea of how travel distances vary between clubs.
The table below shows a summary of the data for each team. Click on any team in the table to see a full breakdown of travel to all opposition teams. Click on any heading to see a full stats table for each metric.
The team and fans that have to travel the least are Aston Villa, which makes a lot of sense given Birmingham is fairly central within England. Newcastle and their fans will have to travel over double the distance of Villa over the course of a season. In fact, Newcastle need to travel over 1000 miles further than any other team. That is over 2000 miles further when you consider the return journey too, as these data show the one-way distances.
Other teams such as Norwich on the east coast and Brighton and Southampton on the south coast all have long travel distances thanks to the fact that they are coastal. North west and London teams by contrast travel a moderate distance over the season thanks to the fact there are more teams local to them.
Logically Aston Villa have the shortest average one-way distance to travel, 105 miles / game, and Newcastle the longest, 225 miles / game. The overall average distance for an away game across the entire league is just under 138 miles per game.
Liverpool and Everton have the shortest distance to travel for an away game given their grounds are less than a mile away from each other. Newcastle and Norwich fans, however, must travel 98 (Leeds) and 95 miles (Arsenal) respectively to their closest opposition grounds.
The longest distanced travelled for an away match is Newcastle to Brighton, or vice-versa, at 345 miles. Newcastle are the furthest opposition for 13 teams and Brighton for 7 teams.
As you can see from the table, the Gunners’ travel distance is not too bad and they can be thankful, that a portion of their main rivals are only a short distance away when you factor in Tottenham and Chelsea. These three clubs make up half of the so called ‘big six’, while fellow challengers Leicester are only a relatively short 90 minutes away by road.
With the level of talent in the team, you can always usually expect Arsenal to mount a challenge (despite falling away in the last couple of years). This added to the rest of the distances they need to travel for teams like Liverpool, both Manchester clubs and even Leeds United, over the course of a season, this could help to compensate for this.
Since arriving back in the Premier League, the West Midlands club have performed well, cementing solid mid-table finishes (or thereabouts), two seasons running. One of the advantages that the club has, is that it is almost right in the middle of the country. Of course, this makes it very convenient for fans, who do not have to travel too far over the season, with great road and rail links.
An average one-way travel distance of 105 miles per game, makes this a very pleasant season for the team in terms of pre-match preparation.
New boys Brentford will have their first taste of Premier League matchdays and will be encouraged that compared to last term, there are not as many matches. This means that their travel distance and time this season will be considerably shorter, though with an average of 119 miles per game (one way) all season the club do not fare too badly.
Numerous games in the capital, means that they are conveniently placed for games against a lot of big teams.
Situated on the south coast of England, for visiting fans it makes for a good weekend at the seaside, though for the team, being at one end of the country, means a considerable amount of travel time.
They rank as the club that has the second highest travel distances for the 2020/21 season, which can start to have an effect when you factor in the amount of time players will spend sitting down and the mental rigours caused by travelling.
A combination of good management and a strong work ethic has maintained Burnley’s Premier League status over the last few years to many people’s surprise. However, they are the team that has to travel the fifth longest over the course of the season.
Though, what also works in their favour, is that they are close to a number of big teams such as Liverpool, Everton, both Manchester clubs and Leeds United.
Always challenging near the top of the Premier League table and possessing an arguably strong squad, Chelsea are also the team that has to travel the least amount of distance.
Also, with potential rivals Arsenal, Tottenham and even West Ham nearby, this makes those tough travel days a lot more convenient.
The Eagles are another club that benefits from having a number of others, arguably on their doorstep and have proved to be the ‘bogey team’ of many while on the road over the last few seasons, including Liverpool.
With a relatively small and also ageing squad, travel distance may play a factor for the 2020/21 season though.
A club with a lot of ambition, it never really worked out for them during the 2020/21 campaign, despite a strong start. However, when it comes to distances for the 2021/22 season, they benefit from being close to a number of big clubs in the north, with fierce rivals Liverpool next door, which is always a high octane match.
With an average travel distance of 154 miles per game, this is not too bad and represents roughly around two hours on the road for each fixture all season.
Their maiden season in the Premier League after the best part of two decades in the wilderness saw the Yorkshire club exceed expectations with a ninth place finish. Perhaps an anomaly, this is a relatively small squad, though undoubtedly the fittest. Despite having the sixth longest travel distance on average with 146 miles per game, this is unlikely to have any effect at all on match performance and they are only likely to be stronger next term.
Also, being a short hop, skip and a jump away from ‘old enemy’ Manchester United and 2020/21 champions Manchester City who they beat on the road last season, this is a major added benefit and you can expect more of the same from Marcelo Bielsa’s men.
A club that is well-placed in terms of location in the country, the East Midlands club is not too far away from London and also only about a 90 minute drive away from the North West which features both Manchester clubs, Liverpool, Everton and tricky hosts Burnley.
Also with a strong, young squad, travel distance should not have too much of an effect on fatigue.
Having been used to competing at the highest level in the Premier League since records began and travelling the length and breadth of the country, Liverpool are a club that should not really let distance affect them too much.
With an average travel distance of 153 miles per game, though equipped with a very strong squad and a man-motivator as a manager, this is a squad that on their day are up for anything.
With a bottomless pit of resources, Manchester City are a club that can afford to make travel as easy and convenient as possible for their players, giving them everything they need to ensure that they arrive at an opposition’s ground raring to go.
Not too far away from London clubs, they will have likely got the measure out of travelling to these locations by now, with many of their players having done this for a number of years.
Sharing a similar travel distance as 2020/21 champions Manchester City, there wasn’t too much difference in the league position last season either between the two clubs.
Like City, United are a club that has players who are used to travel distances in the Premier League by now and have a number of resources to make it as convenient as possible for players. From a fan perspective, especially for travelling to games in London, it is approximately a two hour train journey to Euston Station, which represents a relatively easy matchday experience for their away following.
A club that has done well to stay in the Premier League over the last few seasons, they are perhaps unlucky to be the club that has to travel the furthest, and by some margin.
They will clock up a staggering 4283 miles all season travelling to games, while this is also testament to their loyal following of fans who go to every away day from Newcastle!
Back in the top flight after a season in the Championship, like Brentford, they are a club whose players will find it a lot easier regarding weekly travel. However, with only a small squad playing against superior opposition, this combined with the strain of travelling might add to the pressure.
Luckily they are not too far away from London, though tough away days in the west of the country against both Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Everton might have a negative impact on their performance after a long journey.
Being relatively close to London, gives the Saints an edge over the likes’ of Newcastle and Burnley, who they might see as rivals when it comes to league positions at the end of the campaign.
However, they still have the fourth longest travel distance to games all season out of every club, with only Norwich, Brighton and Newcastle behind them.
Like every other London club, Spurs are essentially in the same boat and share an equally average travel distance, ranking exactly in the middle with 120 miles per game (one-way). Obviously this figure is representative of longer distances to clubs the north of England, with trips to both Newcastle and even Leeds adding to this considerably.
Spurs do have a relatively strong squad, though and are experienced in the top flight, so 10th in terms of travel distance is unlikely to be reflective of overall league position.
Another club that is back in the Premier League after one season, the Hornets, like Brentford have the benefit of being in London, though with more top flight experience.
Most of their players will be used to long, tough away days at Newcastle and Liverpool, however, with a small squad, travel fatigue might just start to play a part.
A well-drilled squad under experienced Premier League manager David Moyes, the wily Scot will know every trick in the book when it comes to preparing his players for long journeys.
Hard to beat last campaign, this prepares them nicely for ‘backyard’ clashes against most of their London rivals, while long distances does hardly anything to wear out their loyal following of fans.
Nicely situated in the West Midlands, like rivals Villa, Wolves benefit from having a relatively easy time when it comes to travel distances, being in eighth place overall.
This in some bizarre fashion seems to almost reflect their league positions over the last couple of years as well, which suggests if they had a bigger squad with more quality, they may just finish higher, if you were going to relate travel distances with on-pitch performances.
Which Team Travels The Furthest?
Shortest Distance For Each Team
|Manchester City||Manchester United||4|
|Manchester United||Manchester City||4|
Longest Distance For Each Team
Average Distance Travelled For Each Team
Should Distance Travelled Influence How You Bet?
This is perhaps something that you may not have considered before when you placed a bet, however, now that you have the precise data, this is something that you may want to factor in.
One thing that could help you is by looking at historical results between the clubs for the match that you were planning on betting on and if the away team has struggled historically, then it could be that travel distance has played a part. Similarly, the same could be said if a team has travelled a long way for a game a couple of days earlier, especially if there was a midweek fixture because this is where travel fatigue can certainly play a role.
Perhaps, it may be prudent to look at teams like Aston Villa, who are ideally placed, arguably in the middle of the country, which over the course of a season could help them and also represent smart value in the betting markets.
Does Distance Travelled Influence League Finish?
This definitely poses an interesting thought analysis and there is undoubtedly a number of variables to take into account here when considering this. If you look at historical league finishes, at least over the last couple of seasons, a case could certainly be made for those clubs that have to travel the longest distances, who have small budgets, relative to league finish.
Newcastle, Brighton and Southampton are certainly prime examples of this, with these clubs last season recording lower league (bottom half) finishes though, with each of them having considerably long distances to travel while operating on a small budget to strengthen their squads.
When you look at the Newcastle squad of 20 years ago, you will see that it had a lot more quality and also depth and as a result, the Magpies were consistently pushing for European places, despite having to do a lot of travelling every week. When you think of the likes of Alan Shearer, Nolberto Solano, Keiron Dyer and Laurent Robert, this was a top-class side that could compete with the best and who had the mental fitness to cope with the travel rigours.
Each of these also has a small playing squad, which suggests that travel fatigue can and does have an effect on league position. At the other end of the scale, when you factor in Chelsea, who have the shortest distance to travel over the course of the season, a large budget and a big squad, this has some correlation also, as they secured a top-four finish last term. Arguments could be made for new players not settling in quickly and a new manager coming in halfway through the season, though in the second half of the campaign especially, we witnessed impressive form.
Aston Villa, who have the second shortest distance to travel this season, though with a relatively small squad, on a respectable budget have secured two mid-table finishes since they have been back in the Premier League, which suggests adding more depth and quality could see them finish a lot higher.
Looking at the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City, all of whom have been champions and/or runners-up over the last decade, as well as cup winners, these are clubs that are essentially in the middle when it comes to travel distances. However, they have had the budgets and the squad size to compete regardless, so there is much to be said that distances over the course of a season can have an effect on league finishes when you factor in financial resources, to guard against fatigue.
Effect Of Travel Time On Performance
While Newcastle is the club that has the most distance to travel, there could well be external factors that may have an effect. It is worth noting that teams also have to make the journey to the far north of England and there is one obvious variable that could play a part.
After a long journey sat on the team bus, many teams, especially from London or the south of England may notice a significant change in weather conditions and climate on Tyneside, which is notoriously cold, windy and often wet. For some players, this alone can be a lot to adjust to, especially if they have been sat on a warm, comfortable bus for many hours.
Added to this is the fact that some clubs will spend three to four hours travelling north, which is not ideal for a player’s muscles and this could certainly affect performances, at least in the first 20 or 30 minutes of a game.
The top outfits such as both Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Liverpool though, will undoubtedly have the resources to guard against this, such as the world’s best physios, while even their transport could be fitted with relevant equipment to help battle against cramp and muscle seizure.
As well as Newcastle, this could also apply to Burnley, which is 118 metres above sea level, with the ground exposed to cold, bracing winds, which can be a shock to the system for players travelling long distances, especially from places in the south of England with more bearable weather.
Do Travel Distances Really Matter?
Last season proved that superior fitness levels (both physical and mental), a well-run club and world-class coaching can make travel distances irrelevant, even regardless of squad size. Leeds United shocked everyone to finish ninth in their first season back in the top flight since the 2003/04 season, with them possessing all of these traits.
While on paper at least, they certainly did not have the biggest squad in the competition, they were undoubtedly the fittest and leanest. Regardless of distance travelled, they were able to perform and play consistently, despite a few anomalies. Added to the fact that they also were not at full strength for half of the season and were still bedding players in, this could have seen them finish even higher last campaign.
It is also worth noting that for the 2021/22 Premier League season, they have the fourth-longest distance to travel (which would have been similar to last term) and this if all the aforementioned factors are carried across, is unlikely to have any effect. So, it could be argued that essentially fitness levels can dispel any rumours that travel distances causes fatigue and ultimately performance.
How About The Fans?
Undoubtedly, some clubs have a bigger away following than others, which can also help a team’s morale and ultimately, their performance levels after a long-distance travelled. Three prime examples are West Ham, Newcastle and Leeds again, with both these clubs having a long history of a strong away following.
The 2021/22 season is likely to see fans being back allowed at full capacity into football stadiums after a campaign being played behind closed doors, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and this could certainly have an effect on an away team’s results.
This is certainly something that will be keenly watched with interest by commentators and football analysts alike, who will likely have much to say on the difference that this might make on an away team’s performance compared to last season.
With this new perspective, the 2021/22 Premier League season will certainly make for interesting viewing. Many people often do not factor in travel distances for teams and the countless hours they have to spend on club transport to get to a match and then the amount of preparation that it might take them to become mentally prepared after travelling.
Added to the fact that fans will likely now be admitted again for this season, it could well have a positive effect for away teams and it is going to be interesting to see how they react to this. For the newly promoted clubs, it will be a big test, especially for Brentford who are unproven in the top flight, compared to Norwich and Watford, who are both used to the travel rigours plus the physical and mental demands.
There is no doubt that this campaign could be the best yet in the top flight and should you be wanting to travel to a match, have a look at the tables on this page to get a feeling for which you might like to go to, based on the distance that you would have to travel.