Are Norwich City really bigger than Ipswich Town? Fans have their say after survey ranks Suffolk side 14 places below Norfolk rivals

Ipswich Town v Arsenal FA Cup Final at Wembley 1978 -
Kevin Beattie and Allan Hunter

Ipswich Town v Arsenal FA Cup Final at Wembley 1978 - Kevin Beattie and Allan Hunter

It is an impassioned debate which never fails to invigorate the East Anglian derby.

It provides the perfect opportunity for the football fan to reveal their treasure trove of knowledge, prove their superiority during impromptu debates at the pub and score an early goal in the rivalry: just which is the bigger club – Ipswich Town or Norwich City?

Blues fans will cite historical evidence, pointing to the League title (1962), FA Cup (1978) and UEFA Cup (1981) in their trophy cabinet, and revel in the sporting prestige of previous managers Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson.

City supporters will leave the past where they believe it belongs – in the past – and provide more modern measurements of success: they have just spent three years in the Premier League, have a more secure financial footing and have a greater fanbase.

They will also refer to a comprehensive Daily Mail sports study carried out this week which ranked Norwich as a ‘bigger club’ than Ipswich.

In a table listing the top 50 teams from the 59 who have played in the top flight, Norwich finished in 23rd position, much higher than Ipswich in 37th spot.

Manchester United were calculated as the biggest club, with the lowest score of 10 in the table. The study considered crowd sizes, global fanbase, trophies, average league finishes, player quality and income.

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Norwich scored 153 while Ipswich finished with 209. Despite Ipswich having won more major trophies than Norwich, they scored only three fewer points in the trophies category (25 to 28).

The only other category in which Ipswich ‘beat’ Norwich was the average league finish category, scoring 27 to Norwich’s 35.

The findings have, and continue to, provoke a dispute. The EADT newsroom has clashed with the sports desk over the apparent contentious nature of the research and its conclusions. Does Ipswich really deserve to be 14 places below their arch rivals? Are Huddersfield (36th) and Portsmouth (35th) really bigger clubs than Ipswich? Should an authoritative study be commissioned by the Government to determine which club is in fact the biggest?

The debate goes on.

What do the supporters’ groups think?

Liz Edwards, chairman of the Ipswich Town Supporters Club, said the Blues topped the table in East Anglia.

She said: “On heritage, there is no doubt. The shelves of our trophy cabinet are bowing under the weight of our league championship, FA Cup and UEFA Cup pots. We are the only club to have provided two England managers and both were knighted for their services to football. With Sir Alf Ramsey, we provided the brains that won England our only World Cup.

“We have legends such as Kevin Beattie and John Wark, Ray Crawford and Ted Phillips, Terry Butcher and Mick Mills and so many others. Their ‘legends’ comprise a midfielder who scored a goal in Munich and a goalkeeper whose main claim to fame is an air kick that gifted Town a Derby Day victory.

“Norwich’s achievements are so rare that their matchday programme’s reference to the UEFA Cup applauds them as “participants”. The last time I checked, ITFC has the longest unbroken run of unbeaten home games in European competitions; across not just English clubs but the whole of Europe too. We were never mere participants.

“On recent performances it’s closer. Yes, they’ve been in the Premier League more recently but they’ve also been in League One in the last few years. The last time we were at that level was over half a century ago, way back in 1957.

“I admit they shade the recent performance indicator maybe 60/40, but with us winning the heritage battle at least 90/10, it’s a no contest.”

Robin Sainty, 58, chairman of The Canaries Trust, who went to his first match at Carrow Road in 1967, said Norwich were currently the biggest club.

“I don’t think you can really base it on the history,” he said.

“You have to look at where you are now. We’ve just come back from three years in the Premier League, whereas Ipswich have had 11 years in the Championship.

“Ipswich were obviously more successful than Norwich during the 70s and 80s but that’s a long time ago. That’s the last century. If you take a snapshot of time, you are always going to get a different answer.

“When we were in League One, lots of people were saying we shouldn’t be there but we were. You have to be realistic and accept that football has its ups and downs.

“Financially, there is a massive gulf between the two clubs. We are now completely debt-free and obviously Ipswich’s situation is not great. Town manager Mick McCarthy has done a fantastic job with what he has got.

“But this debate is massive for the fans. We could both be in the Conference and still have hit. It is a local rivalry. That’s what it is all about. Local bragging rights are such a big thing and there’s always going to be that friction between the two sets of fans because we are local rivals.

“Hopefully in most cases it is relatively friendly and we are both back in the Premier League next season.”

What do our reporters think?

Canaries fan David Freezer, 28, a sports reporter for our sister newspaper the Eastern Daily Press, claimed Ipswich fans were simply “living in the past”.

He said: “Historically, Ipswich has the edge, and that history gives them that bit more prestige on the national stage.

“But if you look at the last 20 years, Norwich have definitely got the edge. With the fantastic support we get nowadays as well, I think Norwich can definitely lay claim to being the biggest club.

“This week we have been looking back on City’s biggest success 1985 cup final. They had been to two Wembley finals before but lost and that stands as the one major cup success for the club, although they did win the league cup in 1962 when the competition was in its infancy. They beat Rochdale in a two-legged final.

“Ipswich have won the FA Cup so Norwich can’t compete when it comes to that. But when you compare the levels of support, Ipswich went through a tough time and their support got knocked during their financial troubles, Norwich’s support even it out now.

“If you compare the squads, as every manager has been quick to say, Norwich have got a Premier League squad. They shouldn’t have got relegated last year. They were established in Premier League and made a mess of it in typical Norwich style. But that is where they belong.”

East Anglian Daily Times sports reporter Will Ridgard, a 23-year-old lifelong Blues fan, questioned the logic suggesting Norwich have gained mastery over Ipswich.

He said: “Who is the bigger club out of Ipswich Town and Norwich City: does that really need to be asked?

“Who has won the most East Anglian derby matches? Whose trophy cabinet glistens more? I think that’s all that needs to be said. Little else matters.

“Ipswich Town – the English Football League champions of 1962, the Texaco Cup winners of 1973, the FA Cup winners of 1978, the UEFA Cup winners (note: not just participants) of 1981.

“Okay, we’ll throw in various Second and Third Division championship titles as well if we have to – our rivals are just about on par with us in that respect, not forgetting the Milk Cup triumphs!

“Yes, okay, Norwich have been better than us in recent times, but were they not in England’s third tier of football not so long back?

“Better players, better managers, you are judged on your overall success – and there’s no question as to who is the bigger club.”

What does The Beat think?

Town legend Kevin Beattie said the roll of honour was the best yardstick to settle the debate, insisting history should play a significant role.

He said: “Obviously I’m biased but I think Ipswich is the biggest club and the survey has got it wrong without a doubt.

“Ipswich have won the FA Cup, the UEFA cup and the Texaco Cup – and who did we beat in the final? Norwich. And what have they won? They had one good run when they beat a German club and were thought of as Gods in Suffolk and East Anglia.

“So what annoys me is that they say they are better than us, but they are bound to say that.

“Both clubs have expanded since the good ol’ days when I played – I played Norwich 17 times and won 11, lost four and drew four. It was a great record.

“Norwich have been in the Premier League for a few years obviously and they have got the money from that, but Mick has done superbly with what he has been given and it is like a big family again like under the boss (Sir Bobby Robson).”

Ipswich Town and Norwich City facts

Major honours: Ipswich: Nine: FA Cup (1978), UEFA Cup (1981), Texaco Cup (1973) (beating Norwich in the final), Division One (1962), Division Three South (1954, 1957), Division Two (1961, 1968, 1992). Norwich: seven: League Cup (1962, 1985), League One (2010), Division One (2004), Division Two (1972, 1986), Division Three South (1934).

Head-to-head: Ipswich wins: 40. Norwich wins: 38. Draws: 17. Last 10 games: Ipswich wins: three. Norwich wins: five.

Stadium capacity: Portman Road (Ipswich): 30,311. Carrow Road (Norwich): 27,244.