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A Guide To Football Clubs In London (+ Which Premier League Teams Are Based There)

A Guide To Football Clubs In London (+ Which Premier League Teams Are Based There)

London is a city with a rich footballing history. Not only does this vast, sprawling metropolis hold more clubs than any other city in the UK (hardly a surprise given its estimated population of over 9 million), it was also the place where the official rules of association football were first put to paper. This was in 1861, when the inaugural meeting of the English Football Association took place at the Freemasons' Tavern on Great Queen Street in the West End. Here, the Laws of the Game were formally established, and ever since, football has been an important part of daily life, entertainment and culture in the capital.

London has been the site of huge games at international tournaments including the 1966 World Cup and the 1996 European Championships, with the England national team's home venue Wembley Stadium regularly hosting massive cup clashes such as the FA Cup Final and the Champions League final. There are also a large amount of professional football clubs in London with fascinating stories of their own, from modern Premier League giants like Chelsea to lower league teams like AFC Wimbledon. 

In this article, we'll be providing you with a definitive guide to all the London football clubs in the English Football League system. We'll work our way down from the Premier League to the lower divisions and answer questions such as 'How many Premier League teams are in London?', 'What are the main London derbies?', and 'Who is the most successful team in London?' By the time we're done, you should have a better idea of just how important football is to people living in the UK capital.

How Many Premier League Teams Are In London?

Over the years, the number of clubs in London playing at the highest level has fluctuated continuously. In certain seasons, the Premier League has been packed with clubs situated in the capital, but at times numbers have dwindled slightly. Right now in the 23/23 season, there are seven London clubs in the English top flight. You can find out more information about each one below.

Arsenal

North London club Arsenal were one of the founder members of the Premier League, and they're one of only six clubs to have never left the top flight since the inception of the breakaway league in 1992. The Gunners have lifted the Premier League on three occasions, all under legendary manager Arsene Wenger; currently, club legend Mikel Arteta is leading a renaissance of sorts, aiming to guide the club back to the very top.

Brentford 

The newest addition to the catalogue of London clubs that have played in the Premier League is Brentford, who since being promoted from the Championship in 2021 have seriously impressed neutrals with their tactical intelligence and ability from set pieces. Led by coach Thomas Franke, the west London team have been a breath of fresh air for many, and talented players such as Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbuemo have underlined the sharpness of the club's recruitment.

Chelsea

Under the ownership of Roman Abramovic, fellow west Londoners Chelsea moved from being an under-performer in the capital to becoming one of the country's most decorated sides, with multiple Premier League titles and FA Cups under their belt, as well as two Champions League wins, the most recent under Thomas Tuchel in 2021.

Crystal Palace

Having spent a lot of time outside the top flight in the 21st century, south London club Crystal Palace have recently stabilised in the Premier League, with several successive mid-table finishes aided largely by the clever recruitment of talents such as Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise, as well as the star talent of academy graduate Wilfried Zaha.

Fulham

In recent seasons, Fulham (London's oldest club, founded in 1879) have developed a reputation as a "yo-yo" side who regularly bounce between the Premier League and the Championship. However, the leadership of Marco Silva is currently allowing them to compete with the best, surpassing many people's expectations to hold down their spot in the top flight and pull off shock results against a variety of established teams.

Tottenham Hotspur

Alongside Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, and Manchester United, Spurs have never been relegated from the Premier League; however, unlike some of their London rivals they have struggled to translate their consistency into trophy wins, with a 2008 League Cup triumph under Juande Ramos remaining their only recent silverware. Under Ange Postecoglou, they are currently winning back the passion and energy of fans after several disappointing seasons.

West Ham United

West Ham are a proud east London club that produced some of the stars of England's 1966 World Cup-winning squad, and in recent years they've built on this pedigree by consistently qualifying for Europe and winning the Europa Conference League in 2022/23. Historically, they are one of the most decorated London clubs in the Premier League, and their 2016 move to the London Stadium (previously the Olympic Stadium) highlights their power in the capital.

Who Is The Most Successful London Football Club?

There are three clubs that are widely viewed as the most successful clubs in London: Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. Over the last decade, Chelsea have won the most trophies out of these three sides; however, when you dig into the numbers in more detail, there's one clear winner out of these three…

In terms of trophies won, the most successful club in London is Arsenal. In total, the Gunners have won 48 trophies in their history, including 13 Premier League or First Division (the old name for the Premier League) titles. They've also recorded 14 FA Cup victories, two League Cup wins, and a whopping 16 Community Shield wins.

Meanwhile, Chelsea have won 34 trophies; they've been less successful domestically, winning six titles and eight FA Cups, but much more triumphant on the international stage, winning two Champions Leagues, two UEFA/Europa League trophies and a Club World Cup. Spurs are also extremely decorated, winning 26 trophies including eight FA Cups and two First Division titles.

London Derbies: Key Rivalries In The Capital

A derby match is a game played between two rival football teams in close geographical proximity. In London, the high volume of clubs there are a number of different high-profile derbies that are played each season.

One of the most famous London derbies is Arsenal vs Spurs, a fixture that causes plenty of fan agitation as well some incredibly dramatic football each season. In west London, there are a number of local rivalries, with Fulham vs Chelsea probably the derby that has been contested most often in the Premier League era. 

Meanwhile, West Ham vs Millwall is widely seen as London's most violent and storied rivalry, with the two clubs' supporter firms clashing repeatedly over the years, particularly during the peak years of hooliganism in English football.

Life Outside The Premier League: London Football Clubs In The Football League

Away from the top flight, there are dozens of other football clubs operating in the capital, from strong, wealthy Championship teams knocking on the door of the Premier League, to non-league minnows bringing local football to various different suburban communities.

Millwall

Millwall are one of the most famous English teams to have never competed in the Premier League. Situated in Bermondsey, they're the closest club to central London and over the years, they've constructed a unique, tribal fan identity, encapsulated by the iconic chant "No one likes us / We don't care".

Queens Park Rangers

Queens Park Rangers (commonly known as QPR) are one of London's oldest clubs, having been founded in 1882. A League Cup title in 1968 is the only major trophy they've won to date, but they're well-known across England, having competed in the top flight for many seasons throughout their history.

Watford

Technically, Watford is a town just outside London, but many people view them within the bracket of London clubs. After their heyday in the 1980s, when they enjoyed some success thanks to Elton John's ownership, Graham Taylor's coaching, and eye-catching performances from players like John Barnes, they dropped out of the top flight for many years. However, they've been regular competitors in the Premier League in the 21st century, and have bounced between the top two divisions repeatedly in recent seasons.

AFC Wimbledon 

AFC Wimbledon were founded as a phoenix club in 2002 after the highly contentious decision to uproot Wimbledon FC to Milton Keynes and form MK Dons. Since then, the south west London club have worked their way up to the football league from the lower divisions; they can currently be found in the fourth division, League Two.

Charlton Athletic

A local rival of Millwall, south east London side Charlton Athletic currently play their football in League One, the third division in the English pyramid; however, with a rich history and a famos old ground, The Valley, they'll be desperate to rise back above this level sooner rather than later.

Leyton Orient 

Having briefly been demoted to the non-league system, Leyton Orient have enjoyed some great times in recent seasons, propelling themselves up to League One. The east Londoners are one of the capital's most historic clubs, having been formed in 1881.

Sutton United

The newest London-based team to enter the Football League is Sutton United, who were promoted after winning the National League title in 2020-21. Based deep in south London, they are the capital's smallest league club, with a very localised fanbase and strong roots in the non-league system.

On top of this rich spread of EFL sides battling it out in the competitive climate of the UK's largest city, there are also dozens of other much smaller London football clubs at non-league and amateur level. In the National League (the highest tier of semi–professional football), there are clubs such as Dagenham & Redbridge and Barnet, while the regionalised National League South includes suburban London teams like Welling United and Hampton & Richmond. 

Further down, there are tons of other historic London clubs, from Kingstonian and Dulwich Hamlet in the Isthmian Premier to Erith Town or Sutton Athletic at county level. Digging into the detail, it's remarkable just how many clubs there are in London. If you'd like to find out more about these lower echelons of the football league and how England's vast pyramid functions, check out our guide to the tiers of English football.