Why Are Arsenal Fans Called Gooners? (Explained)

Arsenal flag

So you want to know ‘why are Arsenal fans called Gooners?’.

It can get a bit confusing, as you might occasionally hear them called Gunners as well.

So you might also be wondering are Arsenal fans Gunners or Gooners?

There is an explanation for both names, and we are going to go through them in this article.

So let’s get started.

Why Are Arsenal Fans Called Gooners?

In the 1970s and 1980s Arsenal had a hooligan group called ‘The Goon Squad’, named after a lyric from a David Bowie song. Members of the group merged its name with the club’s official nickname of The Gunners and began calling themselves The Gooners. As the hooligan element faded away from football the nickname was adopted by the majority of Arsenal’s match-going fans and has stuck.

Two men wearing retro football inspired t shirts with text in between them

Theory #1: It Is Because of a Scandinavian Mispronunciation

There is a club version of why Arsenal fans are called Gooners.

This official version is that it stems from a common mispronunciation by Scandinavian fans of the club’s actual nickname the Gunners.

One can only think that this is around the time Anders Limpar joined Arsenal in 1990, becoming the first Swedish player to play for the club.

At the same time, Arsenal also had a Norwegian full-back called Pal Lydersen, although his impact was far less. He made just 15 appearances in four years at the club.

In 2007, to the general disapproval of the fans, the club even launched a bid to trademark the word ‘Gooner’.

Theory #2: It Is Because of an Irish Mispronunciation

I am not sure what is going on with all the mispronunciation theories, but another suggestion is that Gooners comes from a mispronunciation of the word Gunners by an Irish fan.

Apparently, the fan was a regular at the George Robey pub in Finsbury Park and would ask those that came in on a Saturday lunchtime: “Are you going to see the Gunners today?”

Except that with his broad Irish accent, it sounded like “Are you going to see the Gooners today?”

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Theory #3: It Comes From Song Lyrics

“Fashion! turn to the left
Fashion! turn to the right
Oooh, fashion!
We are the goon squad and we’re coming to town”

So sang David Bowie on his 1980 song ‘Fashion’ from the album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps).

This theory actually does link into the real reason Arsenal fans are known as Gooners.

Theory #4: It Comes From A Well Known Arsenal Hooligan Firm

The 1970s saw the dark days of hooliganism infiltrating English football, with most clubs having their own ‘firm’.

The loud and rowdy nature of one of Arsenal’s hooligan groups led to them being referred to as ‘goons’, particularly by Spurs fans.

It was intended as an insult but was taken as a compliment by the hooligans who started to use it to describe themselves.

Then when the David Bowie song came out they took the lyrics from the song and used them for the name of their firm,

So by the 1980s, Arsenal had two hooligan groups. One was called The Herd, the other was called The Goon Squad. 

This was merged with the club’s official nickname of The Gunners, with many members of The Goon Squad referring to themselves as Gooners.

Over the years as the hooligan element has faded out, the name Gooners for Arsenal fans has stuck.

This is the most likely reason Arsenal fans are called Gooners, but of course the club doesn’t like it so purport the Scandinavian mispronunciation story as being the real version.

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Are Arsenal Fans Gunners Or Gooners?

So this leads to another question, are Arsenal fans Gunners or Gooners?

It is a valid question as the official nickname of Arsenal is The Gunners, whilst an unofficial name for the fans is The Gooners.

So which are they?

Technically the team is The Gunners and the fans are The Gooners.

Of course, there can be some Gooners who are also Gunners, for instance, Carl Jenkinson and Charlie George are two players who grew up supporting the club as boys before going on to play for them.

Why Are Arsenal Nicknamed The Gunners?

Arsenal badge

The reason behind the official club nickname of The Gunners is quite simple.

The club was formed in 1886, and for the first couple of months of its existence was known as Dial Square.

Crucially, it was formed by workers at the Dial Square Munitions Factory, a facility that used to provide artillery and explosives to the Royal Army of Britain.

So incorporated into the club nickname and the club badge were the key features of their home, a large gun/cannon.

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They became Royal Arsenal on Christmas Day 1886 and then changed its name again to Woolwich Arsenal in 1893.

In 1914 Woolwich Arsenal became The Arsenal, before finally settling on plain old Arsenal in 1919, which it has been known as ever since.

The club has retained its historical link to the munitions factory it was formed at, in both its nickname and its club crest.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully we have explained here why Arsenal fans are called Gooners (and Gunners!).

Despite the official club line, the Gooners name originally came from the club’s Goon Squad hooligan firm back in the 1970s and 80s as a play on words of the club’s official nickname.

As the hooligan element of the game has died out the adapted nickname has stuck and you will often hear fans referring to themselves as Gooners.

To distinguish between the two you can think of the Gunners as the players on the pitch and the Gooners as the supporters in the stands.

The Gunners nickname incidentally comes from the club being formed at a munitions factory way back at the tail end of the 19th century.

I hope that clears things up.

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