“The Beautiful Game” – Stewart Hall’s famous phrase that non-meticulously defines our sport shared by people across the globe. Rain or shine, day or night, win or lose, that blissful satisfaction gained by supporting your club on match days whether it be online or at their stadium, is always an occasion to cherish. The camaraderie built between working class supporters over the years is seemingly impossible to replicate to that degree in any other historical worldwide sport. A concept idealised since even the oldest fans in existence will remember. Over time, modernisation inducted many interferences upon the way we know and love our sport. Some people see (for example) the presence of money and millionaire/billionaire sugar daddies as ‘threatening’ to the enjoyment and character of Football, yet there are few who raise an intriguing question, “are we, the fans to blame?” While opinions on the matter differ like Amy Schumer’s comedy differs from a funny and original joke, it’s those opinions which prompted me to write about the effects us as fans has had on our beloved way of life. For the record, I love Football and like many others, have always been passionate about it despite it’s history of useful and controversial changes. To that, I say long may it continue! At least when they fix that VAR anyway…
1997, this was that very year the first blogging sites pioneered social interaction with other human beings. The majority of Football fans have ever since invested hours and hours of time talking and debating about many Football related matters. Figures by the Financial Times state that out of 1.3 billion people on Facebook, 500 million people have affiliated themselves with Football Clubs. Quite a staggering statistic for watching people kick bags of wind wouldn’t you say? Before social media, Football had a much more enclosed and vocal atmosphere with a lack of tourism. In a chat I had with former Hereford and Wrexham striker Dixie Dean, he mentioned that match results weren’t heard of until the following day in newspapers unless you were a live spectator, mainly locals and the working class followed their respective teams back then. A stark contrast to the instant results and match feedback put online for widespread audiences in a matter of seconds. Social media gives a voice to everybody over a certain age, allowing for people with shared opinions of a certain player, staff member or a Club to band together and raise their views, albeit an agenda or appreciation. As a consequence this can create toxicity around a Club. Look no further than West Ham as an example, a march has been organised on Twitter against the reign of the infamous ‘dildo brothers’ David Gold and David Sullivan. (a depreciating nickname spread online might I add) Would this have mattered to fans all that time ago? Seeing as fans weren’t spreading their agenda for the masses to see then, it would’ve been highly unlikely.
Not only have fans taken to social media, players of all clubs have recognised its importance in the constantly evolving sport. It doesn’t matter if you’re Cristiano Ronaldo with 121 million Instagram followers or an upcoming talent with less than a millionth of that, creating a platform and an image for yourself is key for squeezing those extra endorsement funds out of a short career. Yet a bad vein of form can leave your image and community taking a bigger dive-bomb than Hillary Clinton’s election campaign. Players may ignore criticisms, but if post after post is bombarded by seething fans, some even going to the extent of death threats, it must be unnerving to that confidence to say the least. Take Dejan Lovren for instance, the Croatian has had to plea online for people to stop threatening to harm him and his family. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t be riled up if that was you? Arsenal Fan TV features boisterous fans who again epitomise a threat to the harmony of a fan base, which has transmitted to negative energy in the terraces, leading to the personnel on the playing field. “Enough is enough” and “f*** off Wenger” speeches make for great entertainment for us neutrals, could we be guilty for giving this toxicity a platform? I think so.
From the pastime of the working class into the clutches of capitalists. It is extremely important to analyse the effects brought on the fans by those multimillionaire/multibillionaire juggernauts. Many tiers of Football have seen investments change the way of the game. And with Manchester City spending more on defence this last year than 52 countries, this has put the final nail in the coffin to their loss of affection for Football. Before the 90’s brought lucrative Premier League TV deals, was a time where Footballers played purely for the love of the sport, attracting ticket sales that only set fans back a couple of quid. Jonathan Wilson of Sport Illustrated agrees that “the idea of football as the working man’s game is, on the level of going to matches, absurdly old-fashioned.” Instead, you are paying to support the play toys owned by the elite.
To generate return investments, Clubs have mustered up hyperinflated prices that your average working local cannot simply afford. £25 to watch Sunderland at home? I wouldn’t go if you offered me 80’s prices. Instead stadiums in lower leagues often lie half full and Premier League grounds are packed with tourism. I am more than happy with global fan bases, heck it’s fantastic to meet fans of all types! Yet when people go to take pictures all game instead of singing and backing the team, that is when us fans gain a vexation on the matter. Now that Sky Sports and BT are forking out around £10 million to air live matches, the only conclusion is that Clubs will continue to inflate ticket prices similar to the pattern of transfer fees.
Attitude Changes In Football Clubs
As a whole, Football was undeniably far more hardcore compared to the modern game. That’s not to say those personalities are non-existent nowadays, but purely a remark on Football’s evolution as a sport. Who is the closest born winner to the likes of Sir Matt Busby, Bill Shankly and Sir Alex Ferguson you can think of? Of course José Mourinho is a common contender, despite his trophies, does he really carry that die-hard mentality of the former greats? Let me place Arsenal’s Invincible’s into perspective, Vieira, Henry, Bergkamp, Pirès, Lehmann… A locker room full of winners. Who now? Xhaka, Ramsey, Bellerin, Özil, Mustafi… More like the invisibles. It’s no wonder the fans are frustrated and crying out for passion and commitment, but who do they look to for that leadership?
”Primadonnas,” “Mercenaries” – Common phrases used by experienced fans use to sum up the attitudes of players. Of course younger people know little about what it used to be like, however opinions of many long time supporters disapprove of the manufactured feel prospering in the modern game. Simon Kuper of the Financial Times who was once a Football fenatic, says that “players have turned into multimillionaire sex feds” although his spite lies with “the economic conditions of Footballers that has changed.” Evidence that for some that the “beautiful game” has lost its way.
Taking into account the changes in the game’s nature, it is still a sport watched and adored by millions and millions of people week in week out. I only see Football continuing to grow and thrive, even in sacrifice of fans who’ve lost their passion they once cherished. Have you got any stories or opinions? Leave it in the comments below or notify me on Twitter @D3cl8n