So I was asked to write a repost to Ian’s article on football, in which he likens it to both religion and then a pasty. Right. This is going to be a challenge but I guess it’s only fair I have a crack at it.
Ian makes a fair point about the whole ‘football is like a religion’ thing – I totally get that. It’s true that fans will defend their team to the death when criticised by a rival team’s fan. But at the same time there’s a certain level of irony when the next minute that same devoted fan is shouting at a player from his team, calling him awfully nasty words such as “muppet” and “nincompoop”.
This erratic behaviour is certainly evident among the majority of football fans, however there seems to be a bit of a divide in loyalty in the form of attendance between the loaded premier league and the poor lower leagues. Fans of premier league clubs seem to be happy to see their team lose, badly, and turn up again next week as if nothing happened, paying extortionate prices in the process. Perhaps this is because there are more fans supporting premier league teams, so by sheer volume there’s always a high demand for seats.
However, this is not so in the lower leagues. Naturally a bottom-half Championship team (for example) with little behind the scenes funding will not attract a lot of fans; certainly not glory hunters, since there is simply no glory to be had. Take Barnsley FC for example, my team. Fans of Barnsley are only fans of Barnsley if they’re a) from Barnsley, or b) related to someone from Barnsley. I fall into the second category, and it is a burden I carry. I jest, whilst there may be more doom and gloom and less va va voom surrounding the club, I do enjoy supporting the underdogs, and it does make the rare victory feel that little bit sweeter.
Anyway, back on track. I have a theory when it comes to teams like Barnsley. There are some supporters will back their team through thick and thin, turning up week in week out regardless of the performance (and there are some truly awful performances), still paying way over what they should be. However due to the poor volume of supporters, these teams don’t tend to fill their capacity (Barnsley’s stadium holds a modest 23,000, and attendance these days is little over 10,000 on a good day). Yet the attendance deteriorates further if fans are made to endure a couple of bad games. You see teams like Barnsley rely on revenue from tickets to make enough money to pay their players (and we’re talking peanuts compared to your Liverpool Uniteds and London Citys), so not being able to pay players = players motivated to win back the crowd and earn their keep. Genius idea if boycotting actually works for motivating players to up their game! Not sure if it does though; a tried and tested method in Barnsley, and we’re still punching above our weight in the Championship.
So on to the transfer season; that ‘magical time of year’ as Ian so rightly put it. Fans are definitely made to look like fools when THAT player they hate and would never want at their club is bought by their beloved team, and welcomed with open arms. I totally agree that fans buy-into the badge; no matter who plays for their team, whether they used to play for the enemy or they’re renowned douchbags, if they’re wearing the same shirt as you all that goes out the window. The whole buying into the badge thing is a common thing these days; for example with Apple fans, who trust their beloved Apple brand so much that they’ll buy anything with an Apple logo on for whatever price is asked of them. Granted the products are of a high quality, but I wonder how high the prices have to be before their brand loyalty is questioned?
So football is very much about brand/badge loyalty. I’ve thought long and hard about it, and frankly I think Ian hit the nail on the head when he said that football is like a dog and udder pasty. It’s all about the shirt, not who’s wearing it.