Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Football Fans: To Support or To Be Entertained

  It has happened many times with Leicester City in past seasons and especially at the beginning of this season.  It is something that often causes debate and talk of the rights of football fans and it is something that makes me cringe every time is happens.  A team performs badly, especially at home and when playing 'lesser' opposition and the crowd, seemingly en masse, boos them off the pitch.

  For me, this phenomenon is proof of the two types of person that go to a football match: one to be entertained, one to support.  These aren't mutually exclusive but, generally, fans fall into one or the other category.
Leicester fans turn up to watch Leicester beat Norwich in the FA Cup this weekend. (lcfc.com)
The Entertained Fan

  Imagine this: you pay for ticket money to go to a performance of Les Miserables at the theatre.  You turn up, applaud the singers as they arrive on stage and get ready for a great performance of the musical.  However, despite great performances of the company in the past, the singers are out of tune, some of the musicians are playing in the wrong key, actors fall over on stage and fluff their lines and the set falls apart before your eyes.

  The audience around you boo the performers as the show ends and everyone goes home bitterly disappointed with the feeling that the time, effort and money spent on the evening has been wasted.  You'd be expectant of a refund for your money and would be aggrieved if one was not offered.  Many football fans have this attitude to the matches they attend.

  This fan gives their time, effort and money to the football match as an investment to enjoy their time out and be entertained.  They expect big pre-match events and entertainment in and out of the ground, they expect great food and a top-quality programme to supplement their day and, most of, they expect a great performance from their football team on the field in front of them.  'Entertaining football' is a phrase often used to describe successful teams, especially those that seem to be punching above their weight.

  If a performance is not up to scratch then this fan often takes advantage of his 'right' to boo the performance, to boo those that haven't entertained them.  A refund to the ticket price would be well received, after all, their expectations were not met.

The Supporting Fan

  This post was inspired in part by a lovely little post I read this morning called 'Support is Not for Sale' by Michael Wood on the The Two Unfortunates website.  He talks about this recent trend of refunding the money fans have spent on away days only to see an abject performance and to be sent home disappointed.  This, Michael says, is cheapening the essence of football support today amidst the ever rising problem of a money-means-everything ideology in the sport.  He says that fans who stick with their club through thick and thin should, and would, reject a refund as their support cannot be bought and sold.

  This type of fan gives their time, effort and money to support their club, which is often based and affects in the local area, and is an investment in that club.  They expect 100% commitment and passion but, more than anything, for the players to do their best.  Often (not always) they will understand that high-quality performances cannot be consistently given (especially if they have experience of supporting Leicester!) but will support on anyway.  If their team is losing 4-0, they will still sing their hearts out for the team.

  For me, going to a football match is about supporting the players, the club and what the club stands for.    Booing will hardly encourage players on to improve their performance.  Some might say it should spur them on to make a point but I'm not convinced.  Support the team when they win, when they lose and when they drag out a 0-0 draw, promotion, relegation and mid-table obscurity.  You know what?  Supporting them when they lose will probably do more good for them than anything else you could do.

Invest your time, effort and money as far as the club means to you to support them.  If you go to a match expecting to be entertained, more often than not you'll most likely go home disappointed.

ps. this is not an exclusive list, I don't mean to generalise, this is just a discussion starter!