Written by Ben Forman
As a football fan I find myself drawn to the rowdier subsets of supporters. These are the fans that every league in the world uses to sell you their product. Flags waving, smoke grenades going off, singing, drums, flags, you name it. These are the people that generate the most atmosphere and typically view themselves as the lifeblood of their club. In the United States many fans of the US Men’s National Team will have undoubtedly heard of the American Outlaws. Each club has their own take on this style of fan. In Europe the majority football fans align themselves with the Against Modern Football movement, whose slogan is “hate the business, love the game.”
Here I am, an American watching English football and siding with the ideologies of the Against Modern Football movement. I find myself in complete agreement with the principles of said movement, yet I fully admit that I completely benefit from everything that is good about the modern game. We’re able to watch more football here in the States than ever before. I don’t think that there is a single day that goes by that you can’t find a match on TV. Everyone in the know goes on at great length about how much the sport has grown in the past decade and the explosion of popularity it has seen since the 2010 World Cup. The thing that I dedicate countless hours of my week to is, in some very real ways, the thing that is most hated by the hardcore European fan.
From the outside looking in it’s quite simple, but there is much more to it all than initially meets the eye. If you were to ask any football fan the single thing that bothers them the most it would be ticket prices. The ticket prices to Premier League matches are exorbitant. For a game that was typically viewed by working class men and boys it has become one of the biggest sporting commodities in the world, and clubs have been sure to follow the tenets of the “supply and demand” concept. There’s a limited number of match day tickets, boost up the prices because the demand is so high. So many people want to be at these matches that they’ll still sell plenty of tickets and make much bigger profit. No brainer. Except that the people that typically generate the most atmosphere (the thing that the leagues are selling you on, remember?) can’t afford these high cost prices. When you begin to think about those ads for the Premier League and you see fans going crazy you start to realize that the only thing you ever see are goal celebrations. Whereas if you were to look at advertisements for the Bundesliga you’ll see all manner of fan support, goal celebrations not even included. Why? The Bundesliga has the most affordable ticket prices in all of Europe. The average cost of a single match for a season ticket holder is about $15. Compare that with Arsenal (who’s prices for match day tickets are the highest in the Premier League) where you will be paying $75 at a minimum.
The next big thing that is detrimental to atmosphere is an influx of tourists that have absolutely no affiliation with either team, they’re just there to witness the spectacle. Go on almost any tourism website about London and eventually you’ll find an article about how you should see a football match while you’re there. The mass majority of supporters have absolutely no problem with people from abroad following their team. They understand that the Premier League is a global brand and with that you get global support. It’s these people that just arrive in London, want to see a match and can easily get tickets to see Arsenal or Chelsea and they sit there not making a peep the entire time. But it’s much more about how much noise you make, it’s about the very fabric of what gives a team their identity. It’s history.
A few years ago Cardiff City FC was bought out and without going into too many details the ownership of the team switched the teams’ colors from blue to red. I cannot stress the sacrilege that was committed. The ownership decided that they liked the color red more and didn’t consult the supporters of the club in any way. As you can expect, this went over like oil and water with the fans. Soon the ownership of Cardiff City got the picture and switched the colors back, but the seeds of lifelong contempt had already been laid. Can you imagine if the Red Sox started wearing pinstripes?
Being an American that sides with the Against Modern Football movement might not make very much sense to everyone. After all, on the surface I have certainly benefited from the modern game. At the end of the day understanding that fans are what makes this sport special is why I take my stance. Without fans football is nothing. If those fans that truly make the grounds a special place to be are priced out or have their history snatched out of their hands it becomes about the company’s bottom line. The decisions that are “best for the club” are only from a business point of view and they should always be from a fan’s point of view first. So, pick a side and know your history and if you’re ever lucky enough to go to a match, well, in the immortal words of Wu Tang Clan, “bring da motherfuckin’ ruckus!”
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