Football Supporter Defections Reach New High
clubs have expressed concern about the ease with
which fans now switch club allegiances.
the face of football, lamented George
Kicker Boot, the supporters
club chairman of, bottom of League Two, Stockport
County. Ive been involved with
the Hatters for fifty years, through
good times and bad, he explained.
These days theres no club loyalty.
Weve only got eight supporters left,
including me, and if we get relegated this season,
most of them will go.
Professor of Football
Studies at London University, Dr Ivor Ball,
attributes this attitude amongst fans to the
changing composition of football clubs.
Clubs no longer have any local players, and
quite often managers and owners come from other
countries, he told Footballers Weekly
magazine. This lack of local connections
has removed a key motivation for local people to
support their local teams. Society has also
changed, explained Dr Ball. People
are much more individualistic, self-centred and
short-term in their thinking. They are much less
inclined towards long-term loyalty, preferring to
associate with winners in the here
A recent survey by Footballers
Weekly magazine highlighted that most
Conference League clubs and many League Two clubs
have no supporters at all. The magazines
article noted that,
even relatives of
players have changed their allegiances to more
successful clubs, and many lower-league players
covertly support teams other than their own.
Its the big,
successful clubs that now draw the supporters,
regardless of location, confirmed Sir Alex
Ferguson, manager of Manchester United.
United has an international fan-base. We
know that eighty-three percent of our supporters
cant even locate Manchester on a map!
Alarmingly, he continued, many
hundreds of those live in Manchester, and Wayne
actually plays for us.
The ease with which fan
loyalties can change, even in the Premier League,
was dramatically illustrated during the 2010/11
season in a game between West Ham and Liverpool.
West Ham took a 1-0 lead
early in the first half, at which point most of
the Liverpool supporters changed their allegiance
to follow West Ham. Some had even brought West
Ham shirts with them, in addition to sporting
Liverpool strip, so they would be properly
dressed if they chose to review their team
The fortunes of Liverpool
then rallied, and by late in the first half
the Reds had gained a 2-1 advantage.
Nearly all the fans in the stadium were
thereafter cheering for Liverpool. Two further
lead reversals in the second half produced
similar realignments of loyalties.
During periods when the
score was level, there was silence and some signs
of confusion in the stands.
A spokesperson for the
Police Federation of England and Wales, Inspector
Buster Nickem, said that Forces were delighted by
this development in the behaviour of football
fans. It has almost eliminated crowd
violence and trouble after matches,
Inspector Nickem confirmed. When one team
is ahead or has won, then all supporters are on
the same side and engaged in good natured
celebration. When the match is drawn, he
added, supporters have frequently switched
loyalties to completely different teams and, with
so many to choose from, they seldom form a gang
in support of one club.
Research undertaken by Dr
Gael Kick of the British Psychological Society
has offered further explanation of this
phenomenon. We live in a stressful society,
noted Dr Kick in an article published in the
British Psychological Journal. People
cannot cope with the additional stress and
uncertainty of whether their chosen football club
might achieve some level of success. After all,
she wrote, for some clubs this might take
years and for some it may never happen at all.
People feel psychologically much better, Dr
Kick concluded, 'when their team wins, and what
better way to achieve that than to support the
team that is winning or has already won?
The above trend has led to
fears that within the next five years, all
football fans will support just one club -
although the specific club might change on a
daily, hourly or even minute-by-minute basis.
The chairman of the England
Supporters Club, Ivor Gotnothingbettertodo, has
observed the effect on international football.
Theres a major split in the England
Supporters Club, he conceded. On
current form, during the 2014 Word Cup about half
our fans will be cheering for Spain and the other
half for Brazil.'