Hopelessly In Love

Memba Ben By Memba Ben, 8th Aug 2018 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Sports>Football (Soccer)

The seemingly one-sided relationship between fans and football clubs.

The madness that is being a football fan.

Every day, I wake up at six in the morning so as to head to work. I arrive at the warehouse at seven where I start packing and packaging goods for twelve hours before knocking off at seven in the evening to head home and try catch at least five hours of sleep. I do this all year round with no off time (with the exception being public holidays).

I work this hard for a grand pay of R5000 per month, to which R2000 goes to rent and roughly R1500 going to other expenses, leaving me with a remainder of R1500. Now the smart thing would be for me to leave it in the bank and accumulate interest or put that money into a use that would benefit me but as much as I hate to admit it; when it comes to money, I am a fool.

In every culture, there is a subgroup who finds purpose in their shared love for something within that culture. Whether it is rugby, cricket, music or movies, a shared interest brings people together.

In my and many other peoples case, it is football.

In his book How Soccer Explains The World, American journalist Franklin Foer theorizes that it is more a matter of us fulfilling a need than it being a matter of supporting a club.

“Humans crave identifying with a group. It is an unavoidable, immemorial, hardwired instinct. Since modern life has knocked the family and the tribe from their central positions, the nation has become the only viable vessel for this impulse. To deny this craving is to deny human nature and human dignity”.

Eric Simons, author of The Secret Lives of Sports Fans: The Science of Sports Obsession supports this theory and suggests that:
“Fans get so much from identifying with a team, in ways that even players don’t. The athletes can be mercenaries but the fan is permanent”. “Once you’ve bonded to a team, and you experience all the benefits that come from it, then the relationship actually makes a lot of sense.” Simons said.

I don’t know how to properly articulate this but from my side as a fan, I completely agree. For my friends and I, we relate more to the club than to the players and our lives mirror its journey. We may be down on our luck in terms of our goals (like the team) but every now and again, we pull a rabbit out the hat. With the way we spend so much time following the clubs fortunes; we consider it as one of the boys. We celebrate when the team wins and grumble when they lose but throughout it all, there’s a sense of camaraderie.

“If they’re doing well, it reflects on us in terms of bragging rights, status, prestige and identity” said Joe Weis, a sociology professor at the University of Washington.

R600 of my remaining money goes to attending all home fixtures. While it’s quite a dent on the wallet, it’s seemingly not just me as many fans go to great financial lengths to show support of their clubs.

This is funny because for all the love fans have for football teams, most clubs do almost nothing to reciprocate the feeling.

Whether it is yearly kit releases or rising ticket prices, clubs are always trying to think up new ways to get more money out of fans. Clubs rarely heed fan pleas and the players are for the most part indifferent to the fans.

In A Fan Behind The Scenes in The Premiership, a memoir of his observations at Coventry City; author Rick Gekoski writes that:
“While the pros are polite to supporters, they think them fools. I was reminded of a conversation that I’d had with John Salako. “Fans”, he said, “most of them are sad. They think the game is more important than it is, it says something about the miserable kind of lives they must lead. They get things out of proportion”.

If that is indeed the case, then why do fans continue to follow teams?

Behavioral economists Peter Dolton and George MacKerron of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research at the University of Sussex conducted a study to find out why fans follow football teams if on average, matches make us unhappy.

The findings in their study indicate that fans will follow teams if:
“The subjectively held view of the probability that your team will win is much higher than the reality” (they believe their team will win).
“The extra utility of actually being at the match, when your team wins is much higher than the penalty of being at the match if they lose” (their presence at the games will help their team win).

Furthermore, they found that:

“Football supporters feel the pain or joy of a result for hours afterwards and indeed may get a huge utility effect prior to the game, in anticipation of the match. Therefore the football supporter will wish to support their team in the combined effects of the match conditional on the result ends up being positive” (fans will think of the benefits or losses over the hours before and after a match in deciding whether or not to go).

Sow what does this all mean?
Simply put; when it comes to football, fans aren’t the clearest minded group of people.

Dolton and MacKerron suggested multiple reasons to explain why fans follow teams:
• Fans have a systematic bias in estimating the probability of their team winning.
• There may be a more general level of pleasure induced by simply enjoying the spectacle of a football match.
• The camaraderie of attending a match with friends gives positive pleasure.

But one which may make the most sense to a fan is that:
• Being a Football Fan is Addictive

In their words:

There is now a sizeable literature on the economics of addiction (Becker and Murphy 1988). Part of the logic of these models is that the addicted person is always trying to get back to the first high. In the football context, this could mean that a football fan selectively remembers the high of the great result in the past, and continues following the team, or attending the match, in the hope that this will be repeated.

Please take the time to check out this interesting study:

Other Sources include:
How Soccer Explains The World – Franklin Foer
The Secret Lives Of Sports Fans: The Science Of Sports Obsession – Eric Simons
A Fan Behind The Scenes in The Premiership – Rick Gekoski


Fans, Football Soccer, Soccer

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author avatar Memba Ben
A fan's view on the business of football.

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