Local vs Abroad Debate: What Constitutes a True Football Fan?
Celtic legend Jock Stein once made a great quote about how football has been built by fans, who are the lifeblood of the game. His quote is based on the support that fans provide to the game by the means of visiting games, supporting the team with the chants, and helping the club with money through ticket purchases, besides showing their confidence in the good performance of the team betting on Betway. Yet, the game has undergone a massive change over the last few decades. The entry of TV money into the picture has made football into a multi-billion pound industry. Now, it is more open to criticising the same set of supporters who were once life and blood for the game. Should the ‘true fans’ label be reserved only for supporters who attend games?
The dynamics between fans who reside near the clubs and those who live abroad are completely different.
Fans who get to visit every game and purchase season tickets have had little option but to support the club. It may have come through family allegiance or because of birthplace allegiance. Yet, the feeling of support is incredibly high within these fans that it often creates a rivalry with other sets of supporters. Football clubs were started for its members and the clashes with other supporters were seen as a way to express strong loyalty and support. The derby games came into existence for this purpose.
The situation is completely different for fans abroad, who may never have the access to visit at least one match at a club’s home ground. Instead, most of the interaction is limited to catching matches in local pubs or on TV. This could have had a dramatic effect in the manner that their support is expressed. It is uncommon to come across rivalry that goes beyond social media comments. However, it is unfair to think that this is not true loyalism. These fans are rooted to a club despite having no affinity.
The lengths that they go to extend support to a club are enormous. The expenditure by fans who attend every match is extraordinary, and this is especially true in the case of loyal supporters who attend away games as well. The primary expenditure for fans abroad comes in the form of TV subscriptions, which in the being the multi-billion pound revenue that has changed the landscape of football in the last two decades. They are also partly responsible for ramping up the commercial revenue through the purchase of merchandise.
Even if it is a foreign language, fans abroad tend to learn the chants, which are a key part of football culture. The patriotic songs that provide an intimidating atmosphere in the stadiums are a high point for any fan who is proud of being a loyal supporter.
It is easy to question the loyalty of fans who are thousands of miles away. However, the unwavering dedication put in by those fans has been a huge part behind the growing interest in football around the world. Local supporters are the life and blood, but it is about time that the statement covered even fans abroad.