Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The Entitled Fans

The Internet is the centre of so many people’s lives. Anyone, should they wish to, has a public voice and a means by which to be heard (read) – forums, message boards, blogs, podcasts, twitter and Facebook. "What do you think? Tell us!". I know what you are thinking, as a blogger should you really be going down this path? But stick with me....

Old media is playing catch up, the consumers of media now create content. Phone-ins no longer need 90 minutes of callers when they can read out emails and tweets. The emails and tweets become a generator of calls and tweets and emails. Local newspapers can write articles that comprise a couple of lines of often mis-spelt text and a page of tweets. Our thoughts, hope and dreams, hates and loves shared even wider, to be rated or slated.

As society is changing, so is football. An ever expensive business that means clubs increasingly have customers rather than fans. Whether we like it or not there is an increasing number of football fans who are as much consumers and customers as supporters and fans. With ticket prices reaching, what for many people are, unsustainable levels, an increasing number of people attend expecting some semblance of value for money – a notion that very few clubs a season will ever deliver on, or on a consistent basis. Nothing exemplifies this more than the misguided notion that as a customer you are entitled to a refund if the performance is poor and the defeat is heavy.

 A sense of fan entitlement is rising in football and whilst many campaigns are worthy of wider support – Twenty’s Plenty and challenging the disregard to supporters with TV match scheduling as examples – there is a much whinier, whinging group who seek complaint at every opportunity. More prevalent amongst “supporters” of the Big 6, or those who perceive their club should be, these ungrateful, spoilt children have a sense of entitlement and severe lack of perspective that does them a bigger disservice than they are willing to acknowledge. These Veruca Salts or Violet Botts want to "scweam and scweam until they’re sick".

Sadly, you can see this starting to perpetuate United's fanbase. We all want success, we all yearn for cup runs, cup finals, promotions and titles, to bring the good times and big games back to the Lane, but this is more than that. Worse than that.  Fans sitting back waiting to be entertained - like the emperors in the Coliseum. 

There has been comment on social media and on the phone-ins recently about the atmosphere at the Lane. The fact is we have gone quiet. People sat waiting for it to happen, with impatient expectation. And when the goal doesn't come, or a mistake is made, you hear the muttering and the groans. The second, third, fourth mistakes greeted with ever louder groans. I wasn't at the Birmingham game, but those who were there commented it was like a morgue at times. The Preston game on Saturday wasn't helped by half the crowd being caught up in Freshers gridlock at kick off, but did we ever really get going once the ground filled? The usual groups at the back of the Kop made their effort, but it never really reverberated around the ground.

Even when we were all over a team for 60 minutes it felt quiet. We expect a lot of effort on the pitch and they (the players) got nothing back when they delivered. The quality of football and style of play we are trying to deliver deserves it.

Attendances are down on last season. Matchday pricing and the midweek red button will both have an impact I am sure, as will the fact that away followings are down as well. Despite these factors we still have strong numbers, so the volume should still be good.

This entitlement and passive support - until there is an issue - then breeds on social media. There is a tendency in some tweets I have seen to focus on the fact we have been on a "run" of one point from a home and away game. Since when is two games a run of games? Particularly when it includes one okay performance that we should have got at least point from - but didn't and another where initial dominance of possession wasn't translated into goal opportunities, we faded and found ourselves holding on for a point. The latter one of those games where everyone has a stinker - rare, but they do happen. But for some people this was panic stations, this was the start of "the rot". The reality is it was four wins in six and sixth in the table.

All sense of perspective is lost. The need to comment in the immediacy of the final whistle, or in this case midway through a second half with United 2-0 up, leaves little time for rationalisation. Comments that were previously kept within the privacy of friends and family are now out on public display.

There appears to be a reluctance to pause and think before hitting ‘send’ or ‘tweet’, a pause that might have more value than the words that have been typed. If this was the reaction when we went 2-0 up, I can only assume the patchy 3G coverage in the Lane thankfully deprived us of the thoughts at 2-2.

This is not a call for Ultra groups, choreographed displays, or singing sections. It isn't necessarily about singing songs. This is just a call for some perspective, for fans to get behind the team and encourage them. Bramall Lane rocking is a place few clubs would want to visit, how many times have opposition managers commented on it? We are in a much stronger position than many would have expected even after winning the League One title 16 months ago. Yes, we didn't kick on last season as we might have hoped, after a great start, but we are putting together a similar platform this season.

The table below shows the position at the same stage last season, there are many similarities with this in that we are fourth and two points off the lead, but this season is more open and the gaps are smaller. Just two points separate us in fourth and Blackburn in twelfth. The margins are small and everything points to a competitive league with a team that finds consistency pulling away from the rest.

I recently saw the graph below on twitter from a Wednesday fan, (stick with me!) Peter Loehmann. It showed that over the last 14 years the proportion of teams in the Top 6 of the Championship each week that are still there at season end. Whilst that wasn't the case for us last season and we were in the other 50%, then there must be a chance this season.

Let's not take this for granted. Let's not assume that the players can produce these kinds of performances every week. They're going to need us to get behind them and they need us to lift them when energy is flagging. Teams come to Bramall lane to contain us. Be patient, keep perspective, we can make a difference. You never know we may convert some of those results we didn't get last season into better ones this and who knows where that might take us?


  1. I reckon you're spot on with that mate. Would love to find out who came up with the "only the kop can sing" law so we could get 'em to repeal it!


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