By Megan Lucie Adams
I began writing this article at the beginning of what was to be a highly anticipated return to the football season. It was a time when Manchester United were riding high on the back of their final season under Sir Alex Ferguson having, yet again, been crowned champions of the Premier League. Burnley had yet to break their 35 year tryst with Blackburn Rovers and David Moyes was liked by most of his fans … how times change. In a few short months the football business has had more ups and downs than a fiddler’s elbow, but isn’t that exactly why we love it? From a female perspective, I often feel a little marginalised and intimidated. I’m asked, “What do you know love?” and told, “You’re just here for the boys in shorts aren’t you?” Well, the answer is no. As a supporter of the Championship, and in particular Burnley FC, I don’t spend an average of £25-30 per ticket just to watch our starting eleven parade around with their legs out. I go to support The Clarets and put money back into their town. So stick with me, because girls can talk sport.
Eyebrows are often raised about the amount of money that the football industry has to spend, but with the Premier League reaching 212 territories worldwide and with an average of 4.7 billion people watching per game, according to Barclay’s, football surely generates its own wealth? It has often been a subject of discussion, especially within our current and past climate, if footballers should really be paid the excessive amounts that they do. Avid football supporter, fellow Claret and ex-MMU student, Simon Walker says, “Yes they are paid too much, but it’s relative to the business it is within. They are paid highly because profit in football can be huge, as can the debt. I think a wage cap should be brought in like in the NFL.” The profit in football can indeed be much bigger than many of us could ever imagine, but thanks to club owners and stakeholders such as the Glazer family, Roman Abramovich and the Fenway Sports Group, there will always be big bucks in the industry. This is perhaps the stationary aspect in such an uncertain business for its players.
In the grand scheme of things, football is part of an ever growing entertainment industry. But to many diehard fans, football carries with it so much more. Many a time I have been told that football isn’t just a game, it is a way of life and we see this more often than not in the rivalries that clubs carry. From personal experience, Burnley F.C has a blistering rivalry with almost-neighbours Blackburn Rovers. Spanning decades, the two clubs, and their supporters, have often come to blows, with home time in the past resulting in arrests and abuse. When asked about his experience with violence in football Mr Walker replied, “I think you see less of it now that you ever did before, but it is policed more. You just have to visit the East Lancashire derby to see this.” In addition to this, many clubs have upped their prices on entry, doing away with the working class image the sport has carried for so many years, and ‘arguably attracting a higher clientele.’ According to the Guardian in 2013, Arsenal had the highest priced season ticket on offer at a crippling £985. So much for a family day out eh!?
However, such ticket prices have yet to stop supporters donning their team colours and singing their hearts out at the weekend – or midweek if you’re an avid visitor to the lower leagues. Mr Walker continued, saying, “Football is addictive. You always want your team to win and achieve as much as you can and they are your team, as the fans own the club due to the money they put in – without the fans the club would have to fold. When you are at a football match and your team scores (especially in a big game) there isn’t a feeling in the world that is better, providing that you are not already 5-0 down!”
Ex- Manchester University graduate and Liverpool fan Phil Cantillon says, “I love the history, traditions and values that you and the club carry. One of my first major football memories was seeing Michael Owen’s goal against Argentina, dad told me he played for Liverpool, and that was it. It was pure talent and I was in awe.”
It has been, and still remains to be, a great way for people from different walks of life to meet, mix and bond over their shared passion and I have seen this first hand. Many men, women and children get something out of the talent on the pitch that cannot be described. The atmosphere walking down Harry Potts Way to Turf Moor on a Saturday afternoon, come rain or shine, is second to none. I didn’t understand, before I walked through those claret and blue turnstiles with a ticket in my hand, what it was to support a team. Through ups and downs, new managers and players, supporters stay loyal and hold out for their teams to surpass their critics and win those coveted trophies. Granted, some footballers may only do it for the money. Some may do it because they love the game. Others do it because they love every minute and every single fan in that ground and at that match. It is an unpredictable rollercoaster of emotions to many, but to quote the 2009 Ken Loach film, Looking for Eric, ‘You can change your wife,’ (or husband I may add), ‘Change your politics, change your religion. But never, never can you change your favourite football team.’ So whether man or woman, there are avenues and aspects of this so called ‘beautiful game’ for all to enjoy and get our slightly less talented feet into.