When I returned from my fieldwork at the end of May I wrote about the simmering fan resentment of English football fans. Now, two weeks into the season, we’ve seen the Premier League respond in some clever ways: directly to the supporters groups, and more broadly to the public at large.
The direct response to the supporters groups is a win for the #footballwithoutfansisnothing movement that held its protest at the EPL HQ on June 19. Back on Aug. 22, the Premier League confirmed to the supporters that a pool of £4 million (£200,000 per team) had been set aside for the express purpose of assisting supporters with away travel. Some clubs have already begun using this to subsidize the away ticket prices for fans purchasing through the club, or through booking supporters coaches and trains. Of course flush with a bit of success, that doesn’t mean the #footballwithoutfansisnothing is just going to pack up and go to the game, I think they’ll be around for a while and continue to press for more from the EPL.
That of course means that the EPL has to keep working on pleasing its fans beyond just chipping in for train fare. So if you’ve watched any of the games in the first two weeks you’ll have noticed #youarefootball (advantage EPL for the shorter hashtag) ads flashing periodically on the electronic hoardings. Check out the ad that they are trying to direct you to, a real tear jerker. Notice that in the entire ad there is not one image of a player or a pitch and it only through some of the cues (scarves, jerseys or background) that you can even pick out what team the fans are cheering for. Brilliant. This is exactly what I was talking about last time and what the Chicago Fire seemed to not get with their blog. The #youarefootball ad gives you such a warm fuzzy feeling that it’s difficult to hate that super rich club of billionaires that jack up prices every season. Without the fans, football (or soccer) is nothing.