Why I will never understand football fans

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In the UK, the football (soccer) season started for most professional teams this weekend just gone. After a couple of months since the last ball was kicked in anger, fans from across the UK were chomping at the bit to watch their favourite teams play, select their Fantasy Football team and start commenting about games on social media.

I love the game of football and have been a fan for as long as I can remember. Like everyone else I had been looking forward to the start of the season so I could start cheering on my team and watch Match Of The Day again, a TV show which is an institution to so many fans.

Dark Ages

Football is sold as a game that can unite the world, but sadly I think in this country it is a game that people want to use to cause divides between them and other fans. In a world where inclusivity and acceptance of people from all walks of life is on the rise (thankfully), I think football is still stuck in the dark ages. It is not deemed as acceptable to hurl an insult or abuse at someone who is different from you in life, yet for football fans it is seen as the norm to insult and abuse opposition teams and the fans of opposition teams.

This is just one of many bugbears I have with the fans of this game. It’s like when your team wins, it is a great feeling and one to be enjoyed but sadly to many this isn’t enough, instead they feel the need to poke fun at the opposition and their fans. As football fans we all know how it feels to lose (it doesn’t feel great) so in the knowledge of this I don’t know why any fan of the game would want to go out of their way to make that experience even worse for another.

School ground mentality

Sometimes I feel like most football fans still have the school ground mentality of bullying and ganging up on someone because it is seen as the fun or cool thing to do. I don’t see why people get their kicks out of provoking people and rubbing it in their faces when the team they support beat another.

I enjoy watching any game of football, regardless of who is playing, just to enjoy the sport. It seems other fans however enjoy watching games that don’t feature the team they support, just to give them ammunition to mock the fans of that team, which to me just seems like such a waste of time.

I just want to enjoy the game and I don’t want my enjoyment of the game to come at the price of anyone else’s enjoyment. I know I am in the minority but I wish more were like me. Sadly I know that insulting, laughing at or abusing other teams and fans is a big part of fan culture, that people get great enjoyment from, I just want to opt out of it and enjoy the high & lows of the season as they unfold. Celebrating the victories, commiserating the defeats, watching great football no matter who is involved and congratulating others when they have success.

Open Letter to football teams, players, staff and TV Companies that screen football in the UK

Dear Football Community,

I am writing to ask very kindly if you would all reconsider the level of betting and gambling adverts you display on your channels, social media feeds and websites.

I pay my subscriptions for your channels; I buy your merchandise and pay for tickets to watch games. I do this because I support football, however I am not doing this so I can be bombarded with betting advertisements. I know you are all businesses who need to make money and I don’t begrudge that, but can this not be done at the expense of the fan who is already paying so much to follow a sport they love.

You all do fantastic things in the community, so please don’t forget that community when looking at other areas of your business. Your community is made up of young impressionable people, people battling financial hardship and people who struggle with addiction. Now I wouldn’t say I fit in to any of those categories but it doesn’t mean I want to be bombarded with betting advertisements either. Most of you must have had young people in your family at some point and many of you will have had people you know battle addictions or fall on bad financial times. Next time you think about signing a lucrative deal with a betting firm can you keep these people in your mind and ask yourself if you would want them being bombarded with these adverts?

Could you all also take a minute to think about the long list of retired football professionals who have given us many hours of joy, but have found themselves battling addictions and financial hard times. Can we honour those heroes of the game with the way we display it today?

You have a captive market so please continue to captivate them with amazing games and interesting talking points. The power football has is an amazing thing and as guardians of it can you please use that power wisely. Lets make it a sport that anyone can watch and interact with, without having to worry about what they are watching.

I would like to challenge a club, a league or a TV company to become the first footballing entity that makes informed decisions on what if any betting adverts they allow to be displayed by their organisation and does it with their community in mind, not finances. Speak to your fans and viewers to see what they have to say. Look out in the crowd and see the child going to their first game with their parents, think to yourself – what messages do we want them to see? I would happily sit down with any football club, TV company or league to discuss the best way forward.

To end with I would like to say that I am not for censorship, I am not against peoples right to bet or the betting companies right to advertise, I am for the beautiful game and the supporters who deserve better from the game that they are so invested in.

Yours Faithfully Adam Sibley