Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughDo you have to support your local club? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Do you have to support your local club? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Do you have to support your local club?

Being a fan of your local side isn’t always a pleasant experience, especially when they are a club plying their trade outside of the football league. On a freezing January evening when the rain is streaming profusely from the sky, the free flowing football and sheltered seating at Old Trafford doesn’t seem so bad after all.

Unsurprisingly, more and more fans are ditching their local sides for the comforts of the Premier League. Over the past two decades Manchester United’s support has grown immeasurably. So much so that Southerners can now sit comfortably in the Stretford End without fearing for their safety, something that was unimaginable back in the 1970s.

These fans are often regarded as nothing more than mere glory hunters, whether they really are or not, is open to debate. But can these supporters really feel the same sense of loyalty, passion and affinity for a club that has no connection with their roots? To safeguard the integrity of the game, should we all support our local club?

Firstly, fans should always be proud of the team they support, regardless of the club’s location. However, those who do support their local team will probably feel a greater sense of belonging and pride in their community. Furthermore, when the good times do come, local fans can take greater pleasure in the success, after all it is their community that will reap the benefits. Winning a trophy or gaining promotion can significantly boost the local economy and the morale of the people.

For the faithful of local clubs, outside of the top three divisions, the player-fan relationship can also act as an incentive for fans to watch their local team. And with today’s top players gradually losing touch with reality, it is heart-warming to know that there are still some footballers out there that are just ordinary blokes like you and me.

There are other economic factors too which make it important for people to support their local side. For smaller clubs, gate receipts are essential for survival. With many teams across the country being severely hit by the recent recession, local enthusiasts are needed more than ever to ensure that attendances remain high enough for clubs to survive. With the mounting costs of travel, walking to the local stadium on a Saturday afternoon also makes good economic sense for the supporter too.

Kevin Wade, a die-hard Eastbourne Borough fan who has been supporting his local side for eleven years, believes that children should be introduced to their local team from a young age. He said: “Kids will always be attracted to the successful teams. They want to be seen sporting the latest Chelsea or Barcelona shirt because it means they are associated with success. Dads therefore, have a responsibility to take their kids to watch the local team.”

But what benefits do children gain from supporting their local side? Mr Wade added: “Unless you’re from West London or Manchester, your team is not going to win every week. Kids can learn some important life lessons coming to places like Priory Lane. You don’t always get what you want.”

There are many who would disagree with Kevin Wade though, mainly because the children’s parents often support the bigger teams themselves and influence their children to do the same. There are also thousands of kids whose parents are totally uninterested in football.  These children start their affiliation with a particular team by watching them on the television on Sunday afternoons.

The influence of an individual player in attracting fans to a particular club can also not be underestimated. David Beckham’s global superstardom created millions of new Manchester United fans all over the world, whilst Lionel Messi is now conjuring up the same kind of magic for Barcelona in Asia.

Arsenal season ticket holder Aidan Barnard thinks it is nonsensical to expect everyone to support their local team. Mr Barnard said:  “I grew up watching the likes of Ian Wright, one of the finest Arsenal players of the 1990s. Would I have swapped the opportunity to watch Wright in his prime so I could go and watch my local side? Of course not. As a football fan I want to watch the best players, week in, week out.”

Many fans also face the dilemma of which club to support. Even small towns can have as many as three semi-professional clubs playing to a reasonable standard. Should fans therefore support all their local clubs?

Globalisation has also helped to raise a few question marks. Since the surge of satellite television and the internet, a new kind of supporter has evolved, one that can now watch their team every week thousands of miles away from where the action is taking place. Does the fact that these devotees are in a different continent from where the action is taking place mean their support is any less meaningful than those physically watching their side?

It’s impossible to say decisively whether fans of football should support their local team and it should probably be left up to the individual to decide. Some argue that local enthusiasts feel a greater sense of pride in their community, but whilst non-local fans continue to show such unremitting passion and commitment, the debate will continue.

Tommy Curran

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