OPINION: Why it’s OK not to support your local football team
PUBLISHED: 06:30 21 September 2020
Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk
Many factors can dictate why you support a football team says our columnist
“Support your local.” It’s a nice little buzz phrase, isn’t it?
Clear, concise and snappy. No wonder so many people love to use it.
It’s exactly the sort of phraseology which helped the Conservatives to win the last general election. While Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour were sitting on the fence and flip-flopping on multiple issues, Boris Johnson’s short, sharp statements like “Get Brexit Done” were simple but to the point.
The problem is that, while the statement is simple, the actual issue is far more complicated than that – as we are currently learning while we witness the utter mess in Westminster at the moment.
The same is true for “support your local”. On paper, automatically becoming a fan of your nearest football team sounds like a great idea. And there are plenty of benefits to it.
You’re close to the stadium, which makes getting to the match a doddle – of course, with no crowds allowed into elite-level stadiums this doesn’t currently apply.
And the other great benefit is supporting local business and the economy. Especially at a time when all clubs are struggling for revenue, the more local people there are buying shirts, scarves, hats and other official merchandise, the better off clubs will be.
Being a fan of your local football club is unquestionably something to be proud of, but to dismiss those who support other sides from further afield is incredibly narrow-minded.
I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, and I grew up as, and will forever be, a Liverpool supporter.
I can hear the derisory scoffs and disapproving tuts as I write this. “He’s just another plastic glory hunter”, you’ve probably just thought to yourself.
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Firstly, I would argue that Liverpool have, up until the last couple of years, gained very little glory in my lifetime. The Premier League title won just weeks ago was the first I’ve ever experienced, and the Reds have been more regarded as a “sleeping giant” rather than an elite club during my 23 years on Planet Earth.
But what I find most unreasonable is the expectation that, as a young child first getting into football – maybe four or five years old – I was expected to have the awareness to recognise that the right thing to do was to become a Barnsley fan because they needed the revenue from all the merchandise I would purchase in the future and all the match tickets I would buy.
Geography does not decide what football club you support. People do.
For most, it is their parents. Across Norfolk there will be scores of Norwich City fans whose parents also supported the Canaries – as did their grandparents, and so on.
In my case, it was my older brother. My mum hates football, while my dad simply enjoys watching the game and isn’t really an avid supporter of any club (although he pretends to like Manchester United just to wind me up).
Therefore, my brother, who is eight years older than me, became my primary role model when it came to football.
By the time I started to really get into the sport as a five-year-old, my brother was already a teenager and had a bedroom full of shirts, flags and assorted memorabilia all adorned by the red Liver Bird.
He got his love for the Reds from his dad’s side of the family (he’s my half-brother technically, same mum). As he was the only die-hard football fan in the house and someone who I looked up to as a young boy, it was inevitable that his footballing ideals were going to rub off on me.
My point is, there really ARE a lot of reasons why any given person might support a certain club. To not recognise that is to be wilfully close-minded.
Of course there are still some absolute no-nos. For example, switching allegiances after you’ve already settled on one club should be made an indictable crime – though sadly it does happen.
But don’t just dismiss someone as a glory hunter because they have a different accent to the one you might expect of a supporter of a specific team.
Chances are there is a good reason why – and you’ll end up looking a bit silly.
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