Football Fan Culture in Lockdown

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“It’s just not the same when you’re not crammed into a pub that’s too small and full of middle-aged men and beer.”

Image courtesy of Flickr – Trevor Wallis – trevorwallis778

Lockdown has been difficult for the arts industry and has seen thousands of businesses close. But, while football is back on the telly, little thought is going towards the small, untelevised teams and how lockdown has changed fan culture.

I’m originally from Lincoln (up the Lincoln Imps!) and whenever they play, me and my Dad sit in the garage with the radio on listening to the commentary, or we go to a pub that stinks of damp wood and beer to listen with everyone else. When Lincoln got promoted, we went onto the South Common, stood elbow to elbow in the crowd, and sang ‘Sweet Caroline’ as the team bus drove past.

Now I’m at Lancaster, I’m too far away to reach the right radio frequency. Not only that, but even if I could, the pubs are all closed. Even when pubs reopen, it won’t be the same – a goal scored in a pub hits different when there are thirty blokes yelling at the glitchy TV in the corner.

I spoke to a second-year Lancaster student about their experience supporting teams in lockdown.

“I’ve always supported Liverpool but big teams like Liverpool are so crowd-based; it’s all about community, especially where I come from. Watching a match in a pub is insane because everyone’s cheering together and it’s like a family.

“In the living room watching it on telly, there’s not even a crowd at the stadium, right now. It’s not the same without the fans. It’s a fan’s game.

“Ever since meeting everyone in my flat last year, I’ve loved the energy around small teams. There’s always been a different kind of excitement when a small team wins but it’s more obvious than ever now that we’re in lockdown.

“I’d love to support an underdog team because it’s more exciting – the highs and lows are better, more emotional. You’re on the edge of your seat more and I suppose you invest more in a smaller team.

“If it wasn’t for lockdown, I don’t think I’d feel this way. At the pub, every match is exciting but in my front room, with two people who don’t care about Liverpool because the score is fairly predictable, it’s not the same.

“My flatmate supports a smaller team in League One. He has a season ticket and used to go see them live all the time. Now that spectators aren’t allowed and smaller teams aren’t televised, it must be kind of terrible. The sense of community for both is so much more important now.

“I’m glad they’ve brought football back (and, don’t get me wrong, I’ve missed watching sport) but it’s just not the same. It’s lonely. It’s lost the excitement.”

As of right now, the Premier League is back, as is the EFL, and the Europa and Champions League. It is not clear what will happen to football – especially with a looming prospect of a second total lockdown, but fans are remaining hopeful – that’s all we can do.

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