The defeat against Everton got me thinking about supporters, fans and followers of our illustrious club. Whilst on a Californian Road Trip with my wife a couple of years back I thought it would be a good idea to sample sport, American style. There’s plenty of choice. American Football, Soccer, Basketball or Ice Hockey. We were staying in San Diego and were in luck. The Padres, the local baseball team, were playing the following day. We went to the ticket office and purchased two reasonably priced tickets and then headed to the vast club shop. We bought the obligatory his and hers t-shirt. I was a little disappointed when my wife said “No” to the foam hand. Everybody wants a foam hand?
We arrived in plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere. It was everything we’d expected. Lovely stadium, fantastic facilities and an awesome choice of food (everything’s awesome in California). Giant beer, giant popcorn, giant burgers. We all stood for the Veterans and The National Anthem. There was the Kiss Cam and t-shirts were fired into the crowd every time there was a break in play. There’s plenty of them by the way. The huge screens prompted chants, cheers and boos as players entered the field or were run out. Fan favourites had their own intro and exit songs and the stadium rang out to We Will Rock You!! The Cheerleaders whipped themselves up into a frenzy leaping in the air and doing the splits. In all, it was a fun day out and a tick in the done that box.
This got me thinking about match day at The London Stadium. I’m on a front row Upper Level. I’ve made friends with my new seat buddies to my left and right. We’re on the ‘D’ya want a Wetherels?’ stage but yet to go the whole hog for a halftime beer. In the year and a bit of being in our new home, the six seats behind me are always occupied by different people than the previous game. Some are genuine supporters, some who sit on their hands trying not to cheer for the other team. There’s been plenty from overseas with their half and half match day scarf. Don’t get me started on that one. Many with their Official Store carrier bag. Dads bringing their kids for a match and people like me and my wife in San Diego. Just having a day out.
What is a supporter? A follower or a fan? How do you define what box you fit into? It’s not unusual to hear excited clapping when their fellow countrymen have the ball. My experience of San Diego and The Padres was for a jolly day out, to be fed and watered and to come out wearing the t-shirt. It’s noticeable with the lack of atmosphere at The London Stadium that large proportions are supporters for the day, soaking up the occasion and enjoying the experience whether we win lose or draw. There are loads of reasons why people wishing to see a live game either don’t have the opportunity be it financially, logistically or not wanting to watch that’s been offered in recent months.
The guy who I hire my jeep from when I go to Greece every year is a Manchester United supporter and we always have a bit of banter. Last year he overstepped the mark telling me how fantastic they were and West Ham were useless. I tried to explain that I was a true supporter who’ll stick with his team through thick and thin. He’s never been to England let alone a match and he’s their No 1 fan. I didn’t want to push the point seeing as I get mate’s rates on my wheels.
I suppose we’re all fans of the other team when Tottenham play but we’re not supporters. There’s various worldwide fan sites and groups from far and wide, some with an affiliation or just a soft spot? “Always been in the family? My ex-boyfriend liked ‘em and it just stuck. Loved West Ham since they won the World Cup, love the claret and blue kit”.
I can’t say that I’ve ever spent the day worrying if The Padres won since I went. Just a good day out………….With the Premier League being shown around the world with millions tuning in what defines viewers to affiliate to a team. Is it like picking a horse at The National? Colours, name or jockey? Many of the transient visitors behind me perk up when their fellow countryman has the ball regardless of the team they’re supporting. Whoever you are and wherever you’re from we’re glad to have you.
It’d be a tight squeeze to get our Twitter followers in The London Stadium. 1.3 Million. Just for the record Man Utd have 15.7M, Barcelona 25.3 and The mighty San Diego Padres 366.2 thousand. Fans or Supporters? You decide.