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Defining a 'proper' football fan

Monday 6th February 2012
If you're visiting this site then you probably consider yourself quite a football fan. Most likely you have a particular team that you support – maybe you regularly attend matches, keep up to date with results, own the shirt etc.. But these days it seems that it is no longer enough to describe yourself as simply a fan - there seems to be an increasing competition over what counts as a ‘proper' fan.

As a regular tweeter (follow @charl_blue) I have noticed more and more people putting down fans of their team – telling them that they are not ‘proper' fans. I constantly seem to see people trying to outdo themselves to prove that they are a superior fan to their peers.

I recently saw a fellow Birmingham City fan tweeting that people who aren't season ticket holders are not real fans. I immediately took issue with this – namely because I am not a season ticket holder. I've supported the club since I was nine, I've followed them at home, away and abroad and have wasted countless hours, pounds and sleepless nights over the team. Yet according to this person, I wasn't a proper fan as I didn't have a season ticket – rather a sweeping statement for someone to make.

I held a season ticket for 10 years, before being forced to give it up this year due to a change in job. My current job sees me working quite a few Saturdays as well as evenings – it just wouldn't have made financial sense to get a season ticket. Similarly there are people who may have lost their jobs, or moved away from the Midlands, and it is therefore just not financially possible to attend matches.

It's no coincidence that the majority of these people on Twitter who are proclaiming that you have to be a season ticket holder to be a real fan are still in their teens. While you are still living with your parents, and have no other financial commitments such as bills, tax, and children, it may be fairly easy to buy a season ticket and attend matches.

I'm not belittling these younger fans – indeed I applaud them for saving up their money to go and support their local team, especially when there is so much football on TV these days. I'm simply saying that when you are younger, life is pretty straightforward, and regularly attending football matches is an easier choice.

I love football and I love my team, but there was no way I was going to turn down my dream job so that I could continue to be a season ticket holder. Equally, I know some people that may have chosen football over their job – it is down to people's individual priorities and I don't think it means that one is any less or more of a football fan.

Last Tuesday night I was one of only 500 Birmingham City fans who travelled up to Leeds. Rather than seeing myself as being a superior fan to all those who didn't make the trip, I'd prefer to see myself as lucky that my circumstances mean that although I can't make every home game, I can take a day off midweek and I have the means to travel to Leeds, and the financial capability to afford £36 for the ticket.

Everyone's circumstances affect the way in which they support their team, and I don't believe that anyone should be put down or indeed be thought better off for the way in which they choose to follow that team.

Birmingham took tens of thousands to the Carling Cup Final last February. This Saturday, we had just under 17,000 fans who stuck it out in the snow to watch us take on Southampton rather than sitting at home watching it in the warmth on the television. I've since heard some ridiculous comments that such ‘stay away' or ‘armchair' fans shouldn't be allowed to the bigger fixtures.

To me, if you are suggesting that fans of your own team should stay away because to you they're not committed enough then it's you who is not the true fan, as surely the true fan wants as many people at any game to cheer the team on.

I do have my own idea of what makes a ‘proper' fan. To me a true fan of a football club never turns their back on their team no matter how badly they are losing, no matter which lows their team has sunk to, and no matter if you have moved a million miles away from your club. True fans also never boo their own players (see my previous article on this topic).

Through the magical means of Twitter I've got chatting to an American. He's American born and bred but a Bluenose through and through. Why? His parents were from Birmingham and he's ended up hooked on us despite our lack of stature. He may not have yet made it over to a game, but there's no doubt in my mind he's a real fan. He probably knows more about the club than me, he tries to follow every game on the radio, and you don't ever want to speak to him if Birmingham have lost!

I remember watching Birmingham play Liverpool in the FA Cup Quarter Final in 2006. It was a night match, and we lost 7-0. But even at 7-0 down the fans let out a rousing rendition of Keep Right On that brought a lump to my throat; the players on the pitch may not have been doing us proud but we were still proud to be Birmingham supporters.

True fans don't follow their club because it's an enjoyable hobby, they do it because they love the club – and that love is unconditional. I know that I'll support my club no matter what division they are in. Yes it was great being in Europe and winning a cup, but it didn't make me love them anymore – and similarly our subsequent relegation didn't make me love them any less.

Players, managers, and board members may come and go over the years, but the constant of any football club is the fans, and the fans that do stay constant regardless of the club's situation are the ‘proper' fans.
Charlotte Parker

Total articles: 12

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