You're Not Singing Anymore

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Having carefully observed numerous Premiership and Championship games in recent weeks, it’s clear that the general consensus is that the atmosphere at grounds is gradually diminishing. This is a topic that has been brought sharply into focus after Alex Ferguson accused a crowd of nearly 75,000 fans of producing a ‘funeral-like’ atmosphere as his side beat lowly Birmingham 1-0 at Old Trafford.

I believe that the thrill and excitement of match days has been on the wane for some time and is a trend which is becoming increasingly difficult to reverse.

After the Hillsborough tragedy, the advent of all-seater stadiums was a necessity for crowd safety but this has come at a price. As much as the brand new all-seater stadiums look fantastic and have huge capacities, there is no doubt that they can help create a vacuum-like atmosphere and they can struggle to keep any meaningful noise within their confines. Those who have visited the new Wembley will testify to this.

However, I believe that the main contributing factor has been the rapid rise of footballers’ wages allied to the television boom. When football was first born, it was a game for the “man on the street”. Fans would go to a game to spend their hard earned wages to watch people who were probably getting paid just as much money as them but had a talent and flair for football. The archetypal spectator could relate to these players, they would give them their full backing and would have their mutual respect.

However, fast forward to the modern day and times have changed considerably. Ticket prices are spiralling upwards and many top players earn more money in one week then many spectators earn in two to three years. Fans simply cannot relate to this. Now, when they attend a match, they expect entertainment, perfection and justification for the huge sums that these players are earning. This can lead to fans being anxious, critical and hoping that going to watch their team wasn’t a complete waste of time and money.

The television explosion has also meant that a full compliment of 3pm fixtures rarely occurs. Awkward kick off times has resulted in fans refusing to travel to games and instead choosing to follow their team in the comfort of their own living room.

The perceived lack of loyalty shown by players has also been a contributory factor. A fine example would be Portsmouth’s recent acquisition Lassana Diarra, who on signing for the South Coast side, admitted that if a bigger side were to come calling he would be on his way in rapid time. That’s a bit like saying to your new girlfriend that you will stay with her for now but if Jessica Alba came knocking at your door, you would be gone in a flash. It’s not the sort of thing you would say to garner any sort of support or rapport is it?

Unfortunately, this current trend looks set to continue in the beautiful game.


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