Did you hear the one about the Elephant in the Room who Opened a Can of Worms?

This blog begins like the Tarantino Film ‘Pulp Fiction’ in that I’m going to start at the end, so you have one of two choices, the first is to read on and find out why, or secondly you can metaphorically screw up my ramblings and throw it in the bin, so here goes…

The End

I’m a Liverpool fan and I’m not from Liverpool, nor do I live that close to Liverpool and certainly not within the County of Lancashire [I’m a proud Yorkshireman!] thus breaking the deadly *modern* sin of football which is of course to Support Your Local Team.

The Beginning

“You should support your Local Team!”

As a football supporter it’s one of the few questions which makes me cringe. Especially as I began following Liverpool when I was very young, so young that my lack of geographic ability meant that Liverpool could have been the neighbouring village for all I knew.

The Story Begins

When I was aged four my family moved from the town of my birth to a small village roughly 60 miles away. As we were new to the village, and as a welcome to the neighbourhood, the young lad across the street gave my brother a hand-me-down t-shirt, it was red, with yellow pin stripes, a double diamond sign on one side and a bird choking on a twig on the other, finished with the name of my Dad’s favourite paint manufacturer on the front – It was a Replica Liverpool Shirt. Young Sensisuperstar thought “Me like, me want one” and so a love affair began with Liverpool Football Club.

The Plot Thickens

It’s fair to say that the majority of my family are Leeds United fans and at the time I can remember the numerous attempts to wean me off my obsession with all things Liverpool FC, my favourite was when I was bought a Man City away shirt, apparently the local sports shop only had two shirts, that and an Arsenal home jersey, and there was no way on earth it was going to be the Gunners shirt. In any case it didn’t work.

So as a Liverpool fan I have followed them through the Eighties, Nineties and the Naughties, experiencing the highs and lows along the way. During those times I attended school in Yorkshire where most of the kids supported Liverpool or United, there was a smattering of the odd Evertonian or Gooner, certainly no Chelsea or Man City fans though and nobody I can remember supported the local side. Then I went to University, where the support was similar and finally I started working, where at last I seem to have discovered a few fans of the ‘Local Team’, Hull City, although since they were relegated from the Premier League most have reverted back to United fans!

The Guilty Party

When I was a lad I can honestly never remember been asked why I didn’t support my local team, never, mainly because my local team were rubbish and not even their own supporters admitted to supporting them. But also because most people didn’t (a) give a toss or (b) give a toss!

One of the first times I discovered that people found it unusual or hard to believe that I didn’t support my local team was an incident outside Anfield a few years back when I was surrounded by a group of mean looking, but ultimately decent, Newcastle United fans. The leader of the group approached me and said threateningly,

“What do you think your doing?”

Indeed a stupid question, but he didn’t look the type for a sarcastic response, so I replied,

“Looking for a match ticket”.

It wasn’t my answer which stopped him in his tracks, it was my accent, it also managed to diffuse the situation and we had a chat about the subject. Essentially he wanted to know why I followed Liverpool, why not Leeds United or any of the other big Yorkshire teams, so I told him the story I have just told you, he accepted it and we went our separate ways.

Since that day though it’s become a bit of a bugbear, I anticipate the question and do all I can to avoid it, it’s a favourite way for an opposition football fan to try to end an argument,

“What do you care, you shouldn’t support them, their not your local team!”

The False Ending

In my opinion the ‘Support Your Local Team’ argument is fairly weak and certainly wouldn’t stand up in a court of law, but football fans tend to operate a kangaroo court and I have to defend my corner!

Here is a typical conversation on the subject:

The Opposition Supporters Alliance “Support your Local Team!”

Me [having already explained the reason I support Liverpool] “But my ‘Local Team’ only play Sunday League”

TOSA “Don’t be stupid, support your Local Team”

Me “What, the Sunday League Team?”

TOSA “No, the team nearest where you live in the Football League”

Me “But what about the Sunday League Team? Who’s going to support them?”

TOSA “SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL TEAM!”

Me “You now have me feeling sorry for my real Local Team. I realise that they are in the 12th tier of the football pyramid, but what if they get promoted numerous times and end up on the cusp of the Football League, do I then have to change my allegiance, because my new Local Team are now good enough to be worthy of meeting your bizarre criteria?”

TOSA “Errrm…”

Me “What happens if I move? I’m not from the place where I live, so I’m confused as to who my real ‘Local Team’ are, could you provide a map?”

TOSA *Leaves room shaking head*

So you see the point I am making is that by supporting your ‘real’ local team the majority of fans would end up going to the local park to get their football fix and although this would certainly spread the football wealth, it’s simply not going to happen, is far easier to allow people the democratic right to support who they want, and they do.

Now I could stop writing now as I’ve exercised my demons and feel happy to have got that off my chest, but there is one further thing that needs to be mentioned…

The Twist

Increasingly it’s becoming apparent that ‘Local Fans’ from many clubs resent supporters from outside of the area or god forbid, from ‘Norway’! I wouldn’t say this is huge issue at Liverpool FC, more so at other clubs with more recent history of successes or huge investment. After all Liverpool have always had a massive worldwide fan base and have gained support from numerous countries for a multitude of reasons, but it isn’t uncommon for the natives to become irritated.

If I’m being honest I don’t blame them, I really wished I was from Liverpool, it would make life as a football fan easier, as I would never wish I didn’t support Liverpool. Over the years I had a few lectures from local Liverpool fans, generally their points can be summarised as:

1. They struggle to afford the inflated season ticket and match day ticket costs, apparently the fault of ‘foreign’ fans.

2. The season ticket waiting list is too long due to non locals taking up the spaces which should be given to locals [although I have serious reservations about the size of the list, as anecdotal evidence suggests that the same fans have registered several times, for whatever reason]

3. Football tourists ruin the atmosphere, highlighted when midweek games, which have a higher proportion of locals attending, are much louder and the fans more vocal and passionate.

4. Most of these ‘foreign’ fans have never or will never go to Anfield and only regular match goers are the real fans.

5. It’s our club not yours, support your local team!

All valid points and I’m sure there are numerous more [maybe I will get some in my comments after I publish this blog] but I’d like to take this opportunity to present a counter argument that I hope you would consider;

1. Liverpool FC would not be the same club without their huge fan base, most of which is based outside of the city. Wherever I have travelled I’m sure to see a Liverpool shirt and it makes the world a less lonely place as it’s good reason to strike up a conversation.

2. Season Ticket holders do not subsidise the club. TV deals, sponsors and merchandise sales buy the players you are lucky enough to see week in week out.

3. Foreign support is an important if not the most important revenue stream. This includes promotional tours, shirt sales and sponsorship.

4. Success attracts more fans, take this as a compliment, it means you support a winning team.

5. The majority of the players aren’t locals, so accept that fans don’t have to be too, after all most former players would claim to be LFC supporters, that’s something to be proud of.

6. If everybody who wanted a match day ticket or season ticket could attend a match, then Anfield would need a capacity in excess of hundreds of thousands.

Now, as I hinted before, I believe this is just the view of a minority of fans, as for every critical comment of my support, I get far more enthusiastic Scousers wanting to talk to me about the game, the players, the history and why I love their home town club, I believe they are genuinely proud that Liverpool are a global team, and should be too.

It’s taken me writing this blog to realise that although football is about identity, that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be a local identity, in my case it was chance, others it could be admiration, who cares, it’s the beautiful game and I love it! So to those of you, who like me, feel slightly awkward not supporting your local team, don’t, because ‘Your Football Club’ want you as a fan.

Follow @sensisuperstar on Twitter.

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4 Responses to Did you hear the one about the Elephant in the Room who Opened a Can of Worms?

  1. Your ‘conversation’ with the imaginary knuckle dragger is a straw man argument which ignores the main points for me

    To be quite honest with you, I think you’re missing out by not your local team. You don’t get the sense of civic pride that a local supporter gets when they see their team get even the smallest amount of success.

    When I say local, I don’t mean the nonsense you spout about the closest pub team to you; I mean the team theat your dad, granddad and several uncles support. I mean the team that half the people who live on your street support. Its that feeling of unity and pride that sadly you will never get to feel.

    I remember being in town around the time of the CL semis with Chelsea. The atmosphere was absolutely electric and you couldn’t talk to anyone for more than 30 seconds (even the bluenoses!) without referring back to the big game.

    If Liverpool were in the 3rd division, I’m sure I would get more joy from seeing us beat Northampton in the LDV vans trophy than I would supporting a team that I didn’t have the same connection to.

    Of course this idea of emotional attachment is totally subjective. I cannot know how you feel and you cannot know how I do. That said, I just don’t see how you can quite feel the same connection that a local does.

    The other main point you raise seems to be that OOTs and OOCs raise a lot of revenue for the club. That is undoubtedly true, but also just another symptom of the damaging effect of the continued SKY SPORTSification of football. I don’t want to go into it know but many people have put more eloquently than me what a damaging and thoroughly depressing thing this is.

    • James,

      Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog and especially for your impassioned response, it’s certainly an emotive subject and I can tell from your writing that you have strong views on the subject. In answer to the points you have raised, I given it a bit of thought and my responses are as follows…

      1. Although you don’t specifically mention it, I have altered the wording ‘Knuckle Dragger’ as I did not mean to cause any offence, although it was not aimed at Liverpool fans, but opposing fans who have given me a certain amount of ribbing over the years, it was written in good spirit and with my tongue firmly in my cheek. I accept that you think it’s a weak argument, but I obviously beg to differ.

      2. I completely agree that I am missing out on my local team, I wish I could just switch off my passion for Liverpool FC, but for me it is too late, it was a choice taken when I was far too young to realise the emotional and financial implications.

      * I should point out that I do follow Harrogate Railway Athletic FC who currently play in the Evo Stik Division One North and although I have watched them play many many times, when they win lose or draw I don’t get the same feeling as when Liverpool are playing.

      3. I take your point about civic pride, as much as I like Liverpool as a city, I support the team not the City in which they happen to play. I guess I would feel more comfortable in America where clubs are franchises and the geographic bond is easily broken.

      4. I may have missed your point, but at the time of the Champions League Semi Finals many of the visitors to your city will have been well intentioned foreign or out of town fans, all having similar experiences to what you had.

      5. Regarding your hypothesis of Liverpool playing in the 3rd division, I agree with you, but my support is not linked to geography. If the suggestion is that I wouldn’t follow Liverpool if they became rubbish, then I think the proof that this isn’t the case is that our current side aren’t fit to lace the boots of our sides which I used to watch in the 1980’s.

      6. Regarding emotional attachment, I am in no doubt that I am a second class supporter in comparison to a local fan, I’ve always felt like that and its correct of me to do so, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that I am a Liverpool fan.

      7. You didn’t want to go into the final point about the Sky money, so we won’t.

      Thanks,

      Paul.

  2. theanfieldkop says:

    Ah, the thorny question of – Why do you support a team hundreds of miles away?

    Well for me, it was never about being a glory seeker, it was because of an incident one day in September 1979. I was nine.

    To set the scene; I was in the school playground minding my own business when a kid who was bigger than me, a LOT bigger than me, engaged me in conversation…

    I was questioned as to where my allegiances lay with regard to supporting football teams. Two options were presented to me, not as you might expect my ‘local teams’ (at that time Weston super Mare, Bristol City or Bristol Rovers) but Liverpool or Manchester United. Now, up until that point, football had played a fairly small part in my life and I wasn’t even particularly aware that these two northern giants of the game existed. My ignorance of the subject matter however was not relevant and my answer needed to be speedy and correct!

    My answer was Liverpool and fortunately for my looks, the answer met with said big kid’s approval.

    So I’m sorry Bristol City, accept my apologies Bristol Rovers and Weston but once you’ve chosen, you’ve chosen.

    I have to say when it comes to following a football team it’s not where you are from that matters, it’s how that team stirs the passion inside that counts.

    Nobody ever got anywhere by being insular and Scousers should be proud of their ‘local team’ and the world wide support it enjoys.

    • Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and thanks for telling me your story of how you became a Liverpool fan, it’s a great anecdote.

      The thing that has always struck me about meeting Liverpool fans is the welcome they extend, I’m in little doubt that the majority of the Local’s are proud of their worldwide support base, this is why the Evertonians mock them so much about it!

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