The way in which many fans support their clubs is often difficult to watch. No matter the current state of the squad, no matter the fitness of the players, no matter the most recent fixture results, they continue to support the club through thick and thing. This is what real supporters do. They always hope for brighter days, and support the squad through the rough times.
But what about when the concern is not just about the on field product, and rather the management and ownership? What are supporters supposed to do in this situation? They can support the players through all of their struggles, whether it with their performance on the pitch or their issues at home. But when the owners start to act in such a way that is seen to be detrimental to the state of the club, then supporters need to let it be known that they will not support such actions.
Two of the clubs with the largest followings in the world, Manchester United and Liverpool, have had their fair share of issues with their American owners. United is debt ridden as the Glazers continue to make a mess of Old Trafford. Liverpool is arguably is even worse condition, as their two owners are making a mess out of the current situation between RBS and the teams potential sale. United supporters took to wearing green and gold scarves in honour of Newton Heath, the club that the Red Devils were born from in 1902, in protest of the way that Glazer had run the club, but this clearly had little to no effect on the actual management.
It was a fine way for fans to show solidarity against a perceived evil, but they continued to attend the games and fund the very owners that they were seemingly protesting. So what is a fan to do if they wish to make a legitimate statement against their clubs ownership? They need to stop attending away games to begin with, and take the next step towards forfeiting matches all together.
While the state of the franchise is not nearly as bad in Germany for supporters of Borussia Dortmund, they have taken the first step towards showing their clubs management that they will not be travelling to attend the upcoming Bundesliga match against Schalke. They are protesting a rise in ticket prices of almost 30% for the match, so as a result some 300 Dortmund supporters have returned their tickets and will not be attending the match.
Manchester United makes 38% of its total revenue from match day income, so imagine the impact that the supporters could have if they begun to stay away in droves. Glazer would not be able to scoff at them as he did with the scarves, and instead would have to pay attention to their concerns. But many fans have no interest in taking a stand against the owners in such a way. While they may be devoted fans, attending the games is part of their family tradition, and has been for generations.
No matter the current state of the ownership, nor how the squad in performing on the pitch, it is difficult for many supporters to imagine not attending the games. That is at least fans in England. Those in Germany do not seem to have a problem taking a stand against something seemingly as frivolous as ticket prices, while the Premier League fans cannot even come together to take a stand against owners who have loaded their club with over half a billion pounds of debt.
This refusal to come together for the greater good of the club could say something about the fanaticism with which British fans support their clubs, but it could also say something about the people themselves. The Germans understand that together they are more powerful than any individual, and perhaps British society does not promote the collective good in the same fashion. The performance of England compared to Germany at this summer’s World Cup could also be related to a similar theme. Whereby the German players work together, the English were often overly concerned with the individual performance of certain players.
The bind support of clubs will continue amongst supporters around the world, but it may be time to start acting collectively if fans wish to make themselves heard by the ownership.
“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi