For various non-football related reasons, I wasn’t in the best of moods at the start of Saturday’s game and felt even gloomier by the end of it. There are some days when I can appreciate the positives about a game that Birmingham City loses, but Saturday wasn’t one of those days. The weather was lovely, the home crowd tried to be supportive, we had a big flag, our rag bag team weren’t humiliated by a team with much better players, and the player who scored QPR’s two goals was one that had been improved by his loan spell at Blues; I told myself all those things but it was just one of those days when it didn’t help.
So why do I bother? I am not entirely sure myself. But I do know that I care about the team and the players. I see them as human beings who, like me, sometimes have bad days and need encouragement. I feel I’d be letting them down if I didn’t go to games. I still feel a sense of connection to the club.
So I’ll be there on Wednesday evening to watch them play Burnley and I hope that the cheaper ticket prices will encourage others to go too and we’ll have a decent sized crowd. I know that ticket prices are just one of several reasons why crowds have been so small but for some the cost is a real barrier. These are tough times for many families and if they can’t afford to come to games and bring their children, we are losing a whole generation of supporters.
I think there is great value in any activity that helps a person to identify with a group outside his or her narrow social circle. And supporting a football club certainly helps to do that. Some people who know me at church or in a reading group have expressed surprise when they find out I go to football matches; I don’t fit their stereotype of a football supporter. Because I go to matches I know that all sorts of people can be football fans. I don’t like the obscenities I hear shouted by some fans or agree with all their opinions but I see them as fellow human beings not stereotypes. I value that and fear for any society where people retreat into narrow circles of people like themselves.
I agree with Adrian Tempany* that the way the game is run nowadays is taking football away from ordinary people and that is sad. Me keeping on going to games isn’t going to do much but me and thousands of other fans going to games and lobbying for change might just reverse that trend. That’s why I bother.
*Adrian Tempany: ‘I feel that football has been taken away from me’ : The author of And the Sun Shines Now explains how football has lost touch with its supporters since Hillsborough