British football culture has endured a number of dramatic changes over the decades and many supporters constantly bemoan that the beautiful game in the UK is “not the same anymore” The culture of football has had to evolve with changing times, attitudes and overzealous political correctness but what stand out events or tweaks to the setup, rules and general society have had the most impact on the game and its supporters?
LACK OF ATMOSPHERE
Whilst many of the major Premier League teams still enjoy vivacious support from their followers there are so many aspects of the game that has actually helped silence many fans.
Football used to be more of a social get together; generations of families would get together on a Saturday afternoon, have lunch and head down to the ground. Fashion on the terraces, particularly in the 50’s and 60’s was synonymous with this great occasion but some clubs are now even banning supporters who adhere to a particular dress code and freedom is slowly disappearing. Premier League clubs like Aston Villa, quite shamefully, even reject supporters from bringing ‘negative’ banners to football games and inconvenient kick-off times have destroyed what was once a sacred ritual for many.
The brandishing of banning orders by clubs and authorities for often ridiculous reasons are particularly frustrating especially for those supporters who simply want to express their passion. Whilst we wouldn’t condone streaking across the pitch or smashing up an advertising board, orders have been handed out simply because of overly-zealous football chants that include swearing. There have been plenty of similar restrictions being put on the fans over the years which has simply limited their enthusiasm for expression and has left many stadiums quieter than ever resulting in many followers opting to stay home.
The Sky Sports network has quite literally transformed the way in which we watch football from anywhere and at any time. Huge television rights contracts meant that in 1992 the Premier League broke away from the football league and Sky was at the heart of the decision making process. Since then BSB’s influence has grown even further as club owners salivate over big money deals thanks to televised games and other broadcasting benefits.
Whilst its coverage is incomparable and has undoubtedly changed the way we consume the sport at home, some argue that Sky and now BT have managed to suck the very soul out of the game. Club owners are lining their pockets with little or no money reinvested in fan facilities and lazier or more price conscious fans have simply decided to stay at home.
SITTING ROOM ONLY
After the truly tragic events of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 which resulted in the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans during an FA Cup Semi-Final match between the reds and Nottingham Forest things were always going to change. The blame for this catastrophic event was laid at the feet of the police, the fans themselves and even the terrace design; consequently all football clubs were required to implement all-seater stadiums.
Whilst there’s no question that Hillsborough was a truly tragic event it’s important to note that there were very few issues reportedly associated with standing at football matches and a quick look across Europe, particularly at Germany, shows what can be achieved. Many football fans believe standing is more conducive to better atmospheres and some Premier League clubs are pushing to introduce safe standing areas in their grounds. Concerts and festivals enjoy thousands of standing fans jumping and cheering around all day long and all year round without much trouble so could we see the once vibrant and vocal terraces returning to football stadiums in the future?
Whatever happens over the next few decades, football- and its associated culture- will undoubtedly change again. But this time will change be for the better?