Expensive, yes. But therapy for the middle classes
Those great brains at the Norman Leicester school of football at Chester University, I think I've got that right, have just produced another report. It's called the Premier League National Fan Survey. They've studied 20,000 fans and come out with the news that 97.8 per cent of fans consider themselves "white British". But you knew that. Watch any match on telly, and there are very few black faces. On the pitch, yes. But not on the park.
They also tell us that Chelsea is the most expensive team to follow, and their fans the richest, judged by their incomes and how much their season ticket holders spend - £1,306 a season. No surprise there either. They were quite interesting on the increase in female fans, reporting that one-third of new fans who have started watching football in the past five years is female. The total proportion of women is now 14 per cent, which I find surprising.
At Spurs or Arsenal, the in-house TV cameras, giving us pre-match crowd shots to fill in time, always pick out women in the crowd, the blonder and prettier the better, usually with close-ups, which can make you think there are loads of female fans. All blonde and pretty. But when I look around, and try to count, or study the crowd shots on television during matches, I still see very few females. From my observations, I'd say it's more like 4 per cent than 14 per cent.
Any road up, forget the facts, boring things facts, just get in the way of interesting theories. I don't know why C P Scott said facts were sacred, opinions cheap. Just look at any newspaper, broadsheet or tabloid, and you'll find that it's the opinion columnists who get the star billing and the big wads, not the news reporters. Richard Littlejohn is the nation's highest-paid hack because of his big mouth rather than his command of piddling small facts.
The University of Norman Chester doesn't appear to offer reasons for the trends they have revealed - so here goes, an explanation why the middle classes and the females of our species have flooded into football in the past five years.
It's because the middle classes can afford the prices, you say. But that's a boring reason, far too obvious, however true. Football is fashionable, innit? Yawn, yawn. We know all that as well. Come on, think of something else, what has brought them in, what keeps them in, what's the big attraction?
To answer this question I did my own extensive survey. One person, to be exact. But she combined two factors in one. I talked to Sue, middle class and female, daughter of a clergyman, married to an architect, who happens to live two doors away from me. I do try to keep my travel expenses down. (In the house where George Graham's first wife lived, and from which they got married. A boring fact you can have for free.)
Sue has two sons, one of them a Spurs fanatic, and a husband who likes football, used to play in my Sunday team, but over the years they always refused to take Sue to matches, even though she often asked. Through a sequence of events, she did get to go to a match - at Wembley, England against France, and absolutely loved it. But still they refused to take her when they went to Spurs. The rotters.
So behind their backs, guess what she did. At the beginning of this season, out of her own money, she bought two season tickets for Spurs. Neither her sons nor husband has ever had one. She has suddenly became the most popular member of the family. Sorry, she always was, being a wonderful mother, gardener, cook, etc. But they now have to be extra nice, keep in with her, to see who she will choose to take with her to White Hart Lane.
I have to admit I thought at first there might be a bit of posing going on, affecting to have acquired a sudden interest in Spurs, but no, I have cross-examined her. She knows her onions. (New French bloke from PSG, just signed by George.) I asked her some trick questions, such as name four in the Spurs team called Stephen and she got it right. (Carr, Clemence, Freund and Iversen. OK, the latter spell it Steffen, but it was my question so I can decide if she's right.)
I didn't ask her to explain the offside rule, didn't want to be duffed up, but I did ask her one patronising question - is Ginola your favourite player, then. What a look I got. Certainly not, she said. She wouldn't have him in the team, far too selfish, doesn't pass, doesn't go back and tackle, then stands around looking petulant when things go wrong.
Her favourite players, as you've asked, are Taricco and Carr. Not a bad judge. What am I saying? Now that is patronising. So tell me Sue, what's the attraction, what do you get out of going? A sore throat is the first thing, for she shouts and roars, gets carried away, swept along by the emotion. Whether they win or lose, she is always totally engrossed, involved for two hours, letting off steam. No bad language, well not much, as her dad was a minister. But a lot of passion spent.
"I didn't expect to get involved as much as I do. It surely must be better and cheaper going to a football match, than spending £60 on therapy . . ."
So there you have it, friends. I suspect the emotional outlet is an attraction for the middle classes generally. If you're a judge or a medical consultant, you don't have much chance in your normal life, much though you would like to, to stand and shout "YOU WANKER", "PISS OFF REF", "FUCK OFF MAN U", or at least to join in with a crowd of 30,000-50,000 saying such things, communing with your fellow humans, caught up in all the mass emotions. What a release it must be for them. Spending £1,306 on a season ticket. It's a bargain already.
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