Report: UK football fandom changing
August 11, 2021
By Colin Mann
Football fan culture in the UK is shifting, with a more diverse make-up of how fans follow the game explored in Football Fandom 2021, a new report commissioned by Sky Sports, ahead of start of the domestic football season, during which it will be showing 128 live Premier League matches.
The ‘traditional’ die-hard supporter is still heavily present in the UK, however the research suggests that the cornerstone of the game is now joined by a host of different types of fans, including those who have come to the game through players’ voices on social issues.
The report finds an overwhelming 70 per cent of people feel the power of players has enabled the nation to advance conversations around discrimination, while 63 per cent believe they have a better understanding of social and economic issues because of their love of football.
“The relationship between fans and football is evolving and we are seeing far more people interact with football in so many ways,” notes Jamie Carragher, Sky Sports Premier League pundit, and lifelong fan. “It’s great to celebrate this diversity and open the door to conversations with people we wouldn’t have before. Football brings people together and Sky Sports drawing attention to the ever-changing football fan is a great way for the nation to celebrate the start of the season.”
Research shows that a number of football fans are more dedicated to the game itself than to a team; one in ffive (20 per cent) of those who consider themselves football fans but don’t follow a team, watch football at least once a week and/or never miss a big game.
During the collection of data for the report, five distinct subcultures of modern football fandom emerged – with newer types of fan joining the ‘traditional’ stereotype of a football supporter.
These emerging subcultures are:
Lifer: Considered the ‘traditional’ football fan, Lifers are often one-club lifelong fans who have had a football-orientated upbringing.
Statto: Ever crunching the numbers, the Stattos are more likely than the other subcultures to focus on the pre-match build up. They will also infuriate their friends by dominating in fantasy football.
Expressionist: Modern football culture has seeped into fashion, music and how we connect with each other. Expressionists thrive off this merging of football and lifestyle.
Socialiser: Socialisers focus on the way football brings people together. This subculture connects more with family and friends during the season and they are the first to make plans for big games.
Game Changer: Driven by the social impact of the football for the greater good, Game Changers are likely to have seen or experienced first-hand the power the game has to change mindsets.
“Football is now more representative than ever of the British public,” advises Dr Martha Newson, Cognitive Anthropologist at the University of Oxford and the University of Kent, and self-identified Socialiser. “Football is more than what happens on the pitch, it is entrenched in our day-to-day beliefs, embedded in our conversations and shaping society and community behaviours.”
“Celebrating football is not simply attending games anymore, the following goes far deeper than that, it’s a like on social media, a song at a party, or what kids are wearing in the playground, it’s how we shop and what brands we align with.”
“Recognition of every fan is so important, especially as coverage of leagues continues to grow and develop with the addition of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League,” added Karen Carney at Sky Sports, and proud Game Changer. “I would have considered myself a ‘lifer’ up until recently and now I find myself falling under the ‘game changer’ category. Football is here for everyone’s enjoyment, I always say it’s important to be ‘a part of’ something not ‘apart from’ and that’s what this is about, the celebration of all fans being a part of the wider football community.”
The 2021/22 Premier League will start on Friday, August 13th, with Sky Sports showing 128 matches, including the first pick match every weekend.