However, every now and then I get a bit frustrated at having my position as a genuine football supporter challenged. Recently, when a friend introduced me to a work colleague while we were inside the Boleyn Ground, this colleague promptly informed me not to worry, that he “didn’t know much about football either.” I then found myself explaining my football CV, and reeling off all the reasons that actually, I do take this game rather seriously.
This exchange got me thinking; when it comes to validating your support for a football club, how do you do it? How do you prove you support a football club, and what is the definition of a football supporter?
It’s a question that doesn’t necessarily have a set answer, and it is tough to quantify. There is definitely a difference between following a team (looking out for their results) and actually supporting them – which a lot of people consider to be going to games when you can, watching them on TV or illegally on the internet when you can’t be there (we’ve all done it…right?) and having a die hard dedication to caring about the ups and downs of a club- even when you don’t agree with their decisions.
This is nicely echoed in a quote from journalist Kevin O’ Donnell. When talking about how he qualified as a football supporter in his childhood, he justifies his commitment by saying: “I couldn’t go to matches but I was a fan. I had the scarves, the replica kits and – at one point – a silly hat. I cheered, I cried, I went off in a huff when they lost.”
It’s a great quote, because it sums up what being a supporter is –someone who provides support, whether financially (purchasing scarves, kits, etc,) or contributing emotionally by celebrating or sulking along with the masses.
It’s an abstract definition, but is it the same for the female fan base? Or do women have to do more to assert that they truly are supporters?
I’m worried that they (we) do. As a woman, telling people that I’m in to football is almost always met with raised eyebrows (disclaimer – I also have a foreign accent. This doesn’t help, I know.) I find it does help, whenever challenged about my commitment to the beautiful game, to pull out my season ticket. This does tend to have the desired effect as no woman pays £800 a year to watch a team lose football matches just to try to pick up men. But what if you aren’t a season ticket holder? How do you then offer proof? If I don’t have my season ticket on me, I normally get a variety of hoops to jump though and questions to answer in order to validate my claim that really, truly, I am forever blowing bubbles.
There is also the argument that in football, women are taken less seriously, because, well, less women take football seriously. While attendance of women at games has gone up in the recent years, the Premier League says that 70% of women attending games in 2012 were “non-football fans” (it is worth noting that nowhere in the Premier League’s National Fan Survey booklet do they say how they define a football fan, but they are sure 70% of women who attended games are not it.)
For me, I’ll keep reeling off West Ham’s starting 11 and my thoughts on Moyes (was he holding Everton back?) as proof of my sincerity, and remember that if I mention I’d climb Andy Carroll like a tree that my credibility comes crashing down. I’m allowed to offer insight to into the absurdity of Maiga in the loan striker system while wasting Vaz Te and Petric on the bench, provided I don’t mention I’m simultaneously playing snog, marry, avoid with them at the same time (Snog- Petric, Marry- Vaz Te, Avoid- Maiga.)
But of course, that’s just me – what about the rest of the women? What have your experiences been like- is it easy for people to believe you are serious about sport without having your papers on you? Do I struggle a bit more because I’m a bit foreign? How do you prove you support a football club?
Let me know below, or tweet me @makingthemarrow