Sunday 25 September 2016

Football: The Rise Of The Celebrity Fan

I toyed with nicely asking if one of my favourite Arsenal bloggers will write this article as I didn’t think I have the authentic history of living my whole life in the UK to do this article the justice I thought it deserves.

I also wrote the headline last week but abandoned it, as I wasn’t sure I was able to come up with something to interest many. Anyway on this day of joy for Arsenal fans following that remarkable thrashing of Chelsea yesterday, I have decided to make a decent fist of the subject today.

I believe all historical sources are in agreement that football started out as a working class sports. Played and watched mostly by working class people and has now become a middle class pursuit both as the cost of participating in football has increased and the lot of the populace has improved.  Although a case can be made that the middle classes are now the new improved working class.  :)

As a working class sport, I doubt football attracted a lot of celebrity attention in its early days. The popular people within football were most likely the players themselves and their managers and the odd oddball fan. I want to hazard a guess that no fan had a following and considering the fact that we were probably less complicated as humans back then, nobody wanted a following.

So how should we define celebrity culture? In preparing for this article, I have skim read a few articles from different sources. I find this one particularly helpful on defining Celebrity Culture  the article singles out the start of celebrity culture to the mid 1920s. I would imagine that up to a certain point in our collective lives; TV & Movie stars were the only genuine celebrities as that article outlined. We probably then added politicians, super talented football stars like Pele, George Best, Maradona etc. and maybe super talented Journalists. Until more recently that is, when anybody can be a celebrity including those whose only talent is getting their bits out.

So when did the culture of Celebrity fans enter football?  I think the 1st modern day British Prime Minister to identify himself with a football club is John Major who had a soft spot for Chelsea FC. I find it interesting that his tenure as Prime Minister coincided with the start of the modern day Premier League. In my opinion, the significant riches that the Premier League has attracted to football have also resulted in the rise of the celebrity football fan. This is not to say that MPs and Councillors long before John Major entered politics didn’t identify themselves with football clubs in their constituencies and wards.

I have done a Google search of celebrities who have identified themselves with Arsenal FC as this is my primary focus as an Arsenal fan and I came across this 

The list of prominent (celebrity) Arsenal supporters in that link is quite impressive and has calmed me down a bit as I now realise that although Piers Morgan might be the most vocal popular (something of a) celebrity Arsenal fan, he is by no means in my 25 man squad if you were to choose one from a list of Arsenal celebrity fans. You might wish to come up with your own squad.  :)

Is Celebrity culture bad? Are celebrity fans a bad thing? Not at all. We live in a world where celebrity culture can be a good thing. Lots of positive humanitarian projects have been delivered and are ongoing because of the support rendered by celebrities.

The rise of social media has also helped. I recollect the young Afghanistan boy who caught Lionel Messi’s attention recently. It might have taken months for Messi to see the initial picture and maybe we would never have heard about Messi’s humane gesture for many years thereafter. But in the space of a week, the picture of the boy emerged, caught Messi’s eyes, he responded and said young boy was very pleased.

I think celebrity fans are largely good for football. Their presence gives many fans the opportunity to interact with people whose lifestyle and maybe career we can only dream about. And in some cases they bring a smile to our face or give us the occasional bragging right for a photo opportunity or even a few quid on eBay for the odd memorabilia.

However like the proverbial saying, “too much of everything is bad”. When football then becomes all about celebrity fans, I think it leaves a distaste in the mouth. Many fans want to be celebrities amongst their fellow fans on the basis of their sometimes incoherent and often inconsistent opinion. Some want to become shadow directors of the club, dictating managerial decisions and shaping club strategy.

This shouldn’t be the case. Firstly, I think there will be chaos in the world if the sun ever decided to take over the job of the moon and vice versa. So I commend that fans be first of all fans. Let us go in a game determined to cheer the selected 11 to the rafters irrespective of our personal opinion. No matter how knowledgeable we are as fans, it is impossible to have the information that the club management possesses.

Lets cheer for 90 minutes even when it is a horror show. We are not the lead actors in this 90 - minute movie, we are extras. We must start to believe that the support we give can increase the level of adrenaline in the veins of our players and this can translate into improved performance on the pitch.

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