Young soccer fans are turning away from “toxic” microblogging platforms, according to new research from youth football brand COPA90.
The media company’s ‘Modern Football Fan’ study found evidence of a shift towards private forums and other “social safe havens” such as WhatsApp as the preferred environments for discussion about the game among youth supporters.
The global study revealed that 31% of young UK fans, 29% in the US, 38% in Brazil and 43% in China are currently using closed digital channels to interact around football.
Meanwhile, the football news landscape also appears to be changing, with modern fans trusting social media accounts - whether a player’s (52%), a journalist’s (48%) or a general football-themed account (53%) - more than traditional coverage in mainstream newspapers (45%).
Other significant findings of the research, which is based on interviews with 2,110 16-to 24-year-old fans in four key markets, include a growing desire for the game to act as a platform for championing social causes.
Two thirds of fans told researchers they wanted their teams to be more outspoken about social or political issues.
The sentiment was highest in the USA, with 82% of respondent fans agreeing, followed by 66% in China, 63% in Brazil and 52% in the UK.
The study also revealed rising interest and support for clubs and fan groups that take an active role in addressing issues such as diversity and inclusion.
As a result, researchers found young fans shifting support towards brands, businesses, clubs and players who harness the power of positivity, with 30% believing that sports brands such as Nike should take some responsibility to instigate positive change.
Ahead of this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, COPA90 also found growing interest in the women’s game. More than 50% of young fans reported wanting to watch and learn more, with 44% complaining that the women’s game doesn’t feature frequently enough on their radars .
Commenting on the findings, James Kirkham, chief business officer at COPA90, said: “The ‘Modern Fan’ report shows young football supporters to be socially aware, culturally conscious and engaged with the moral issues that surround them.
“They’re calling for their clubs and players to take more action to address problems and, encouragingly, view the game as a potential force for social good and positive change.”
COPA90 is the world's largest independent football media business, with offices in London, New York and Los Angeles.
The brand’s coverage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup is shortlisted for the Media Content Award at the BT Sport Industry Awards 2019.