A new study from Sky Sports shows how football fan culture in the UK is ‘shifting’, according to the broadcaster, with a ‘more diverse make-up of how fans follow the game’.
The Football Fandom in 2021 report was commissioned by Sky Sports ahead of the start of the domestic football season, which will see the broadcaster screen games from the Premier League, Barclays FA Women’s Super League, the EFL, and the Scottish Premiership among others over the course of the campaign.
According to Sky Sports, the ‘traditional one-club 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.
Sky says that a growing number of fans see themselves as dedicated to the game itself rather than to a team, with 20% of this group watching football at least once a week and/or never miss a big game.
“The relationship between fans and football is evolving and we are seeing far more people interact with football in so many ways,” said Jamie Carragher, Sky Sports Premier League pundit.
“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.”
The broadcaster has grouped fans into five separate subgenres, the ‘Lifer’ - or traditional lifelong one-club fans; the ‘Statto’, who is more likely than the others to focus on the pre-match build up and statistics; the ‘Expressionist’, who sits at the intersection of football and wider culture such as music and fashion; and the ‘Socialiser’, who sees the game as a way to bring family or friends together for a social occasion.
Meanwhile, Sky has also identified a fifth grouping, which they dub the ‘Game Changers’, who are ‘driven by the social impact of the football for the greater good’, and who see football as a vehicle for changing societal mindsets.
The broadcsater says some 70% of people think player power has ‘enabled the nation to advance conversations around discrimination’, while 63% believe they have a better understanding of social and economic issues because of their love of football.
Dr Martha Newson, Future Leaders Fellow at the University of Kent, and self-identified ‘Socialiser’ said: “Football is now more representative than ever of the British public. 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.
“Football tends to go far deeper than attending games or keeping up with the fixtures; it’s about social connections and how we present ourselves to the world – be it likes on social media, wearing the ‘right’ trainers, or knowing the words to a song. For some fans, celebrating football manifests in how we shop and the brands we align with.”
Karen Carney, Sky Sports pundit, and ‘Game Changer’ added: “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.
“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.”