A worrying but growing trend now among football supporters

There are usually two types of football fans; those die-hard supporters who have season tickets and attend (if not all, but at least some) away games – and then you have those who may have only been to a live game once every so often or maybe have never attended a live game. These are two extremes either side of the scale with the latter usually branded as an ‘armchair fan’ who watches their team with the same passion as those who are in live attendance but from the comfort of their own home in front of the television. It has made me wonder if this has become a growing trend especially with the rise in ticket prices and increased television coverage of live games.

Personally I am a former season ticket holder turned armchair supporter and although I was quite ashamed of this in the past, today there is less shame for one reason or another. From the young age of 4 I had a season ticket where my uncle used to take me to games hoping to get me into the sport. All I can remember from those early season ticket days was the noise of shouting men, the smell of burgers, alcohol and smoke and being made to stand on the terrace for what seemed a very long time – but I still wanted to go every week. A few years later, when I was old enough to understand the sport better, I loved having a season ticket – despite watching games on television you can never beat seeing a live game in the flesh, soaking up the atmosphere and being involved in a spectacle (for better or worse). When I was old enough to work, I did so and all my wages went straight on a season ticket, travelling to away games and buying the latest home shirt, then the latest away shirt…oh and that 3rd kit that we wore once that time, it was irresistible. However, something started to give and despite the desire to renew my season ticket and keep watching my team week in and week out that was still there with a passion, I was running out of excuses for what was proving to be a rather expensive lifestyle.

Every season there would a slight increase in prices but my club, like most others I assume give season ticket holders a good discount on a renewal. The first season I stopped attending games, it was very strange but luckily I’d be able to get hold of the odd ticket like when that ‘mate of a mate has gone on holiday so you’re in his seat for this game’. I would always make a few away games, especially when I was living out of London but the price of match day tickets was a lot higher than what I was paying a few seasons ago. Growing up, I could never understand my friends who never went to football games, only getting their football fix from Match of the Day and the odd Sky Sports games, but today being a fan from your sofa is a lot more appealing. There are almost twice as many live football games on television than in the 1990s from the Premier League and down the Football League, not to mention the live games from Europe with La Liga, Serie A and the Budesliga. Let’s not forget the coverage available on the internet with the vast amount of websites (illegally) streaming coverage of live games, even those that kick off at 3pm on a Saturday.

It’s not just the live games that make being an armchair fan more appealing with clubs offering membership on their official website which allows you to watch highlights of recent games, see interviews with players and making you feel involved in the club. Armchair supporters are often accused of not being real fans with their level of commitment questioned but if they’re still watching the games on television or online and still interacting with fans on the club forum, there isn’t too much difference. From my own experience I am not alone with my season ticket to armchair transition, most of my friends I used to see at home games are also no longer attending on a regular basis.

Now I have not been a season ticket holder for five years and if I wanted to return, I would be paying almost a triple of what I paid back then. Ironically, this season has been one of the most successful for my club (and because of this, we are new favourites for the live Sky Sports games which will only increase if we make it back to the Premier League). In an ideal world I would choose to be at every game, every season and not miss a kick but I suppose I just can’t justify it any more, especially when I can sit in the comfort of my own sofa and watch my team play. Can you?