Has the modern football fan evolved?

Don’t worry folks, this isn’t going to be a 3000-word essay on the evolution of man, I’m not going to throw quotes from Robert Winston or Richard Dawkins at you, more a closer look at how we, as football fans, digest our intake of football.

Twitter has been a godsend for many, but it has also changed the way in which we consume our football. It has brought a small world even closer together and the sheer immediacy of it all appeals greatly. It’s a fantastic source of information aswell as being a brilliant outlet for exploring the minds of players, journalists and just your fellow casual fan alike.

Sky Sports regularly now ‘understands’ a transfer rumour on the basis of Twitter account, and the amount of information if you follow the right people truly is staggering. Newspapers, both regional and national, are a dying breed and circulation figures have plummeted, advertising revenue is down and don’t be surprised if we’re to see a few more big national’s go out of business over the next few years – but this has directly led to the expansion of online media as a knock-on effect.

Instead of breaking a story through the morning newspaper, journalists often break news through their Twitter account and the race to be the first to do so is fierce. Interviews, colour pieces and general more in-depth analysis will always be confined to the page, unsuitable for the 140-character limit, but the inclusiveness of Twitter means we absorb information at a quicker rate.

It’s also changed the way we watch football – I include myself in this – I often watch games while on my Twitter account, as it allows you to interract with different people from all four corners of the world while the game is going on. You could liken it to being in a virtual pub with a bunch of strangers all of which have an opinion on any given event, no matter how minute – it may sound odd to an outsider (I’m looking at you, Mark Lawrenson), but that’s essentially what it is.

Live blogging also provides a useful outlet for both comment and debate. There’s nothing worse than being an opinionated football fan and having nobody around to listen to your opinions – we all have them, some more outlandish and unsubstantiated than others – but the desire and demand is clearly there. This can often delve into statistical information on the game you are watching, while it is going on, which as long as it’s provided with context, can be a useful tool when assessing any game.

We are, of course, in the midst of a double-dip recession, although you wouldn’t know it from the way that the average fan is continually priced out of a seat on the terraces. Football is more than just a form of entertainment, it’s a release and a break from your day-to-day life, but being a loyal supporter these days is a seriously expensive habit, as is going out to watch every match, so many resort to the comforts of their own home with none of the fiscal drawbacks.

Uefa President Michel Platini’s brainchild of holding Euro 2020 in 12-13 different cities in countries all over the continent simply highlights the way the game is being moved away from the regular punter. I would call it contempt or disdain for the fans, but that would imply that the game’s governing bodies actually cared what we thought in the first place. The passionate and engaged football fan is being pushed further and further to the edges in place of corporate interests, with nearly a quarter of seats for most major finals now no longer vailable to fans of either side actually contesting the game but the sponsors instead. The holographic mexican wave is quite possibly Platini’s idea of a wet dream and the frightening thing is, it doesn’t sound so hugely far-fetched anymore.

Broadcasters also seem to think that a likening for football doesn’t come hand-in-hand with intelligence, hence the patronisingly inept pundits we are often ‘treated’ to. The likes of Alan Shearer, Martin Keown and Mark Bright think their job is merely to tell you what is happening on the screen every time something of note takes place, when in fact, it is the opposite, they are supposed to be telling us what we, as laymen, cannot see. There is no insight, no tactical analysis and no point of listening, so we go elsewhere for our information.

The modern football fan has evolved beyond all recognition due to fiscal, geographical and practicality factors. Football is non-stop, there is no real break from it, particularly this summer with both the Euros and Olympics taking place. It can be seen as a form of addiction, and outlets such as Twitter and Live blogging provide you with that much-needed hit of debate before the next big fix, the games themselves.

Fittingly, given the subject matter, you can follow me on Twitter @JamesMcManus1