Most of us would never dream of switching allegiances when it comes to our football club. Nobody wants to be considered a fair-weather fan or a glory hunter. But we all know somebody that’s very vocal about football if their team is winning but suddenly has zero interest, even to point of bad mouthing the sport, when fortunes change. With this in mind, my kneejerk response would be to say it’s never okay to switch clubs, but there may be occasions when it’s acceptable.
What got me thinking about this was when a friend recently made a plea on social media requesting guidance on a new club. His beloved Torquay United are languishing in the fifth tier of English football without sign of a resurrection. It’s not that he aims to abandon them entirely but he needs some action from one of the professional leagues to tide him over.
It is a unique predicament. Many people follow a professional club and simultaneously lend their support to a local non-league side. It must be difficult when caught up in the reverse process. This is a country that dedicates a large portion of its recreational time to football. Television networks dedicate thousands of hours across all professional leagues and cup competitions. Imagine never being involved in one single minute of that vast media coverage while all around you have something to chat about.
Taking pity on this viewpoint raised another question: How do you decide which team to follow? The quick answer is your next local side. The problem here is, assuming you already do follow the most local side, you’ll be jumping to your nearest rival. This is never an acceptable course of action. If this limits options then you’ll have to look further afield.
This quandary does highlight another time it’s okay to find a new club, when you’ve been born into a club from an area you’ve never visited. If you have been following Liverpool because your family do but you’ve lived in Portsmouth all your life, no one could argue if by the voting age you feel no connection to a team from Merseyside and want to watch Pompey instead.
Back to looking further afield, the safest option here, if you have no previous soft spots for possible replacements, is to avoid one of the big names. If you choose Chelsea or Manchester City in the current climate you will become, by default, a dreaded glory hunter.
Another occasion that you can change allegiance without question is if you are deceived by the club or treated poorly. The fans of Wimbledon had universal backing when they walked away from what became MK Dons to form AFC Wimbledon. Most see this club as the spiritual Wimbledon proving the power fans have.
Less honourable is the set of fans that left Manchester United to form FC United of Manchester following the Glazer takeover. Sometimes a fan’s duty is to sit through awkward times with a chairman rather than run away. In hindsight the Glazers haven’t been the demons they feared but FC United have made club with a model that should be applauded.
So these are the rare moments it’s okay to take another team on board. But be mindful that things change fast in football, the club you’re thinking of walking away from now could one day be champions of the land, and you’ll look like a glory hunter if you try and reclaim allegiance.