The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
Today we feature another take on the world of soccer from guest-writer Imogen. Last time we heard about the debate over calling our sport Soccer or Football. Now Imogen looks at the benefits and trials of supporting a smaller club.
Small Clubs, Big Passion, by Imogen
Are you one of those people that support one of the world’s best soccer teams, but you’ve never actually been to see them play? Soccer is so much more than just teams like Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid. It’s a shame how many people will claim to support these teams, but actually live nowhere near the grounds, have no real connection to the team, apart from buying a shirt every few years and arguing with rival big team fans about “how much better” their team is.
Facts about cholesterol levels of top players or how good they look on television don’t concern the small club managers, because they live more or less like the fans do. The true fans, the people that live and breathe the game, have grown up around their favorite clubs ground and seen them rise and fall over the years. They know their team’s players don’t play as well as the guys at the top, but they also know that they have a lot more in common with these players than guys like Christiano Ronaldo or Thierry Henry. To these dedicated supporters it doesn’t matter that their team is not top of the league, although they would like them to be, because they love the game, not the glory.
Why the top clubs don’t need your support
Money has become such a big part of professional soccer the world over, and now more than ever this can be the deciding factor on whether a team is successful or not. When you hear of transfer fees of millions, and players getting paid each week more than the average joe earns in a year, it’s only a handful of teams that can throw around that kind of money.
Thanks to the English Premier League, the Spanish La Liga, and the European Champions League, the distance between big teams and small teams has grown dramatically. With this money comes power, which may attract more fans, but the new fans are setting themselves up for a fall. These teams may win most of their games, but they are just like bullies in the school yard who only care about themselves.
The truth is that fans of big soccer teams are less important than small team’s fans. The reason behind this logic is that because there are so many big soccer team fans, and the teams have so much money, whether they lose a few or gain a few doesn’t really matter. Whereas for the small teams, each one of the fans that fill a space in their stadium matters. It’s not just about the ticket money though, because these teams actually need support, they need people to turn up to games and support the club through thick and thin.
You can help the underdogs
Never under estimate the power of a soccer team’s supporters, because when times get tough, they can be relied on to keep a club above water, and even bring it to heights it hadn’t experienced before. Just take a look at this example of fans digging deep for their team.
Back in 2003, a small English team called Exeter City was relegated to the lowest nationwide division in English league soccer. Before the relegation chairman Ivor Doble took the club into administration, which resulted in the grounds being sold for under its value. At the same time, two directors at the club were involved with fraudulent trading, of which they were later convicted. What followed was an exemplary example of how the supporters kept this team together.
The Exeter City Supporters Trust was set up and it took over the stricken club, keeping the team alive when no one would take responsibility for the damage that had been done. Millions of pounds in debt, the club was at the mercy of its true supporters, who were fundraising to help pay the debt. At one stage, hundreds of fans pledged at least £500 each to try and pay off the debt. As fate would have it, it was a 2004 FA cup draw against Manchester United that secured them enough money to guarantee them a future.
In that game at Old Trafford, Exeter City held their ground against the mighty Man Utd and the result was a 0-0. That game alone made Exeter’s struggling team a whopping £653,511, a game that should have been a walkover for the mighty Manchester United, but instead gave a smaller team a new beginning. To cut an already long story a little shorter, Exeter went on to clamber up to League 2 in 2008, and straight on to a League 1 promotion in 2010. Still to this day, through the Exeter City Supporters Trust, the club is owned by its loyal fans.
Be proud to support your local team
So now is the time to throw off the shackles of your so-called favorite “Big” team and begin supporting a team that needs your support, your local team. It doesn’t matter what league they are in, whether it’s one of the United Soccer Leagues, the Irish League, the Welsh League, or any other league, what’s important is that they are your team.