Fan culture

If it all becomes too much, what can Leeds fans do? Rob Freeman looks at how they could really give Ken Bates something to think about

The past four months have probably been the most turbulent in Leeds United’s history: relegation to the third tier for the first time, a very messy administration, a transfer embargo lifted days before the beginning of the season and two sets of points deductions, meaning that at the time of writing they have a 100 per cent record, but are four points adrift at the bottom.

Just nine per cent of Premier League spectators are aged 24 or under. Sean Barnes asks whether the death of the football-going tradition among young people will mean a struggle to fill grounds in future

When football was invented by Rupert Murdoch in 1992, I was only five years old. Fast forward 15 years through the boom of English football – which we all know too well – and the story of my puberty – which, fortunately, no one knows at all – and here we are, footballers on seven-figure wages and English chairmen the exception to the rule of the modernised Premier League. Other well documented pitfalls include the increasing gap between club and supporter, the sanitisation of the match-day atmosphere and the decline of the ­working‑class fan. One problem that doesn’t get much attention, however, is my problem, and the problems of people like me. My generation may well be the last to appreciate fully the ups and downs of supporting a football club. The game needs to face up to its problem with the lack of English youth. And by that I don’t mean footballers, I mean fans.

As well as being involved in violence, Italian fan groups have been about flags, flares and noise. Pete Green looks at attempts to improve the atmosphere at UK grounds by importing the best of ultra culture

“It’s not about copying the nutters in Italy,” insisted one supporter as a Leicester message board recently heated up over the formation of a local ultras group. Those involved may be quick to dissociate themselves from the nastier extremes of their counterparts on the European mainland, but with Italian authority figures calling for a more English approach to crowd control after the recent death of police officer Filippo Raciti at the Catania v Palermo derby, it is difficult to miss the irony of UK fans seeking to co-opt a notorious aspect of Italian football culture.

What Nottingham needed, Al Needham decided, was a different kind of World Cup venue, without the usual nonsense and with better food and music. Did Nottingham agree?

Back in 2004, I realised that I’d outgrown standing in an Australian theme pub watching England, surrounded by meatheads bellowing “No Surrender to the IRA” (even though three months earlier you’d seen the very same people in town on St Patrick’s Day in those stupid Guinness hats). I vowed that I’d have a completely idiot-free 2006 World Cup. I’d get my own pub sorted out, get my mates in there and watch England without worrying about random violence.

Steve Menary sees that teams on the continent could learn a great deal from the systems of fans' trusts we now have in the UK

The fans’ trust movement has so far been just a British phenomenon, but may not be so for long, if an investigation by the European Union into how football is run concludes that the continent can learn from the UK model. 

WSC was first published in March 1986 and soon found itself part of a publishing boom. Al Needham casts his mind back to the heyday of football fanzines and what his own favourite, Nottingham Forest’s ‘The Almighty Brian’, meant to him 

Like many writers, I got my start in fanzines. In the mid-Eighties, I had an idea that was so obviously brilliant, I used to lie in bed wondering why no one had thought of it yet. So I bought a typewriter from an old woman on the next estate, emptied the local WH Smith of every bit of Letraset they had, monopolised the Banda machine at college and produced the first ever, erm, American football fanzine. (Five hundred back issues of Third and Long are still available in my Dad’s loft, if anyone’s interested. No? Fair enough.)

For 16 years, Scottish fans could read a football publication that didn’t begin and end in Glasgow. Archie MacGregor explains the rise and demise of his fanzine and the changes in the game in its lifetime 

From December 1986 to September 2002, The Absolute Game (TAG) jinked its way through 60 issues about Scottish football in general and everything but the Old Firm in particular.

There are fewer printed fanzines now, but some of the best are still going strong two decades on. Mike Harrison reports

City Gent launched in October 1984 but had been discussed for at least 18 months. What gave it the final push was the fact that the founding editor, Brian Fox, was unemployed, so able to commit time, and sought a career in journalism. 

There are fewer printed fanzines now, but some of the best are still going strong two decades on. Graham Ennis & Mark O'Brien report

When Skies Are Grey started in 1988, during that first heady rush of the fanzine boom. The aim, very simply, was to give supporters a platform. To this day, although the appearance of the mag has changed radically – we threw away the Pritt Stick years ago – that ethos has never changed. The fanzine and, for that matter, our website exist to let Evertonians have their say on about pretty much anything they like.

Have Roman's billions bought Chelsea millions of fans? It depends what you mean by "fan", as a sceptical Adam Powley explains while calculatng which are our best-supported clubs

Of all the many eyebrow-raising comments Chelsea’s chief executive Peter Kenyon has made in his eventful career as a football mover and shaker, one of his more surprising claims barely caused a ripple. Last spring, when welcoming Chelsea’s new sponsorship deal with Samsung, Kenyon proclaimed: “In the last 12 months, our domestic fan base has increased by 300 per cent to 2.9 million.”

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