"You can change your wife, your politics, your religion, but never, never can you change your favourite football team," said Eric Cantona in an interview once.
Being a football fan and emotionally attaching yourself to one club is the reality for over one billion people.
With social media giving the fans more accessibility to the private lives and ongoings of clubs, players, agents and owners, you would think they would be more conscious of fans emotions and reactions.
Yet there seems to be a bigger disparity than ever before. Why is this?
We care, do you?
Fans are in a cycle of being regularly lied to. Arsenal fans didn't entertain the idea of changing grounds back in the mid-2000s when the board moved the club from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium.
The club retaliated by telling fans that the move was necessary to help them compete with the likes of Bayern Munich. Three consecutive 5-1 defeats to the Bavaria club and 3 straight years without Champions League football later, it is clear that the fans have been misled.
To top things off, Arsenal fans are being made to pay for the most expensive tickets in Europe while being told that the transfer budget to improve the squad for the new season is £40 million.
How a club as big as Arsenal have less to spend than teams who could only dream of achieving what Arsenal have in their history is a mystery to some.
The truth is that Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke simply cares more about his franchises in the United States than Arsenal. This leaves Arsenal fans having to accept what they see as lies from someone that does not share the same passion for the club that they do.
The fact that there is little they can do about it is where the main frustration comes from.
Sports Direct or Newcastle United FC?
Historically, Newcastle are one of Britain’s most famous and well-supported clubs and yet they are being taken advantage of. Owner Mike Ashley has run the club like someone that has no idea of what fan interests are, and quite frankly no idea of how to properly run a football club.
Earlier in the summer, Newcastle were in talks with an Arab firm with the interest of new ownership. As per Sky Sports, Dubai-based billionaire Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nehayan had an interest in completely transforming the club’s fortunes with spending similar to that of Manchester City. Newcastle fans briefly had a sense of optimism about their team again, believing that years of uncertainty and unrest were about to finally come to an end, and Newcastle fans could dare to dream again.
Fast forward a month later, and not even the most pessimistic of Newcastle fans would’ve envisaged the fortunes of their club taking such a huge downturn. Talks of new ownership have gone quiet, star strikers Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon have left and world-renowned manager Rafael Benitez has left for China because Mike Ashley could not match his ambitions.
Former-Sunderland manager Steve Bruce is now faced with the impossible task of restoring some joy back at St James’ Park. Single-handedly Mike Ashley has sucked the hope out of Newcastle fans who are quickly running out of reasons to be excited about the new season. Despite the club-record signing of Hoffenheim forward Joelinton, why are the feelings of so many allowed to be played with by a single person?
Solutions: Increased fan power
The pressure being applied on clubs is becoming louder and more effective due to social media, organised protests and boycotts. Done effectively this can make the club listen, because fans make up the most valuable stakeholder in professional sports. Arsenal fans showed their strongest hand towards the end of Arsene Wenger’s final season as manager at Arsenal with thousands of fans not showing up to games until he'd announced he was leaving the club.
Social media fan accounts and YouTube fan channels have gained popularity beyond their wildest dreams over the last five years. #AshleyOut, #GlazersOut and #WeCareDoYou have all trended worldwide on Twitter over the summer forcing clubs to come out and actually communicate with fans. It is now easy to express your feelings for the world to see and this gains momentum. Another example of fan complaint getting deserved recognition was when AFTV was publicly criticised by Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin after complaints from the channel about his form. Manchester United’s official club channel MUTV was forced to postpone their regular fan call-in show with Paddy Crerand because fan frustration was increasing at an uncontrollable pace. Fans are now finding various ways of getting their message across.
Dare to dream?
Will fans get what they always want? Probably not. It is hard for footballers to show same passion as you when they win the lottery every week regardless of what happens. This is the same with club owners who are only getting richer. As seen with clubs including Portsmouth, Rangers, Bolton and Bury, disregarding fan interests combined with bad ownership can go very wrong. Fans can only do so much, because in the end, all they have is the hope that their clubs will reciprocate their passion, and that is rare.