In his latest column for the Fancast, Dean Mears ponders who is responsible for creating an atmosphere at football games?
It was halfway through the first half of Chelsea’s 0-0 draw with Everton that David Luiz gestured to the home fans to stop moaning and get behind the team. The boos had actually been aimed at Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson, who had come back into the pitch after a rather nasty tackle from Jorginho.
Luiz, however, was unaware of this and felt the boos were being aimed at a rather lifeless Chelsea performance thus far. Everton’s stifling game plan had nullified Chelsea’s passing game and in turn had slowed the game down as Chelsea’s defence couldn’t find a pass out to midfield. And the atmosphere reflected the performance. At times it was silent. So much so you could hear the players on the pitch.
Luiz’s reaction sparked much debate on Twitter and was the topic discussed on the following Monday’s Chelsea Fancast. Is it the fan’s responsibility to create an atmosphere or is it down to the players to put on a show?
Since the birth of the Premier League and the rise of televised matches, there’s been a shift change in the opinion. Football is much more than just a game; it’s an entertainment business. That entertainment has enabled the Premier League to sell the rights to games for billions of pounds around the world.
In that sense, footballers are more than just footballers; they are entertainers. This is why they get paid so handsomely for it. The best teams earn the most money, and the best players get paid the most money. Tourists travel thousands of miles to come and watch their favourite teams and players.
They’re coming to be entertained. They haven’t paid lots of money to come and watch Luiz struggle to make a five-yard pass. If you paid to watch a pop star and they sang out of tune or just mimed, would the crowd have the same reaction?
However, those who grew up without the Premier League, in a time when football was just football, have a different perspective. That the home fans are there to support and that you show the same level of support whether the football is good, bad or ugly. And those fans who’ve been going for years have seen an ugly Chelsea unlike the younger fans of today could ever imagine.
Ideally, this would be the case; if the ground had a dedicated area for those wanting to create an atmosphere and stand for 90 minutes, they can do that. Against Everton, I stood in the Matthew Harding Lower, and at times I could hear a man sneeze from the East Upper. But it was only so quiet because of what was happening on the pitch.
Of course, it didn’t help it was a 2pm Sunday lunchtime kick off. Most people would just be waking up before a roast dinner usually. Less time for a pre-match beer means a more subdued atmosphere. However, had Chelsea been all over Everton and taken a few of their chances, the ground would have been buzzing.
It’s a sign of the times. People are paying to be entertained. And as much as Luiz wants the crowd to be a “12th man” but they’ll only perform as well as the other 11 on the pitch. That’s why away support is so different, fans are travelling for the craic and to support the team. Nine times out of ten away supporters will out-sing the home support despite lacking in numbers. They’re having their day out regardless of the scoreline or performance. It’s not the same at home.
When you go to a nightclub you dance regardless of the record being played. At home, you go to bed. It’s easy to see the merits of both arguments. Yes, supporters are supposed to support the team no matter what. But supporters also pay a lot of money and should be expecting some form of entertainment in return. I guess age will be a telling factor on what side of the debate you sit.
What are your thoughts? Let us know!
Written by Dean Mears – @DeanMears