Look away now

Ouch.  Excellent piece on the future of football at WSC.

If you think it’s barely possible for our already revenue-obsessed clubs to exploit fans further, then you weren’t at FedEx Field just outside Washington DC on Saturday night to watch Barcelona play Man Utd in yet another US summer exhibition. I’ve seen the future of top-level club football, and it’s worse than you might ever have imagined.

If the spectators at this lukewarm spectacle were any indication, top-level clubs may be set to take the concept of Football Tourism to a whole new level. First, almost everyone will be wearing expensive replica shirts, complete with player names and numbers printed on the back, while clutching a plastic bag of merchandise they fought through swarms to purchase from multiple undermanned souvenir outlets. Second, they will not mind being 30 minutes late for the game, because it’s the occasion that counts, not the game itself. By the same token, they are happy to turn their backs on the pitch in order to have themselves photographed with the action in the background, and screw anyone whose vision of the game is blocked.

18 thoughts on “Look away now

    1. +1 as the kids say. I don’t think there was a serious football fan in the audience that day (I wasn’t there; were you Timmy?). And I don’t really see the difference between this and when clueless Brits jam Wembley for the spectacle of two NFL teams clobbering each other. I’m sure there are some serious “American Football” fans in the audience but most are there for the spectacle and the merchandise. I’m sure plenty arrive late as well.

      1. Oh lord no. I was at a beach ultimate tournament in Wildwood, NJ.

        But I haven’t gone to a single one of these overpriced scrimmages since I’ve been down here.

        1. timmy, i too was at wildwood, in the 3-1 helios division. we lost our game for 9th place to a bunch of baltimore players ironically (some from sidecar, some from a few other places)

          small world!

  1. I wouldn’t worry too much about this. From the obsession with the latest replica shirts and all the merchandise you can handle, to the late arrival because the sport is merely a sideshow to a day out, this is very much an American phenomenon and not one easily replicable elsewhere.

    On the spending: the various economic crises of the past couple of decades has proven one thing to the whole world: only the Americans continue to shop till they drop no matter the health of the economy. It’s why everyone, in every thing (music, sport, business), is desperate to crack the American market.

    On the view of sport: the American way is actually quite refreshing. Sport in America for most seems to be a way to wind down and spend some time with family and friends. I like it that way, except where the day out become disneyfied (e.g. the Mets), and think it would be nice if football stopped being so bloody serious. Some teams in the States do it really nicely. It is a pleasure, for example, to go watch the Orioles play despite the state of the team. They have a beautiful stadium which, while new, has a nice sense of history and tradition, some good food and beer at reasonable prices and don’t go over-board with the kids stuff (re. load noises and bright flashy lights). All-in-all, this makes a game a nice day out (sub-cricket, but still good value).

    Frankly, I see Fulham’s best chance of growing revenue in generating that kind of an atmosphere while keeping the football nice to watch.

    1. And I should add, I don’t think that would be the ruination of the game or the club. I think it would be fitting with its history and tradition (or at least how I have always perceived it) so long as we stay as far away from Disney as possible.

    2. Rjbiii–was unaware (or forgot) you were a Marylander! Let me know next time you go to an O’s game. Can’t beat spending $10 and sitting (practically) wherever you want, and bringing in your own food.

      Even if the team is hopelessly terrible.

      [timmyintransit at gmail dot com]

      1. Not a Marylander (unfortunately as I love Baltimore). I’ve been living in DC for a couple years. Will definitely let you know when I’m next up for a game. Most likely sometime soon. Renovating a house down here and the missus is absolutely obsessed with that reclaim place in Baltimore, Second Chance.

      1. I was born and raised in England to a New York father who was a Mets fan, so have supported them off-and-on for most of my life. When I moved to the States I lived the first five years in New York and was a Mets season ticket holder. I have traveled to many a baseball stadium around the country and can honestly say, outside of some minor league parks, the Mets are the absolute worst in terms of over Disneyfing the baseball experience. The noise literally never stops, to the extent that you can’t hear the fans except for the shrieks of the kids its designed for. As a long-time Mets fan, I’m much happier now that I live in DC and can watch them when they come to town or on my mlb.tv internet package.

      1. Actually the Asian experience very much highlights the point. During the Asian financial crisis and, over a longer period of time, since the Japanese economy stalled, spending in the effected countries stopped. The Chinese may be shopping now, but I have absolutely no doubt that if there economy stalls, the spending will stop (as you’d expect). The Americans are the only nation in the world who will shop come what may. That’s the single biggest reason why the American economy is so central to the world’s economy. It’s not like the Euro-area, Japanese or Chinese economies can’t compete in terms of sheer size. The American consumer (and the associated debt) keeps the world going round. Crack the American market and you’re set.

  2. I went to a rugby sevens tournament at Twickenham last year. Free tickets through work. Anyway, the whole thing did my head in. Explosions, heeeeeeey baaaaaaby songs any time anyone did anything, it was nauseating. Let the sport speak for itself. I know they weren’t trying to appeal to me, and lots of kids had a good time, but even so: kids can have a good time without crap like that, too.

    1. Agree 100%. There is no need for the noise whatsoever. If you need kid-centered activities, you should have them. But somewhere away from the pitch and the stands. A place you can dump your kid if he/she’s not interested in the football, have them entertained (for a fee if necessary) and come back to them later. I’d also like to see an increase in the quality of the food on offer and in the quantity of areas to sit/stand and enjoy your food or a drink before and after the match. I’m all for the “match-day experience” as I think that is where Fulham could truly have its competitive advantage and, frankly, I’ve always wanted to spend more time at the ground hanging out before and after a game. When I was a kid, and attendances were in the 3000 range, I loved getting to the ground early, hanging out with my mates, eating a shitty burger and just generally messing about. With the added crowds these days and assigned seating, that’s just not possible. We need to find space for socializing.

  3. if only the number of fans would show up at dc united matches we might actually be able to thinking a new stadium is possible.

    i did want to go this match, but the more i thought about it, i don’t really like either team nor do i want to add money to their coffers. i was miffed i was unable to attend the dc v ajax match to get a glimpse of the team jol put together.

    i do hate some of this shirt culture. i wear my fulham kit to indoor matches and the young children laugh when they see it beause it doesn’t match their barca, manure, or spain shirts.

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