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Football fans kick off new season with demands for change

Thu 11th Aug 2016 | Football Governance

As the new Premier League season is about to kick off, a nationally representative survey of 1000 sports fans warns that many British football supporters feel taken for granted by their clubs.

The firm behind the report - sports marketing agency Dark Horses - says the authorities should take this as a warning that they need to work harder to earn their fans' devotion and custom.

Key complaints included charging too much for tickets (80%), tinkering with team badges and colours (62%), changing the kit too often (59%) and rescheduling fixtures to accommodate TV (58%). Overall, 65% of fans felt that clubs took them for granted and only 25% that clubs understood supporters.

The findings are worrying, since they also show that modern fans have far more competing demands on their time, money and loyalty than previous generations. 80% of the respondents in the study reported that football was just one of many interests in their life, while only 14% felt their lives revolved around the game. Most also enjoyed watching other sports (95%) or football from leagues beyond the UK (57%) while only 16% claimed to go to all their team's home matches.  As for Bill Shankly's famous claim that football is more important than life and death? Only 10% of modern fans agreed.

Simon Dent, founder of Dark Horses, said: "These figures show that, despite the robust financial health of the game in this country, fans' loyalty can't be assumed. The best clubs know this and are using creative ways to keep and grow their fanbases but many others could do better."

Last season, fans at Liverpool, Manchester City ad Manchester United all staged protests over ticket prices, while Hull supporters complained about a new membership scheme and Birmingham City and Leeds United followers rallied against alleged mistreatment by the police.  Even Euro 2016 wasn't immune from the fans' ire, with thousands of Northern Irish fans signing a petition against their side's new strip.

Image: Action Images via Reuters / Craig Brough

Posted by: Kev Howland 

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