Fans are an absolutely vital part of Premier League football. The players and coaches may provide the skill and artistry that we all admire, but central to the atmosphere and the spectacle are the supporters in the ground, generating the crucial noise, colour and intensity that brings home to the world just how important the game is.
The Football Supporters’ Federation exists to make sure that the contribution of these supporters, our members, is appreciated, valued and respected. Behind every packed ground and white-hot atmosphere lies a huge commitment of time, energy and, yes, money to provide physical and vocal backing to our team.
Away fans in particular regularly make long journeys at often anti-social times just to make sure we’ll be there, and experience tells us that away fans make a massively important contribution, out of all proportion to our numbers, to the passionate and tribal nature of the game. That’s what lies behind our Away Fans Matter campaign, and we were delighted when the Premier League clubs all agreed to cap away ticket prices at a maximum of £30.
We are very pleased that Premier League crowds increasingly reflect the diversity of the communities in which the clubs are rooted. Football has to welcome everyone, of every age, ability, gender, race, faith, or sexual orientation. Our Fans For Diversity campaign – backed by the Premier League – is a core part of our work, promoting in practice the central idea that our football tribes are open and welcoming to everyone who shares our passion.
Football fans aren’t passive observers of what happens on the pitch; we’re part of the whole event. We can generate enough noise and intensity to change the course of a game, to motivate and inspire our team and lift them to even higher achievements. We share the frustrations and disappointment – anger, even – when things don’t go our way, and of course not every team can win. And we do all this with passion, commitment, and often with a great deal of wit and humour, making a football ground the greatest place to be.
As with everything in life though, there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed, and most of us know almost instinctively where that is. Tribalism and rivalry don’t justify hatred and abuse; it’s entirely possible to be partisan and fiercely competitive in our desire for victory while remaining sporting, respectful and good-humoured towards our opponents and their fans.
Recent events have suggested that we still have some individuals who cross that line – and they’re not welcome in our grounds. Racist, homophobic or other forms of discriminatory abuse are simply not acceptable; we’d urge our fellow fans not to cross that line, and to report those who do so that they no longer blight the game. They’re not representative of us.
Let’s continue to celebrate the commitment of football fans, and the brilliant atmosphere we can generate. Keep the passion; lose the poison.
Kevin Miles – chief executive, The Football Supporters’ Federation.
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