Live football matches (or soccer for you American readers) have been a huge part of my whole life. My Arsenal FC supporting dad was a semi-professional footballer in his heyday, and is now an assistant manager of a National League South club; my Southend United supporting boyfriend has a season ticket, and subscriptions to SKY and BT Sports; my brother is currently training for his coaching licences. As you can imagine, ‘football talk’ is a common occurrence in my family. Yes, I know… that might have sounded like a lot of gibberish to you.
I’m not here to talk tactics. I’m here to convince you to spend an afternoon supporting your local football team.
It gets you outside
It’s incredibly easy nowadays to find ourselves spending an entire weekend sat on a sofa in front of our laptops, with our phones next to us, and the TV on in the background. Our dependence on technology cannot be good for us. We need to start finding reasons, quality reasons, to leave the comfort (or prison) of our homes.
If you spend your Saturday watching live football, you’ll be outside, in the sun, breeze, or rain, for at least 90 minutes. That’s 90 minutes that you might have spent hiding in a stuffy living room.
Furthermore, very few football grounds offer on site parking, so you’ll likely find yourself walking from the car, train station, or home, to reach the stadium. What a brilliant opportunity to add to your step count for the week, breathe in the open air, and immerse yourself in your local area!
When you think of football teams, Premier League clubs like Arsenal FC, Manchester City, and Liverpool FC are probably the first that come to mind. However, spending a Saturday afternoon at the Emirates is not something we’re likely to get tickets for easily. Just below the Premier League is the Championship, where tickets are still costly and sparse.
By League One and Two, the availability for watching live football becomes a little more realistic. In Essex alone, there are roughly 49 clubs that play within the top eight levels of English football, many of which are in the lower levels of football.
What this means is your experience will be affordable, costing between £10 and £30 a ticket (in comparison to £80 tickets further up the tiers) and also quite intimate. Therefore, instead of being half a mile from the pitch, you might be able to stand almost on the touchline. Plus, all stadiums at these levels offer a concrete ground, at least some seating, and an indoor area where you can purchase drinks or use the loo.
It’s a social event
Humans, by nature, are social creatures. We crave interaction with other people, and are deeply affected by loneliness. By making your way to a ground on a Saturday afternoon, you join a bustling community of people, some you will likely never see again, and are accepted into the crowd. It’s akin to going to church every Sunday morning.
The atmosphere for lower league clubs are much more interesting than Premier League. When less people are packed into a stand, it means that individuals aren’t swallowed by the masses. They stand out – you can literally hear their passion. Some of the funniest sentences I have ever heard have been in the stands of a National League South club.
Just because live football is stereotypically a masculine activity, doesn’t mean women don’t go. I’ve seen multiple groups of women in heels take a seat in the stands. and no one says a word. Plus, when you’re with friends, anything can be fun!
You are directly supporting local people
How? You might think. Well, because football teams, especially at lower levels, are not guaranteed money makers for investors. What is more likely is that the team is bought by a local business owner. Someone who genuinely cares about the success and progress of the club.
Below him or her, the management, the players, and the ground staff are usually local people too. A small club like Aveley FC doesn’t have the funds to be able to buy players from Germany, or Croatia, so their players are from Essex, London, perhaps people who have moved to the area from other parts of the UK. My dad has only ever worked with teams in Essex and Hertfordshire.
Remember, for these players, it’s a part time job. Indeed, training at least twice a week and playing for your entertainment is a job! Don’t forget the people who operate the turnstiles, and burger bar. They need to pay their rent too. Your support directly impacts local people: your ticket contributes to their usually incredibly small wages.
So, next time you’re indoors on a clear, crisp Saturday afternoon with nothing to do, grab your coat and scarf. Head to your local football ground.