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The gap between players and fans

by The Supercoach on Apr 16, 2012

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It looks very much like the traditional relationship between the fans and the players is gone, maybe forever.

With increasing player wages, some footballers are earning in a week what it takes some fans five years to earn. With that sort of difference in pay, it’s impossible for the fans and players to understand the world of the other.

How can a player, who makes $100,000 a week, ever begin to understand the day to day life of a fan who makes $50,000 a year? By the same token, how can a fan even begin to understand the pressures faced by the modern footballing superstar, who has to live behind closed doors to avoid media pressure and could lose their entire livelihood in a single challenge?

Simple answer, they can’t.

What makes it even harder for the average fan to understand and empathise with the average player at their favourite club is the changing laws on working visas and the movement of labour across borders. This movement of labour means that the movement of football players away from the country of their birth or upbringing is becoming more and more prevalent. As a result, players are becoming less and less likely to end up playing for their local club, meaning that the fans have less local boys in their favourite team.

Of course I am not suggesting that the fans don’t take to foreign players, the fans do appreciate and love any player that gives 100% for the club or have something special about them, regardless of their nationality. Perfect examples of this are Gianfranco Zola in Chelsea and Lionel Messi in Barcelona. That said, the fans do seem to hold a special place in their hearts for the local boys. They grew up in the area, they supported the club, they truly are 'one of them.'

This aligns with the increasing number of fans and fan clubs for teams popping up all over the world. Television deals have led to La Liga, the Premier League and other top flight competitions being beamed into households and pubs around the world.

This leads to an even bigger gap between the players and their fans, as there is no way that a Manchester United fan based in Beijing will see his favourite player when he ducks down to the supermarket to do his weekly shopping.

The funny thing is that while the gaps between the players and the fans continues to grow, both in terms of upbringing and lifestyle, there are a number of tools closing the gap.

While you can add players as a friend on Facebook, the best example is Twitter, which is effectively a direct line of communication to the player himself, unless the account is managed by a firm or assistant.

As an example, individual fans can write a message, or tweet a player and in theory, that player should receive it. He may even respond to it if he so pleases. This is something that was unprecedented 15 years ago and provides fans with a direct link to their favourite players.

But what does this all mean? Well at the same time, players have become both more and less accessible.

This has been good for some players, and bad for others. Some, like Emmanuel Frimpong, have managed to establish a cult following through the use of Twitter, while others, like Ravel Morrison, have landed themselves in hot water through their tweeting.