When one cheers for a sports team regardless of any sport that they play, it seems safe to assume that fan loyalty for a sports team would be greater for those that are more successful as opposed to teams that are less successful. However, there is evidence that goes against that theory and it lies within fans of teams in the Premier League. There is evidence that suggests that fans have greater ties and loyalty to clubs that have a poor record of success over time. This is a theory that is definitely worth exploring. We will do so in this piece.
The loyalty of football fans to their team is reminiscent to a significant sense of belonging that individuals feel when they are in a group of like-minded individuals. This sense of identity is called identity fusion.
According to a study done by “The Conversation”, a conclusion was reached that fans in the Premier League had greater ties to clubs that had a poorer track record. These fans even considered their team like a family. Fans of more successful teams did not have ties that were as strong.
Amazingly, fans even said that they were willing to make an incredible sacrifice. In a hypothetical scenario, fans even said that they were willing to sacrifice their own lives in order to save other individuals that are fans of the team. This is a strong sign of the identity fusion that exists among some fans.
The question must be asked: How can a bond get between fans of a particular club get to be so strong? Also, how can a bond between fans of a team as well as a bond between fans and a club be so strong?
Over 10 years of research into club statistics to determine the most successful clubs in the league as well as the least successful clubs in the Premier Leaque.
The top 5 successful clubs that were selected are Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool while the least successful clubs were Crystal Palace, Sunderland, Hull, Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion.
The analysis of this report took into account the wide variation of the fan bases of the selected teams.
An online questionnaire was conducted among 750 fans. Important questions were asked. Fans were asked whether they felt they considered other fans like family. They were asked if they would jump in front of a train to save other fans who cheered for the same team.
They were also asked about the level of dissatisfaction that they’ve experienced overall.
In terms of fans that were most likely to sacrifice themselves for fellow fans, the Crystal Palace fan base are the ones that are the most likely to sacrifice their lives for their fellow fans. On the other hand, the fans of the more successful Arsenal football club were surveyed as the least likely fan base to perform the same sacrifice.
Overall, the report concluded that the fans with the greatest social bonds were fans of Hull. The club with fans that had the least social bonds were fans of Chelsea football club.
The theory that fans of less successful clubs have greater bonds makes sense when one considers that less successful clubs have a greater chance of being relegated. Research has shown that devastating moments experienced such as relegation actually serve to bring fans together. These moments serve to tie fans together based on the fact that fans can reflect on these experiences together.
On the other hand, the concept of cognitive dissonance theory insinuates that it is easier for fans emotionally to go through the tough times with their club. It is more stressful for fans to turn around and give up on the club that they’ve loved for so long.