Football is a recreational activity millions of people enjoy worldwide, whether as players or spectators. The sport creates a sense of community and healthy rivalry, promoting togetherness and sportsmanship. With a rich history and a global reach football, the recreational activity has grown into a phenomenon that includes professional leagues such as the English premier league, international tournaments such as the world cup, and passionate fans. While football focuses on the players and their skills, fan participation is also a crucial aspect of the football experience. Positive fan energy, passion, and a sense of belonging can contribute to the overall positive impact on society. However, the negative impact of football fandom must also be considered, as football fans can exhibit violent, discriminative, and financially exploitative behaviour.
It is essential to investigate the negative effects of football fandom, including violence, hooliganism, and race and ethnic tensions (Spaaij, 2008). Furthermore, the financial aspect of football, including economic abuse and corruption, as argued by (Di Ronco & Lavorgna, 2015) in the Italian Serie A football, can lead to the exploitation of vulnerable individuals and communities. This essay explores the positives and negatives of football fandom as a recreational activity and thus argues that while it can foster community and a sense of identity, it also has its problems that must be addressed. By delving into these impacts, this essay sheds light on the complexity of football fan participation and stimulates discussion on how to promote its positives and mitigate its negatives.
Football has its advantages and disadvantages, which affect fan involvement, even though it can be a very enjoyable recreational activity for fans. Fan involvement creates a feeling of belonging, promotes community spirit, and encourages physical fitness, and it can also encourage harmful behaviours like hooliganism, racism, and aggression. So, a balance must be struck to promote football as a recreational activity while also addressing the negative effects of fan involvement.
Positive impacts of fan participation in football:
Social interaction and community building
Football fans form a community, and as a result, they engage in socialization. Football fandom plays a significant role in fostering a sense of belonging and identity, which is crucial for emotional well-being, as pointed out (Kossakowski & Besta 2018). Football games offer a platform that enables spectators to connect with the clubs they support. The communal experience of attending football games fosters joy and celebration, which can have a powerful and positive impact. Football fandom can bring together people from different backgrounds and opinions, fostering social interaction and community building. Fans can use their shared passion for football to contribute positively to their communities and bring about social change. Football teams and their fans have collaborated in the fight against poverty, homelessness, and inequality and even brought peace in war-torn countries, demonstrating how the community-building aspect of football fandom can transform lives and communities (Rookwood & Palmer, 2011).
Emotional well-being and stress relief
Football fans have been found to experience stress relief and emotional well-being. According to (Wills et al., 2023), while analyzing 1,234 champions league matches from 2009/10 to 2018/19 across 32 nations, football fans are generally happier and more satisfied than non-fans, suggesting that football fandom may have a positive effect on mental health. (Yenilmez et al., 2020) Argues that football has stress-reducing properties; hence physical exercise, such as that involved in playing and fans’ vigor in football, releases endorphins, which ultimately help reduce stress and anxiety. The authors also found that football fans can alleviate stress and anxiety simply by watching a game. One study participant stated, “When I watch football, I forget everything else. I can forget my problems and savor the moment
Increased physical activity and fitness
(Yenilmez et al., 2020) while examining the psychometric properties in the Turkish football argues that playing football recreationally has many benefits for both players and spectators’ well-being. The author goes on to argue that football is a physically demanding activity, and participating in football has been found to increase flexibility, power, endurance, and cardiovascular fitness. Football supporters as well can engage in this physical exercise and maintaining their physical fitness by doing things like ascending stadium steps, cheering and waving flags during games, and walking to and from the stadium.
Negative impacts of fan participation in football:
Aggressive and violent behavior
While Exploring the Bedouin Syndrome in the Football Fan Culture (Nepomuceno et al., 2022) noted that fan violence is a significant issue associated with football, which can have adverse effects on both individuals and society at large. Some fans may get violent and engage in acts of vandalism, which can lead to harm and destruction. Research has narrowed down to alcohol, drugs and anger as factors that contribute to fan violence. (Football hooliganism, 2017) is an article which depicts the consequences of fan violence and argues that violence from spectators can be long-lasting and affect society in various ways such as death of a young boy in 2019, in a football-related violence in brazil. It is very important to note that fan violence may not necessarily be driven by alcohol or drugs, but political tensions, economic disparities, and religious differences may also play a role in football violence.
Fanatical obsession and addiction
In the article “Cool football fever before it kills your relationship” by (Bakken, 2011) explore the love of football love and argues that it can evolve into fanaticism and hence addiction, with some fans spending excessive amounts of time and money on their team, causing interference with their daily lives. According to both (Bakken, 2011) and (Football hooliganism, 2017) football hooliganism is the best example where violent football fandom is depicted and always grows from obsession, and that fans who exhibit signs of addiction, such as obsessing over their team and overspending, can suffer from anxiety and depression if their supposedly supported team loses.
Negative impact on mental health and well-being
The journal written by (Pringle, 2004) clearly supports that football fandom can have negative impacts on mental health. The authors argue that while it can be a fun and social activity, it can also cause negative emotions and behaviors that can harm mental health. For instance, football fandom may increase stress and anxiety levels. According to research conducted by the University of Montreal, fans’ cortisol levels increase after a loss, leading to feelings of frustration, disappointment, and rage. Additionally, football fandom may lead to worry, obsessiveness, and addiction. The University of Duisburg-Essen found that passionate football fans are more likely to exhibit addictive behaviors such as neglecting duties or experiencing withdrawal symptoms when unable to watch games, which can negatively impact mental health and well-being. Moreover, football fandom can cause low self-esteem and social comparison. The University of Sussex found that football fans who closely identified with their team and lost experienced a significant drop in self-esteem, which can result in depression and worthlessness. Finally, football fandom can lead to violence. Research by Cardiff University found that domestic violence rose by 38% after Wales lost a football match, indicating that football fandom can lead to hurtful and violent behaviors.
It can be concluded that football is more than just a sport since that millions of people worldwide enjoy since it promotes community and teamwork. Spectators in any football match are very crucial since they bring out the best experience from the particular match they participate, and therefore, based on both arguments that football fandom has both positive and negative effects on people and society, it’s benefits outweigh the negatives not only to the players but also to the fans and society. Positive fan energy, enthusiasm, and a sense of belonging can boost social interaction, peace building, community growth, emotional well-being, stress reduction, and finally physical fitness. Football fans form a community that can promote good social change, community spirit, and physical activity.
Football games can be harmful, though. Participation by fans can lead to animosity, prejudice, and fan-on-fan violence. Fanatical fixation and addiction can harm relationships and mental health. Thus, promoting football as a recreational activity and addressing fan participation’s negative impacts must be balanced. By balancing them, this is possible. Football fans face violence, hooliganism, racial and ethnic tensions, money abuse, and corruption. Investigating both the good and negative aspects of football fan participation can spark discussion on how to support the positives and mitigate the negatives.
Football fans can improve their lives and societies. It’s crucial to balance fan involvement with sport’s negative effects. Football can unite diverse groups and promote unity, which can improve society. Thus, to build a better society, we must mitigate the negative effects of following a football club and capitalize on its benefits. “Football is a beautiful game,” said Pele. It makes folks happy and unites them.” Let’s keep sharing the word about how great football is and how it can unite and bring joy to people.
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Smith, J., & Nairn, A. With: Raffaello Rossi University of Bristol, Elliot Jones Demos, Chris Inskip University of Sussex.