A Facebook article caught my eye last week; the ‘Fortuna Blues’ were celebrating their 10th anniversary with a trip to see Ipswich Town host Preston North End. This branch of Ipswich Town’s supporters club was founded by Fortuna Düsseldorf fans wanting to support the team affiliated with theirs. The topic of ‘friendships’ between clubs seems to be growing traction in the UK at the moment so I thought I’d investigate further.
The group have a tidy Facebook page with over 600 members from both cities. It lists previous visits of both sets of fans to matches, as well as pictures from these events. It seems the relationship between the two clubs is going from strength to strength, having finally played against each other in a pre-season friendly and the two clubs even allowing half-half scarves to be produced commercially. Though the initial reason why the two sets of supporters are choosing to associate with one another is a bit wishy-washy (in my opinion), the work the fans are doing seems dedicated and genuine, and fans of both clubs are clearly enjoying the experience!
These cross-border friendships are a great vehicle for finding ways to freshen up support and get new football experiences and I want to commemorate Ipswich Town and Fortuna Düsseldorf supporters on their mutual efforts to make their friendship work. Fans of English clubs need to start looking at how German fan groups are organising themselves and supporting their team, and equally German fans need to understand and appreciate the forces that exist in the British sport that are restricting fan activity. These friendships are the perfect vehicle for this.