Ultra lifestyle Social Media pages such as “Ultras World” share images and stories from fanatics around the world, the best tifos and pyro shows spreading globally. But when these Social Media pages share images or stories from games in England, they tend to result in lists of comments criticising the modern English stadium atmospheres. “RIP England” and the like. Followers from Casablanca to Java are simply not seeing choreos, pyrotechnic use, custom flags and in-stadium clashes, what they believe characterise good atmosphere, in England. The simple conclusion is that England doesn’t have fanatics and atmosphere any more. FBTG openly acknowledges that English stadia lack the level of atmosphere they used to have, but to simply claim that they do not see exciting atmospheres at all nowadays is bollocks.
It’s not that English grounds lack atmosphere. They simply have their own style of support, their own Football culture. English support is less hierarchical and structured than the Continental Ultra Model, and as a consequence large scale choreographies are unachievable, but the chanting is far more spontaneous and humorous. However, unlike the Italian focus on visual aspects of support (pyro and flags) and the Slavic focus on discipline among fans (uniform behaviour i.e. “The Poznan”), English Football culture does not lend itself well to Social Media. It’s difficult to capture the impact of 10,000 Yorkshiremen informing Scousers that their sisters gave them Chlamydia over Instagram, but a beautiful and artistic choreography in Rome or Turin doesn’t lose any of its appeal on your Smartphone screen.
Social Media pages are always more orientated toward image sharing as opposed to text-based media
(take it from us; it can be frustrating to see one of our simple image-based posts generate more likes and traffic than a deep thousand word cultural analysis that takes hours to write! But that is the nature of Social Media).
Because of this, the Ultra Model has spread across the world more than the English fan culture has. This is one of the key effects of Social Media on Football culture, and one that we believe few people have acknowledged before us. The thing is, the Ultra Model works well for the major supporter groups that have been doing it for years. CSKA Sofia, St Etienne, Dynamo Dresden, Legia Warszawa. They have enough people knowing what to do to make it work well. But smaller teams and newer fanatic groups are unanimously copying the Ultra Model and trying to internalise its behaviour and customs, without it being anywhere near as impressive. Trust us, it becomes repetitive watching the same customs and behaviour everywhere you go.
The Story of Globalisation is the Story of Homogenisation. The same is true in Football.
We around the world are increasingly eating the same food, dancing to the same music, speaking the same language, wearing the same clothes, buying the same gadgets, drinking the same beer, playing the same sports, watching the same shows. While this does have some benefits, the death of distinct and different cultures is a tragedy and something to fight against. The same is also true on the terrace. Fan groups and nationalities with their own Football culture and traditions should undergo all necessary measures to protect them and fight increasing homogenisation across the Football World.
There is one takeaway from this thought-experiment-post, and it is exclusively for the English. England is one of the few remaining countries where fans own a unique, distinguished and established Football culture. As fans worldwide continue to use Social Media to take inspiration from each other, they will slowly all become indistinct. A game in Ukraine will feel like a game in China, which will feel like a game in the USA. It may be tempting for young English fans in the face of criticism coming from fans in other countries across Social Media to try and mold English fan culture around the Ultra Model. But doing that would jeapordise the one highest value of being a Football fan; tradition.
We implore you to protect English Football culture as much as possible. Stand and sing for every second of every game and revel in the fact that nowhere else in the world enjoys as much terrace humour as where you live. In doing so, you will help fight the inevitable death of cultures at the hands of globalisation with Social Media as the catalyst. Stick with tradition. Don’t sell out for the sake of a few likes on IG.
p.s. we were careful to use the term “English” and not “British” in this post, as we see many Scottish fan groups slowly taking influence from both cultural models discussed above. We wanted to avoid confusion and focus on England instead of Britain as a whole.
p.p.s many English fans reading this will simply use it as further evidence to feed the narrative “we are different from Europe”. We at FBTG would like to be explicitly clear that we do not agree with this sentiment.
11 thoughts on “Fighting Terrace Homogeneity”
Excellent piece, mate!
I have yet to experience a match in England, but I’ve heard from some English friends that non-league is the way to go now if you want to experience that legendary atmosphere that made the country famous. I did, however, experience what I was told is somewhat comparable in terms of atmosphere, and that’d be the North Belfast Derby last year on Boxing Day. The Cliftonville fans were not enthusiastic about European-style Ultra culture either, proudly telling me that this does not exist in Northern Ireland or the Isles for that matter (with a few counted exceptions).
Moreover, they seemed to take pride in the fact that their support consisted of “uncoordinated verbal abuse” against the opposing players. It was grand: I couldn’t think of half as many ways to combine mental retardation, incest, and genitalia as the average Northern Irish supporter. But yeah, like you pointed out, this kind of support is not Instagram-friendly—though that does not mean it’s not valuable.
Actually, I think it’s rather unfortunate that modern European Ultra culture is becoming (or has already become) the global standard when it comes to support. While I myself like pyro shows and shit as much as any other fan, I don’t reckon that that is an integral part of football culture. There was football culture before flares. And don’t even get me started on fucking balaclavas and all that kind of stuff.
Luckily, there’s one particular region with a very rich football culture that went unmentioned here. One which luckily has not seen itself influenced by this modern phenomenon: Latin America. European style Ultra support is seen as flat and ridiculous in Latin America, where supporters are both loud and cheerful but are also ready to fight whenever. Latin American football culture is so strong all over the continent, from Mexico to Argentina, that it’s basically immune to the effects of Instagram. It’s rather fans in countries where football culture is not as established as in Latin America that are more susceptible to the spread of modern football culture.
Looking forward to your next piece!
Greetings from Hamburg,
Hey Seb, thanks for the comment! Yes, we deliberately avoided talking about Latin American Football culture simple because none of us have any first hand experience of games there. I can imagine that Northern Irish fans do behave similarly to British Football fans, but did you sense a difference between Royalists and Republicans on the terraces? Would be an interesting topic to explore…..
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Contrary to what I expected before going to the match, I did not. I decided to check out the North Belfast Derby because Cliftonville is the only club in the NI Premiership with a Republican/Nationalist following, and I was curious to see whether the sectarianism of the Old Firm would rear its ugly head in Belfast too. But it didn’t! Fans dislike each other, that’s for sure, but my theory is that supporters in Northern Ireland are so fed up with hatred and violence that they’d rather keep all that out of the only place in the city where they are not surrounded by the history of the conflict. Lots of things to be bitter and frustrated about in Northern Ireland, and a visit to the stadium seemed to be almost therapeutic to most attendants. For a full account please check out: https://betweendistances.com/2017/02/26/northbelfastderby/
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Couldn’t agree more, mate. To be honest, I find few things more ridiculous than a bloke standing with his back to the game shouting into a little megaphone to tell other people what to shout. And then applauding himself when they do it. One of the reasons I adopted Dynamo when I lived in Moscow was the fact that on my first visit (a dreadful 0-0 draw in miserable weather at a crappy stadium) I fell in with a bunch of old codgers whose stock response to everything was mockery and derision. Even without understanding more than one word in 10, it felt like being back at Roker Park. Gallows humour, a team living down to low expectations, all that kind of thing. Compared with Lokomotiv, where everything was time-tabled and bloke with a megaphone choreographed the whole show (without, apparently, watching a second of actual football), this was my kind of game.
For me, the big difference between English fan culture and others is that in England, the crowd reacts to what is happening on the pitch. Or anywhere else within view. So a humdrum game can be transformed by an incident that gets the crowd going (or laughing, or both). There doesn’t seem to be the same sense of entitlement either: I can’t really imagine a group of Sunderland fans, however committed, turning up at training to threaten and abuse the players (and god knows, our donkeys deserve it). I think (hope) it’s true of most clubs – fans would just be embarrassed to carry on like that.
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Thanks for your comment Andy. You are spot on with this; the notion of “don’t take yourself too seriously” is very British and one that pervades British society remarkably frequently, this being a great example. And you are right about the intimidation that the privileged Ultras seem to feel is necessary; I think British strong regard for rule of law and trust in public institutions is not conducive to such behaviour…. I personally though am one of those guys who cares more about the atmosphere than the sport, so I totally get why these guys spend the 90mins not watching just trying to rile up fellow supporters. Going away to lose 4-0 is fine if we get one over on the Scousers / Brummies / Cockneys etc. Concentrating on the atmosphere and making that your priority is effectively insurance against a shit game- you can still make sure you enjoy the day. Again, we always want to be objective and fair, so thanks for sharing your opinion.