Though summer has returned, it will be a long time before we can get back to enjoying Football the way we would like to. But hey, at least we can go out and enjoy a nice pint again! We at FBTG did the next best thing and sat down with Andrew of 80 Days Bier Markt in Hull for a couple of imported Pilsners and good chat about all things Football culture. Cheers.
Could you please introduce yourself?
I’m Andrew Murphy. I own 80 Days Bier Markt in Paragon Arcade and 80 Days Bier House on Princes’ Ave located in Hull.
What is your involvement in Football?
I love the game, but I am more interested in Football Culture. I like learning about what drives people to support their team, and I like intense Football culture. I identify primarily as an Ajax supporter. It’s so different to the Football that I was used to seeing, going to Boothferry Park with my family. It just felt so different; “this was Football untamed”. It was pure passion from fans. That’s what started my love for Football and Football culture. I don’t really go to Football much in England because it’s dull. The product you’re watching on the pitch can be fantastic, but if you’re just sat there in silence, there’s very little fun in being there. Just this past weekend gone Man City played Tottenham; when Lucas Moura came on and scored, there was a social media video of the Tottenham fans. The celebration was on par with finding some cheap curtain material. It was people who, you get the feeling, are very new to Football, whereas the “real” supporters are down the local, screaming at the TV. I think we’re lacking something in this country.
Is this something that should be condoned or celebrated? Do think there is merit in some form of elitist argument that “the real fans are this or that”?
I don’t get into an argument of who’s a real fan and who isn’t. If you’ve got the money to go to a glamour tie like Man City – Spurs at the Etihad, great. If someone offered me a ticket for that, I’d bite their hand off. But I’d like to see more passion in the stands. Sometimes the product on the pitch is what people are primarily bothered about and they’re not really feeling that connection to a club. I think that’s what we’re seeing now. Premier League tickets are expensive and it’s a certain type of person who can afford them. To be earning the type of money to watch the Premier League, you’re going to have to have a pretty good job, so that’ll be your focus. I don’t think it’s necessarily a good or bad thing. I just think [it’s] the way the sport has gone in Britain specifically.
So why would that not be the case in for example Germany?
It’s a lot cheaper to get into a ground. Even a small fixture will sell out pretty easily in Germany, so I think it’s retained its working class core. Even a club like RB Leipzig isn’t attracting a hooray Henry kind of fan. There’s still a proper core fan base there. You can still identify with your club, and that club is still a major part of that community.
There seems to be a kind of social contract that exists between ultras on one side and then your family of four in the family block [on the other]. Would you agree?
I do agree with that, yeah. But I often find there is an admiration for the ultras. Without them I think a lot of Football clubs would be really lacking. I think non-ultra fans also quite often believe that. There is that thing of “how far does the ultras’ power go?” Dynamo Zagreb – it’s practically theirs! Would you ever want to be the president of Dynamo Zagreb? If they’re not happy, maybe the club chairman should get knock on the door like “what are you doing?” Sometimes this actually is a good thing and I think normal fans identify with that as well. Quite often, your man in the family stand at the AmsterdamArena is still singing the songs that the ultras in the F Side are directing him to sing, so therefore I think there is an admiration for them. I just find their culture fascinating, but this isn’t something you do for an easy life. This is intense! It can’t be easy breathing in all that pyrotechnic smoke all the time. I honestly don’t look upon it as something you’d take lightly. I think it is something that calls to you.
What are the main differences between a European style of support and a British style of support?
I often find [European support] doesn’t involve an official replica shirt. It involves a lot of homemade merchandise. I love it in Germany. You see sleeveless denims covered in patches. Fucking wonderful. The St Pauli Jolly Roger literally comes from a guy who bought a skull and crossbones flag on his way to the ground. It had nothing to do with St Pauli but he thought “I’ll take that today”. That’s something we don’t have. Merchandising is huge. When I see a German Football ground, it’s covered, every bit of space is covered, with flags. If I compare that to, say, The Emirates, where there are these fake-looking flags saying “Tel Aviv Gunners”, it kind of dawned on me. Every time I see The Emirates on TV or when I was there, they never change. This isn’t nowt to do with the supporters. The club has put them there to make it look like there is a bit more passion. But it’s just very forced, quite fake looking.
So Germans produce their own fan merchandise and clothing and don’t invest so much in team merchandise?
[Pauses] I think it comes from a more organic place. I mean don’t get me wrong, someone’s still got to make shirts. But when I see the German model, it’s not covered in that. In Germany, it just doesn’t seem to be as important as it is to us. I think that’s what I am trying to say. When you look in the Premier League who’s making the kits, it is predominantly Nike and Adidas. Now, you go over to Serie A, you have some really quite small sports companies, and in Spain as well I think. There are some really small companies out there making Football gear. Adidas and Nike wanna make Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal because the market is huge for merchandise sales. I think this is one of the big reasons why every now and again you will see an unheard of Asian player sign a contract with the likes of Man U. Right the end of Ferguson’s reign, they had a Chinese striker. I don’t think he ever even made the bench. But the cynic in me just thought “that’s for shirt sales. That’s a local boy that’s going to turn shirt sales in China up through the fucking roof”.
I am all for the world watching Football from anywhere. But we’re appealing to rich people in China as much as we’re appealing to working class British fans. Now, there’s nowt wrong with that. But I think that’s where maybe that passion in British Football is leaving. It’s not just about them anymore. As much as it’s about the guy that lives five minutes’ walk from the ground as it is the guy who lives ten thousand miles away from the ground.
A lot of people say that top down influences are the reason why we don’t see the same exciting atmospheres in the UK as we do elsewhere. I hear that argument, but I don’t think it fully explains what we’re seeing in the UK….
When you look at the national team go abroad, you do see a kind of bastardisation of the ultra culture. I always say it’s a kind of “nuts magazine with legs”. You can tell that these people don’t really have a patriotic bone in their body until they go to Portugal on the piss and go see England play. Whenever I see the national team away, the ground will be covered in flags. And you do hear constant singing. We do have it to an extent. It’s just that England fans abroad is not something I like to identify with [laughs]. I think Britain is a country that is very different to the majority of especially Europe. It’s that wanting to reject that foreign influence. But then I think I’m right in thinking that a big part of the casuals culture came out of Liverpool qualifying for the European cup, constantly having to go to Italy and going on the thieve, knicking Kappa tracksuits and Lacoste jumpers [laughs]. So how wholesomely British is this supporter culture? I’d argue that it isn’t really. It’s very much come from a Brits abroad perspective.
When you see English teams abroad, going to watch Football in another country is a bit like the same approach to going on a stag do; “we’re away from home and we’re going to go feral”. In our bar there’s a bunch of Hull City guys who pretty much go to every England home and away game. These guys were at Charleroi, the infamous Euro 2000 England – Germany where it was just plastic chairs flying everywhere. He said to me journalists found a pissed up young lad [and said]; “here mate. 500 euros there. Throw that chair in that bar”. Now I don’t know if I believe that or not, but it’s conceivable. Every time there is a world cup or a Euro or even a final involving a British team (Champions League, Europa League), it’s almost like “our plucky boys are going abroad and it’s the end of the world”. If you put a scary story about “our brave boys going away to this foreign land to play Football”, you know it’s going to sell a lot of papers.
How do you see the British and or English Football culture developing in the next ten years?
I think we’ll see more and more ultra culture, but on a lower level. I don’t imagine we’ll see it grow in the higher echelons of Football, but more and more British people find it fascinating. So therefore I can see it coming in more and more but below Championship level. I think it lends itself to an older style stadium where stewarding isn’t as fierce. We’ll still see it at League Two, Conference and lower leagues. It seems to be there to an extent anyway and I think that’ll grow and keep growing.
What do you make of the term “Football polygamy”, referring to being a fan of multiple clubs?
Coming from a place where I’ve never really identified with the local club…. I’m by no means a Hull City fan. When they do well, I’m relatively happy. However, I think when you’re someone in a Football mad country whose main team is a foreign team, being a Football polygamist comes a bit easier. It’s not easy being an Ajax supporter in Hull. That’s not an easy feat by any means. There is a kind of feeling that “you’re trying to look elitist or you’re trying to look cool” or whatever. I don’t know what’s really cool about supporting Europe’s biggest feeder club [laughs]. So there’s that, and these are the people who say “we’re going to Madrid” when Liverpool beat Barcelona, and I’m like “fuck off – you haven’t even been to Anfield!” I have an excuse for not going to see my team every week! So Football polygamy is something I’m actually okay with.
I think there’s also the fact that I’m actually a bit of a lefty, and I have no qualm with having admirations and soft spots that I can identify with politically. So that is St Pauli, Livorno, Rayo Vallecano, Panathinaikos. It’s a contradiction but I do have a soft spot for Red Star Belgrade – I just love the intensity of that club.
Even on an international level, I love the Low Lands (Belgium and Holland). I love going to them. There’s a part of me, an England thing – I love that euphoria when they’re doing well in a tournament. You can’t help but go along with that. The last World Cup is a perfect example, it was boiling hot all summer, it was brilliant and, unlike most England teams, they were actually likeable! So there was a certain aspect of romance there. It wasn’t just a team of superstars – and you couldn’t help but go along with it. But ultimately when England got knocked out by Croatia in that semi-final, you couldn’t be upset by that. Ultimately you can’t get annoyed by that. You can’t be that typically English thing on this one. We were just beaten by an incredible Croatian squad who grew into that tournament. So sit me in front of two teams playing Football. For that ninety minutes, I will become an avid fan of one of them.
Anybody in Hull and East Yorkshire looking for a place to stock up on some fine ales from around the world should get themselves down to 80 Days Bier Markt, located in the Paragon Arcade between Paragon Station and Victoria Square. And if you’re something of a newbie to the world of artisan beer, I am sure Andrew himself will be more than willing to help point you in the right direction with some delightful recommendations.