English Football Culture Interim
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Jan
30

Well we are back from London, but that does not mean that our blogs are done so I hope that a lot of people are still up for reading some. Today, I have something very special for you all. Chuck Culpepper, journalist for the LA Times and author of Bloody Confused was able to answer a few questions for me. His book I recommend for anyone who has read our blogs and has had an interest. He writes it as he has his own experience following English football.

The first question I presented was what made these fans so passionate about this sport. His response was as follows: “I have asked this many times and the usual answer concerns that it’s embedded in the bloodstream from so many generations. I’m not sure if this answers it completely, but it helps. A good many of these clubs formed in the late 19th century, so were in fifth and sixth generations supporting the same club. What baffles me somewhat is that this also is true of American baseball clubs, but you don’t see anything to match the passion in England. Boston might come closest. In England, though, it’s in the family for so long that it’s a way of life. It’s almost part of a person’s biological makeup, as if their little platelets carried the symbol and colors of the club involved”. This is something that we have discovered on our travel. History is so much a part of these clubs, and the history these clubs have is passed on in each family.

Next, being in school in Alabama, I had to ask about how the Alabama-Auburn rivalry compared to the passion the football fanatics showed in England. This is what he had to say, “I did mention Alabama and Auburn as that rivalry tends to come the closest to England while absolutely not matching it. Yankees-Red Sox and Florida-Florida State also come to mind. Rangers-Islanders, at one time. (I did an informal poll in 2004 outside Yankee Stadium before a playoff game with the Red Sox, and I asked fans which they would choose for the next three years: two New York titles and one Boston, or zero for both. Zero for both won by a mile.) Alabama-Auburn is similar to England in that there’s such consuming contempt for the other side. The wish that the other side will flop comes with a fervency almost equal to the wish that one’s own side will thrive. Still, what has taken place with, say, Liverpool and Manchester United, or Aston Villa and Birmingham, or Portsmouth and Southampton, on and on and on, carries a strain still noticeably deeper. I’m not sure why. I’ve wondered if it has something to do with the perpetually bleak weather, the survival of which I believe lends a toughness and a hardiness that helps deepen passions. I’ve wondered about the much-greater presence of beer. There’s far more creativity in the stands as games go along, thinking up chants, which further fuels the entertaining resentment. There’s more of a notion that the fans ARE (sorry for caps) the club, because a lot of these clubs at least started and sprouted from roots right out of the community rather than from any university. There’s more of a sense of neighborhoods and, in many rivalries, class status, which I realize also is a factor in Alabama-Auburn”. This is a very interesting point that he brings up. The fact that the fans themselves are so much more caught up in the action because the club has sprouted up from the community and people itself.

I couldn’t go through the questions without asking some advice for American sports fans. This is the advice that he gave, “The biggest one is that they should sing more. They don’t sing enough during games. And they should vary their barbs and chants more. For years and years, whenever there was some athlete with a scandal involving a car, fans would shake keys and find it creative long after it had ceased to be so. In England I get more of a sense of thinking on the go during games and trying to come up with new riffs and rips. The whole combination makes the stadiums so compelling. Then, there’s the other matter of sustaining noise. While certain American stadiums keep noise going (Tuscaloosa and Auburn do come to mind), American crowds simply don’t sustain noise throughout games as do English fans. For those various reasons, England leads in the all-important goose-bump division”.

And finally, Chuck gave some credit to the way sports leagues are run here in the US. “I think the salary-cap arrangements of the NFL and NBA, for example, are somewhat preferable to the English model of letting capitalism run wild and having the same clubs finish at the top year after year. I do like the structure the English version provides – i.e. if my club beats Manchester United anytime, I know it’s a big deal as there are no down years for Manchester United – but find it demoralizing that most clubs begin the season knowing they have absolutely no chance to win the league. This is where the American system becomes somewhat preferable, and some football scholars in England have noted this. It’s weird when you consider that England, working within a country that has the greater amount of “socialism,” has the runaway-capitalist league while the United States, which has fewer social programs, runs the socialist leagues with their built-in balance that enables an NFL fan, for one, to know that any year, his or her team might up and reach the Super Bowl”. But there was also some advice for American sports leagues that Mr. Culpepper could give, “Lessons learned from England could include the greater inclusion of fans, I’d say. Fan groups do tend to have more say – if not necessarily sway – at English clubs”.

A big thank you to Chuck, who may not know it, but was a major part of the inspiration for this trip. After reading his book, I was excited about going to England and learning as much as I could about this great culture and sport. I will be writing at least one more blog covering my experience so keep a lookout for that. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading.

Jan
26

Yes it is sad that our trip is winding down but what we have today is something I think will really interest you. As we wrote about earlier, we took a trip to Craven Cottage and got the contact information of Tommy Guthrie, Supporter Relations Manager for Fulham Football Club. Recently we were fortunate enough to have him answer some questions for us.

First he discussed what his responsibilities were within the club. Tommy is in charge of all fan inquires, either Fulham or otherwise. They, his team are always trying to make the fan experience as excellent and inclusive as possible saying: “We are always looking for new ways to interact with fans and have recently launched a Supporter Clinics initiative. This allows us to meet fans pre-match in an informal one-to-one setting and discuss any ideas they have or recent issues that may have arisen. We have a strong working relationship with key members of staff, such as the Ground Safety Officer or Stewarding Manager. In many respects we are the mediators between these decision makers at the club and the supporters. We ensure their feeback is properly considered and where positive changes can be made we work to introduce these and ensure that information is then fed back to supporters.”

Then we asked a question that we have discussed in our other interviews, but I thought it would be interesting to get his point of view on it as well. The question was concerning where support came from. He, like others have said, upbringing plays an enormous role in choosing your club. Whether it is location or family, how you are raised plays a great role in which club you support. However, he added Fulham has something to entice some potential fans. “As a Club, statistically we have one of the oldest fan bases in the League. As a consequence history the heritage is important to many of our fans and we must never lose sight of that when trying to take the Club forward. We are firmly established as a community club and this is definitely something that attracts a particular sort of fan to our team and club. “

Fulham, you might have noticed, is very proud of their history and where they come from historically.  Mr. Guthrie then gave a quick overview of the history of the club. “In short, I would argue that we are blessed with the most picturesque location for a football ground of any in the country, with a charming stretch of the River Thames on one side and a green park on the other. Until the arrival of football the site was essential greenfield, and in fact the stadium was built on the site of Anne Boleyns hunting grounds. The original ‘Cottage’ was a hunting lodge, constructed by the 6th Baron Craven at the spot where the centre circle can now be found. The stadium itself dates from 1894. An extensive refit was carried out by the prominent Scottish architect Archibald Leitch. The Johnny Haynes Stand and (Cottage) pavilion were his additions in 1905. That both are still in use today, over a century later, speaks much for the quality of the design.” As you can see, this ground is extraordinary. If you should ever have the opportunity to pay a visit, I highly recommend it. Just from our visit a while ago, it is easy to see why this place can draw new fans. Just standing in front of the stadium, you get a sense of how old the sport really is.

For those of you who follow English football, you may know that Fulham has had a good number of American players in the past few years. So we asked if this number of Americans has been cause for an increase in support from the States. The impact, he said, was great. “It definitely has. The Club currently has 2 official Overseas Members clubs that are based in the US and we have more international members in America than in any other nation. I think it is fair to say that the interest in Fulham was generated by the recent influx in American players. This is a pattern we see repeated regularly whenever international players join our squad. A good example would be that of Norway, where we have enjoyed an upsurge in memberships since the arrival of Brede Hangeland, Erik Nevland and Bjorn Helge Riise. Likewise our numbers in Ireland have grown since Damien Duff and Stephen Kelly have joined us this year and we are currently looking to establish our first members club in Ireland.” This just shows that support for this incredible game is growing thanks to the number of international players. It also shows, in my opinion, that the football is the best in England, as the greatest international players are making the move.

When asked to reveal his favorite moment while at the club he had a very interesting example. As I do not want to ruin the simple example of what we came here to search for, we will end this blog with his quote. And, really, focus on his last sentence and you can get a sense of what we have already seen on this trip. “On the field, ‘The Great Escape’ when the club avoided relegation on the last day of the campaign at Portsmouth in 2008 was a wonderful memory (although not something I’d like to go through again!) Again, small moments set in the context of wider achievement always stay with me. There were a number of Portsmouth fans who approached jubilant Fulham fans in the street after the game to congratulate them on the result, even though their side had just been beaten. That for me sums up the very best elements of sport and its unflinching ability to bring people closer together.”

Jan
24

While on our way to watch the disappointing Arsenal v Stoke City match we had an interesting conversation with our new friend, and football fanatic. We were discussing the Tottenham v Leeds United match the night before, and he told us how it was a great example of how things used to be in football. Now, he explained, everyone was worried about being relegated, so there were not a great number of league games that would be played as openly as the match last night was. And, for those of you who do not understand what openly means in the context of football, I will explain. Leeds had nothing to lose, so they played attacking football, they took every chance that they could to defeat their opponent. While most inferior teams, in recent times, will simply put ten men behind the ball and play for a 0-0 draw, Leeds threw everything that they had at Tottenham. They knew that they could easily lose and be knocked out of the FA Cup, but they had just beaten Manchester United, and really, what would playing cautiously do for them here? They, according to Matthew, played a game that showed the true beauty of football. This made me think of what is going on in the NFL recently. All the talk of teams taking their best players out late in the season and playing cautiously has really put a damper on the game. But, in all reality, there is nothing that can be done to combat this problem. But over here, in the FA Cup, you can run into games such as the one last night. A game where one team has nothing to lose so they throw everything they have at the more talented team, and the other team is forced to play as hard as they can to balance out this attack. The result is an exciting, beautiful game. The interesting thing is seeing that the fans do in fact respond to this. They were beyond ecstatic to see their teams play the way that they did, and you could tell by the look on all of their faces that this was something that they didn’t see everyday, but would love to see all the time.

True competition, an open game with teams playing with nothing to lose, this is something worth watching. But, how often do we get this? How often do we get to see a game, in any sport, where all ranks, evaluations, and perceptions are thrown out the window and we, as fans, are treated to pure sport? It doesn’t happen much, but when it does it is something magical. It is something that can bring us back over and over again and it can bring us back to the roots of the sport. For 90 minutes last night the thousands of people who were watching forgot about the commercialization of the game, they forgot about the million dollar salaries, and the endless controversies, and there was just football. This treat is rare in any sport, but when it happens, it can remind us why we bother with it at all.

Clay Boring

Jan
21

As we started towards the Emirates last night, the anticipation was already building. It was rush hour on the Tube, so we were packed shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other Londoners. On the trip, we would notice others in red hats, shirts and scarves and realize that we all had the same destination and hope of what this night would hold. We exited into a brisk night in the N5 and were greeted with the sights and sounds of a massive home fixture for our Arsenal. Tonight we had to go to the top of the league, even this early in the season; the thoughts of this are incredible.

Arsenal, however, seemed to have other plans. Not too long after we took our seats, we found ourselves 2-0 down. It is at this point that the frustration of 60,000 around us could be seen. The disgruntled shouts pushing Arsenal on took a different tone than we had heard the match before. People were very upset, and they were letting their team know. But, right before half, Thomas Rosicky put one in for Arsenal, and this goal gave us hope, and the mood around the ground picked up immediately. The second half picked up where it had left off. Arsenal were relentless and we were treated to an incredible comeback. Arsenal ended the game with an improbable 4-2 win, and we had taken the top of the league. We sung over and over “We are top of the league, say we are top of the league!” This mood, this feeling, this joy was something that we had never experienced before. And then we realized that it was because of the means by which Arsenal had won.

A “routine” win would have been great, and we would have been happy no doubt. But being so down and upset at our team and then having things shoot the other way was something incredible. What seemed like impossibility became something extraordinary, and we were part of it. This feeling was something unmatched. To go along on this roller coaster of emotions with 60,000 other people was amazing, and can only be matched at a sporting event. I do say sporting event with the meaning of more than just English football, yes. We realize that this feeling isn’t just unique to this sport and this country. But that doesn’t make it any less a part of the culture does it? This emotionally draining game took everything out of us-from our energy to our voices. However, if you asked any of the people in the stadium, pubs, or even their houses if they regretted their 90 minutes of yelling, singing and in the end jumping up and down in celebration, you would find that none of them would change what they did. The experience that we had will live on forever. Already today we have watched the replays of the goals countless times and we still can’t believe we were there. It is something neither of us could have imagined, something so seemingly impossible, yet it happened! If you had asked us our idea of a perfect match to attend here, it would have been less spectacular that the match last night.

From feeling a sense of hopelessness to singing “We are top of the league” is something that dreams are made of, and still seems unreal. But then again, this feeling is why we come to matches, why millions of people watch each game, and why we care so much about a game. If there was ever a match to answer the question of why we, as a people, invest so much money, time, effort, thoughts into sports last night was it.

Jan
20

We would like to begin this blog with a thank you to both the Dagenham & Redbridge Football Cub and AFC Wimbledon. Over the past few days both of these clubs have treated us to great football and a fantastic experience as well. On this trip, we wanted to discover true football culture, and going to matches at these two clubs have definitely given us insight into that.

Saturday, we traveled a seemingly unending tube ride out to Dagenham. As soon as we exited the train, we were immediately grabbed by the excitement. Compared to the London we have been in the rest of the time, Dagenham felt very small. After a short walk we turned a corner and faced the cozy ground of the League 2 side of Dagenham & Redbridge. Around us were people of all ages who were ready for the match against Crewe Alexandra. We were shown around the ground, even got a little backstage access, before we joined the rest of the supporters in the clubhouse. This felt somewhat like the basement of a fraternity house, however it had a large projection screen on one end, and a pub bar on the other. The people here were all obviously locals, and most seemed to know each other. This seemed like the place to be in Dagenham as even a few local policemen were greeted with embraces by men in Dagenham colors. The sense of community here was overwhelming. We soon took our seats, which we located in the family section, and that will be brought up again later.

In regards to the football itself we made a few comments as the game went along. The players in this league are very big. Which, they need to be due to the much more physical nature of the play here. Also, this physical nature saw the referee make fewer calls than one would expect to see. However, we must get back to the atmosphere of the game, as that is what we are here to study. The fans of each team starting shouting matches at the opening whistle, and kept these chants going at somewhat regular intervals throughout the match. Being in the family section we were surrounded by young children who knew each player on the team, and knew everything there was to know about the sport and could follow the game very easily. It was immediately evident that they had been raised coming to these games. After a 2-0 win for Dag & Red, these kids even mocked the exiting Crewe fans. This was particularly amusing to us as we have not been to a sporting event has had this occur. Young boys mocking grown men, with mothers sitting by and doing nothing, except perhaps laughing and the kids’ made up cheer of “Cheerio”. The match was a great insight into the life of smaller clubs. It is a community gathering, the place to be on a Saturday night. And while you were here, you were with people who knew you to watch the one thing that could bring this whole community together. Football.

This community carried over to the AFC Wimbledon game. Our trip to Wimbledon seemed to take more energy then any other game we have gone too. It started out with a simple tube ride, then a confusing train ride, and finally a mile long walk to the edge of the city to a football stadium that was nearly placed in a country pasture. After the long trip we noticed that fans of all ages were running around. We went to get our tickets at the complimentary office only to find that there were no tickets to be found with our name on it. Altogether, the smaller clubs seem to be a little less organized as you go down the leagues. We were spotted by chief director Erik Samuleson and he walked us through the players tunnel and out to the Directors’ seats. We sat down and had a nice chat about the differences in lower leagues compare to larger teams.

Within minutes, Mr. Samuelson explained that twelve diehard fans that wanted to see their team shine on the field again founded AFC Wimbledon. Wimbledon as a club has had its ups and downs, finally dispatching every effort to remain a club altogether, until the fans started AFC Wimbledon. He went on to say that currently the team is only a part-time team but has continually preformed as a fulltime team. Thus, within the next year or so, AFC Wimbledon will try to maintain a fulltime team. (If the money is there, of course.) This simply means that the players, if need be, can have another job other than their football. Unless they do become fulltime, but this will mean better pay for the players, so it will be the only job they need.

After our interview we were told to pick any seat in the house. We sat down in anticipation for the match to start. It was surprising to see that more supports came out to see AFC Wimbledon play than Dag & Red. We felt the energy of the crowd from start to finish. It seemed like the Wombles fans cheered every moment of the game, in good times and in bad times. Fans of all ages and genders were standing and shouting. We found ourselves getting involved in the game, even though we were watching the team for the first time. The stadium, on certain occasions, could be deafening. The chants were loud, and even an elderly woman behind us made her feelings known throughout the match.It was a fantastic game with a good result for Wimbledon, 3 – 1 over Altrincham.

The level of play was a bit surprising to us and it seemed that Wimbledon, with sometimes-magical touch, could best even some higher league teams. We both wanted to see how the fans were interacting at smaller match, to our surprise it felt like AFC Wimbledon had more spirit and a larger fan base then that of Dagenham & Redbridge. We felt alive at the sub-zero game and continually got caught up in the play. It was defiantly a successful trip out to see both teams. It goes to show you that the team doesn’t make the game but the fans do. Of course, a skilled team helps, but if you are able to attend a game with truly interactive fans then it makes the game that much more enjoyable. And, simply because the team is not world renowned or made up of million dollar players, it doesn’t mean the fans care less, sing less, or support less. This is what they live for, their passion shows show much about what football means here. It is about the team, your peers in the stands, and doing as much as you, personally, can to make a difference to bring your team to glory.

Jan
17

Football on the tip of everyone’s tongue or so I thought.

We recently went out to find someone or some people to talk football with and ended up meeting with Jillian, who is also a Birmingham Southern College student, her older sister and friends. After sitting down up with the group the conversation of interim came up and the talk of our football interim sparked interest with the older crowd. (Even though Jillian thinks the publicity that we have received from our interim is rubbish Jillian’s sister and friends were quite intrigued with it)

An Australian in the group started to ask me questions about American football culture. He was in particular disbelief that soccer is the fastest growing sport in America, but that it was still looked down upon by the American culture. I attempted to explain that is has been bred into our way of life, just like rugby is bred into his. He began to explain that in the 2006 World Cup, Australia had done well to make it far within the table. This causes an increase in Australian football fans. Fans who had never watched soccer were packing the pubs and filling their living rooms to cheer on their team thousands of miles away. It had become something of great importance. He found it disbelieving that people can just pick it up and support a team that quickly when they have actually have something to celebrate within the sport. However, it reminded me of the U.S. women’s soccer team that won the Olympics and how the entire nation boomed with soccer.

After the U.S. women’s soccer team won the world cup, the States were compelled to support soccer, but the close-minded individuals wouldn’t let it grow. This I think is the most frustrating the that I have experienced, however, I will be the first one to say that even though we have the MLS, American soccer can not compare to the skill and beauty of the English Premier League.

In accordance with the EPL, Clay and I were able to experience the Arsenal v. Bolton game today with a British family and see how they watch the match in one’s British home. The Gooch family was kind enough to show us exactly what people do on match day when they are not going to the match or to pubs to experience the splendors of the game. After getting picked up late, Clay and I were on our way to their lovely home, in the heart of the Notting Hill area. It was a fantastic little home where the football match was on loud and clear. Matthew, the man of the household, is an avid Arsenal supporter and holds season tickets, whereas Miranda does not follow the sport at all. Matthew told me that most of the supporters are men, however, there are the few exceptions to every rule.

As the match was underway, we set down on a comfy couch and we all where immediately enthralled with the game. I yelled and supported Arsenal cheering them on with Clay and Matthew. Ninety minutes passes by in a blink of an eye and Arsenal had won. It was an incredible match with an end result of Arsenal being victors two to nil over Bolton. (A great victory for the club) This result places Arsenal in great standing within the Premier League. After the match, Matthew sat down with us and talked about how proper football was played. We seemed to talk for hours and it was prevalent that throughout London and other areas where football is watched, men are the ones who find themselves making comments on the sport. It was amazing to experience this culture difference first hand. During the game Miranda even asked me for specific rules of them game. I was flabbergasted that an English individual did not know the sport better than an American. I guess football is everywhere, just not important to everyone.

Zach Glaser

Jan
17

Watching the FA Cup match between Reading and Liverpool the other day, I started thinking. In America, there is nothing that can compare to this at all. It begins with teams from every league of play in England, and they all enter into a competition with each other. Of course the smaller clubs battle it out first to decide who gets to move on and tackle the big boys. But still it gives each club, no matter the size, a chance to win the cup. In fact Reading, a Championship side, beat Liverpool, one of the biggest clubs in the world. But even more astonishing, in the week before that Leeds United, a club in League One, even lower than the Championship, beat Manchester United, perhaps seen as the greatest club in the world. Wow. If anyone ever asks the appeal of the sport, this cup is what will be pointed to. The FA Cup adds so much to the sport here in England. In America it is really hard to find something that can compare. When the smallest professional clubs can go up against the biggest, most famous clubs, and have as much of a chance as anyone to win, its bound to bring something extra to the table. This competition gives the fans of these clubs something incredible to hope and cheer and sing for. It’s not like minor league baseball where each team can only play others on their level. Don’t you think that the Nashville Sounds (home town minor league team) would pull more of a following if these fans knew that they could perhaps go against the New York Yankees at some point in the year, and that they could win? Especially with the ticketing system here, where fans have to pay for a certain level of membership to gain access to the best tickets first. This would contribute significantly to any sport it could apply to. But that’s the problem; there isn’t one that it could realistically apply to. Not even American Football could provide enough fans to keep up six fully functioning professional leagues with easily over 100 teams. I do realize that collegiate American Football has over a hundred teams, but I am talking about professional organizations here, not school-sponsored athletics.  The magic of the FA Cup, and the hope of knocking off a Premiership side is not all that drives these fans to support their local team. As we discovered yesterday, and will write about in a bit, the smaller clubs are the hubs of their community.  They bring everyone together; even the policemen entering the clubhouse before the match stop and have a chat with their friends, or perhaps more appropriately, their family. Also, there is the ever-constant hope of promotion, or fear of relegation. All of these leagues are intertwined. This means that the Dagenham & Redbridge, the League Two team we watched yesterday, in a few years, could work its way up to the Premiership. It would not be easy by any means, but that is not to say it isn’t possible. Again, don’t you think that Sounds’ fans would come out and support their team if they knew a great few seasons would mean Major League play? More so, relegation gives the struggling teams something to play for, and the fans something to cheer for. If the Washington Nationals had the possibility of dropping down into the minor leagues for finishing at the bottom, wouldn’t they have more supporters come cheer them on? To do all they could to make sure that didn’t happen? Maybe it wouldn’t fill the stadiums every time, but no doubt it would add something very interesting to the sport. I have found that the “underdog complex” does add something to the sport, as I was discussing with a new friend earlier. That, because these fans of smaller clubs feel that it is their club against the world, they cheer harder. They cheer for the chance for a Leeds to beat a Manchester United, they cheer for a chance for Portsmouth to escape an almost guaranteed relegation, they cheer for a Newcastle United to regain the glory that they have lost. There isn’t any of that in American sport. No chance to move up or down the ladder, no chance for the Yankees to lose to a minor league team, no chance for a USBL team to beat the Lakers, or even move up to the NBA. It is this that helps to drive the sport here, and it is something that cannot be recreated in America, and that is perhaps why this passion cannot be recreated here either. Definitely something to think about. Beautiful day here in London, hope you’re having one as well.

Clay Boring

Jan
15

Interview The Football Foundation – Jan 15, 2010

After an intense tube ride on the way over to The Football Foundation’s offices, we sat down with Mr. Rory Carroll, who is the foundation’s communications manager. We walked to the meeting rooms and all were full, but the boardroom was unoccupied. We sat and began to discuss what made The Football Foundation a successful charity and within minutes we found that not only did the foundation help the community, it was truly involved in all aspects of football.

Formed from The Football Trust, a British Government Organization, this foundation has been responsible for major charity work within the community for the past 10 years. What separates The Football Foundation from other charities is that they use 99% of their funds on their many initiatives. They annually receive around 45 million pounds, which goes to improve the problem areas.

One of their major facilities that benefits from their donation is the Kickz project. The Kickz project, which over 40 professional clubs participates in, is aimed at allowing kids in problem areas a form of escape from gangs and other negative influences. Since the beginning of the project there has been a reduction of 30% of youth crime in these areas and has allowed multiple youth to benefit from the training provided to maintain a proper job. A pilot program that the Football Foundation is currently working on is a way to help the juvenile delinquents not become repeat offenders. While the national average of repeat juvenile offenders is 80%, of those who went through the pilot program, the rate was only a stunning five percent. This shows the impact that The Football Foundation has on the community. Not only does the foundation give a large amount of money to the community, they follow what happens to the funds they have provided and insure that it is used properly to help the surrounding community.

But, not only youths are being helped by the foundation. The Ahead of the Game Project sets up medical screenings for adult males who have a tendency not to see the doctor, even if they are feeling poor. This allows these men to receive help provided at many matches and they also advertise, at matches, the need to receive a check up from their doctors to prevent future health problems. By using the football matches as a media outlet it allows the foundation to reach thousands of their target audience at once.

One particular project that Mr. Carroll is extremely fond of is the Veterans Project. This charity project helps returning veterans who do not have family support or are in need of assistance with a way to get back involved in the community. The foundation provides football as a means to get back into normal society and back to enjoying the pleasures of life back home.

Over the past ten years, The Football Foundation has engaged 75,000 people and has seen over 14,000 new players enter the game in London alone. By first starting out as a way to help the communities receive funds to improve their surrounding football parks, it has now developed into a charity not only to the community, youths, and adults, but also to criminals who deserve a second chance. The Football Foundation is a shinning example of how football has become more than just a game, it is a way to a better, healthier, and more enjoyable life.

Jan
14

Well, for those of you who have not been paying attention to the weather at all, it has been snowing quite a bit in London since we’ve been here. In fact, regretfully, we have to take the long Underground trip out to West Ham today to return our tickets for a match that has been postponed due to “adverse weather conditions”. While we are sad to have to do this, we realize that this is not the only match that has been effected by the weather this month. Countless matches on all levels of play have been disrupted, which we thought would be a negative for our research. However, this has given a massive insight to our project! Last night on Sky Sports News we saw a story about 500 fans who refused to allow the weather to deny them another match. In order to watch a game over 500 Portsmouth fans came out to their ground with shovels, ready to make safe the area around the stadium and clear the pitch of snow. That struck us as amazing. We had a hard time thinking of American sports viewers who would come out and shovel all day long simply in order to watch the next game. Again, as in my earlier blog, this shows that they feel as though they are part of the club. Well, they more than feel that, they KNOW they are part of the club and KNOW they have a responsibility to the club to do their part. Whether that is singing songs or shoveling snow, they go out and do it with a smile on their faces. Another reason we find this so fascinating is Portsmouth’s financial and table position. They are near the bottom of the league and they have, on multiple occasions, failed to pay their players. Also, during this transfer window they have been restricted due to failing to pay their creditors. It’s easy to say that Portsmouth isn’t the shining, perfect example of a football club. Yet, they are the club who has fans out working so they can see their struggling team play, and probably lose, their next game. It is absolutely amazing. Who, reading this blog, can see Detroit Lions fans or Washington Nationals or other struggling franchise’s (or the huge, successful teams as well) fans coming out to do anything for their club, let alone unpaid manual labor for an entire day! This definitely says something about these people, the fans in general. To them, they are not simply fans they ARE Portsmouth! It just hit me that in a popular chant (I’m “insert club” till I die) it’s just that. It’s not “I’m a Portsmouth fan till I die” or “I support Portsmouth till I die” its “I’m Portsmouth till I die”. To the supporters out in the snow yesterday, this was not something they thought they would do to get on the news, this was their responsibility to their club. They are part of it, they are responsible for it, they will take care of it. All because they love it, no matter what condition it is in. This is greatly needed in America, a sense of pride in a struggling team. When the the going gets tough, for teams in America, stadiums empty and fans desert their teams. Here, when things get tough, the tough get a shovel!

Also, we are aware many of you have posted questions on the blog, we are in the process of answering these and will post a special “Your Questions…Answered!” blog. Yeah, I know, kind of a big deal.

Clay Boring

Jan
12

Today we made a discovery that showed us the amount of difference that can occur between clubs, even when they are both in the Premier League. First our journey took us to Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea Football Club. As we turned the corner out of the tube station the first thing we noticed was the massive structure in front of us. The size and quality of the building rivaled that of the almost brand new Emirates Stadium we had visited not too long ago. The fan friendly area around the stadium showed that the Bridge is used to tourists’ visits. We then walked into the reception area through great revolving doors and were met by a very friendly Chelsea employee. After we gave him our pitch about the purpose of our visit he gave us ways to contact various personnel in the club. He then asked if we had any questions that we would like to ask him. We asked him about how he specifically had become a Chelsea fan and how a person’s upbringing affected the club they supported. His simple answer was family. After talking briefly we discovered that he had grown up in a divided household, his father a Manchester United supporter and his mother a Chelsea fan. He explained that because of his proximity to the Chelsea ground, he decided to pick Chelsea. We then asked if there was a division that occurred in the family because of this. He said that on match days between Manchester United and Chelsea, his father would not speak to he or his mother and that whichever side lost was literally brought to tears and the winning side would continue the ridicule for weeks to come. Quite simply, he put, “It’s always horrible”. After this pleasant impromptu interview, we bid the Chelsea area farewell and hopped on the tube heading to Fulham. Little did we know how drastically different this adventure would be.

Exiting the station we were, this time, confronted with a small sign reading “Fulham Football Club” and pointing straight into an apartment complex. After a few minutes of confused wandering, we found the Thames Walk and another sign pointing to our goal…over 1000 yards away. As the sun set, very very early as is the norm here, the temperature dropped, and the setting very quickly became suitable for a cheesy horror movie. With crows watching from a cemetery adjacent to the path we trudged on our way, our only company was an eerie man on a bike with a squeaky wheel. We did not think that this was looking promising at all. But soon, we found our goal, Craven Cottage, and it was not the tourist friendly Stamford Bridge. We were greeted with a small old stadium with doors that looked so tiny we wondered if we would able to fit through them. After a quick walk around we discovered the reception area, and were greeted very warmly. Again we presented our case and were gifted the contact information for the Fulham supporters manager. After another successful trip we wandered back down the ominous path back to the tube station.

On this long walk we discussed the vast difference between the two clubs we had visited today. In America, the stadiums for football, basketball, and baseball teams are largely similar. But here, the difference was so great it made an impact on us. Contrary to what you might think, we actually enjoyed Fulham the most. Even with Chelsea’s obviously expensive exterior the Cottage had something that Chelsea could not compete with. Craven Cottage felt safe, cozy, and very welcoming. Standing in front of its gates we could see the history of the club oozing, a feeling we have never felt at a stadium in America. With the new Cowboy’s Stadium being a model, American sports arenas are always trying to be bigger and more expensive. But tiny, old, creepy Craven Cottage granted us the warmest welcome we have had a sporting venue, and it was a very unexpected, but pleasant surprise.

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