It seems that modern-day football is all about four key aspects – the teams, the players, the competition and of course, the money. But what about that one key element without which football simply would not exist – the fans?
Too often the people actually watching millionaires kick a football about are forgotten, yet if attendances were to dip again as they did in the UK in the post-Heysel years, it’s unlikely that football, as a business, would survive.
Fans – it appears – are making something of a comeback, and plenty of exceptional fan-generated content is making its way onto the internet. Could fan football analysis now overtake the traditional source of analysis – the punditry of former players – as the most popular type of football-related content to view or read?
Content remains champion in regards to modern marketing, especially when attempting to engage football fans. Twitter has shown that you don’t have to be a media name in order to be someone that others want to engage with, and whose opinions they want to read and dissect. When it comes to football, all the signs point to fan-generated content becoming increasingly valuable.
Fan contribution has come a long way since the sudden rise of football fanzines in the late 1980s, thanks to the plethora of available media channels. Arsenal fans now even have their own TV Channel, albeit on YouTube. Here, fan reaction and analysis is fed to an eager Arsenal-viewing public, with production levels at near professional levels. ArsenalFanTV (as it is known) has around half a million subscribers, and has the financial backing of one of the leading UK bookmakers, Ladbrokes.
Fan-driven sites on the internet are nothing new, but for many years they’ve had a habit of a brief flourish before the site creator grows bored and moves onto other projects. Blogs are a different matter though, and several leading fan-powered blogs, such as AnfieldHQ, I’d Radebe Leeds and The Football Lab all keep eager fans engaged with their teams in a manner in which official sites can only dream of. Hundreds of thousands of fans flock to these sites on a daily basis, and advertisers have been quick to notice such lucrative levels of potential engagement.
The power of the fan extends beyond video and the written word and extends into podcasting too. These ‘play on demand’ audio streams can be downloaded – usually to smart phones – and listened to at a subscriber’s leisure. Crucially, they are also free. One of the most popular fan-generated podcasts is The Football Ramble, which has been online since 2007 and claims to be the most entertaining voice in football. Again, advertising has found its way onto such podcasts, with companies such the website generators SquareSpace keen to grace the ears of football fans with their latest offers.
Will the rise of fan-generated content continue apace, or is it a temporary fad? That’s one future that’s unclear, but less uncertain is the need for clubs, leagues and advertisers to understand the commercial potential that fan-generated content certainly possesses.