Science

Fans of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea NOT as loyal as supporters of less successful clubs

Fans of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea are not as loyal to each other as supporters of less successful football clubs, according to new research.

They have a weaker bond than supporters of Crystal Palace, Hull and Norwich, and would be less likely to lay down their lives for fellow fans, suggests the study.

Researchers claim that watching your team get relegated, or lose regularly, strengthens ties more than if they are winning.

It also leads to peers being regarded as members of your own ‘family’, explained scientists.

Researchers say that the findings could even have implications for the armed forces and the recovery from the pandemic, as shared suffering can strengthen social bonds. 

Fans of Manchester United (pictured), Liverpool and Chelsea are not as loyal to each other as supporters of less successful football clubs, according to new research.

WHICH TEAM’S FANS ARE THE MOST AND LEAST LOYAL TO EACH OTHER?

Crystal Palace fans were most likely to report willingness to sacrifice themselves for fellow fans (35%) followed by Hull (32%) and West Brom (31%).

Then came Man City (30%) -interestingly, a club that had struggled for many years before the buy out by Skeikh Mansour that changed their fortunes.

Next were Sunderland (22%), Chelsea (18%), Liverpool (17%), Norwich (16% and man United (14%). Arsenal were least likely (9%).

The fans who reported the most social ties for the origin of their football passion was also the least successful club, Hull (92%).

Meanwhile, the club reporting the fewest social ties was Chelsea (63%), historically one of the most highly successful.

Senior author Professor Harvey Whitehouse, director of Oxford University’s Centre for the Study of Social Cohesion, said: ‘This is the latest in a string of studies we have conducted showing that shared suffering can produce incredibly strong social glue.

‘It is not only relevant to sports fans but to all of us as we emerge from a year of lockdowns and personal losses.

‘A key question is whether the bonds forged through collective ordeals can be put to practical use by enabling us to pull together more effectively in the future.’

Fans of Crystal Palace, Hull, Norwich, Sunderland and West Brom – three of which are no longer in the Premier League – were found to show more loyalty towards each other.

They even expressed greater willingness to sacrifice their own lives to save other fans of their club.

This was compared to supporters of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.

The study, based on a survey of 752 fans, was conducted in 2014. A decade of statistics from 2003-2013 identified the five most and least successful clubs.

Lead author Dr Martha Newson, an anthropolgist at the University of Kent, said: ‘This research has helped to unpick the psychological causes of bonds among fans and is relevant to other coalitional groups, such as the military.

‘This could be incredibly valuable, with the long-term sustainability of football clubs depending on their ability to attract and retain supporters who will support their club through thick and thin.’

Social bonding is significantly higher in fans of consistently unsuccessful clubs due to them having experienced more disappointment, she said.

Researchers suggest that watching your team get relegated, or lose regularly, strengthens ties more than if they are winning. Liverpool fans pictured

Researchers suggest that watching your team get relegated, or lose regularly, strengthens ties more than if they are winning. Liverpool fans pictured

Memories of past football defeats formed an essential part of fans’ self-concepts, fusing them to their club.

They also considered fellow ‘sufferers’ to be more like kin than did those of the ‘Big Five’.

Crystal Palace fans were most likely to report willingness to sacrifice themselves for fellow fans (35 per cent) followed by Hull (32 per cent) and West Brom (31 per cent).

Fans of Crystal Palace, which are no longer in the Premier League,  were found to be more loyal towards each other

Fans of Crystal Palace, which are no longer in the Premier League,  were found to be more loyal towards each other

Then came Man City (30 per cent) – interestingly, a club that had struggled for many years before the buy out by Skeikh Mansour that changed their fortunes.

Next were Sunderland (22 per cent), Chelsea (18 per cent), Liverpool (17 per cent), Norwich (16 per cent) and Man United (14 per cent). Arsenal were least likely (9 per cent).

The fans who reported the most social ties for the origin of their football passion was also the least successful club, Hull (92 per cent).

Meanwhile, the club reporting the fewest social ties was Chelsea (63 per cent), historically one of the most highly successful.

Dr Newson said: ‘These findings may also help football clubs to think about broadening inclusion and diversity among fans, and to use their links to charitable foundations to make a difference.

Understanding what motivates devoted fans may help football clubs and policy makers better manage fan violence

Understanding what motivates devoted fans may help football clubs and policy makers better manage fan violence

‘The Twinning Project is an example, which pairs major clubs with their local prison to deliver football-based qualifications in a bid to reduce reoffending.’

While, historically, there have been cases where this extreme bonding among fans can turn to hostility and violence, the researchers argue that the extreme, pro-group sentiments of fans who are highly fused to their club need not be violent.

Nevertheless, understanding what motivates devoted fans may help football clubs and policy makers better manage fan violence.

Dr Newson said: ‘Understanding shared suffering can lead to extreme bonding may help sports clubs and policy makers manage crowd behaviour.

‘In addition, these findings provide insight into the motivations of oppressed or persecuted groups, and such others fused through shared sufferings, helping us better understand and manage the psychological processes that can lead to extreme self-sacrifice.’

Clubs could benefit from tailoring brand management and fan retainment strategies by extracting the best from disappointing events and treating them as opportunities to remind fans they are ‘in it together’.

Dr Newson added: ‘I hope that further studies can encourage clubs with high corporate social responsibility to implement more research-driven policies to improve other critical social areas, such as sexism, racial and ethnic relations, and homophobia.’

WHAT MAKES THE BEST FOOTBALLER?

Players with great skill, such as Lionel Messi (pictured) are more likely to win games than players with superior athletic ability 

Players with great skill, such as Lionel Messi (pictured) are more likely to win games than players with superior athletic ability 

Skillful footballers are more likely to win matches than even the most athletic players, according to research from the University of Queensland.

A study found that balance and skill when controlling the ball can tip a game toward a win more than speed, strength, or fitness.

The researchers say their study could help football coaching academies focus their training on player attributes that are more likely to win games.

The Queensland team used analytical techniques developed in evolutionary biology to determine the impact of a player’s skill, athletic ability, and balance on their success during a game.

They found that a player’s skill that was the most important factor to their and their team’s performance.

Players will higher skill were more likely to be more involved in games and have more successful contributions.

However, players with top athletic abilities like speed, strength and fitness were not associated with higher success rates in games.  

‘Higher skill allows players to have a greater impact on the game,’said lead researcher Dr Robbie Wilson, from the University of Queensland, Australia, told MailOnline.

‘Accurate passing and greater ball control are more important for success than high speed, strength and fitness.

‘It may be obvious to fans and coaches that players like Lionel Messi and Neymar are the best due to their skill.

‘However, 90 per cent of research on soccer players is based on how to improve their speed, strength, and agility — not their skill.’


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