In the football world, we’re constantly reminded of how much everyone wants us to spend. The clubs themselves spend obscene amounts of money to buy top players, that they then pay crazy wages in order for them to play. The players themselves oftentimes have very luxurious, spending lifestyles that are impossible to avoid if you happen to follow them on social media. Clubs also need to invest to build new stadiums, or expand their stadiums, for their teams to play in, (taking on sponsors that they plaster everywhere in an often not so good looking way in order to be able to finance it), and it’s all a hamster wheel, in order to keep up clubs need to spend more and more each year, and the spending charts and transfer records break each year (except for at Tottenham #Minimalists).
The excessive spending doesn’t stop with the multi-million-pound companies/clubs on the football market though, as the football world puts increasing pressure on the everyday football fan to spend more and more as the years go by. To keep up, if you’re a local of your club you should really have a season ticket (which are outrageously priced in the men’s game in England, somewhat better in the likes of Germany but still a big cost) and if you can’t, you should at least be able to go to as many games as possible, which holds true even if you’re not a local – the ‘real’ fans take the time and the costs to travel to see their team. If it’s really too far to travel to see the team often, there is the expectation that you should still watch all of the games, which would require a subscription to a broadcast service, something that does not come by cheap. Even if you’re only watching it at the pub, you’ll need to consume something there in order to be allowed to stay and watch the game.
There’s also the expectation that you keep up with the latest match kit, shirts that range from £70-90. No matter if you’re a kid or an adult, something that can seem quite trivial, like having a match shirt from your team, becomes painfully vital in the exercising of one’s fandom. It’s a rite of passage of sorts. Then comes things like scarves, t-shirts, key rings, phone cases, books, and other quirky things that can further emphasise what a fan you are. And it’s not as if you can get away with having only one shirt either, most football fans have a minor collection of different shirts, both past and present.
Everything in football is geared towards consumption. This whole consumerism focus feeds into the idea of ‘true fans’ and only being able to uphold this image if you can commit financially. That also means that it’s easy to buy yourself into perceived ‘fandom’ if all it requires is that you look like a fan from the outside. Which, in turn, takes away the whole beauty of fandom.
Instead, I became a minimalist.
It’s important to note that minimalism is not only a less materialistic lifestyle but a way of life that seeps into everything you do. Consumption does not only concern material things but also energy and focus, and it’s very important to be intentional with where your focus and energy goes.
I’ve not only started to consume way less in terms of material football things, like acquiring fewer shirts and read fewer football books, but I’ve also become more intentional with how much energy I put into football. Before I would spend a whole weekend watching game after game, Premier League, Bundesliga, throw in the occasional La Liga game too. I would keep myself updated on Twitter at the same time, and write to friends that were fans of the teams playing and we would exchange reactions of the game. Sometimes I would make a night of it, go out (with my Tottenham shirt on, of course) to the pub with a friend and interact with other fans. All of this, for an introvert like me, takes a lot of energy, but I think it would be draining for anyone in the long run.
Now, what I do is simply choose. I choose which games to invest myself in, I choose to limit my time on social media, I choose not to vent with my friends about every single game and the pub nights are few and far between. I forgive myself for not being a devoted “enough” football fan that watches all games, keeps track of the whole transfer market and can recite what tactics the coach should use for XYZ. When I was in Paris and Lyon for the Women’s World Cup, for example, there were many temptations. Everyone knows how many beautiful football shirts were released ahead of this World Cup, and I allowed myself to get one – of course, I got the France shirt with the hexagon dots (drool!) but made sure to get it online, so as not to get stuck in the Nike shop and come back out with a full bag.
I also frequented the Copa90 Clubhouse quite a bit and they had a lot of beautiful merch that I wanted to get, as well as things for free like totes and stickers. Again, I restrained myself (well, I got a tote and a few stickers, okay!). This is just my personal situation: if you love Copa90, by all means, go crazy and get it all, but I knew that no matter how cool these t-shirts, shirts and caps looked, I wouldn’t use them enough for me to justify keeping them in my wardrobe. No matter if things are for free or you have to pay for them, it can be helpful to have a mental process, a checklist to go through. Retail therapy is very real and it can be good to know if you’re buying something because it will add value to your life, or because it looks cute and you’re in a funk. It’s also good to remind yourself that you are not valued as more or less of a fan because of what you have or don’t have.
Football is so much more than just a sport, for many of us it’s an integral part of our identity, and we all choose to practice and display our fandom in different ways. Some fans are like collectors, and what they have to show for their fandom is of the highest importance, and I get that. But the culture around consumption in football, the brands constantly pushing out more things for us to buy at higher and higher prices and the clubs that charge more and more for a game of football – it’s unsustainable and pushes a lot of people, that can’t afford to keep up this mad cycle, away from the game that ultimately originated amongst the working class. When you can’t afford to go to the games and can barely afford to watch them, then what are we left with?
I think that overcrowding our wardrobes, bedrooms, apartments, lives, putting ourselves in debt for a season ticket and feeding this consumption frenzy that is so ingrained in society, is a big contributor to why we never feel satisfied. I mean, look at all the money that Arsenal spends and they’re still playing Europa League on a regular basis.