Real politik FC: are politics finding their way back into football?
Across the world, from White Hart Lane to the smallest islands in the South Pacific, football is a game which brings people together. Whether it’s a result of glory like England’s World Cup victory in ’66 or a tragedy like Hillsborough, football supporters have proven themselves to be a passionate and emotional crowd.
With such fervour around the football world, it should come as no surprise to learn that football has seen its fair share of political influences over the years. Today’s Premier League, however, paints quite a different picture.
With higher ticket prices than ever before, the loss of the terrace and the growing empire of advertising, has the political spirit of the game been lost, or is it on its way back to UK football?
The dream is alive in Germany
The political realm of football is certainly not dead altogether. In Germany, there are a number of teams – known collectively as ‘Kult teams’ – whose supporters are ardently political. One of the most passionate and well known fan bases is that belonging to the Hamburg team FC St. Pauli.
Since the 1980s, FC St. Pauli has been a favourite with the political left and has drawn an alternative crowd. The team was the country’s first to administer an all-out ban on right-wing nationalist activity – an issue which has affected football teams throughout the world for many years. Today, the team maintains a large punk, anarchist and anti-fascist fan base, making for one of the most exciting and lively home grounds in Europe. While you might think extra sports insurance might be necessary, the stadium is among the safest in the country.
Signs of life in the UK
While the UK doesn’t have its own FC St. Pauli just yet, there are a handful of clubs around the country whose supporters carry with them a pinch of politics. Sunderland A.F.C. has for some time been known for its left wing supporters. Once upon a time, the club’s chairman described the team as a ‘Labour Club’.
A smaller but more hardcore fan group has recently attached itself to the non-league team Clapton FC. An anti-fascist fan group has been responsible for bringing the club’s average attendance to the highest in their league, rising by over 70%
As long as there’s passion in the game of football, it’s inevitable that clubs’ supporters will bring an element of their private lives into the game. The growth of anti-fascist fan groups around the UK suggests the game is due to become more political than ever.