The Lost Art of Loving the Fans

What do fans of football and Lord of the Rings have in common?

As they left behind the darkened tunnel and stepped onto the bright pitch, the players felt overjoyed that the time had finally come. At last, after all the restrictions, fans were back in the stadium. The roar of the crowd – however diminished – filled them with pride.

But, as they took a knee, the pitch of the crowd lowered. They began to boo.

As crowds reentered football stadiums post-covid, the same drama played out again and again. The players would kneel. The fans would boo.

The response was swift and blunt; the fans were racists. Legacy media said so, managers said so. Even the players joined the chorus.

Football clubs even went so far as to say that anyone caught booing could be banned from the stadium because they voiced disapproval of something you said was good and they said was not.

Think about that for a second. The very people who love your football club more than anyone else does, become the people you’re most against. They’re the reason your club exists, they pay your wages – gladly – because they think you’re worth it. And now they’re the people you’re pushing away in the name of progress.

But here’s the catch. If you shun the fans who love something, you simultaneously shun what makes it loveable.

Football fans turn up to lose themselves in a sport. To escape from dead-end jobs and workplace gossip. To set aside political differences and come together in support of a shared identity. For ninety minutes, that’s all there is. A singular focus on the skill of 22 men, 2 goals and 1 ball. When they want politics they turn on the TV.

Their love of the game is clear. What’s not so clear is how millionaires kneeling in the UK will help with international policing issues – or why that should even be the concern of the average UK football fan.

And what of Lord of the Rings fans who were recently drip-fed various significant changes to their beloved characters, stories and lore?

The response was identical in tone.

It stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of who their primary stakeholders are.

Under stakeholder theory, anyone that is affected by the organization or its workings in any way is considered a stakeholder, including employees, customers, suppliers, local communities, environmental groups, governmental groups, and more. Stakeholder theory holds that organizations and corporations should strive to do right by all these stakeholders and that in doing so, the organization will achieve true, lasting success.

Jeremy McAbee – https://www.wrike.com/blog/understanding-stakeholder-theory/

Multi-million pound clubs owned by billionaires and who employ millionaires, move in very different circles. (As do the ultramodern ‘Bobos‘). They are living in almost total disconnection from their primary stakeholders and so have lost all intuition for what makes them tick.

(Is this how the Trumps and Boris’s bumble to the top? A simple case of maintaining this intuition for the normals. An ability to see through the smug fug lingering in so many boardrooms, bars and metropolitan brains).

This disconnection leads to a classic error; Seeing your class as your stakeholder.

And this is really my central assertion. It is a subtle trick of the mind which dominates politics and media. It is the false perception which leads to the consternation at these backlashes. Brexit (so famously marked by the false expectations of a metropolitan echo chamber) rested squarely on this phenomenon of seeing one’s class as one’s stakeholder.

This disconnection is vast and the cries of fans across it will be faint. Those who make must therefore listen intently.

Love remains the only bridge which can reach far enough and remain strong enough to cross such gaping chasms of class.

This is why loving your fans is key. It is a strong link to and respect for those who matter most. It allows you to see their good intent and it allows you to see their discontent as spawned by a desire for the thing they love to remain lovable.

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