Supporting a football club is a demanding job. There are ecstatic highs, and equally heart-breaking lows. It's not a standard 9 till 5, it's a constant 24/7. But what truly classes someone as a "die hard fan"?
From season ticket holders to "arm chair" fans, you can always be sure that any supporter will want an opinion on the goings on at their beloved club. Whether that be wanting a new manager at the helm, or just a cheeky moan about the price of a half-time pork pie, there is always something to cheer or cry about.
But what exactly classes someone as a true supporter? Is it someone who attends every every single game during every single season, or is it the fan who religiously watches games from their living room sofa?
Take for example, the "support your local team" approach. Can you class someone who supports Manchester United, yet lives in London and hasn't a whiff of a northern accent, as a "true fan" or a do you class them as a "glory hunter"? The same maybe could be said for someone who lives down the road from a non-league football club, yet supports the Premier league leaders.
One thing is for sure though, the "working man's" game is now all but dead. Almost everyone involved in professional football is highly paid to the extent of some sort of seven-figure sum. Managers, players and agents are all vastly well paid, yet the same cannot be said for the majority of a clubs loyal fan base. Premier League football clubs charge an immense amount for match day tickets, not to mention season tickets. This doesn't take into account food or travel expenses, so is it completely justified to say someone is less of a fan purely because they cannot afford to attend matches? Going to matches nowadays isn't seen as so much as a five minute bus journey but more of a family day out.
I would use a typical Champions League Away match as a perfect example. First you have to pay for the match ticket itself, then proceed to travel and book over night accommodation expenses, then on top of that refreshment expenses. All in all, for the average fan, you are looking at a weeks wages at least, if not more. So does that make someone less of a fan if they simple cannot afford the cost? Another way of telling just how expensive modern football has become is to look at the replica shirts supporters wear at any given match. A good amount of fans will not be wearing the latest club shirt, and will opt instead to wear an older replica or even just wear something from home. This maybe purely down to their own choice of course, but could it be another case of their club charging over the odds prices for the newest style of the clubs kit and clothing range?
This then leads to the topic of the elite clubs. The league champions, the top four teams and of course, the richest clubs in the world. Manchester United have arguably one of the biggest worldwide fan bases if not the biggest. How many of their supporters from outside of the clubs country attend games? How many buy the replica shirts and how many could even name a starting eleven? Just how many more fans have mega-rich Manchester City received since their multi-billion pound takeover? How consequential has Liverpool's demise in domestic and European success been to their global fan base? Is someone who lives in Singapore but supports Chelsea the biggest type of glory hunter or are they seen as an equal to someone who actually lives in Chelsea and sees Stamford Bridge as their second home?
So the big question is, are all fans equal if they support the same club or is there a criteria to being "more of a fan" than another?