Booing in Football: Help or hindrance to a club’s on-going issues?

Booing is an issue which divides supporters of the same club let alone within the same country, and one that came into focus over the weekend. Some fans say ‘You make your choice, you pay your money, you can do what you like’, but when booing works against your side and consistently costs them points, why do it?

Aston Villa’s winter of discontent saw them humiliated out of both cups and walloped at home time and time again. (Re ‘Winter of Discontent’: Excuse the cliché but if there’s ever a week for a Richard III reference, it’s definitely this one. Hint: there’s another nod to Shakespeare coming up).

Since November, to a backdrop of boos, Lambert’s youngsters have lost four of five home games – their only ‘positive’ result a 0-0 draw with Stoke. Inversely, Villa have lost just once on the road following trips to QPR, Liverpool, Swansea, West Brom and Everton. The dejected Villa Park moans it seems are negatively affecting results.

So I put it to you simply, to boo or not to boo, that is the question.
Of course there’s a chicken and egg argument here. Do fans boo because results are poor or are results poor because fans boo? I’d guess the former on the basis that fans presumably do not launch unprovoked attacks on their own team, but the issue boils down reaction: how do real fans cope with disappointment/ failure?

Consider Villa’s weekend opponents Everton. Since December 15, Blues fans have ripped their Red counterparts non-stop after their 3-1 home defeat to the Villains, yet an hour into Saturday’s game, the Toffees were in the exact same position in a match that could have sent them fourth.

The fans remained onside, they didn’t boo once. Look and behold, Everton drew level and gave themselves a chance of victory.

 

The ‘confused boo’

The key aspect is entitlement. If you demand your side wins every week, you’re going to end up booing because that is definitely not going to happen. Take Chelsea fans for instance who have become so deplorably immersed in the gimme, gimme, gimme culture of money-gifted success, they’ve given rise to a new form of disenchantment in the stands, the ‘confused boo’.

We’ve seen this recently with fans’ unsustainable anger at Roman Abramovic after heartlessly sacking of Double-winning fan favourite Roberto Di Matteo has been displaced into a more conventional rage at temporary manager Rafa Benitez. Granted Rafa made some ‘deeply hurtful’ (spot on) comments about flags, but what sort of moral high ground permits abuse of name-callers but not club legend-axers?

Home fans have booed Benitez from minute one of his two-month Stamford Bridge reign. Unsurprisingly, the Blues have won just 38% of their home fixtures (3/8) compared to 54% (7/13) away. No top six side has beaten Norwich, Everton or Stoke away this season, Chelsea have beaten all three.

On the road, altered conditions can suit a struggling side. Pressure decreases, scrutiny is reduced, as the noise from visiting supporters is almost exclusively positive. With the burden of expectation lifted, the impact of failure lessens freeing up teams to play better.

There’s surely a lesson there for home fans. The point of support must be to optimise your team’s chance of victory. Booing merely turns an opportunity for huge gain into severe disadvantage, at which point, fans only have themselves to blame in the event of a defeat.

 

Written by Chris Smith

Follow Chris on Twitter @cdsmith789 and visit his blog www.therussianlinesman.com

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