One of the most impressive sights from this past weekend’s match between Man United and Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park wasn’t just the grit and determination shown by United, who seemed hellbent on pushing for all three points right up until the final whistle. Instead, it was seeing the impressive support from the Manchester United away fans standing at the Darwen End, twirling their scarves above their heads and creating a wonderful atmosphere.
Man United fans aren’t renowned for being boisterous. In the past, Sir Alex Ferguson compared the atmosphere at a recent home match to a funeral. Seven years ago, former United player Roy Keane criticized the supporters in corporate seats for being more interested in the prawn sandwiches than the football. Plus, on my recent trip to Old Trafford, I was surprised too at how quiet the crowd was.
The problem isn’t confined to just Old Trafford. In fact, the issue of quiet home crowds is prevalent throughout the Premier League. From watching matches on TV, home fans — for the most part — act like they’re watching the matches at home on TV, glued to their seats and eyes glazed over.
Unfortunately the Premier League and individual clubs aren’t too concerned about ensuring the atmosphere at grounds remains electric. Clubs could start by increasing the allotment of away tickets to generate more noise at stadiums. But clubs won’t allow this because it’ll reduce the number of season tickets it can sell.
What’s ironic is that many new followers of the Premier League remark how vibrant and jubilant crowds at English football games seem. Compared to many traditional North American spectator sports, it’s not surprising. But when contrasted against the unbelievable sights of what happens in stadiums elsewhere around the globe (such as in Argentina), the crowds at English grounds seem dispassionate. Except, of course, for the away fans.