How Biased Are You As a Supporter of Your Premier League Club?

One of the many interesting aspects of running EPL Talk is how I get to read and interact with football supporters from all of the 20 Premier League clubs throughout each season.

One of the things I find particularly enlightening is how objective (or not) football supporters are. Take a topic such as the Ryan Shawcross tackle on Aaron Ramsey or the ball that hit Robin van Persie’s head and you’re guaranteed to get into a heated debate about who was right, who was wrong and who should be punished.

All of our favorite Premier League clubs have been involved in similar incidents, but are we — as football supporters — able to remain objective when similar incidents happen at our club? Are we able to think and see clearly, and objectively make a decision based on the facts in front of us whether our team was the guilty party or not?

In my opinion, there are three natural reactions to a highly controversial incident involving our teams:

(1) We see the incident through the eyes of being a supporter of our club. This would be a conscious decision in our minds to see an incident in a way that is completely loyal and biased in favor of our club.

(2) We see the incident purely in an unbiased manner, free of any prejudice or outside influences. Hard to achieve, but not impossible to find. We like to think that our football commentators and pundits are in this category, right? And finally…

(3) We see the incident through the eyes of being a supporter of our club, but only subconsciously. We believe we’re being impartial, but we’re subconsciously favoring our club.

This is, to me, the most fascinating reason. It’s partly based on knowing your football team’s personal traits more intimately than supporters of other teams because they only see your team in big matches against them. That intimate knowledge is knowing how your player usually reacts in a situation so you have a better idea of whether he’s acting our of character or not (for example, knowing your player is “not that kind of player” or not if he commits a professional foul). However our support of our team can influence even our subconscious. Even when we try to be objective, our support of our team impacts our subconscious.

It’s hard to be completely objective because our support of our club clouds our vision.

In the Ashley Williams incident, some people were forming opinions about whether he purposely kicked the ball at Robin van Persie’s head or not based on seeing the Swansea captain in action in perhaps just a few live games during the past two seasons. I haven’t missed a Swansea game in the past couple of years, so I formed a different opinion. But admittedly, I may have been influenced in favor of him (I thought he didn’t do it on purpose) based on my allegiances to Swansea City and how “I know him” as a player (i.e. he’s not that kind of player).

The examples of Shawcross-Ramsey and Williams-Van Persie are two of literally thousands that happen throughout each season in the Premier League. The bottom line is that even when we try to be objective, it’s very difficult based on how we perceive things, how well we know the players and whether supporting our club makes a difference on our final opinion.

It’s not just we soccer fans who have differing opinions about incidents in the Premier Laegue. Just as we see incidents in the three different ways mentioned above, so too do football reporters, pundits, managers, commentators and more. At the end of the day, it’s healthy to have different opinions. We’re not all going to agree on everything, but realizing how each of us are impacted in the three ways above may help us better understand why we disagree at times.

15 thoughts on “How Biased Are You As a Supporter of Your Premier League Club?”

    1. And for the record Gaffer, I don’t think he did it on purpose either. It’s pretty natural for defenders to bomb the ball out of the box when they know one of their teammates has committed a foul just to buy some time to get properly organized. This comes from your friendly neighboorhood man united fan that was stuck at my job working directly with my boss all day, causing me to miss a 7 goal thriller.

  1. I get the gist of your article, and I think think the RvP incident is a fine example – but I don’t however think the Ramsey-Shawcross “incident” is.

    I put incident in quotes because I don’t see where the controversy lies. Shawcross came in high, late, and over the ball. He received a red card and served his suspension.

    There is nothing to be biased about, no one’s vision is clouded, and there is nothing to discuss. There is no angle to take that is not the truth: he came in high, late, and over the ball. He received a red card (by the letter of the law) and served his suspension.


    I would go as far to say that you betray an anti-Arsenal bias by including the “incident” in your piece as an example.

    Unless, of course, you see bias on the side of the Stoke City fans that believe Shawcross did nothing wrong and regularly boo Ramsey when Arsenal play at the Britannia – in which case I am bloody idiot.

    Either way, there are probably better examples.

    1. Also, for the record, I am an Arsenal fan (duh) and I am biased to a fault. I try not to be, but I admit fully to a pro-Arsenal bias in controversial incidents involving the club.

      That said, I stand by my points above.

    2. Good points Matt. With Shawcross, there are some Arsenal fans who believe that the Stoke defender intentionally injured Ramsey. I don’t believe that. It was an accidental injury. Shawcross was going for the ball.

      The Gaffer

  2. I try to be objective. I support Manchester United, but also Stoke City as my home town team. When living in England I would enrage my dad as I would make comments and he would say I was anti-England. I had to support all the bad fouls England did to be a good supporter. So I guess I am pretty objective.

  3. Another thing to contemplate: Is there a premeditated bias among some supporters? For example, if an incident like the one that happened at Old Trafford yesterday occurred regarding whether Newcastle’s second goal should have been disallowed or not, do some supporters automatically rule in the favor of Newcastle just because they can’t consciously or subconsciously favor Man United?

    The Gaffer

    1. Absolutely. Every time you hear a “Big sides get all the calls” moan, you’re getting exactly what you just described.


  4. I’m biased, but I know I’m biased. I don’t know if that mitigates circumstances, but I really don’t care. As far as I’m concerned, no action came against Fergie after the halftime rant vs. Newcastle because he was right.

    That said, I like to think I can look at most issues dispassionately.


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