One of the critiques that soccer supporters of English clubs have of the globalization of the Premier League is the number of front-running fans that have no connection to the clubs they support who adopt teams. These types of foreign supporters have disproportionately through the years supported England’s most successful and best marketed club – Manchester United.
Nowhere is this more true than in the United States, a nation whose own soccer culture has been largely underground and faced hostility from the entrenched sports media who sometimes even deride the game as one for foreigners, not true-blooded Americans.
Against this backdrop, the rapid emergence of the Premier League on the American sporting landscape, especially among younger fans, has threatened the soccer-hating sports editors and programming directors who have made a living off cheap shots aimed at the sport for years. But an uncomfortable reality about the game’s growth is that many of these fans are also supporting sports teams closer to them in different sports. Manchester United’s difficult 2013-14 season has already seen some repercussions among American fans.
While not scientific research, I’ve already noticed a decline in interest in the Premier League among some Twitter followers who follow a multitude of sports but “support” Manchester United. This past week when the Red Devils lost twice at Old Trafford seems to have intensified the trend.
This morning a published story reported that a Manchester United fan in the US decided to switch allegiances to Chelsea. Then after posting this on my Twitter timeline, I got a number of responses from true United supporters in the States saying that they have seen fans who come to the pub who support the club dwindle as the difficult debut season of David Moyes has continued.
While every nation has its front-runners, including England (the number of casual Liverpool fans in London in the 1970s and 1980s speaks for itself), the United States has a particularly bad reputation for being bandwagon hoppers whose attention span for truly supporting any sports team in a meaningfully passionate way is limited. Unfortunately, the willingness of some United fans to jump off the bandwagon, even if it is small percentage of overall Manchester United support in the USA, speaks loudly about some of the difficulties the sport still faces in the country.
Editor’s note: For the latest Red Devils news, analysis and opinion, visit the Manchester United team page.