Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Rivals? Yes. But enemies?

Whilst reading an article on my favourite website, I came across an article ( here: ) which concerned 'fanatic fans'. It was a very interesting article, but one sentence in particular caught my eye. It was this: "These days, it feels as if you can’t be a real fan unless you hate your rivals as much as you love your own team."
Of course, I encourage you to read the whole article so as not to take the (tongue-in-cheek) quote out of context, but the general gist of the authour was that this opinion is a bit ridiculous, after all, football is only a game.

However, I thought it might be interesting to discuss a matter that is very much related to this quotation. That of footballing rivalries. I should point out, I am not talking about local derbies, rather the rivalries that build up during seasons between two clubs who might not necessarily be linked by geographical location or a previous historical event. Take Liverpool and Chelsea for example. They are rivals, but not in the same way that Liverpool and Everton are.

I will discuss this topic with regard to Chester FC. I know I said in my last post that I wouldn't really be talking about Chester FC, but as this is my first 'proper' article on my blog, I don't really want to stray too far from what I know. Not just yet anyway.

Chester FC are currently at the top of the Evo Stik Division One North, 3 points ahead of second placed Clitheroe (who we have 3 games in hand over), 6 points ahead of Chorley (who have a game in hand over us). Currently, however, our closest challengers are Curzon Ashton, back in 5th place, 9 points behind us, but with a whopping four games in hand! It would therefore be understandable for Chester's supporters to be most concerned about the form of Curzon Ashton, as they can directly affect Chester's league position by winning all of their games. This however, is not the case. Chorley are this season's big rivals, the team that everyone worries about, that everyone wants to see lose, and the team that everyone "hates" (to varying degrees of course, and actually probably not everyone does in fact hate them). This leads me onto the point of the article; do fans need a team to dispise, to 'get one over' on?

To answer this question it would be a good idea to look at why Chester fans 'chose' Chorley as their main rivals this year. One plausible reason is that they are the team that are most similar to us in the league: they pull the second biggest crowd in the league (off the top of my head), and have a good sized wage budget (I won't go into whose is bigger/smaller here). Another reason may be that they led the league for much of the early part of the season and we were trying to knock them off the top spot. However, the main reason for most fans will be the Chester/Chorley match where Chorley ran out 2-1 victors.

Now, its not sour grapes, Chester fans are extremely used to losing, but the manner in which Chorley won. This game was certainly not a classic, neither side were on top form, there was lots of hoof-ball from Chester, and Chorley did probably edge the game. It was more the fact that Chorley's players and manager wound us up: they had a penalty which should have been a free-kick, the player who scored the penalty celebrated in front of our fans, their manager said he felt sorry for Chester fans in "having to watch that [excrement] every week", they left the away dressing room in a state, and worst of all, one of them was wearing purple boots.

All of these little things left a sour taste in the mouth of many Chester fans, and I'm sure everyone (and I mean everyone this time) would love to beat them at their home ground in the return fixture. So, there are the reasons why Chorley are disliked over Clitheroe or Curzon Ashton. But I still need to answer my original question; is having a rival something the supporters need?


Why? Well, unfortunately there are no one-word-answers for that question. In my opinion the main reason is that by having someone to beat, to compare your team to, the season is more exciting. In effect, having an 'enemy' for the season is a psychological device used to make that season more engaging for the fan. If you went through a season without caring about what other teams in your division were doing, would you care about your final league position in the same way? I do not think so. A league table is effectively a device for comparison between teams. Want to know who the best team in the league was last year? Look at the league table; "it does not lie" (according to Match of the Day anyway). By having one or maybe several teams to care about, worry about, look at the form of etc. the fan increases their own interest levels, and excitement, through their increased engagment. This could be easily likened to the old saying; "if you put more in, you get more out".

There is, of course, a fine line to be tread between having the 'right' amount of anomosity between clubs and the wrong amount. I completely disagree with getting too into football, but if the game was completely disspassionate, then it would be much poorer game for it. It is where this passion for your club lends itself to the "hate" discussed by the authour of the twohundredpercent article that it goes over the top. But I am going off topic. It is suffice to say that rivalries are extremely valuable in making the season much more exciting for the fan. No promotion push or relegation battle would be the same without worrying about what the other teams around you are doing. With this in mind, long may Chorley be cursed with diabolical penalty decisions.

Thanks for reading, any comments are welcome.



  1. Having been the person standing in the tunnel as Flitcroft passed having said what he said, I really am looking forward to the trip to Chorley next month.

    Great blog Rich, keep it up and pop over to mine if you haven't already...

  2. Same! I might even make the trip back from uni to watch us put a few past them...

    Thanks for the kind words. I've been reading your blog for a little while, and it's in my 'link/contact' page too. I really enjoy having that extra little insight into how Chester FC works! I have a twitter- @richardtbellis - if you're interested in future updates.