While for the most part many would interpret that the power in football clubs is held by the chairman, the manager and the players the power that football fans have over their club often takes a backseat. Of course the owners of the club and the manager look after the day to day operations of the club and the players enact the performance of the club on it football fans have a very large voice in today’s world of social media as their opinions can have a huge impact on the club’s future whether it pertains to transfer dealings or appointments. When results don’t go right on the pitch the drone of boo’s that echo around a stadium leaves the manager with an awful sense of foreboding as he knows his job very much hangs in the balance.
The world of football has drastically changed over the last two decades. As the game has become more and more commercially driven players are being paid huge sums of money much to the ire of fans all over the world. Gone are the days of one club legends that would die for the shirt and in their place are mercenaries who will ply their trade for the highest bidder regardless of the level of football. This is evident when we look at talented players like Alexandre Pato, Yannick Carrasco and Oscar who have left competitive football in Europe in order to chase the money in the Chinese Super League.
Due to the astronomical wages on offer many in the football world believe that the players don’t care as much anymore and more often than not give very little return for the huge investments being made in them. Managers therefore are left to deal with the after effects of this as more often than not when the performances are not up to par the manager takes the flak. For many “player power” has never been stronger than it is as many cases over the last few seasons would suggest. The sackings of Claudio Ranieri from Leicester City and Jose Mourinho from Manchester United are prime examples of “player power” losing managers their jobs. It is easy to forget that football fans hold just as much power as the players as in today’s world of social media it has never been easier for fans to voice their opinions on their team’s successes or shortcomings.
Social media has allowed fans to have their opinions heard like never before. When things are going well fans will sing the praises of the club but when things aren’t going well they can be quite vicious in their attack of the club’s failures. Following heavy defeats or poor runs of form fans will take to social media and will always have a target in mind. This see’s fans heavily criticise individual players and the manager as they look for a scapegoat. When these opinions multiply a cloud of negativity can begin to swirl around a football club and a lot of the time this negativity is insurmountable.
As a result someone has to go and the buck always seems to stop with the manager. This season has seen already thirty managers lose their jobs in England’s top four tiers. Club owners give in to the pressure from fans which see’s huge turnover in managers. This can lead to instability in a club with Leeds United being a prime example as they had seven managers over two seasons from 2014 to 2016. The most high profile sacking this season of course was Jose Mourinho from Manchester United as fans sided with player unrest and called for the Portuguese manager’s head. The debacle with Mourinho saw the fans turn their anger towards the board as they publicly voiced their disapproval of the club’s vice chairman Ed Woodward.
Another case of this can be seen with the performance of Sunderland last season as the club went through three managers as they suffered back to back relegations. The much talked about Netflix series “Sunderland ‘Til I Die” covered the clubs tumultuous season as the fans viciously scorned the playing and management staff. The fans also showed scorn for the club’s board as they vilified the role of the club’s CEO Martin Bain. This led to him parting company with the club at the end of the season. The fans also called for the head of club owner Ellis Short who too left the club in April 2018 as he sought to cut his losses.
The impact of football fans on their club cannot be understated. They may not hold the financial power but their voice is definitely heard. Their criticisms can often lead to managers changing their team selection in order to appease them. They also have the power to force the club into spending spree’s if the club’s current squad is not matching their expectations and as we have seen they can be a curse for managers and the boardroom.