The Sharks fans in Cape Town seem happy to support their team no matter what, while the Stormers fans in Joburg seem to want a stake in how the team is run. Which is right asks Tank Lanning in his eNCA.com column?
If the Bulls played the Cheetahs in the Super Rugby final in Auckland or Sydney, would the stadium be full? Or what about the Chiefs playing the Crusaders at Loftus? Or a Currie Cup final between the Sharks and WP in Windhoek?
I realise it is a slightly different animal, but is it not quite astounding that the Aviva Stadium in Dublin was completely jam packed for the Heineken Cup final between two French clubs, Toulon and Clermont Auvergne?
Sure the flow of players between countries represented by the Heineken Cup clubs makes for Baa Baa like teams such as Toulon, and most clubs are a John Daly drive away from each other, but a Toulon fan wanting to get to the Aviva stadium for the final would have needed to either fly in, or drive the 1888km (using two ferries) which a distance calculator website suggests would take 19.1 hours. That takes some proper commitment!
And while there were plenty Clermont and Toulon fans at the ground, the majority were no doubt Irish rugby supporters keen on seeing a great game of rugby. And boy did they get it … You could smell the passion on display here in South Africa!
So why do the UK fans fill their stadia every week, no matter the sport, league or the results, and seem willing to die for their team and players, while SA fans seem happy to ditch their team when results go the wrong way, and think they can do better than the current players, coaches and administration?
Do they have fans, while we have supporters? Is our TV experience too good? Is our stadium experience too crap? Or is it just simply a culture thing?
I have been giving this whole “Sports fan/supporter” thing some thought for a while, and after being cc’d on mails from seriously disgruntled members of the Joburg Stormers supporters club, seeing the “Cape Crusaders” manifest in Cape Town, chatting to the Sharks supporters club in Cape Town, who celebrated their 15th year of existence this week, hearing the booing at Newlands, and reading of the fatal attack in Durban, I thought I would dig a little deeper.
What drives people to attack the opposition team’s supporters? Why do they boo? Do they have the right to get upset with coaches and players? Should they not be supporting their side no matter what? How responsible to the fan are the unions, players and coaches?
In his book, The Anatomy of Sports Fans, author Pierre D. Bognon says fans are generally viewed as obsessed individuals: people who have an intense interest in a certain team, celebrity, band or similar, often viewed as somehow deviant, and portrayed as either the obsessed loner or the frenzied crowd member. Being a fan is not just a label or a category, it is also an identity. And what, if any, rights come with that identity?
A sense of belonging and community has always been a part of the attraction of being a sport fan, hence geography playing it’s part.
And why do some fans almost condone the doping seen from the likes of Lance Armstrong and the bending of the laws by Tukkies in the Varsity Cup? Bognon reckons fans know about drugs and cheating, and they may even be concerned about it, but not enough to stop attending or watching games. People just want to see the game!
So on the one hand, you have the Sharks supporters in Cape Town, who seem inclined to trust the suits, coaches and players, supporting the team to the hilt, to the point of getting defensive should anyone say anything negative about the team. Perhaps more in line with the UK supporters, where extreme support / fanaticism can lead to violence between supporters – NOT that I am suggesting this to be the path chosen by this incredible bunch of people 🙂
And on the other hand, one has a group like the Stormers supporters in Joburg, who now do not agree with, or trust the suits, and want answers from the coaches and players for the poor performances on the field. So seemingly willing to give all they have in support of the team, but with a view to that support earning them a stake in how the team is run.
Which is better? Is one more correct than the other? Has the management style of the two unions played it’s part in how the supporters clubs have panned out? I would say so ….
What type of fan are you?