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Jonathan Liew is right that overseas fans should not be dismissed as tourists (The cultural division of football fans only serves those who wish to exploit it, 19 March). I have had a season ticket at Tottenham Hotspur for over 25 years, grew up less than 10 miles from the ground and had a grandmother who ran a pub on Tottenham High Road – very much, I think, qualifying as a true local fan. But back in 2010, I found myself exiled from my season ticket by a six-month stint working in Singapore.

I was, however, welcomed with open arms by the Singapore Spurs Supporters’ Club and watched with delight from there as Spurs qualified for the Champions League for the first time. Against my expectations, instead of being full of expats like me, the SSSC was almost entirely made up of local fans – it was set up by a group of friends who, like me, had been at Wembley in 1999 to see Spurs win the League Cup. The members of the SSSC were (and are) passionate, knowledgeable and hugely engaged with the club. The levels of excitement on their social media when Spurs were visiting Singapore was remarkable.

In that run-in to Champions League qualification, I watched a crucial victory against Chelsea at the SSSC. I spoke to my father on the telephone after the game. He was still in the old White Hart Lane and told me about the wild celebrations there. I told him it was the same in Singapore – people were punching the air, cheering and hugging strangers with joy. Anyone who calls those fans “plastic” has no idea what a football club can really mean to people – even on the other side of the world.
Richard Coopey
Edenbridge, Kent

Jonathan Liew’s article gets to the heart of the matter on contested fanbases (plastic, authentic or otherwise) without ever addressing the real issue: the relationship of neoliberalism to sport. As an “authentic” Manchester City season card holder (yes, really: I watched them lose to York City in the Second Division in 1999), I have no problem with encouraging new fans from afar. The influx presents good revenue for the club, but one also has to consider displacement. For every affluent new fan, there is also one less well-off fan who can’t now get a ticket. Surely elite clubs should be satisfied with TV money, hence they can afford to cross-subsidise?

This doesn’t take us back to the era of Alf Tupper (nor should it), but pricing has to be considered sensitively by elite clubs. I have one real moan: nobody – plastic, tourist or local – should ever wear a half-and-half scarf!
Stella Jones-Devitt
Almondbury, West Yorkshire

It is not simply a matter of “real” local fans and “fake” overseas fans. Another dichotomy Jonathan Liew alludes to briefly is between fans of a club and fans of a particular player: “Behold the flocks of Korean fans at Tottenham, for whom a trip to see Son Heung-min in the flesh is a kind of sacred pilgrimage.” The concern of many lifelong fans is not just that they’re being outpriced by overseas fans and neglected by their own clubs, it’s that some of those foreign fans primarily support a player, not the club, and will stop supporting that club when the player is transferred. In the Czech Republic, many locals now “support” West Ham because of Tomáš Souček. West Ham shirts are ubiquitous. That won’t be the case if he is transferred. The 21st-century supporter is increasingly player-motivated, not club-motivated.
David Hutt
Olomouc, Czech Republic

Over my 28 years of supporting Spurs, there have been numerous lows as well as fantastic highs, with none higher than Lucas Moura’s third goal against Ajax to put us through to the Champions League final. Yet what makes this event so special for me is not just what happened on the pitch, but how and where I watched it. A couple of friends and I went to a pub on Parker’s Piece in Cambridge, which was heaving, full of people wanting to watch a good match in a pub with more TV screens than varieties of beer. We ended up sharing a table with three South Korean students who, given their reaction when Son Heung-min first appeared on screen, were there for their man; well, initially.

For the ensuing 100 minutes or so, the boundary between the lifelong Spurs fan and the so-called “plastic” fan evaporated, with all of us collectively losing it when Moura netted his third. It was football doing the thing that great sport does, bringing people together regardless of class, colour or creed. Perhaps this is a romanticised cliche, but like most cliches it’s grounded in truth and is brilliantly encapsulated in Jonathan Liew’s article. We all got into football for different reasons, and the pernicious idea that some have more legitimacy than others to support a football club is not only absurd but is a waste of energy which should be directed to making sport better for all concerned. Allusions that some are more worthy than others need to be called out in order to stop this echo-chamber fuelled division. Therefore, I once again find myself thinking: “Thank God for Ange Postecoglou!
Will Brown
Cambridge

#Plastic #football #fans #passionate #local #lifers #Letters

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