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You can choose any team you want….just so long as it is in the Premier League

5 years ago

I don’t know why Match of the Day magazine boils my wee so much when the Human Rights act is about to be revoked, but it does.

Probably because last weekend, inwardly seething with rage, I unwillingly and with a great deal of soul searching, allowed my flesh and blood, my only human son, to choose ‘Arsenal’ from a drop down menu in response to the prompt:

‘Team supported.’ It’s for one of the mini-leagues. He had no choice.

Almost literally. He’d only just created the Match of the Day Magazine Fantasy Football team; I’m still wiping jam from his snack off the keyboard as I type. Fair enough, the players to choose from are all from the Premier League; it is fantasy football, after all. It’s the ‘who would you sign?’ question of Fantasy Football Island. Mind, he’s also picked Jack Wilshere, which makes me more and more pleased that I’ve not actually had to pay for this.

No. It was the bit where you drop down that ‘team supported’ menu.

All of the teams are in the Premier League. You can’t select the local team down the road, who might be able to shift more tickets than the list of twenty giants here; you can’t choose a different team who might have to work hard to get fans in through the door in the first place. You can’t even select ‘mind your own neb.’

Apparently, once you’re not in the Premier League, it would seem, you won’t want to play in a league with other supporters of your real world, not very glossy club.

To little me, this suggests that you have to have a Premier League team who you ‘follow’. You in this case, being mainly kids. I couldn’t care less who wins the PL this year, as long as it’s not that lot from the southern Metro terminus. But I do object to the idea that, for example, West Brom are more important than Birmingham City. Or Aston Villa Pop, for that matter. That a mini league of Middlesbrough fans would be more appealing to kids from Fenham than Newcastle United.

I object to the assumption that you will follow one of the twenty, just because they’re in the Premier League. Then you will dump them when they’re not. Via drop down menu. It just feels… glossy and shallow.

Match of the Day are taking a product aimed at kids, who get very excited, and easily disappointed, and saying, hey, you like football, I bet you support one of this smorgasbord of what we say?

Thankfully, judging by the reaction of the young ‘un, I don’t think kids are as shallow as that. Not when we are talking about their team. It’s like taking their jammy snack away just because the crumbs are getting in the gaps between the keys. They’re possessive. They’re emotional.

The intangible response to the question, ‘Why do we support our team?’ is one steeped in family, tradition and identity. The Premier League recognise the importance of family, tradition and identity in their own marketing, but there is something cold and clinical in the MotD magazine apparent assumption that kids will follow a Premier League team. Take away the emotion and all you have is a franchise.

So why was I worked up? It wasn’t because he couldn’t choose Moussa Sissoko. It’s because kids are faced with brand loyalty choices every day, which will ultimately be replaced in eighteen months when the new SmartBit 8C McThing comes out. Football is marketed as a product, and kids are the next customers.

It will be interesting to see how they will perceive their team, whoever they are, when they’re not even on the list. I hope it’s with the loyalty seen at football grounds outside the top tier every week, rather than the shortlist of glory.

Now, does anyone know how to get jam off a laptop keyboard?

You can follow the author on Twitter @georgestainsby



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