What is religion anyway? According to dictionary.com, religion is “the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices”. In that case, the secular aspect of supporting football clubs within the British culture should be considered a religion!
Religions are based on specific morals and values; people gathering together in community to celebrate. A religious structure provides individuals with support, connection, higher purpose, and a sense of community.
One of my favorite movies of all time is Green Street Hooligans which portrays the lifestyles of individuals living in Europe, specifically the football firms in England. After watching the film many times I realized that the devotion and commitment these individuals have towards their specific team is truly remarkable. Their passion and dedication is like a faith-based religion.
Football firms are no different. Each football team is associated with a firm. The firms gather for every match and cheer on the team together, in community. These communities are based on similar ideals and a dedication to a team.
Football firms are everywhere; the passion the fans express toward a particular team is endless. Football games and the violence surrounding them provide the members of the firm with a place to escape from the problems of life. Similar to a religious group, firms are about loyalty and dedication to something larger than just one individual. The connections made create a community, a family.
Often individuals become religious or more committed to their faith after experiencing a tragedy or life changing event. I have seen many friends explore religion after their parents divorced or the death of a friend or relative has occurred. Religion provides people with a sense of belonging. Firms are no different; football is more than just a way of being. Attending, drinking, and fighting at football games is how hooligans identify themselves. Firms provide the framework for people to feel part of a community.
The 2012 Euro Cup is currently taking place; I have had the opportunity to watch several games in the local pubs and experience the culture first hand. England played Spain last week; the game ended with a score of 1-0, England won! So many diehard fans were at the pub cheering on their team. Drinking with friends and yelling at the giant TV screens across the pub seemed completely normal. The fans were consumed with the game and had one thing on their minds, winning. The sense of connection and community were tangible in the pub; it was really amazing.
I am not saying that football firms provide a positive sense of community; connection to firms promotes violence, usually a great deal of violence. Firms are consumed with winning at all costs; they demolish other firms in both verbal and physical brawls. Like firms, not all religious communities provide a positive sense of community; violence exists in religious groups as well.
Some may say it’s a reach to say football firms and religions have a lot in common, yet both provide individuals with a strong sense of connection and community. They provide a structure for people to associate with, they share a common purpose or goal (some say morals and values) and both require dedication and commitment to belong.