LONDON: Traditional voices of authority are beginning to fall away, as the modern football fan is connected to a wider array of fan-curated and fan-created perspectives on the game, but don’t yet discount the live game, a new report suggests.

One of the most popular new media properties focusing on how football feels, COPA90 has released its The Modern Football Fan report, based on a February survey of 515 UK football fans between 16 and 24. In addition to the quantitative side, the firm conducted secondary research using qualitative and video diary methodologies.

“Our new study shows clearly that Modern Football Fans are worldly, culturally curious, and passionate,” said James Kirkham, Head of COPA90. “While social media pools the content around their differing interests into the same feeds, their passions no longer live in isolation from one another. And this will have a significant impact on how this young generation of fans shapes football’s future.”

Social media’s primacy is not solely the result of young peoples’ tastes, however, as COPA90 observes that many modern fans have been priced out of the live game, pushing them toward a more intimate connection to players, clubs, and new channels. Currently, just 27.5% of football content is viewed on live TV, for example, outweighed by the 38.5% of viewing that now takes place on combined web and social channels.

The division of football-related activity provides a nuanced picture of fans’ behaviour. Most time (34%) is spent with the live game, followed by gaming (16.6%), playing football (13.8%), consuming match analysis and score updates (11%); social media accounts for just 8.6%. This chimes with research surfaced a year ago, which found that pirated sports were becoming more common.

Attitudes to social are maturing: 58% of 16-19 year-olds in the UK now regularly use WhatsApp for football chat, compared with 32% for Snapchat, 24% Twitter, and 15% who post football content on Instagram. The authors also suggested that fans are increasingly wary of social media’s capacity for locking down an echo chamber, alongside the potential effect of present social behaviour on their future selves.

Recent events, Kirkham suggested, are partly responsible for a hardening of attitudes toward open platforms. “Post- the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook revelations, these fans’ preference for the ‘social safe havens’ that are now the epicentre of the Modern Football Fan’s football conversation will only grow.

“Whether or not today’s dominant ‘social safe haven’ – WhatsApp, which has been owned by Facebook since 2014 – continues to be that epicentre and what other havens emerge, however, remains to be seen.”

Sourced from COPA90; additional content by WARC staff