The Premiership has just kicked off for another season, and my husband took my 6 year old son to his first proper football match to watch Leeds United versus Burnley.
My husband, who openly admits he’s a bit of a ‘part time‘ supporter of Leeds United, was keen to take my son to the game - which ended in a respectable 1-1 draw.
This was the first game he’d been to in about ten years and he’d been somewhat reluctant to take our son as he recalled the kind of language that can be used at football matches. However, having obtained some complimentary tickets, it seemed rude not to go along and after discussing the proposition with our son they were both excited.
On his return, I asked my husband how it had gone. Sadly, his reply took me by surprise. Unfortunately, he'd forgotten how much bad language spectators were privy to during a live match. Despite being placed in the family area, there was still no escape from it.
He described how, as the game commenced, the crowd cheered their respective teams, but sadly, it didn't end there. Every time the Burnley goalkeeper went to take a goal kick the crowd started to jeer, raising their tone until the keeper ran forward to kick the ball, at which point the entire kop stand shouted "You s**t b*****d", ". Later on, after Leeds had taken the lead in the match, they sang the cheery song: “who the f**king hell are you?" and much more.
My husband pointed out to me that these were ‘jovial’ chants without any malice or hatred that can unfortunately so often be witnessed at football games. He was thankful that, because of this, the swearing wasn’t quite as noticeable - as much he wanted to, there was simply no point in covering our 6 year olds' ears whilst this was going on - it may have even drawn his attention to it further.
Hearing about my husband's latest match experience has led me to wonder whether taking my son to another game in the future is perhaps a good idea? This is a huge shame in itself as he loved going, and thankfully was too young to recognise the bad language being thrown around.
I know I am not the only parent in the world to face this dilemma. The simple fact is, we encourage our children to be active and take part in sports such as football in a bid to keep them healthy, and also in the hope they may learn lifelong skills such a teamwork, trust and friendship - many of the great qualities that the game of football avidly seeks to promote.
Furthermore, the FA itself is very keen to promote the game to children. Players are described as 'role-models' to children, while a lot of the media coverage surrounding the game promotes its strong links with children. At games, children are mascots for their team and many premiership footballers are seen supporting children's charities and events. In short, a bond is formed between footballers and their younger fans from an early age. So, surely we should be able to feel comfortable taking them to a match?
Leeds United fans were recently crowned 'the loudest on Twitter'. A survey conducted by CrowdScores which looked at fans' interaction with their club's official Twitter accounts. It compared how many followers each club's account had against the number of mentions given, and analysed the sentiment of each tweet, marking it as positive or negative.
For me, this accolade was a positive one. The fact that fans are expressing their views using social media forums is perhaps a nod toward a better future, where fans may choose to refrain from bad language and save it for Twitter.
David Walker, CEO of CrowdScores seems to think so. He said "But to see (Leeds United) top all 92 teams demonstrates just how passionate they are. Football fans are increasingly taking to social, forums and in-app discussions to praise and vent about their teams before, during and after the big matches. This is only set to increase and we look forward to the various debates in the upcoming season."
In the meantime, the question of whether kids have a place at a football match full of bad language and obscenities remains ambiguous. Should children continue to be over-shadowed by fans venting their anger and hatred towards players in this manner?
I believe they shouldn't. How about you?