The Three Types of Supporter Style

By Greg Mockos

Football support is a global phenomenon whose expression deeply reflects the culture in the country, region, or even city the supported football club is located. Football support, as intended in this article, is defined as the collection of actions that supporters do on any given game day as part of an organized group of individuals. This includes chanting, singing, pogoing, waving flags, tifo, and anything that elevates your beloved team’s performance on the field. How supporter groups around the world enact each one of those actions is greatly determined by the local culture. This point would lead to say that, since there are tens of thousands of football clubs around the world, then there ought to be tens of thousands of supporting styles. This is largely true as each supporter group has its own ways of supporting and its own idiosyncrasies. However, supporting styles can be clumped generally into categories of styles. There are three major established styles of support: the English style, the continental European style, and the South American style. Most groups, whether they fall into the aforementioned regions or not, largely follow these styles or mimic certain components of each style. Over the next few weeks we're going to discuss each style type, starting today with the English style.

The English Style

The English style of support is the oldest and the one that started it all. There is no doubt that English supporters were some of the first to support in an organized manner in terraces in England. They were the inspiration for supporters all over Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. It is also important to note that many teams around Europe, particularly in Italy, were actually founded by English ex-pats that had relocated, but brought the beautiful game with them. One odd example of this is the Genoa Cricket and Football Club (known simply as Genoa in the current Serie A), which was founded by an English businessman.

The English style of support is a predominantly chant based style of support with little to no flags, banners, of choreographed displays. The majority of chants originate in popular culture, as harassment to rival teams and players, and self-mockery to make light of dire team performances. English supporters are also notorious for massive waves of traveling support, which is also expressed for the national team. There are few countries in the world that can rely on the massive traveling support for a national team more than the English. This support stems from generations of traveling supporters for their local clubs. It is also important to note that traveling support in England in such quantities was enabled by the very extensive and well developed rail lines that zip across the English countryside. You can access most stadiums with rail and not break your bank to follow your team away.

In the English style there are no capos, or chant leaders. The English style is the epitome of the organically started chants which are initiated by groups within the terrace and then, as a snowball effect, are picked up by the entire stand or stadium. In the English style continuous chanting is not common and in some cases frowned upon. You chant when you feel like the team needs a chant. It is not uncommon to go through entire matches without songs or chants going off. If a team does not deserve it, or there is little to chant about, then there are no chants. This is not a negative about the English style it merely shows that the English style is very much in tune with what is happening on the field – more so than other styles of support. English style also does not typically have a drum of any sort; most tunes are kept by clapping and/or by jumping. To conclude, the English style is the first and the most organically driven. It requires the least backdoor organization of the three styles I will describe. You do not need a tifo coordinator, a capo crew, or any sort of structure. In the English style you show up for your team, home or away, watch the game being played and chants start up organically. It is the old style that is still the foundation of the other two supporter styles I will discuss later.