Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The 12th Man: Can Fans Win It For Their Club?

In the dearth of English Premier League football news, I caught sight of the Adidas 12th Man contest. A contest on Facebook for football fans to post a supporter's profile picture on their FB page and encouraging many other friends/fans to do the same. The most supporter friends will win the contest.

But I digress, what really got me thinking was the lingering question if fans can win a football match for the club they support. When the match is seemingly heading for a draw, can the encouraging chants from the home fans spur their team on to get the three points? Can the continuous intimidation of the fans on opposition players help to tip the balance scales in favour of the home side? Can a technically inferior team beat a more talented side simply by riding on the enthusiasm and the "12th man effect" of their fans?

This season, Burnley has been the surprise package of the English Premier League. A strong home performance in which the likes of Manchester United, Everton, Birmingham and Sunderland have been on the losing end at Turf Moor. On the flipside, Owen Coyle's men have been terrible on the road, losing all four of their matches thus far. Quite clearly, the home fans wild support have made the difference.

Last season, Stoke City, cheered on by sellout crowds collected 32 out of their 39 points on home soil. The Potters fans were intent on giving their players a huge lift as soon as they entered Stadium Brittania. In so doing, Stoke City fans are currently the noisiest set of fans in the Premiership, recorded at 101.8 deciBels. Even this season, Stoke is sitting pretty in mid table, their two wins coming at home.

It is exactly this train of thought that inspired Wolves chief executive, Jez Moxey to roar newly promoted Wolves to Premiership safety. With the fans making up the difference at home, Wolves can make a decent fist of staying up.

Fans also add on to the colourful atmosphere on matchday. Who could forget Pompey's wild man, John Westwood? For more than a decade, he has supported Portsmouth through the best times and the worst times, with his bells, singing and drums. This is the reason why people flock to football stadiums, to soak up the atmosphere and cheer their teams to victory.

And so, looking at the evidence above, clearly fans through chants, songs and opposition intimidation can lift a team past more competent teams. This is particularly true for home matches where home fans would typically outnumber visiting fans.

These David v. Goliath matches with its 12th man effect brings with it that added romanticism and unpredictability to the sport that I love. Though club officials have requested for fans to tone down the ferocious support, it has to continue being a part of the beautiful game.

After all, what is football without its fans, I ask you?

Just a little trivia, the world's loudest cheer belongs to the Liverpool fans.

The occasion?
The time was February 2005 and it's the first minute of the Carling Cup final at the Millennium Stadium. Liverpool surge forward from the whistle and Fernando Morientes crosses for John Arne Riise to fire home. The travelling Kop erupts and the noise is the loudest in history, registering 130.7 decibels. Liverpool lost the final 3-2 after extra time, but won the battle of the sound waves, with the recorded level being two decibels higher than the previous record set by the supporters of the Denver Broncos American football team in 2000. The "Riise roar", as it is now known, would have drowned out the Concorde on take-off.

This article is written with reference to the following:
Clarets crowd help team draw strength
The Bell that chimed Pompey to success is silenced
We must top noise league
Stadium Noise Levels in Premier League 2008
The Sound of Silence

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