If you haven’t read Part I of this series - read it here.
Welcome to Part II of the “Arsenal FC – The Definitive Indian Supporter Experience” series. In Part I, the fact that India was a special case with respect to how Arsenal and on a larger scale, football as a sport is perceived, was discussed – along with proof to show that the sport is growing exponentially in terms of popularity and is showing no signs of stopping any time soon.
Most Indian Arsenal supporters will tell you that they are surrounded by either friends, colleagues or even acquaintances who support other clubs which seem to be either equally or far more popular. These clubs generally include Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea FC. Fans are subject to endless banter from rival supporters, even in India. This is not a phenomenon that Indian supporters escape from, seeing that they do not actually live in the regions where these clubs are located.
Now while it is easy to identify a trend of sorts with respect to the most popular English clubs in India, in particular the aforementioned four clubs and Arsenal FC, it is wrong to brand all Indian supporters as bandwagon supporters who follow clubs that are on the right end of the Premier League points table.
While I cannot vouch for clubs like Manchester City or Chelsea who have become powerhouses in recent years through the excessive spending of their respective owners’ money (and I do not want to), this is not necessarily the case for clubs like Liverpool and Arsenal.
That being said, in Arsenal’s case, the Indian fan base has continued to grow, regardless of their recent barren run in terms of trophies. A majority of fans that happened to start supporting the club when they were in their prime in the early 2000s have not abandoned the club in order to find greener pastures.
Clearly, most Arsenal fans in India are not bandwagon supporters and are genuine fans that are in this for the long haul. Either that, or they are incredibly stupid bandwagon supporters who are daft enough to not know when to abandon a club, despite all the taunts they have to deal with – which seems more plausible is yours to decide . (yes, I’m being sarcastic)
Die-hard supporters in India, and all over the world. Not just the UK.
It is incredibly clear that Indian fans are as die-hard and mad about their respective clubs as anywhere in the world. Many incredibly rude “local fans” have been seen asking these so-called “plastic international fans” to bugger off, and support their own local clubs.
While there is some truth in this statement in that we all really ought to pay more attention to what happens within our own countries as well, fans across the world, and not just India, are just as dedicated to any club that local supporters are, and there are many ways to back that claim up.
While international supporters may not directly contribute to their clubs’ income through the purchase of match day tickets (and this seems to be one of many arguments by elitist fans who go to games), certain fans who are able to afford club memberships do not waste any time in spending their money to avail of any services they can get by being official club members.
However, more importantly, supporters around the world try their hardest to get official merchandise from the companies that sponsor their favorite clubs’ jerseys.
In Arsenal’s case, Nike has a wide reach in India (I talk for the metropolitan cities here seeing that these cities are where most fans seem to be located) and stock Arsenal jerseys in many stores all over the country – it is relatively safe to say that many supporters try their best to buy official merchandise.
This can only be a good thing, because while all their hard-earned money goes to Nike, this international revenue is a tangible method of measuring Arsenal’s worldwide reach. This in turn, helps the club in getting better financial deals for sponsorships regarding anything – from merchandise to other partnerships.
Arsenal FC will be renegotiating a number of sponsorship deals in 2014 and by having an incredibly diverse and widespread fan base, the value of the football club increases and thereby the value of all these deals also increase for the club. The talk of Arsenal moving to Adidas is a clear sign that this is a move solely motivated by financial reasons – and this can only be good for the club.
For example, Liverpool are getting an incredibly good deal of £25m a year, by signing on with a relatively unknown American Warrior Sports company (at the very least, in this sport) and by doing so – ditching Adidas, who were not ready to offer them that much money.
While all we can do now is speculate, one can hope that Arsenal are going to acquire a much better deal than before, because our reach is as large as Liverpool’s on the international scale – in reality, possibly bigger and better, seeing that we’ve been more successful in the last decade or so.
The UEFA Champions League Insomnia Dilemma
Indian Arsenal supporters are subject to having to watch all UEFA Champions League games at midnight on working days with the Indian Standard Time being around approximately 5 hours ahead of most European countries. You’d think that this would mean that Indian fans don’t bother with the Champions League altogether, but this does not deter them from watching Arsenal play; even if it means they have to stay up till around 2 am, only to wake up at 7am to get ready to go to work! (Or school in the case of students)
If that doesn’t display a true sense of dedication to a football club, then I’m not sure what does – especially seeing that no European or to be more specific, English supporter is subject to this any time of the year. Risking being late to school or being late to work, all because of a football game? It sounds stupid to people who don’t get the sport; but to hardcore fans, it’s really just a way of life.
But to back this idea that the Indian Arsenal supporter is as crazy about the club as anyone else – in Part III, I give the best possible example of how Indian supporters are just as die hard as anyone else – if not more than some. This will be in addition to discussing how India is a growing market for football, how supporter groups are popping up in various cities in India and finally, how India’s population suffers a lack of exposure to the sport through mainstream media such as newspapers and magazines.