The scenes of Bury fans scrubbing and sweeping their club’s ground yesterday, as they awaited news it was to be removed from the football club were truly moving. Only matched by the sight of fans from other clubs who had come to lend a hand, much in the same way neighbours offer to make tea when a death has occurred: in the hope that by being useful they can somehow reduce the grief.
I used to go and watch Tottenham Hotspur with my Dad as a teen. With no personal interest in sports, it was never the actual match I enjoyed. No, for me it was the feeling when walking towards the stadium and the feeling of excitement and anticipation from everyone, I liked, the part where the teams came out to the theme music and the points where everyone celebrated or commiserated after goals I enjoyed. There was even something a bit special about walking back to the car after a result knowing everyone walking along side was experiencing a similar emotion based on the result.
Of course, I have not been to watch a live football match for many years now. Fewer people I know watch football now too, many priced out of following the team they love.
I think the beauty of English football in the past came from the fact that it gave a lot of people a place to belong and a sense of attachment to something steeped in history, in which they could share experiences, hopes, dreams and despair.
But of course, football clubs have increasingly become less affiliated to the community in which they sit. Very few people can afford to go regularly to the club which sits in their town, let alone take their whole family. The days when Saturday was all about football have also ended, with matches played on Mondays, Sundays and even Fridays now too.
It seems like stadiums are increasingly filled with people from outside of the area and with no particular interest in the club
So without local people filling up the stands in them, what do the people who would once have filled them do?
Many Bury fans yesterday described the loss of the club as akin to the loss of a friend. I think for many it is also the loss of heritage, history and the knowledge there was somewhere they would always belong. I wonder what communities experiencing this loss do to replace it. I wonder if one reason for the massive rise in mental health problems, particularly in men, is the loss of places to belong too, and the inevitable isolation this brings. In the past a lot of people would have found solace in fellow sports fans – travelling, sitting and chatting together.
The loss of this way of life is immeasurable.
RIP Bury FC