Football is going through a period of immense and rapid change.
The long-term blending of domestic and international club competitions seems an open secret, the introduction of VAR into the sport has harshly divided opinion, and of course COVID-19 has blown a hole in the finances of lower league clubs like nothing before. This is the perfect time to work with BBC Sport to understand what the fans think and want from the beautiful game.
This negativity has rubbed off on the fans, of whom less than a third (30%) think VAR has improved the game...
Three key takeaways
The results from our wide and expansive survey reflect on a number of areas including broadcast costs, the impact of COVID-19 on fan morale, and staggered kick-off times. However, there are three key headlines on the most topical subjects.
1) Fans are split on a stadium return pre-vaccine
A narrow majority of fans (52%) feel that spectators should be able to watch football matches in-person, but a sizeable proportion of fans (45%) feel they should not. However, over three in five (61%) regular match-going fans believe that they should be able to do so.
2) The future of top-flight football looks continental
Despite a plurality of fans (40%) expressing unhappiness at the idea of a European Super League, the headline stat masks the deep generational divide in attitudes towards a top-tier continental league competition. Of fans aged 18-34, half (48%) expressed happiness in comparison to just one in ten fans (10%) aged 55 or older.
3) What is it good VAR? Absolutely nothing
VAR has been phased into top-flight football across the world over recent years, and has potentially faced its most vocal criticism and opposition in England over its Premier League roll-out. Never far from controversy, footballers such as Jordan Henderson, Jack Grealish and Kevin de Bruyne have all spoken out against its usage in recent weeks. This negativity has rubbed off on the fans, of whom less than a third (30%) think it has improved the game. That’s certainly not encouraging for a device brought into ‘make football better’.
A note on our methodology
Polling football fans may be a labour of love – but like polling any other niche group it comes with its challenges. By running a screener question on our weekly omnibus, we were able to see the fallout of those that ‘often’ watched football from a nationally representative sample of UK adults. By using this profile as quotas, we were able to define what a representative sample of 2,000 UK football fans look like. We then interviewed 5,476 UK adults, until we had a sample of 2,100 football fans fulfilling our profile targets. Our total sample of 5,476 UK adults was then weighted to be nationally representative of UK adults – with our fans falling out from this weighted sample accordingly.