Wednesday, September 29, 2010


fan (n.2)
 "devotee," 1889, Amer.Eng., originally of baseball enthusiasts, probably a shortening of fanatic, but may be influenced by the fancy, a collective term for followers of a certain hobby or sport (especially boxing); see fancy. There is an isolated use from 1682, but the modern word is likely a late 19c. formation. Fan club attested by 1930.

fanatic (n.)
 1520s, "insane person," from L. fanaticus "mad, enthusiastic, inspired by a god," also "furious, mad," originally, "pertaining to a temple," from fanum "temple," related to festus "festive" (see feast). Meaning "zealous person" is mid-17c. As an adj., in English, 1530s, "furious;" meaning "characterized by excessive enthusiasm," especially in religion (of Nonconformists), is from 1640s.
A fanatic is someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject. [attributed to Winston Churchill]

I like Toronto FC, I really do. I enjoy watching games, I have my mandatory (re: see my new thesis) jersey, various shirts, scarf, toque, hat, drawstring bag etc., I have watched games through shitty feeds, through good feeds with no sound, and through good feeds with no sound but with the un-matched Fan 590 playing alongside.

Back in the days I could afford games. And I was blonde.

I bring this up for two reasons:

1.      Because certain Euro-centric friends of mine can’t seem to understand how I can both watch and like TFC

but, more importantly,

2.      Because I am sick of hearing how only true “Fans” (capital F, proper noun) come to games.

I have never seen this much elitism in any other soccer team and I don’t like the TFC Fan hierarchy.

Fans arn’t going to like this, but I blame MLSE for this weird phenomenon. That’s right, the Fans archnemesis is also their creator. That might also be the plot for Star Wars. Ticket prices, “fan expectation,” and this weird elitism are all caused by MLSE trying to make TFC a “real team.” And of course, a “real team” would be those who mirror their “proper” European counterparts. So, in order to do this, MLSE created supporter clubs, just like the Europeans. Except clubs, ultras (whatever term you want to use) were created in European teams based on similar ideologies, political, social ties (etc.), where as the ones in Toronto are based on where you sit. This is where the scheme becomes interesting, because, for the most part, tickets cost the same and therefore, are not delving into deeper social constructions. That means there’s no social structures within the fans, there’s no bricolage applied to scarves, no class struggles in the stands. But, there’s the illusion of it and that’s just as good.

Or, think about it like this: it’s like buying a vintage Rolling Stone ‘75 tour shirt from Old Navy and claiming authenticity.

I am not having a go at the fans, not by any means. These structures (fake as they may be) have been created by MLSE because it’s what “ought to be.” That’s fine, I am not having a go at that either. I’m sure a lot of friendship and support have been created through these clubs, and that’s great, what I am questioning is the mythology and the organics behind these groups.

These leads to the bigger problem that I want to go into: unintentionally TFC have made a class/social divide in their fans (lower case) by exclusively NOT doing so. Have I lost you? Okay, let’s take this slowly.

Historically (not in every case, but generally) support clubs, ultras, etc. were grouped together based on characteristics that went beyond just supporting a team. For example, liking Team X but also subscribing to similar political or social ideologies. These similar thoughts would then translate into soccer matches (re: ask me for my essay A Working Class Hooligan is Something to Be… plug!)  So, for the sake of the argument, let’s say as an example one group could be united because of their love of Team X AND because they were all working class labourists.

Then, take Toronto. Those who can afford tickets, for the most part, come from the same class (if you can afford TFC seasons tickets, I am going to assume you have a bit of money to splurge with); while political ideologies may differ, their groups are based on where their seats are and therefore, connect to people based on seating arrangements more so than ideologies.

HOWEVER, where the divide is now is with the Haves (the Fans) with the Have-nots (the NonFan). It’s not support section against section, it’s Fan (those who can afford games) against NonFan (those who aren’t at games and therefore not fans). The divide isn’t IN stadium, it’s outside stadium.

MLSE, by trying to legitimize support clubs by modeling them after European’s, have actually unintentionally created a hierarchy of fandom! 

And this is what I find fascinating.

Solution: Lower your prices. I’m spending money writing a major research paper on the anatomy of TFC and therefore I can’t spend money to go to games. But, I’m still a fan.


Ps. Any TFC fans (or Fans or NonFans) out there who would like to talk to me, you know the drill, email me or DM on Twitter.  I want to talk to you!


  1. "MLSE created supporter clubs"

    This is completely untrue. U-Sector, who *mostly* sits in section 113 has been around as a group (originally the Toronto Ultras) since 2000 and they evolved before that from supporters of the Canadian national team (the Voyageurs). You'll find that many of the core members of U-Sector (the name comes from the section they met at the old Varsity Stadium for Toronto Lynx games) were the very first to put out $50 deposits for season tickets back in 2006.

    Red Patch Boys were created by Jack DePoe before TFC had kicked a ball in anger. He had lived in Mexico and ahead grown to appreciate the ultra groups there and wanted to replicate the experience here (he was unaware of U-Sector). The two groups negotiated with the FO for their location back when most of the city was unaware that there was even going to be a football team.

    North End Elite is the closest thing to what you describe as they were a group of guys that sat in 127 in year one. However, since then they have evolved to become a more politically active group than the others and have attracted people from all over the stadium that share their POV.

    Your characterization of the groups is unfair. The truth is there is a culture and community to these groups that matches exactly what you have described above in regards to European ultras groups. as stated, in U-Sector you even have a group that has been around for a decade now.

  2. Sonja: I agree that there's sometimes a feeling of a hierarchy of fandom, i.e. supporter groups members are better fans than "casuals". This attitude sometimes comes out in the recent bloggers' debate over where to host CMNT games (i.e., playing in front of the hardcore support is better playing in from of than thousands of "casual" fans with thundersticks).

    But let's be honest here: we see this heirarchy of fandom in any team, in any sport, in any city, in any country. (E.G., fans jumping on the bandwagon of a team`s good playoff run.)

    The attitude that "those who care more deeply, and have cared for longer, are truer, better fans than other fans" is not new and it's not unique to soccer or TFC.

    And MLSE had Nothing to do with the creation of the supporters' groups. At all.

    BTW, remember that season ticket holders and supporter group members are NOT necessarily the same, they are two different groups of stakeholders. Ticket prices vary wildly across BMO: in 2011, the south end prices are ~$500. In the west end, prices are ~$1200 or more. That's alot of difference in so-called "economic class" among season ticket holders.