Heated derby wins, atmospheric terrace chants – and referees falling over are among the top 80 things football fans love most about the ‘Beautiful Game’.
A poll of 2,000 fans of British football found one in five cited a sense of belonging as the best thing about the sport.
A third selected a last-minute winner as the best thing about football, and 37 per cent said the atmosphere at a live game can’t be beaten.
Another 13 per cent love the controversial video assistant referee (VAR) system reversing a decision in their side’s favour.
It also emerged that just under half (47 per cent) also admitted to talking about football ‘relentlessly’ while the season is ongoing.
The research was commissioned by Smart Pay As You Go Energy company Utilita, as part of its Switch Before Pitch campaign, which aims to help all clubs keep their energy costs down during times of financial hardship.
Utilita has worked with renowned football photographer Stuart Roy Clarke to create three limited-edition charity football calendars, featuring images of the fans attending the matches, past and in the pre-covid present day at Leeds United FC, Sunderland A.F.C and Norwich City FC.
A spokesman from Utilita said: “Football at the moment is very different from how the world grew to love it.
“Watching games from the comfort of your sofa is fine, but those who enjoy the matchday experience will be finding life very hard going at the moment.
“Our 2021 calendars will hopefully remind hundreds of thousands of football fans why they fell in love with the game in the first place – and with any luck, by the end of it, they’ll be allowed back in stadia across the UK.”
Other quirky things Brits love about football include watching balls being plucked out of a velvet bag to determine future cup ties, supporting the underdog, seeing rivals get relegated and the smell of the burger van.
One in 10 love nothing more than seeing a player return to their old club only to punish them for selling them, by scoring – unless he’s playing against their own team.
The research also found two-thirds of football lovers will ditch all other plans and activities on a weekend or weekday evening to watch their beloved side play.
A quarter have even called in sick to see their team, while three in 10 sheepishly admitted to letting down a loved one in the name of the game.
Fifteen per cent have ditched a wedding to watch a match, a tenth have missed a child’s school play – and the same amount claimed to have missed the birth of one of their children.
Unsurprisingly, eight in 10 football fanatics can’t wait to be allowed back into grounds to watch teams play again, according to the OnePoll figures.
Soaking up the atmosphere (41 per cent), simply getting out of the house (31 per cent) and a real mental boost (22 per cent) were top reasons people love watching games live.
Utilita’s spokesperson added: “The list of things people love about football is seemingly never ending.
“From the glee at watching your team win – or a rival lose – to the mental health benefits of getting outside for a few hours, there are so many positives to be had when watching the beautiful game.
“Many football clubs, especially in lower leagues or at grassroots level, are really struggling to stay afloat as the pandemic goes on and on.
“It’s good to take a moment to give thanks for the game we all know and love so well, and we hope going to watch live games comes back sooner rather than later.”
THE TOP 80 THINGS FOOTBALL FANS LOVE ABOUT THE GAME
1. The atmosphere of a live game
2. A last-minute winner
3. Derby wins
4. Wonder goals
5. FA Cup upsets
6. Unexpected comebacks
7. When your team is on TV
8. Your side winning a game you were certain they’d lost
9. Games with lots of goals
10. Football chants
11. A feeling of loyalty
12. First game of the season
13. Last day title wins
14. Beers with friends
15. Witnessing your side get promoted
17. Sense of belonging
18. The camaraderie
19. Night-time matches
20. Match of the Day theme tune
21. Quality time with family or friends
22. Away day trips
23. When a new signing scores a goal
24. The feeling of being part of a collective – including the elations and despairs
25. Games with big upsets
26. Boxing Day matches
27. Having a shared interest with others regardless of where you are
28. When the other side misses an open goal
29. When a goal gets disallowed for your opponent
30. Seeing your rivals get relegated
31. Penalty shootouts
32. Avoiding relegation on the last day
33. Seeing a new signing for the first time
34. Wembley Stadium (England)
35. Jeff Stelling
36. The FA Cup 3rd round draw
37. Transfer deadline day
38. Champions League theme music
39. Getting out
40. Managers ranting during interviews/conferences
41. When your side finally signs that player they’ve been trying to buy for ages
42. When your team is the first match on Match of the Day
43. When VAR reverses a decision in your team’s favour
44. When goals go in off the underside of the cross bar
45. One club player (people who’ve played for one club their whole career)
46. When the fixture list is announced
47. Cup ties draws (balls being picked out of the velvet bag) – especially when it’s a random celeb
48. The football league play-off
49. Seeing your team’s new kit for the first time
50. Football scarfs
51. The smell of the burger van
52. Mental boost
53. Half-time grub
54. When players jump in with the fans after a goal
55. Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher’s punditry
56. When referees fall over
57. When the goalie falls over as fans shout ‘oooooooooooooooh’ as he goes to take a goal kick
58. Gaining a sense of identity
59. When outfield players go in goal
60. Pitch invasions when lower league teams play a big team in the cup
61. When players come back to haunt their old club (unless it’s your club)
62. Own goals (unless they’re buy your own team)
63. Unusual football celebrations
64. When players fight – commentators say ‘you don’t want to see this’ but everyone does!
65. Referee mishaps
66. Tekkers (impressive skills)
67. Hot Bovril
68. When the new FIFA game is released
69. When a commentator apologises after viewers hear a swear word
71. Booing ex-players
72. Seeing an opposing fan cry
73. The score round up announcer
74. When a player hits a corner flag with a shot
75. Millennium Stadium (Wales)
76. Pep Guardiola
77. Journeymen (people who’ve played for loads of clubs)
78. Silly haircuts
79. Hampden Park (Scotland)
80. Windsor Park (Northern Ireland)