Saturday, June 19, 2010


Here is some applied ethics for you.  Is it justifiable to boo your own team?  The World Service blog has some comments on the question and we now know that Mr Rooney's view is that it is never acceptable, even if you have watched your national team wander aimlessly around for 90 minutes unable to pass to one another.

There seem to be two relevant factors.  First, booing a team will demoralise them and make them play worse.  I'm not sure if that's true; certainly, last night it did not seem to help at all.  Second, booing a team is a reasonable reaction to being faced with a poor performance that has cost a lot of time and money to watch.  The tension here is between considering the team as something to which the fan owes allegiance and support and something that is being viewed by a paying audience member.

Both perspectives are evidently at work in any fan's experience; a fan both will consider his or herself as somehow contributing to their chosen team's performance and will think that they can positively influence that performance in some way and will also think that their commitment of time and money entitles them to some kind of return.  

Consider two different kinds of perspective.  Someone who pays to go and see a concert by a favourite performer will probably feel it reasonable to voice their objections if the concert is poor.  But this is only a partial analogy: it is not the case that a concert audience will  think it an integral part of their role in the whole concer try to inspire the performer to do better with cheering and chanting during the song.  Second, someone who goes to support their child in a school team will cheer on the team so as to encourage them.  But the parent will probably not feel it reasonable to boo the team if they perform below par.

So, Wayne isn't right.  But he isn't entirely wrong either because a football fan occupies a curious hybrid position as both a supporter and audience member/consumer.  Wayne might like only to think of us in the former category but his manager and PR people would do well to remember the latter category too.

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