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Summertime Blues

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


The sun shines. Holidays beckon. There's sausages to barbecue and cold drinks to sup on the lawn. So what on earth are the British moaning about now? The answer, as Simon Inglis explains, is there is no football.
Says Kieran, 'It's like losing touch with a member of your family.' Richard adds, 'Your week doesn't have any focus to it', while Steve bemoans, 'My social life seems to be totally different. They're all the same people, but somehow there's just not the same edge during the summer.'
Meet the sufferers of what psychologist John Castleton calls 'end of season affective disorder'.
Castleton was commissioned by Barclaycard, sponsors of the Premiership, to find out how a sample of 2,000 football fans react to the loss of football action during the summer's 10-12 week break.
Apparently 90 per cent of fans suffer withdrawal symptoms. These include lethargy, an inability to concentrate or to communicate with immediate friends, a loss of motivation, even irritability.
Manchester City fan Kieran puts some of this down to fear. 'You wonder, will it be different when the season starts? Where are all your mates? It's about clinging on to that link, but also about having to think of other things to do with your time.'
One source of comfort is the publication in mid June of the following season's fixture list. 'Ours are pinned up on the wall, 'says Kieran, 'so I can keep looking at the dates, planning ahead, who we've got at Christmas and Easter, how I can fit in travel plans.'
Plus, says Tottenham fan Richard, the internet is vital for logging on just to pick up some meaningless quote from your team's reserve goalkeeper. 'It's bizarre how you fall on the slightest scrap of information, like a security blanket.'
'Dependence is part of the human condition,' Castleton counsels. 'Football fans clearly hold a deep rooted relationship with their team and, like any other close bond, to have that central pillar suddenly removed, could cause a quite obvious existential crisis. Where there is passion, there is loss.'
Can that loss be filled by other sports? Apparently not. Another poll, the FA Carling Fan Survey conducted by the Sir Norman Chester Football Research Centre, reveals that only 14 per cent of fans of Premiership clubs attend cricket matches. Far fewer bother with rugby league, horse racing or golf.
But not everyone admits to 'end of season affective disorder'. Mark Agate is an official of the Football Supporters' Federation, which represents the interests of all fans in England and Wales, and also secretary of the Gillingham Independent Supporters Club. 'Close season!' he laughs, 'There is no close season!' Instead, he has spent the summer preparing handbooks, catching up on paperwork and preparing for meetings and the new season.
'If you're a really active fan it never stops,' says Mark. 'In fact, I often find myself on the first day of a new season thinking, where did the summer go?'
So banish those summertime blues, he argues, by getting involved. It won't make the close season shorter, but it will at least seem shorter.



Simon Inglis, July 2003

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