Anthropologists have discovered that intense experiences of crucial wins and losses shared with fellow fans bind them more tightly to one another and their club. Painful losses or big wins can be so intensely felt that they are perceived as 'self-shaping' experiences, meaning they become embedded in the psyche of a football fan so that their own personal identity fuses with that of their club. Over time, such shared experiences are likely to further increase their loyalty to their team, says the paper, published in the scientific journal, PLOS ONE.
The research suggests that really negative experiences, such as humiliating relegations, are just as important as shared feelings of euphoria for producing this self-shaping mechanism. Around 150 supporters who followed a range of different performing teams from across the UK’s football leagues were involved in the online survey. Participants rated their feelings towards their football team and how strongly they identified with it. To measure fusion with club, respondents were invited to endorse the following statements on a 7-point scale: 'I am one with my club', 'I have a deep emotional bond with my club'; 'I’d do more for my club than any other fan would', and 'My club makes me strong'.