Euro 2016 is upon us and as England fans, its time to summon the biannual dose of optimism and hope that Roy and the boys go further than the traditional quarter-final exit. The next four weeks will be a rollercoaster ride of emotions and a festival of the beautiful game.
Like all football fans, my life is currently being organised around the tournament and England’s pursuit of glory. So imagine my despair when I discovered England v Wales is a 2pm kick-off on a Thursday… how would I watch the game while at work? Tradition demands all games are watched in the pub amongst friends or on the sofa at home, where it’s safe to rant and rave at the TV. Thankfully, the digital age has come to the rescue, but is it also changing the way we are as fans?
Thanks to Wi-Fi, social media and smart phones we can now access content 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Twitter has created my official England hashtag, thanks to Snapchat I’ve seen England players, Eric Dier and John Stones, performing the running man dance in their hotel room, and Instagram has constant updates on the movements of the team’s mascot, a cuddly lion.
It’s not just about the football anymore. A constant flow of images and videos keep us up-to-date with the latest developments in the camp and thanks to Periscope I can even watch training sessions live from France whilst enjoying a brew at home.
To put all of this into context, Euro 96 was 20 years ago this summer, England’s best performance in a major tournament in recent memory, losing to Germany by virtue of a penalty shoot-out in the semi-final, but that’s a different story. The point is, in 1996 Twitter was still a decade away and no one had ever heard of a hashtag, never mind live streaming. The idea of being able to watch a match on your phone was a non-starter as the term ‘smart-phone’ only appeared in print for the first time in 1995.
In the last ten years, social media has transformed not only the way we access information about a tournament, but how we watch it. Fans can follow individual players and pundits on various social media platforms and will see everything from their pre-match meal to them singing on the way to training. Can you imagine watching a video of Alan Shearer on his way to training in 1996? No, nor can I, however even he has now embraced the digital age.
A quick look at the numbers illustrates the huge appetite for what players get up to both on – and (maybe even more so) off – the pitch. Real Madrid and Portugal forward, Cristiano Ronaldo, has a staggering 61.4m Instagram followers and, England’s team twitter account has 2.47m followers and there is a continuous stream of content for fans to enjoy.
So have we changed? Has social media moved the goal posts? Speaking as a fan, my approach has certainly changed. There’s the constant checking of Twitter for the latest team news and refreshing Instagram to see what the ‘lads’ are up to in their down time. What is also constant is that my mobile phone is never far way, just in case I miss any vital information.
Just 20 years ago, I was 12 and didn’t own a mobile phone. Back then Des Lynham was my main source of information. Now in 2016, I can’t get enough and thanks to the power of digital I won’t even need to be at home to watch the game on Thursday. So who knows what it will be like in another 20 years…
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