The cultural division of football fans only serves those who wish to exploit it | Jonathan Liew

The battle between ‘true fans’ and ‘plastics’ weakens the ties between supporters and their inclination to unite and organise

Leaving early is a bit of a red flag. Booing your own players, obviously. Wearing a half-and-half scarf, purchasing a half-and-half scarf, expressing any opinion of a half-and-half scarf short of pathological hatred: forget it. Fake merch. Supporting a club from a place where you do not live. Supporting more than one club. Getting fewer than 10 out of 15 on a multiple-choice clickbait quiz.

Yes, these days there are multiple ways of outing yourself as that most abhorred of footballing species: “not a true fan”. Who gets to call themselves a football fan? Ostensibly this is a church open to all who want to believe, and yet somehow the very idea of fandom is constantly being challenged and contested, revoked and downgraded. English football has more words to describe ersatz fans than real ones: “plastics” and “casuals”, “fakes” and “frauds”, “tourists” and “day-trippers”, “trolls” and “haters”, “fair-weather fans” and “glory-hunters”.

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