Going to watch West Ham was my biggest hobby for a long time. A long, long time. I had a season ticket for 18 years and followed the club up and down the country. From Southampton to Newcastle, Huddersfield to Portsmouth, Anfield to Old Trafford.

I was there for the East London side’s play-off final success in 2005 and 2012, the unforgettable final game at the Boleyn Ground in 2016 where they beat Manchester United 3-2. And, on New Year’s Day 2005, I was the club’s travelling mascot at an Ipswich Town away day where they won 2-0 – a day I still consider to be one of the best of my life.

New Year’s Day 2005 – Ipswich 0-2 West Ham

I was that cliché football fan where the result would determine my mood for the weekend.

Baring in my West Ham were a poor side for a number of years and are now knocking around in the semi-finals of the Europa League – how come I have fallen out of love with the beautiful game all of a sudden?

There are 1001 reasons why, but below I’ve highlighted some of the key ones. I’m interested to see if anyone feels the same so please do leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

The Players

My mum’s step-dad is a very important figure in my life. Way back in 2005 when I started secondary school and first got into rugby he told me something that has stuck with me after all these years.

‘Rugby is a game for thugs played by gentlemen, football is a game for gentlemen played by thugs.’

Like all great quotes, that one from my mum’s step-dad has stuck around for a reason. Because it’s true. Barring the odd exception, you could tell me any footballer is a bad person and I would believe you.

On pitch fights between players, deliberate acts of dangerous play against the opposition and screaming in the face of officials when they disagree with a decision. Some call it passion, but it’s all just so unnecessary.

Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s become a part of the game, and these footballers, some of who are still in their teens, are given tens/hundreds of thousands of pounds at the end of the week.

It’s no wonder this behaviour has slipped off the pitch and into their everyday lives.

In recent times I’ve asked friends, family and work colleagues a question. If they could be in the top 1% of any sport in the world, what would it be? Unsurprisingly, the most common answer was football, usually followed by a gesture that indicates money (Golf was the obvious answer for me).

There’s a story to be written there about people’s desire for money but now is not the time. I simply bring it up here because these footballers are idolised.

It’s not a list exclusive to footballers. Will Smith recently walked on stage at the Oscars and whacked Chris Rock. Instead of getting tackled by security and removed from the venue, he not only took his seat again but was given the Best Actor prize at the end of the night. When all is said and done, it’s an issue with celebrity culture in the 21st century.

The Fans

The only thing that winds me up more than footballers is the people who pay to go and see them.

I assume many people will read this and say ‘obviously he hates football fans, he’s surrounded by West Ham supporters’. Which, yes, history tells us West Ham fans aren’t the best people to grace the planet. Especially in the 1970s when the Inner City Firm (ICF) and the stories that inspired the film Green Street happened.

However, I think you’re on the naive side of things if you think West Ham fans are the only bad ones. Chelsea fans not allowing a black man to board a train in Paris in 2015. I’ve been to games where supporters of teams like Leeds and Cardiff have tipped over police vans. I also bet you didn’t know that Manchester United had more fans arrested for racism between 2014 and 2018 than any other English side? (Click here to read more).

In June 2022 England reached the final of a major tournament for the first time since 1966. How did the fans react? Smash up red London busses and break into Wembley Stadium.

Isolation Euros during Summer 2021

As well all know, the Three Lions lost on penalties. How did the fans react? Instead of being proud of the team for being within a kick away of European glory, the three black players who missed penalties were subject to racist abuse.

It’s a nationwide issue with football fans/English people.

(Photo by Hasan Esen/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The fact that football is the only sport in England (and a lot of Europe) where opposing fans have to be separated in the stadium – unless you support Fulham – says it all.

I know it’s not all football fans. But it’s enough to make me not want to spend my precious time around any of them. I’m not interested in paying to watch a football game when I feel like I’m in the minority who are there for the love of the game.

Football social media

Social media in general is a bad place. Full of braggers and vanity which cause an array of mental health issues where people are effectively comparing their insides to other people’s outsides. But, focusing on the football pages – especially on Twitter and YouTube – they’re simply horrendous.

Arsenal Fan TV (AFTV) started the trend. Now everyone is on board. Every team on the planet has hundreds of fan pages on Twitter that are constantly bickering with their counterparts with other teams. In my opinion, they need to get out more.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

As for the vloggers from games… my god. They live in my head rent-free. Whenever I hear the term ‘influencer’, I instantly think ‘Twat’. That certainly seems to be the case nine times out of ten.

I simply don’t engage with any of that on YouTube. It’s just not for me. I know people have made good money from it, to which I say fair play to them. But, just like YouTuber boxing, I’m just not interested.

However, they’re everywhere I go whenever I take a trip to a game. One remembers a Chelsea away day, which ultimately ended in a 2-0 defeat, where the most annoying thing wasn’t the result. It was the man with the video camera next to me filming his reactions, I just didn’t get it, and I couldn’t escape it for 90 minutes. I don’t think I can find the words to describe how annoying it is having someone describe the phase of play (poorly, might I add) five seconds after it happened. I go to games to get away from the biased commentary of Jamie Carragher on a Merseyside Derby.

With social media getting bigger and bigger, I can only see this becoming a more common occurrence. The way influencers make their money leads to them getting priority over proper fans. My discovery page on Instagram showed a group of influencers pitchside at the Super Bowl back in February, for example.

The way the game is played

The rules of the game are constantly changing. Sometimes for the good, hawkeye/goal-line technology. Sometimes the bad – VAR.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

And others, the intent is good, but teams quickly use it as a means of running the clock down. The finest example of this is stopping play for head injuries. I’m not going to talk badly of the intent behind this one, not for one second. Head injuries can be fatal so it’s only right that play stops the second a player goes down with one.

However, I was at a West Ham vs Aston Villa game this season where Villa went down clutching their heads every five minutes. One particular example was when a Villa defender went down holding his head in their penalty box following a tackle by West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini. Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez came running out in front of the referee screaming as if Lanzini had killed the defender to try and get him sent off. All the while the Villa defender was rolling around in ‘agony’. The team, managed by Steven Gerrard, were at it from the first minute. Coincidentally, it stopped the second West Ham went 1-0 up, in a game they ultimately won 2-1.

Time-wasting has also become a big part of the modern game. So much so that teams are praised for doing it, with commentators labelling it ‘time management’. Which it may be, but it’s f*cking boring to watch.

The Super League

Everyone remembers 12 months ago when the ‘big six’ in the Premier League as well as Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milian wanted to join a breakaway Super League.

It would have had disastrous consequences for the English football pyramid and rightfully it was panned. Their punishment? A minuscule fine. Which, for them, was a parking ticket, a minor inconvenience.

If that whole thing didn’t show fans the intent of the people at the very top of clubs then I don’t know what will.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

People are out there celebrating a Champions League final contested between two teams who wanted to bin off the competition twelve months earlier simply because of greed.

It does feel like it’s been forgotten about after just a year. But I think something else will take its place soon.

There are constantly rules coming into play that favour the teams that bring in the most money. Manchester United, one of the most successful teams of all time, are hilariously poor at the moment. By far the worst they have been in my life, with a lot of work to do before they can compete again. Yet, coincidentally, reports suggest UEFA are open to introducing a rule where teams with a good history in Europe get into the Champions League regardless of league position. Seems fair, right?

The good old days

A lot of football pundits these days are former professionals, a lot of whom are from the generation I grew up watching. Roy Keane, Peter Crouch, Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher etc. Some are good (Micah Richards and Joe Cole) others are not so good (Jermaine Jenas and Rio Ferdinand).

However, whenever I listen to their analysis and they’re telling stories from their playing days, I’m reminded of how much better the game used to be.

(Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

During the first lockdown of the coronavirus pandemic, when even football was put on hold, Sky Sports played some replayed some iconic games on what was dubbed ‘Sky Sports retro’. I also used that period of extended alone time in front of the tv to rewatch every episode of ‘Premier League years’. The games back it up.

The iconic matches in years gone by are miles better than the classics we get in the modern game.

I’m not too sure why. Maybe because players can’t stay on their feet after the slightest bit of contact. The introduction of VAR has also affected the spectatorship aspect. The possibilities are endless. The only thing I’m certain about is Manchester City and Liverpool fans will disagree with me.

Football and me – the future

There you have it. Slightly longer than what I usually write, but it’s something I’ve wanted to share for a while.

This isn’t the end of me as a West Ham fan. I’ll support the East London side for the rest of my life. I was gutted when they were knocked out of the Europa League last week, but that’s football. I’m certainly not going to lose sleep over it, and the dominant feeling I had afterwards was pride anyway.

It’s more of a case that the game is evolving in a way where I don’t want to invest as much time and money into it as I have in the years gone by. I still managed to go to the odd game as a fan this year – I think five or six – and will continue to do so. It’s just the idea of having a season ticket is completely off the table. I’ll also no longer plan my weekend around what time the football is on.

Is football getting worse? How I’m falling out of love with the beautiful game

Jordan Camp

I’ve been sharing my writing with the world since 2015. Back then it was about travel, then I transitioned into wellbeing and mental health awareness. Soon after I was being paid for it as I wrote about sports, politics and, of course, the pandemic. My words have been published in the i, Mancunian Matters and a number of the South West London associated publications. In 2021 I ran my first marathon, for the UK mental health charity, Mind. I currently live in Essex where I am training to become an Ironman.

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