As football becomes more and more commercialised, Andrew McFadyen looks at how fans from Scotland to Croatia are beginning to fight back against big business and show them who is boss.
For football fans, the European Championship is second only to the World Cup.
Now that the stars have departed and a glorious Spanish team has been crowned as champions it is worth reflecting on the state of our national game.
It's not just that Scotland didn’t qualify and England crashed out in the quarter finals.
The tournament also represents the further advance of big business and corporate entities that see football primarily as a way to make a fast buck.
Mark Perryman, founder of Philosophy Football, describes supporters being drowned out by stadium PA systems and "fan zones" dominated by private sponsors:
"We were coming back from Ukraine and stopped in Lviv. It has one of the most beautiful squares in the entire world, but whole areas were fenced off and occupied by McDonald's and Carlsberg. Every available space is taken up by corporate catering that has nothing to do with local culture."
Former Celtic and Scotland manager Jock Stein famously said that "football without the fans is nothing".
Those who run the game now seem to see major tournaments primarily as an opportunity to generate wealth. But this summer could also be remembered for the resurgence of fan power.
Croatian fans first used the slogan "against modern football" at Euro 2008. It is a cry of revolt against corporate power, soulless all-seater stadiums and the drive to make money out of people’s love for the beautiful game.
The same spirit could be heard among the England fans who chanted: "F*** off Sol Campbell we do what we want".
The former England defender had warned supporters to avoid travelling to Ukraine because “you could end up coming back in a coffin”.
Perryman said: "In Ukraine, we were told we would be enduring racism and a brutal hell hole. What was interesting about that chant was fans do not like being told what to do."
Back home, supporters are also finding their voice and challenging the powers that be. The fans revolt has been greatest in Scotland where Rangers' financial meltdown has caused panic in boardrooms across the country.
The concerns of Scottish Premier League (SPL) chairmen are all about money. Will Sky walk away from Scottish football if Rangers drop out the top division and there are no Old Firm games? How much will gate receipts drop without Rangers' big travelling support?
There is little doubt that left to their own devices those who run the game would have allowed a "newco Rangers" back into the SPL. Instead, they have been forced by the threat of unsold season tickets and empty stadiums to listen to the fans and think again.
Kevin Rye from the fans group Supporters Direct told Channel 4 News that Scottish supporters just want the same thing as the groups he meets in England, Spain or Italy.
He said: "This point has been reached in many places. It’s less about Rangers and more about the fact that fans need to feel involved in decisions about the way the game is run. We are trying to express that view to the authorities."
For once, the accountants have been cowed and the men in blazers who run Scottish football have learned they can no longer act with impunity - they need the approval of the fans.
Even Uefa may eventually have to take heed of the cry "against modern football".
The second article in this series will look at whether Hamburg's St Pauli is the coolest club in Europe.
You can follow Andrew McFadyen on Twitter, @apmcfadyen
25 March 2012
13 May 2012