Thousand-year reign of chairmen and the alienation of football fans in Turkey

ARDA ALAN IŞIK
ISTANBUL
Published 23.04.2016 03:17

Although there is no scientific work on this issue yet, a significant decrease in attendance shows that Turkish fans are clearly not happy with Turkish football. Since the mid-2000s, when they started to record attendance, the numbers have been below 50 percent for giant Turkish clubs like Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray, Beşiktaş and Trabzonspor. Also this season, every team and even Super League leaders Beşiktaş in their brand new stadium have only been able to half-fill half their stadiums. Added to that, people who are not interested in football, but just support a team for entertainment, have started to feel alienated from football by other fans and have slowly walked away from Turkish football, causing even fewer fans in the stadiums.

This alienation of fans has been mainly caused by the administrative system in Turkish football. Given there are no decent laws to regulate Turkish football, chairmen and rich fans who finance the club have almost infinite power and they feel no responsibility to administrate their club transparently. Added to that, they are not held responsible for the debt they have left on clubs when they leave after years of wasting financial resources to maintain their unquestioned power.

At this point, it is quite understandable why Turkish fans feel alienated by football - they have no participation in it. Of course, professional people should administrate the club, but when these administrators truly represent the people who make this business possible, then we have a healthy relationship between fans and executives.

However, Fenerbahçe Chairman Aziz Yıldırım exemplifies the form of chairman I just criticized above. He clearly ignores the fans. After Fenerbahçe dropped five points behind the Super League leaders Beşiktaş, a significant number of fans shouted former coach Ersun Yanal's name in the following game and asked for Yıldırım's resign. Nonetheless, Yıldırım's answer to these complaints was a bit different from what you would expect from a professional.

"Yesterday they shouted ‘Ersun Yanal.' I have not seen or talked with Ersun Yanal since he left. As long as I'm here, Ersun Yanal cannot come to this club. If these stands behave like this, if they make me angry, I will not leave for another 10 years. They shouldn't mess with me anymore," he said, acting like a gang member who is collecting protection fees.

Now, as a fan, how can you stay emotionally and rationally connected to such a club? The only connection between the fan and the club is the sense of belonging, and treating them as if they are just figures on a spreadsheet is completely wrong. Fans keep football alive, they pay for it and do not even complain about the awful football in Turkey, but still Yıldırım thinks he can discard the fans because they want a different coach. Turkish football can never achieve anything truly important with these people.

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