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Watching football on TV vs watching football in person – which is better?

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Chris from EPL Talk recently made the trip to see Netherlands play Italy in Euro 08, and made some very interesting observations. To summarise:

  • The crowds seem quieter in person than they do on TV.
  • The view is terrible (compared to TV, that is).

I have to say I agree with Chris on both accounts – I’ve heard enough people make the same claim about ‘quieter fans’ and without the benefit of multiple replays the viewing experience is bound to be less than optimal. Match day can an exhilarating experience for someone who’s never seen a match live, but the same could be said for those who see football on TV with all slow-mos and replays for the first time.

Chris wraps his arguments up with this:

Part of the appeal of being at a live match is one of bragging rights by fans. “I was there mate.”

But seeing a match in person also appeals to our celebrity culture, where we can say that we saw players like Del Piero, Buffon, Matterazi and others in person. It’s almost like the Hollywood culture where people get more of a kick from seeing Paris Hilton in person than on screen.

However, the movie watching experience is far greater than seeing the movie shot in person. Just as movies are able to add special effects and make the actors appear much larger in size, TV is able to heighten and capture the excitement of a football match and make it an even better experience than being at a match.

With all other things being equal, It seems that the closer you get to the action, the experience becomes more emotional and less analytical. And the farther away you get from it, the less ‘emotional’ the experience becomes as you gain a wider and clearer perspective on what’s going on in the game.

Read the whole article, and then tell us what you think in the comments below.

Comments (6)

  1. I’ve never been to see a world-class game live, just an Iraq vs. Western Australia (6-1 to Iraq) at my local ground (though that same Iraq team won the Asian cup in 2007), So watching football at 11.30 or midnight on the weekends live isn’t too awfully appealing but I do it, because I’m a fan.

    If someone said, “Hey, do you want every Arsenal match live in HD with any angle and stats in your control or a season ticket for the Emirates?”, i’d defintly say “Season ticket mate!!”.

  2. Yeah imagine if you were a Diamond club member. Getting to mingle with the stars & free food from a 5 star chef for 100,000 quid. Home games only. Better than the directors box I suppose.

  3. I have been to a few matches and I can say that it is exhilirating to be there. You might miss the replay of a nice volley or miss a goal while going about your buisness elsewhere, but the noise the other fans make and the ability of making yourself heard is magnificent.

    For me, being part of a crowd is much more empowering than being in front of my TV – there are hardly any sports pubs in Can’da.

    I agree with Chris that the game seems slower, but you can focus on other things that you would not see on the TV screen. Example: do you know that some goalkeepers stand quite a bit outside their area when their team has possesion deep in the opposition half?

    I would much rather go to a live match than watch it on television.

  4. No one goes to see a live match for comfort. Staying at home on a cushy sofa, with a perfect view of the play and tons of video replay and commentary telling you what’s going on the screen is definitely the most comfortable experience.

    However there’s something that a TV match just can’t give you, and that is atmosphere. It’s the “I was there” feeling Chris talks about in his article, the cheers of the crowd, the moment where every person around goes completely berserk when your team scores a goal, seeing your football heroes with the naked eye. Those are emotions that are incomparable to watching the game at home (or even in a sports bar).

    I haven’t been to many live football matches in my life, but the few include some of the 2007 U21 Youth World Cup games in Canada, some 2003 Confederations Cup games in France (Brazil 0-1 Cameroon and France 3-2 Turkey), the 2003 Coppa Italia final return leg at San Siro (Milan 2-2 Roma) and above all, the 2003 UEFA Champions League semi-final in Turin (Juventus 3-1 Real Madrid).

    The latter game was, by far, my most exciting soccer-related experience ever. I was sitting almost exactly in front of the corner-kick flag (although many stairs up), so I got a pretty good panoramic view of the entire field. I wasn’t too lucky in the sense that most of the action took place on the other end (Trezeguet, Del Piero, and Zidane’s goals, and Buffon’s PK save on Figo), but when Pavel Nedved scored on my end it was an experience I can’t even begin to describe. It was simply… fantastic! 20,000 Bianconeri fans screaming at the top of their lungs, Juventus crushing the great Real Madrid. Just absolutely priceless, and to be there living those moments inside the stadium, where all the action took place, was just incredible!

    From Chris’s report though, it seems as he was sitting directly behind the net on one end. I’m guessing that so close to the field, it’d be really hard to see what’s going on on the opposite end. My personal taste is that if you go to see a live match, you should at least sit somewhere where you can tell what’s going on on the field. The entire field that is. :)

  5. What a thought provoking article! For supporters of lower league teams there is little oppertunity to watch on live TV. However, that said, for those with an analytical preference over an emotional one explains why certain big clubs attract “fans” from all over the world (e.g. Man Utd) and they can feel justified in their support as they feel no emotional attachment to their local team.

  6. I was at the semi-final and final of the world cup (2006) it was by far the greatest experience of my life, and if you get half decent seats the view is amazing.. + you should hear how he fans were booing ronaldo in the france match or how they booed materazzi in the final