A sports psychologist expert reveals some top tips to avoid football fans becoming stressed while watching their favourite teams.
Dr Josephine Perry, chartered sports psychologist recommends these four tips to help prevent stress at football matches:
- Focus on the great moves or shots in a match and celebrate those.
- Dig deep to find a sense of humour about the result if it hasn’t gone as you hoped.
- Use deep breathing techniques to slow down your threat response, which helps your body recover and your brain return to more logical thinking.
- Create a mantra to repeat to yourself that keeps the match in perspective and helps you remember the bigger picture.
Which fans are most at risk?
- Heading into the new season, Manchester United fans were the most stressed in 2021– 2022.
- The Punters Page analysed over one million tweets between 13th August 2021 and 23rd May 2022 from fans tweeting negative and positive comments towards their club’s official Twitter account.
- 34.04% of tweets aimed at Manchester United were negative, making it the highest out of all 20 Premier League clubs.
- Everton supporters were the second most stressed fans with 31.03% negative interactions.
- On the flip side, Aston Villa fans were statistically the least stressed fans, with only 13.66% of tweets coming across as negative.
A noticeable trend in stadiums last season was the amount of fans needing medical attention, which could have a link to stress levels.
Dr Perry, who is also the author of The 10 Pillars of Success, said: ‘We become stressed when there is a stressor in place (like a football match) where the outcome matters to us, but it is completely outside of our control, and so we have no influence.’
‘This situation triggers a part of our brain called the amygdala (essentially our threat system) to send Cortisol (our stress chemical) around our body, increasing our heart rate. This makes us breathe much faster, giving us a dodgy tummy and tightening our muscles.’
‘Inside our head, emotion takes over, and it becomes harder to use the logical part of our brain. Instead of being able to see the match as entertainment, we perceive a loss as a personal attack.’
‘Over time, research from Oxford (summarised here: Devoted football fans experience ‘dangerous’ levels of stress – BBC News) has found that physiological stress can be harmful to our body, increasing blood pressure and potentially damaging our heart).’