Symbiosis at Leeds United – WTF?

I’m not a wordsmith, preferring numbers, and the meaning of many words escapes me but I’ve been enamored with three particular words recently.

I’ve heard the word “Symbiosis” many times but never understood the meaning and tonight I looked it up: It seems it means “a relationship between two entities in which each entity is dependent upon each other and receives reinforcement, whether beneficial or detrimental.

That definition struck me as very similar to the relationship between football fans and their clubs quite recently. The events at West Ham’s match this weekend, a culmination of months of [my next word] “discord” with the club, are a perfect example of the word “symbiosis”, West Ham fans cannot walk away and ignore events and happenings that concern their club because it is endemic in their DNA.

Just like we Leeds United fans cannot walk away.

Even when we feel staying is detrimental.

As “symbiosis” says, some relationships are beneficial and others are detrimental but we are dependant upon each other.

Football fans are dependant upon their club emotionally and their club is dependant upon us fans financially.

What has come to the fore for me this weekend is the extent that the detrimental side of symbiosis has on fans, especially Leeds United fans whose tweets I read daily. I get that fans get a boost from us succeeding but I’ve been surprised, nay shocked, at the strength of feeling that the detrimental side of symbiosis has uncovered.

I also get that we fans don’t consider ourselves as customers and no matter how the EFL and our club promotes our EFL mandated Customer Charter we will never be customers, well I certainly won’t.

So where am I in my self-analysis of my relationship with my Club? Certainly I have a Symbiotic relationship and that relationship is very positive. It seems from my reading of social media that many other fans have the same “Symbiotic” relationship that I do, however theirs is of the detrimental version.

So what for the future?

While I’m exploring this strange world of words, I’ve found two other words that appeal to me: “Synergy” and “Discord”.

These two words are opposites: “Synergy” means that “all little bits come together to create a whole that is far greater than each piece” and “discord” basically means “chaos all around”.

To read Social Media just now it is clear that many fans around the football world are in discord, not least Leeds United fans. The Symbiotic relationship many fans have has turned from beneficial to detrimental and fans are clearly in discord.

Does this matter?

When all is said and done, Spurs changed our game of football back in 1983 and the die was cast: We became customers and the real definition of “club” should have been erased from the football dictionary. However, should we accept this? Do we have to accept this?

Fans around the football pyramid are not happy for various reasons and West Ham’s fans’ outrage with their club demonstrated just one example this weekend. Blackpool Tangerines have long expressed their outrage and been knocked back by the EFL and, disturbingly, the courts but now, having persisted, the EFL will meet with them to discuss matters.

Fans can and do matter to clubs, especially in the Championship where a significant amount of the income that goes to buy and pay their players comes from fans and matchday receipts.

Is there a solution?

“Detrimental symbiosis” is being displayed across social media as Leeds’s fans express their frustration and disappointment: In some cases fans are going too far with their comments but in the main people just seem to be expressing helplessness.

Fans travel to Elland Road and away fixtures to enjoy more than just the match: The camaraderie and friendships formed in attending a live match is what created many of us as fans and it still exists for so many thousands of fans; fans know they can at times be the 12th man on the pitch, and often are, but when they feel that they are the 11th or 10th man because the team seems to have left someone in the dressing room despair sets in.

Whether the Leeds United’s management understand football or whether the personnel are ideally placed in their roles has been discussed ad nauseum on Social Media and within those discussions there may lay a path or two for the club to follow: That is not the issue I’m writing about.

My discovery of the word “symbiosis” with its meaning that fans are dependant upon the club, whether the relationship is good or bad, is my issue.

We fans are regarded as customers by the EFL as shown by their edicts for charters but, for myself, I’m a fan and feel myself a member of a club and that club will only benefit itself if it treats me as a member of the club and not an impersonal customer. I’m a long-standing advocate of fan representation at the heart of Leeds United and fully believe that such a relationship will be part of the Synergy needed to bring us success.

Synergy, discord, symbiosis – merely words that the passion displayed on the terraces recently struggles to define, yet there seems an element of hope within them.

We fans can moan, start petitions, insult players and owners but if we really want to effect change we should be strong together and seek proper, long-standing representation at the club.

Who said “jaw-jaw” is better than “war-war”? Whoever it was I think he was right.

Mike Thornton 11th March 2018