Why pre-match entertainment should be… Americanised.

I remember when I was a good foot or so shorter than I am now, back in the days when I went to the football and bought a teddy bear instead of a pint, a chocolate bar instead of a pie, the days whe

I remember when I was a good foot or so shorter than I am now, back in the days when I went to the football and bought a teddy bear instead of a pint, a chocolate bar instead of a pie, the days when I first used to get that all-too-familiar buzz as the atmosphere of a football match greeted me with roaring passion. In particular, I remember my very first game as a youngster, sitting in the first row of the family stand right next to the corner flag, and watching our team’s forwards partake in some target practice before rushing back into the changing rooms.

I also remember the mascot, only too well. He used to scare the absolute hell out of me. For a start, I couldn’t get my head around why a huge cockerel was prancing about on the sidelines of a football match cheering people on. What did this bird have to do with football? Why was he given a name, and why was this poor sod called Chirpy? I remember him running up to me and shaking my hand, while my dad proudly smiled before promptly laughing after seeing my face screwed up and me running for shelter as this man-size bird flocked toward me.

At the time – as I’m sure most children felt – I was terrified of this mascot. But now it’s plain to see he was just doing his job, and I can’t fault the man in the bird costume for trying to lift the crowd before their team ran out on the pitch, savouring the moment a stadium full of fans would sing their praises. Chirpy served as the perfect pre-game booster, and without him there wouldn’t be near as much anticipation and pre-game ‘buzz’ ringing around the stadium.

The thing is, us Brits love doing things half-heartedly. Mascots and entertainment are no exceptions. Since being a youngster, sat in the corner of the stadium and virtually tucked away into nothingness, I can’t remember the last time I saw Chirpy anywhere near the pitch. To put this in perspective, I’ve been a season ticket holder for 4 years – that’s 72 games, and 72 chances to see a man dressed in a cockerel outfit prancing around the field. I didn’t.

Whilst singing is always a solid way of uniting thousands of fans – just look at West Ham’s ‘Forever Blowing Bubbles’ chant – we really could benefit from taking a leaf out of the Americans’ book.

Pre-game entertainment across the pond is as big as the game itself. The NFL’s Superbowl is designated a day in America, it’s that big – not to mention its half-time show (show!) attracting such big names as Madonna, Nicki Minaj and The Black Eyed Peas. NBA often also give fans the chance to win thousands of dollars by shooting hoops. Every NFL team has a mascot, fleets of cheerleaders flock to centre circles in fields and courts nationwide shaking pom poms to adorning fans, and the omission of a marching band along the bleachers is virtually unheard of.

TV audiences would sky-rocket whilst tickets would no doubt sell like hot cakes if this were applicable in the UK. The cliche ‘everything’s bigger in America’ has never been more suited than here, but quite rightly in this matter. I know for sure if my favourite team’s pitch was invaded for 15 minutes before the match and 15 minutes during half-time for a piece of entertainment perfection I would definitely skip the queues for the pies. In a society driven by entertainment, constantly striving for new thrills and experiences that last a lifetime, half-time and pre-game shows would be a terrific start. All it would probably take is a slightly higher ticket price, and when my favourite football team charge upwards of £50 for a ticket as it is, a few pounds extra would hardly detract me from picking up the phone and booking my seat, that’s for sure.