This insulting ‘plastic fan’ tag needs explaining!


By ClaretandHugh FB Group member Carol Combes

Over weeks and months I’ve seen the expression ‘plastic fans’ pop up with monotonous regularity on Twitter as a term of insult for those who for whatever reason may not be able to attend games at the Boleyn.

It’s a relatively new expression, which can also – and justifiably – be used for those who claim to support more than one club, (you mean there is ANOTHER club worth supporting?!), plus ‘new’ fans, who are accused of jumping on a successful bandwagon.

Maybe I spend too much time on Twitter and Facebook but this subject crops up a bit too often to be ignored and I see the expression thrown as an insult by someone who attended a game at someone who didn’t.

So when does the term apply? Do you have to be a ST holder to be a ‘real fan’? Do you have to go to every home AND away game? Do you have to live in the East End?

When I lived in London, during the 70’s/80’s, I spent many Saturday mornings queuing for hours (in all weathers), at the home of football, hoping for tickets.

No matter what time we got there though, we were always beaten by two ‘older ladies’, weighed down with their badge-covered scarves!

Maybe someone can tell me – was I a ‘real’ fan then, but I’m now a ‘plastic fan’ because I live further away, and cannot afford to go?

Do we call fans who live further than five miles from the ground, ‘plastic,’? Is our own Mr Gold, brought up within a stone’s throw of the ground now plastic because he lives elsewhere!

I think to aim that term at someone is a sign of arrogance. Geographical distance is NOT a measure of which person loves West Ham more, or who has the right opinion.

With the quality of many ‘streams’, fans NOT there can have a better view of the game! No, it will never replace the atmosphere of being there, but those people are still avid fans!

We need to welcome ALL West Ham fans, whether from London, or a different country. Without ‘new’ fans, our club will just fade away, and the gate numbers gradually drop. We should be PROUD that people are interested in, and love OUR club.

WE, the fans, are the oxygen of our club, and we need to expand to survive! Let’s stop using the term ‘plastic fan’ as an insult to people with whom we may disagree and be grateful that we have so many passionate fans-regardless of how many games they can attend, or where they live!

We all support THE best football club in the world – lets support each other a bit more eh!


Follow Carol on Twitter @GSDlady2


About Hugh5outhon1895

Hugh Southon is a lifelong Iron and the founding editor of ClaretandHugh. He is a national newspaper journalist of many years experience and was Bobby Moore's 'ghost' writer during the great man's lifetime. He describes ClaretandHugh as "the Hammers daily newspaper!" Follow on Twitter @hughsouthon

27 comments on “This insulting ‘plastic fan’ tag needs explaining!

  1. Agree with you carol 100%
    Its just a sign of the times , many reasons but far to many to start talking about ?
    True supporters of a club carry the badge the rest of their life , no matter where you are in the world !

  2. Well said Carol. Hate it with a passion when certain fans play the “were you there” card, when it comes to opinions or thoughts about a game. Many, many fans can’t attend as much as they’d like or would because of changes in their life, not just location. I went regularly in the 80’s and early 90’s. Had I been closer now, I’d almost certainly have a ST with my son who still goes. Still take in a game or two a season when back in blighty.

    I spend as much time (probably more) following WHUFC as I would if I lived down the Street from the Boleyn, rarely miss a game.

    It makes no difference where you suppprt from, you suppprt it’s as simple as that!


  3. Just call me plastic bubs,don’t care what I am called I know and so does any fan weather they are a true fan or not,everyone is entitled to his opinion and Not everyone has great knowledge or stats about football but love the game deeply,
    When you go to any game in The world you see the world spectrum of human kind at games all colours,physical capabilities,sexes,language speaking ( you know what I mean )
    Many people I went to games with can not afford to go to games,many have work commitments,
    That does not stop being avid fans
    Wonder what the next term will be ?

    • Well said bubs My 1st match was 1958(8 years old) and have had the hammers in my heart for the rest of my life. Was I a better fan in the 60s and 70s when i went every week ? could never afford a ST.. was i worse in the 70s and 80s when i got married and couldn’t afford a pint let alone a match day ticket.. Or am i a better fan now living in Cornwall (65yrs old) and travel maybe 5 times a year and on the waiting list for the new stadium. NONE of that matters IT’S whats in your heart the feelings you get looking for That sat result or cup result. ONCE an Iron always an Iron..I know what makes me a supporter.

  4. Carol raises a very good point. I was born in Forest Gate. Lived in Greenstreet (parents owned a shop) Went to school in Canning town I was in the same class as Alan Curbishly. I Joined the London Ambulance Service at 17 and trained for 4 years and spent my whole operartional Career based at West Ham and Newham Ambulance stations so I think I can say Im a real West ham local. My first visits to West ham were with my cousin to see the reserves play (Remember those days when the 1st team we playing away and reserves had regular games in their place.The only perk I ever found working for the Ambulance service was getting paid to attend games id have happily paid to see but they were all to far and few between because we only got one full weekend of in a 14 week rota and it was always offered as a overtime duty. I have not and would never follow any other team but West Ham but as you get older things change. I had to move from West Ham to North Essex to help my sick parents and had to give up my career as a Paramedic due to an injury so find myself living on a dreadful Nhs pension. So money is very short and I have no chance of season tickets or traveling to away games so after that long winded explanation does that make me a Plastic fan? Maybe. I dont claim to be as good a fan as those loyal fans who keep the club going money wise and turn up rain or shine to every game hats of to them because they are the “core” fans that keep our great club alive. With out real fans dedicated fans like them there would be no West Ham. But I dont think those of us that find ourselves on financial difficulty or have had to move far away should be written of as “Plastic” I watch and follow every game on sky or Stream. I can only buy those Nowtv one day passes to watch individual West Ham games but Tv revenue does play a huge part now in a clubs finance so I hope in some small way I am still helping. To finish I really do thank the Active and yes Id say “CORE” fans that support our club and keep them going. Hats of to you!!! but support is support even from an armchair so should not be looked at in a negative way,

    • Hi markup, I’ll see if I can get you into a hospitality box. It’s a long shot, and I have only managed it once, but meeting Phil Parkes was amazing etc.
      OK: I am a season ticket holder, and have become good friends with the guy next to me (Simon)… as you do! Anyway, Simon knows a box holder through work ; he gives Simon contracts, so he has to be careful not to ‘push his luck”. The box holder is a REALLY nice guy and happily offers seats….but I have only been invited once with Simon. (In Nov Everton game). Email Simon direct on si@clear-bright.co.uk. I’ll prime him so he’ll know to expect you. Simon might think it a bit cheeky, but I doubt it. It’s a long shot and might take a while to set up, but worth a try. You are just the sort of true supporter who deserves a lucky break!
      As for plastic labelling; what a pile of nonsense!

      • Thats really nice of you COY1247 But Im sure there are many more deserving that kind of treat than me. I was just trying to relay how changes in circumstance can change the way you show your support for a team. Id rather see an under privalged kid get a chance to see our boys and become a new fan for the future see if you can work that miracle my friend 🙂 Thank you though for such a nice thought though 🙂

        • Pleasure to try to help. I am not going to start a sort of campaign etc, but if I come across similar etc I’ll give it a go. It’s a bit of a joke because it is all such a long shot. Keep supporting the Irons (of course you will!). There are mighty times on the way! COYI!

  5. Well said Mark and I hope time get better for you as it has for the club join me in the plastic brigade

  6. As a relocated Iron living in the North East I find this expression of plastic strange. In the 90s I was a season ticket holder for a few seasons in the Bobby Lower then when I couldn’t afford it I was still a member and went to as many games as I could, home and away. As life progressed and I moved to the North I made every attempt to go to away matches at Newcastle (where I’ll be tomorrow), Sunderland and Middlesbrough. I actually want these teams to stay up and ‘boro to get promoted so I can still get to games! I hope to get to the Old Lady one last time this year after my last visit this year in an appalling display under the old regime against Everton in the league.

    Plastic could be used to describe some fans who choose to support the likes of Man Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool because (in some cases) historically they are/were top teams, so people chose to support them because they like winners. I was born West Ham and I’ll die West Ham. If someone has chosen to follow us good on them. The dirt under their nails may not be the same as some of us following out beloved club. But everyone should be welcome in if your heart lies with us.

  7. I saw my first live West Ham game in 1958. with my dad and uncle. rarely missed a home game in the 60s, and 70s. Rarely missed a home or away game in the 80s and early nineties. my first two decades as a season ticket holder. Now that I live in deepest Suffolk, financial, and health issues make attending games very difficult. So I suppose I am now a plastic fan, even though I bleed claret and blue blood. As for being plastic if you live more than five miles from the Boleyn, I doubt if you could fill the old chicken run with fans that now live in East London. That’s where the OS will come into it’s own. direct rail links to Essex, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Kent, and even Europe. Perhaps I am plastic by todays criteria, but it’s the kind of plastic you could build a rock solid, in-penetrable castle from.

  8. I suppose I’m a plastic fan – the last game I went to was against Southampton on 7th May 1994 – the last time you could stand on the North Bank. I know because I’m looking at a certificate ‘signed’ by Bonzo and someone else whose name I won’t mention.

    Initially I stopped going because I had a mortgage to pay and a family to feed, and the cost of travel and seats was just too much. Unfortunately, as I gradually got more able to afford a seat, I developed arthritis in my hip which makes it impossible to sit down for more than a few minutes.

    I’ll see the old place one more time on the Farewell Boleyn tour, and I might be able to afford a luxury seat, where I can move about a bit.

    I’m sure that there are loads of supporters like me, who would love to go to games but just can’t manage it for various reasons. Doesn’t mean that we don’t have the Hammers engraved on our hearts.

  9. Even when I lived in West Ham when you work on the Emergency Services you dont have Saturdays of to visit games So I never had season Tickets what would have been the point? So I gambled on getting a ticket as and when I could get to a game. I stil loved and supported the Hammers though.

  10. Great article Carol, as a kid I regularly stood in North Bank, have never been a season ticket holder but attend as regularly as real life will permits which might mean 5 or 6 games a season or more this year as I went to all our European home games. I would class anyone that does what they can or what they feel’s right to support the team a supporter. There is no exact right or wrong on what defines you a supporter, even if you only vocally support the team you can be defined a supporter because that is what you are doing. Like you say if people live in other countries or a long way away, they may not get to attend any games in a season but they still feel that affinity with the club and fellow supporters so for me at least that makes them a supporter. The people that define other supporters as plastic should probably look at themselves why they feel that way. I class you as a supporter Carol for what that’s worth 😉

  11. I always took “plastic” as a term to describe people who suddenly choose to support a team because they are successful rather than through having any genuine affinity with them; a classic case I have experienced at first hand was when I lived and worked in Southampton; one of my work colleagues was a Saints fan, having supported them since they won the FA Cup in 1976. He didn’t attend matches but would always talk about them on Monday mornings.

    Until Manchester United won the treble, and then it turned out he had been an avid Man Utd fan all his life and it was his life’s ambition to go to a match at Old Trafford. Who knew??! A classic example of what I would term a “plastic Manc” and there are a lot of them about, as in recent years a whole army of lifelong Chelsea supporters have appeared as if from nowhere…

    For the record the first ever match I attended was on 30 November 1974 and we beat QPR 2-0 away (Jennings, Paddon) and that was that. I have loved WHU ever since and could never imagine supporting any other team, even if we were in the Isthmian League. I am fortunate enough to live an hour from Waterloo and so am able to attend most home games. The season ticket is not cheap but I regard it as good and much-needed revenue for the club so I put up with it.


  12. No-one in their right minds would support West Ham…. unless they were a true West Ham supporter. Look at the massive failures etc…along with the occasional highs. The term Plastic is rubbish and belongs in the bin. Just saying you are a West Ham supporter says it all whether circumstances allow you to get to matches or not. It’s what we share. West Ham brotherhood. COYI!

  13. I thought the term ‘plastic fans’ originated and described Chelsea fans. They use to get 12,000 gates. The money came in and all of a sudden they were sold out every game. Most of these fans didn’t have any passion and just sat there watching games so the term ‘plastic’ referred to the fact that they provided as much passion as the plastic seat they occupied.

  14. Nice post Carol. Well done. Needed to be said.

  15. Just as an aside. I was chatting to a fellow Hammers fan the other day over a coffee in Lowestoft town centre. BTW there are hundreds of us in this Suffolk town alone. nearly all East London exiles like myself. He said that he hopes we never end up like Chelsea or Manchester United, with a new army of glory hunting hangers on. I disagree. Success brings with it a mass of glory chasing supporters, and the only way to avoid that is to avoid success. Chelsea is the biggest example, but the most recent is Man City.. A club very much like ourselves. big support, but viewed as the poor relations in the North West, as we are in London. it changed for City, and I am sure it is now changing for us. Hangers on are welcome if it means West Ham have reached the heights we surely all wish for.

  16. Carol has asked me to thank everybody who has commented on her blog. It’s the first she has done for us and is one of the best received we’ve published. She is a passionate Iron and a fabulous supporter of CandH. We value her very highly and I thank her personally for her support of the site and myself personally through the very thin times at the outset of this project until now. Thanks Caz.

  17. Cracking read carol
    grew up in the east end as a lad,it didn’t do me any good, often mixing with so called dodgy characters and getting banged up! Back in the day it was football violence in late 70s and early 80s ” then I grew up and got married,moved away and started a family.
    Best thing ever done was getting away,that said will never stop supporting the club that I grew up supporting as a kid in the mid 60s. Plastic is a person who says they support the team,but know nothing about its history and traditions. No club better than WESTHAM and everybody who supports the club,are my friends COYI ⚒⚒⚒ champions league football would really ignite our move to the new stadium next season.

  18. I have been a hammer all my life and now live on the west coast of canada 8 time zones away from UK, every saturday morning i wake my son up at stupid ‘o’ clock to watch the games to make sure it lives on with him, I’m bring him over for three games in march so he can see the stadium before its gone. the only plastic thing is what I’m using to pay for the trip

  19. I am totally in the same boat as jetshammer and also a similar story to as i now live in stoke i dont and never will consider myself to be a plastic fan. its very easy to like Man.u Man.C liverpool and so on and so on as i have seen over the years i have and always will be west ham but i dont take it so seriously now.
    i used to be a regular in the 70s – 80s and still look out for my beloved West Ham

    (a fan is someone who likes there particular team from near or far)
    (a supporter is someone who goes to the games as someone who supports i:e pays to see them play)

  20. Great article. I live in Australia and have never been to a live match . Don’t worry I will someday however I watch as many games as I can and have been for the last 15 years and I know how watching West Ham makes me feel. I know how excited I get when we score a goal or how nervous I get when we are holding onto a 1 goal lead as we hit injury time. There is always going to be bandwagon supporters it comes with success if they want to spend money on our merchandise and wear it great and good luck to them I say.

  21. I’m from Devon, have never lived in London and with my dad being from Salford I was always destined to be a Man U fan but I saw the light at a very young age. I idolised Sir Bobby and Sir Geoff, that’s how far I go back. I love our club and always will but I only get to 2 or 3 games a season due to time and cost but I buy my membership and frequently buy club merchandise. I therefore feel very insulted when some refer to me and others that live a distance away as plastic fans. As we all know it’s a roller coaster ride supporting our club with perhaps more downs than ups but I wouldn’t have it any other way even though I’ve taken such much stick from the glory hunters who follow the so called big clubs. West Ham is now a world brand so for all those who have no time for the thousands of hammers fans like me all I would say is stop being so insular and embrace the entire West Ham family.

  22. My dad was born in Forest Gate and has supported West Ham all his life, when he lived in London (up until he was 16) he often went to games. He move to the West Country with his dad as there was a better chance of him getting an apprenticeship there and he did and he met my mother. I came along and had no choice but to support the mighty Hammers. I remember asking back then for dad to take me to games but the cost of a train ticket, ticket at the turnstiles and food, club shop meant that it was a very rare thing that we could go to games. My first game was a 1-1 draw with QPR, I had never heard a crowd like it. I loved it and loved West Ham. Sang Bubbles and even snuck out “the referee’s a wan$er” (which got me the dad look of doom). Tony Cottee smashed the ball onto the crossbar in the first few minutes of the game and the crowd near erupted.
    I was at Liam Brady’s last game for the club and once went with my dad to help him on a job at Enfield, after we had finished we were going to watch the game, as it turns out the job went longer than expected, we got to the ground for the second half, they only charged my dad for entry and when we got to the stands it was packed. We were stood at the back, being a kid I couldn’t see a thing and a fella in front of me tapped the fella in front of him on the shoulder and pointed me out, they ushered me through the crowd to the very front and stood me at the barrier right near pitch side. I could hear my idols shouting to each other, the thuds of bodies that you just don’t get on tv, the kindness and enthusiasm of those supporters so keen on getting me to the action cemented in my hear, forever West Ham.
    I live in Australia now but still even through the Sam years hoped and prayed for what we have now and by Christ I cannot wait to get back over and watch a game. And a beer in an East End pub, any recommendations?

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