Ever wondered what motivates fans to do the 92? Pat Bristow runs Doing The 92 and he knows more than most about what makes this most obsessive of supporter tick. He explains more below...
Every Saturday, thousands of us travel miles to see our teams play away. But as well as those ardent supporters, several hundred neutral fans travel to watch a game simply because they’ve never been to the ground before. These are the Groundhoppers – the fans who have caught the Doing The 92 bug.
What first got me hooked was a map produced by Bartholomews bought when I was nine-years-old. It was a large, colourful map of England and Wales showing the location of all 92 league teams, complete with kits and club crests. The map often prompted comments such as “I didn’t realise Carlisle was up there” which lead me to tell tales to friends of the long journey to see my team, Charlton Athletic, clinch promotion there.
That sparked my interest and I’ve continued with my quest to see all 92 grounds, accompanied now by friends and my teenage son. My personal total is 84, helped recently by my club bouncing around the leagues. The attraction is still primarily to see the different grounds I’d heard about as a kid - there’s something special about visiting White Hart Lane, The Valley or Spotland for the first time - but everyone has their own motivation.
For most the driving force is simply the satisfaction of completing something a bit unusual. Most people have usually reached 25 or so with their own team when they start thinking about doing the lot. The next step is usually visiting other local grounds and finally filling in the gaps as time and money allows. Living in the Midlands helps – as does supporting someone like Wolves or Portsmouth!
In 2005 I set up Doing The 92 where fans can keep a record of the games they’ve been to. It's totally free - you sign in, add your games and then the site shows you how close you’ve got to the 92 (or 91 at the moment thanks to Coventry City’s enforced decampment).
We’ve got around 5,000 members from all over the world (it’s surprising how many people visit Britain just to take in a couple of games). Of those, only around 25 have done the 92 at any one time, which is what makes it such an attractive goal.
Keeping count of the number of league grounds visited used to be fairly straightforward because the 92 had remained much the same for years, both in facilities and location. The Taylor Report and promotion from the Conference changed all that and the website provides an easy way to keep track of these changes.
It automatically updates your total as grounds and teams change over time. Of course, members aren’t limited to the 92, they can add any football ground where they’ve seen a game – the current record is held by one extreme Groundhoppers hoping to visit his 1,000th ground this season.
The start of each season normally sees a rush from members to visit any new grounds. Our rules are that seeing any first team game of football at a ground counts, so if you’ve seen a non-league game at a ground that subsequently becomes part of the 92 it’s seen as a bonus and counts immediately.
Although ‘hoppers moan about the identikit nature of new grounds they all secretly like the fact there is a new one to do as it resets the counts, which means they get the chance to be the first to re-do the 92 again.
For me it all started with that map, sadly no longer available. So this season we’ve created our own version, complete with kits and info about the current 92 teams. It’s big and colourful and is guaranteed to prompt anyone viewing it to say “I never knew Carlisle was so far north”. Unless they’ve already driven there on a wet Tuesday night of course.
- Visit Doing The 92 here...
- Get your hands on Doing The 92's map (£15 plus P&P until end of Oct '13)...
Thanks to Action Images for the image used in this blog (Bootham Crescent, York City).
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