A lot of people within football share the sentiment that the game is played for the fans.
The vocal support of the spectators situated in the stands usually creates a bouncy stadium atmosphere which makes the matches feel so special.
Sometimes, this has led me to mull over why football organisers rarely, if ever, hire cheerleaders to enhance the overall fan experience during competitive fixtures.
And after searching for answers in various publications across the web, I came to the following conclusion…
Soccer is a sport whose match format does not lend itself well to the presence of cheerleaders, as there are very few interludes within games that would provide cheerleaders with a chance to get the crowd going. More so, the low amount of goals scored in each game as opposed to other sports leaves cheerleaders, and the fans by extension, with fewer opportunities to celebrate pivotal moments in the flow of a match.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Reasons why soccer teams have no cheerleaders
I’ll now take a much deeper dive into why cheerleaders lack prominence in this famous sport.
1. European origin
History typically plays a massive role in shaping various facets of a sport.
This includes but is not limited to areas such as:
- Game regulations
- Pre-match and post-match fan interaction
- Advertising mediums
What’s quite fascinating is that the initial birth of soccer can be traced back to ancient China, where the first ball kicking game to be historically recorded took place in the 2nd and 3rd century under the name cuju.
However, football in its modern form which we know and love today can be attributed to the English. The Brits paved the way for the sport’s popularity in the present day by formalising the first uniform rule set of the game.
They did this by putting an end to things like players touching the ball with their hands as a way of progression, and forbidding the act of tripping up opponents.
As football was predominantly known as a working-class sport until its rapid business commercialisation, the more sophisticated and extravagant aspects of fan culture like cheerleading never gained much if any traction at all, which subsequently meant that it never cemented its own presence within the game.
This is the polar opposite of what happened in America, where cheerleading was successfully integrated into a number of different sports that are played across the continent.
Although, it must be said that cheerleading in football is not as scarce as I’ve portrayed it.
A great example was when the German side FC Cologne had a set of cheerleaders perform before the commencement of a Bundesliga match in 2016.
However, it remains to be seen whether cheerleading will be gradually integrated further within the sport, even as sponsorship deals and advertising within football continue to grow in aggressiveness.
2. Existence of football mascots
Another factor that plays a part in the lack of cheerleaders within soccer is the presence of football mascots.
Just for the sake of clarification, football mascots are quite different from match day mascots, with the latter usually comprising of children who accompany professional players onto the pitch before matches.
Clubs hire football mascots to entertain the crowd, as they spend their time displaying a variety of fun animations that make spectators laugh and cheer.
Additionally, club mascots have been used as symbols of good fortune over the years in order to get the younger demographic of fans stimulated and more involved in the game.
Even though fans pay to come and watch the players participate, the pre-match and half-time periods can be quite boring to endure.
Therefore, a mascot is able to keep the little ones entertained and maintain their overall excitement levels.
It can be argued that their role significantly overlaps with that of a cheerleader, and I could even go as far as saying that a football mascot is European football’s equivalent of an American cheerleading team!
3. Low amount of goals scored per game
A game of soccer doesn’t lend itself very well to having cheerleaders by design.
If a football match ends in a goal less draw, then cheerleaders will have no major events of note to dance to.
Such score lines do occur quite regularly across various leagues in the world, which means that there are far less suitable opportunities for cheerleaders to do their thing during football matches.
This is in stark contrast to a sport like basketball – where teams score points much more regularly and have high scoring games.
4. Match format
Football is a sport that has been formatted to cater for fewer rest periods in between play.
The only break of note is the 15-minute interlude available to players at halftime, and the sport doesn’t have any short timeouts factored into the game clock.
As a result, the lack of breaks brought about by the match format means that there is little or no time at all for cheerleaders to take centre stage and impress the crowd.
You only have to take a look at sports like American football and basketball to see how many times matches are stopped by referees in order to allow for television advertisements to be displayed.
These short and frequent game pauses create the perfect environment for cheerleaders to keep the attention of both sets of fanbases in check.
5. Player celebrations
Finally, soccer players are well known for being quite exuberant when it comes to the moment that they celebrate a goal being scored.
From sliding on their knees to throwing fist pumps in the air, footballers have interesting ways of marking iconic moments.
Take a look at each reaction in the video below:
The uniqueness of football celebrations keeps stadium and television audiences engaged, which means that even if cheerleaders are present and active when the ball hits the back of the net on the field, they would fail to be the centre of attention.
Television cameras and human eyes will immediately pan to the goal scorer, which makes cheerleading pretty redundant in the sport as people will be more concerned with how the footballer celebrates in his or her own way.
What sports have cheerleaders?
If there are no cheerleaders in soccer, which competitive games do they play a part in?
Well, cheerleading is closely associated with American sports like basketball and touch-down football, although it also boasts an occasional presence in other games like baseball, volleyball and ice hockey.
What I find quite ironic is that Britain is where cheerleading originated from, before spreading to the United States where it gained a foothold in the sporting culture there and remains hugely popular to this day.
That brings me to the end of this article which sought to explain why there are no cheerleaders in soccer.
Just to quickly recap…
Soccer does not normally feature cheerleaders as club mascots who keep fans entertained are deeply ingrained within the history and culture of the sport. Furthermore, the flow of soccer games is rarely interrupted by breaks in play and the sport is low scoring in nature, which leads to significantly fewer opportunities for cheerleaders to perform on the side lines.