For Football fans the 'Modi Operandi' appears to be simple; You are born, you choose a team to support (or inherit the family tradition) you support them through thick and thin, then you die.
The notion of changing the team you support from one to another seems completely unthinkable to most, and deserving a greater public disdain than that handed out to a serial love cheat or benefits fraudster, but it's more common than you might first think.
I set about making contact with those who had taken this bold step, and after some considerable rummaging around the more private corners of the beautiful game, came across individuals willing to talk about this most secretive of disunions, albeit anonymously.
'Gary' used to support Liverpool.
Born on the south coast of England, his father would take him to Anfield to see games regularly, making the long motorway trip to sit/stand in the famous Kop and soak up the unique atmosphere at the club they both adored. They witnessed the end of the Golden 80's era, and the more fashionable 'Spice Boys' arrival in the likes of David James, Robbie Fowler and Jamie Redknapp.
Years on Gary swapped his allegiances to the more local Brighton and Hove Albion, and I was curious to find out why. "My Dad passed away and I was made redundant from my job all around the same time." He recalls "The chaps from my new job were going to Albion and I started to tag along." "The cost of taking my kids up to Anfield was enormous and I began to enjoy going to watch Brighton, it was a slow drift from one to the other." He continues "I still look out for Liverpool's results but my heart is now in Falmer with the Seagulls."
'Gary' changed jobs 12 months or so after beginning his new Football love affair, and waited until then to alter his allegiances publicly to avoid ridicule from work colleagues and friends. "I couldn't admit to the lads at my old job how I was feeling." He declared "I had to wait to make a clean break and choose the moment." I asked if he felt uneasy about his decision "At first it felt a little grubby if I am honest, but it was financially practical and felt right in the end." "I support my local team now and for me that is how it should be."
'John' used to support Millwall Fc.
Born in South London he became a Lions fan after going to The Den with some school friends. He was bitten by the bug and became a season ticket holder in a relationship that lasted over 10 years, but he fell out of love with the club after a series of events that left him feeling unwanted.
John recalls how his own fellow fans verbally abused him "I'm half Indian so have an olive complexion." "Some of our own 'Fans' made a couple of comments once and something inside me just snapped." He went on "I thought about bringing my kids into this environment in the future, and the type of new fan the club was attracting were angry young men which did not bode well."
'John' was further disillusioned by some of the chanting and attitudes he found within the stadium "I think I just grew out of the place." He recalls "I looked around and thought a lot of these people are just plain ignorant."
'John' stopped going to The Den and got his football fix by flitting around other clubs and just soaking up the atmosphere. He finally settled on a new 'home' for his devotion after a couple of years, and whilst he doesn't want to publicly disclose who that is he commented "The crowd are a friendly welcoming bunch." "We have followers from all ages, backgrounds and cultures but we are bound together by the common cause of our club." "No one looks at a fellow fan with any contempt." "It feels like a true home and I love taking my kids there." "I know the people at Millwall are trying to change the environment there and I wish them luck."
I was genuinely surprised to come across several other people privately willing to talk about their change of Footballing heart. Some for practical reasons like moving far away from the club they once supported, others had got married and taken up the team of their better half, or had simply found solace in a new club after visiting with friends.
For those who sit in their armchair at weekends and rarely visit a Stadium to take in a game live this may seem a frivolous topic, and I'm sure quite a few youngsters who watch from afar change their team without any emotional torment. But for those who dedicate themselves to a club and go week in week out this kind of change is a major, harrowing decision that causes considerable upheaval, potential public ridicule and deep personal anguish.
But just like in human affairs of the heart you just can't deny your feelings, and when the spell is broken there should be no shame in admitting your desire to be elsewhere.
All of those I spoke to had only made the change for genuine, honest reasons, and hadn't flitted about like some confused needy young lost girl in a sea of lustful men in The Ritzy on a Saturday night
It is a misnomer that every match attending Football fan stays loyal to one club throughout their lifetime, an unspoken truth that seems to fly under the radar amidst a fear of contempt.Suggest a correction