Fan Stickering

Previously we took the opportunity to look at a generally unknown area of football fandom, that of the development and existence of football fan graffiti.  More specifically we looked at its development from a perceived simple act of vandalism in and around stadia in the United Kingdom and abroad to the often majestic works of creativity that can be seen today.  In this, the second part of a two part series, we look at another aspect of football fan art, that of sticker art.

Stickering can be seen as part of street or urban art that is visible and distributed in public spaces, on the streets or on lampposts and in the case of football beside or in the locality of the stadium.   Being closely related to graffiti the term usually refers to any form of illicit art. These will normally express opposition to rivals teams, rival baiting or a celebration of the home city via wording and associated imagery.  The usage of iconic figures identifiable with the home city is also common place.

Stickering by football fans is becoming a European phenomenon and is one of the most popular areas of fan art making in the football culture world.   Developing out of the graffiti tradition of the 1980’s it has now reached the mainstream thanks mainly to the accessibility of graphic self-production. With the growth of everyday people of all ages having graphic design skills the ability of fans to design and implement their own ideas into artwork, without the need to externally commission images, means that stickering can develop without the need for massive outlay.

In Europe stickering is most popularly seen outside the stadium especially in countries such as Germany and Poland.  With newer grounds in the Bundesliga seeing the absence of the potential for wall graffiti, stickering has come about due to its less criminal motivations and ease of do-ability.

Sticker art can be called ‘tagging’ in which an image or message by a group of fans is publicly displayed using stickers.  Most commonly these will be placed around grounds, in motorway service stations or in the visitor section on seats.   These stickers promote the fan group, comment on a policy or issue, or compromise modern stadia design via slogan or jargon.  Policing, stewarding or segregation may be criticised in its more extreme forms via use of wordage or the crass use of terminology counter to modern common footballing safety acceptance.

The simple form of this street art allows colourfully created tags to instantly be placed anywhere accessible.  There is a much lower risk of apprehension or arrest and less damage will be inflicted to the target surface than is possible with other types of street art such as spray painted graffiti.

Stickering of course has long been of great fascination to football fans from the 1960s onwards chiefly through football player collections made famous through the panini brand. This fashion for packets of sticker swapping and collecting became an object of wide interest through various eras. These are often considered a cultural phenomenon alongside match day programmes or scarves.

Ideologically the reasoning behind stickering is numerous.  There is a strong current of cultural activism and subversion but generally it is marketing of a group, a team and its heritage that are the real motivations.  Placing a sticker on the away end at a rivals ground can be seen as a success and act of achievement for the group.

More simply stickering, like the internet and homepages, is a powerful platform for reaching the public, new members and rebelling against club security staff and stadium management. Disenfranchisement with opposing supporter groups at the club, anger over fellow fans and the club cultural ethos in general has seen its growth.

Germany is a forerunner within a European context of such sticker art.  Many city locations in Germany have attracted internationally known street artists who travel to museum locations to exhibit work.   One of the most notable locations is in Berlin where a host of bizarre post-communist locations, cheap rent properties and ramshackle buildings have given rise to a vibrant street art scene in areas included Mitte and Kreuzberg.

Around football stadia the development of more modern grounds has not stopped the stickering phenomenon growth with away ends, terracing and railways stations being full of stickers.

Click here to see all our images dedicated to this topic which first appeared in voicesinfootball.com in 2008