By M Bhana
It was quite a while back, I was once sat in the International suite at Anfield with former Liverpool FC C.E.O, Rick Parry, journalists and representatives of the FA Premier League and the Football League, when I was asked why so many people from diverse backgrounds follow the big teams.
The answer was quite simple really, the big clubs used to win everything, and since they had the best players and the most coverage on T.V, smaller clubs did not have a chance.
Times have changed however, and fans from B.M.E backgrounds are willing to support their local teams.
One such beneficiary of an increasingly diverse fan base is Huddersfield Town.
Huddersfield has an Asian population of over 11 percent; the town also boasts a sizeable Afro Caribbean population.
Throw towns such as Batley, Dewsbury, Cleckheaton, Ravensthorpe, Heckmondwike and the rest of the Kirklees area and beyond into into the equation, and not only do the club win in terms of getting the locals to ditch any allegiances to the bigger clubs, they are in effect, accessing an international fan base.
These fans are very cosmopolitan in nature – many of these Indo-brits and British Pakistani’s hop onto a plane to visit the motherland, or extended family in Europe or Canada many times over, and tell family and friends all about why they love football.
This in turn, is helping to develop a truly global fan base.
Unlike the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s when relatives could not like each other’s posts on social media platforms such as Facebook , Instagram and Snap Chat – people in countries such as India have become Huddersfield Town fans at the click of a button.
Abbas Dadiwhala of Batley, works at the head office of accompany in Brighouse, explains why Huddersfield is fast becoming everyone’s favourite team.
“I have relatives in India and they all support Huddersfield Town because it’s not cool to support a bigger team now, everyone’s done it before, it’s so 1970’s,” says Abbas.
“Our generation, thanks to our parents, were encouraged to integrate into society in order to access educational opportunities and make our families proud.
“And now, we encourage our kids to support local teams. It’s a no brainer to support Huddersfield, because anyone who knows something about business knows that Huddersfield is run in a very clever way, and as a parent, I tell my children to look up to the owners at teams such as Town because our children can learn how to spend in a clever way.
“I’d rather spend wisely like Huddersfield and make the most of my money than spend millions like other clubs and get nowhere, and the best thing is that Dean Hoyle is a local lad, so hats off to him.”
Fayaaz Qamaar, a teacher from Huddersfield, agrees with Dadhiwala.
Although he supported Manchester United as a youngster, he is glad that his nephew and his friends support Huddersfield. He is adamant, fans who have supported the club for many years have made them all feel so welcome.
“You can’t beat Town fans,” says Qamaar in his broad Yorkshire accent.
“My nephew loves the club because the fans have bent over backwards to make him feel at home. Last season, it wasn’t seen as a cool thing to do, to support Town, but all that has changed now, but the club is still a very community orientated club and they can do no wrong in my eyes.
“They have passed the ‘inclusion’ test as far as I am concerned.”
Asif Adam, an optician from Dewsbury believes Huddersfield is now seen as the ‘Muhammad Ali’ of the football world.
“Ali was hero and role model to so many people and he has fulfilled those roles for decades. He was the fast-talking, world beating man of the 60’s, who had immense strength of character,” says Adam.
“He lifted people similarly to the way Dean Hoyle has inspired an entire town, not to mention the fact that he, and his team have made their presence felt the biggest league in the world by achieving the unthinkable on a limited budget.
“All the prominent Asian business men and women admire what he has done.”
I know of certain clubs with a large Asian population in the vicinity that have tried unsuccessfully to attract an Asian fan base.
In terms of the Asian and international fan base, Huddersfield Town find themselves in a very privileged position.
The Asian population in the UK contributes a great deal to the British economy. It boasts the largest food empire in Europe and an ever-increasing number of successful entrepreneurs, not discounting the rise of ethnic media and products amongst other things.
With countries such as India emerging as an economic power, along with the oil rich Middle East who now have competitive leagues, I believe it will be Huddersfield who will gain the most by taking advantage of their popularity.
The mood is summed up by Tauseef Ali of Heckmondwike: “The story is like that of Dawood (David) and (Jalut) Goliath.
“Everyone laughed at Dawood, at the weapons he had and how he went about his business, but he did the un-thinkable againsy all odds.
“We also have some very effective weapons now in the form of Mounie, Ince, Kachunga and many others.
“Manchester who? Real who? And although it is Abramovich’s Chelsea and the Sheikh’s at City who have the millions, we have Dean Hoyle.
“And the stone cold tenacity of the Commercial Director, Sean Jarvis, will ensure this club will never be sold short.
“It’s great to see that the fans that supported the club during the dark days are respected and looked after.
“This is a proper football club.”