KATHRYN BATTE: England star Esme Morgan ‘loves’ interacting with fans but insists growing crowds have made it ‘difficult’… amid ‘hurtful’ criticism from supporters who feel ignored
- Esme Morgan says growing crowds made made it unrealistic to greet every fan
- Mary Earps found it ‘hurtful’ when one fan accused her of being too ‘important’
- Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’
Esme Morgan remembers being the ‘kid in the crowd’ hoping to get a glimpse of her heroes.
The 23-year-old is now on the other side as an England international and a regular for Manchester City.
The difference, though, is that the crowds Morgan once stood in have multiplied to tens of thousands.
When England were playing in front of 5,000 people in Wycombe, there was a realistic chance for supporters to meet players after games. But the Lionesses attract a far greater audience these days, with Friday’s Nations League match against Belgium set to be played at a sold-out Kingpower Stadium in Leicester – which holds over 32,000.
The issue is that, for many, expectations have not changed. After England’s victory over Scotland in Sunderland last month, a video emerged of supporters chanting for players to ‘get off the bus’.
Esme Morgan says it is hard for players to meet every fan due to growing crowds – but that they still ‘love’ meeting supporters
Mary Earps was accused by one parent of being ‘too busy and important’ to meet their daughter and said the remark was ‘hurtful’ as she devotes time to fans
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On Sunday, England goalkeeper Mary Earps responded to a comment on Instagram from a parent who accused her of being ‘too busy and important’ to meet their daughter after Manchester United’s victory over Everton. Earps described the remark as ‘hurtful’ and insisted she had spent lots of time meeting fans after the game.
England’s players care deeply about interacting with supporters but, as Morgan explains, it is not as easy as it once was.
‘We love being able to go over and make someone’s day and see how excited people get but with the growth of the game now it’s just not really realistic and feasible for us to get round and see everyone,’ Morgan says.
‘It’s difficult when sometimes maybe some fans feel like the expectation is that they’re going to get to meet you and in years gone by that might have been an option, not as many fans were coming to the games so you might be able to get round everyone.
‘But it’s obviously become a lot more difficult now with the growth of the game, so you try and connect in different ways – doing social media things and interacting with people on there and replying to comments and stuff is another way of doing it, but in person after games is definitely becoming a lot more difficult.
‘It’s something that we know fans really enjoy and we absolutely want to keep it in the game, we want to keep meeting people but it’s obviously not a pleasant experience if someone like Mary for example, who spends a hell of a lot of time meeting fans, she’s so patient, and then she gets home and she’s missed one person and then has to deal with a torrent of abuse about it.
‘I think that’s a big shame and would put you off wanting to do it.’
Morgan acknowledges that some fans, like those in Sunderland, may be left disappointed but hopes there is an understanding that players are not able to stay out all night – even if they wanted to.
‘It’s hard when there’s so many people, you’re going along the line signing things and meeting people and then get called away by security.
Lionesses fans were upset when players did not greet them after they beat Scotland in the Nations League in September
Security, media commitments, and other constraints mean that players don’t have the time to meet every supporter
‘We’ve got to get on the bus home at some point cause otherwise we’d be out there all night, at some point you’ve got to go and then people are shouting “I want this, you’ve not seen me yet” and I feel bad because I have gone up to here [in the line] and if you’re the next person, you’re so close and you are missing out and it is really hard because I’m sure at that age I would have been disappointed and so gutted that I was so close to meeting one of my heroes.
‘There’s just so many more people that come to the games that it’s just not possible for us to get round it all.
‘We had a situation at City last year. We played Brighton away and Chloe Kelly had been out for ages, as she very often is, signing things and having pictures taken with people, and she got tweeted by a fan that she hadn’t taken the time to meet one of his daughters who’d come to the game.
‘Chloe was really upset because she’d spent so much time there and you can’t please everyone and you always remember that one person who wasn’t happy with you as opposed to all the people who you made their day and they were really grateful.
‘It is difficult because a lot of the time the club’s response would be “don’t engage” because we’d all want to stand up for Chloe and say “hang on, she was the last one in to the changing room after the game, that’s not fair”, but obviously you wouldn’t necessarily want to engage in that negative way.’
There have been a number of issues at both international and domestic games of fans crowding around the side of the pitch before games have finished in order to be better placed to meet players after the game.
Manchester City have looked to tackle this problem by creating an ‘autograph avenue’.
Selected fans, including members of the supporters’ club, competition winners and others chosen on the day, are given wristbands that permit entry to a space where a number of players will pass through and sign autographs and take pictures.
‘It’s a lot nicer for us as players actually because it’s a much calmer situation and atmosphere,’ Morgan says.
‘Sometimes when you go around the edge of the crowd, you’re kind of getting screamed at and having things thrust in your face. I find that difficult because I’ve been on the other end of it. When I first started coming to City’s women’s matches I was just a kid in the crowd wanting to meet everyone.
Chloe Kelly was upset when one fan complained that she hadn’t met one of her daughters even though she had spent lots of time with fans
Manchester City have made an ‘autograph avenue’ where players can dedicate time to fans
‘I think the way City have set it up, it’s a lot less chaotic and it’s a lot more structured and organised.
It’s a really nice way to meet everyone and you can spend a little bit more time chatting to people because not everyone is sort of screaming or going a bit crazy around you, because sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming when there’s such huge crowds and you feel bad leaving knowing there’s another hundred people down the row that you can’t get to.
‘That’s when it comes in that it’s not possible to see everyone but we try our best.
‘I think if clubs can put something in place, like City have, making it a lot more well managed and a calmer experience then I think it’s much more pleasant for everybody.’
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