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Last Updated: Friday, 30 May, 2003, 08:32 GMT 09:32 UK
Fans suffer 'end of season blues'
Manchester United
Manchester United celebrate winning this year's Premiership
Football fans suffer severe withdrawal symptoms and depression when the season ends, say researchers.

They suggest the football-free summer could leave up to two thirds of football fans - 9.2m people - with "end of season affective disorder".

They will be particularly blue this summer as football has come to a halt after almost 22 months of uninterrupted matches - including last year's World Cup.

Those close to football supporters should look out for signs of depression, lethargy, inability to converse and a feeling of hopelessness - feelings which may also be common during the season, if their team is not faring well.

Often fans will feel a void, an emptiness or loss on a Saturday afternoon
John Castleton, Psychologist

Other symptoms of the 'disorder' may include an inability to focus, a lack of direction and irritability - which may also be seen during the season when attempts are made to distract a fan from a match.

Being "as sick as a parrot" is not listed as one of the symptoms.

Existential crisis

Two thousand fans completed the internet questionnaire for the survey commissioned for Barclaycard.

Researchers also held three focus groups and carried out face-to-face interviews with 29 football fans.

Three quarters of fans said football was more important than anything else, while 70% said it was their main conversational topic.

Football dominated supporters moods, with 83% saying it made them feel better and 86% saying they planned their days around big matches during the season.

Psychologist John Castleton, who wrote the report, said: "Dependence is part of the human condition, we depend on our family, friends, interests and jobs to construct our identity and give meaning to our lives.

"Football fans clearly hold a deep rooted relationship with their team, and as a result - like any other close bond - to have that central pillar suddenly removed, could cause a quite obvious existential crisis.

"Often fans will feel a void, an emptiness or loss on a Saturday afternoon."

He said around 10% said they were relieved the season was over, but the majority did feel something was missing.

Dr Castleton said: "There is obviously a great deal of passion - and where there is passion, there is loss."



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