I went to my local pub last night to watch the Chelsea vs Tottenham football match. I wouldn’t normally do this but the game was wrapped in possibly the biggest ever story in British sport.
Leicester City were ranked at 5000/1 outsiders by bookmakers at the start of last season. The club had finished fourth from bottom the previous year, miraculously escaping relegation. Former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri was appointed as manager over the summer; an unpopular choice among Leicester fans.
The season began, and after two games in August Leicester were top.
‘Haha, it won’t last!’ we thought. ‘Take a photo of the league table while you can!’
Christmas came, and Leicester were still top. Jamie Vardy, who I remember playing in non-league for Fleetwood Town, had scored 11 goals in 11 consecutive games; a Premier League record.
‘Haha. Very good, but it won’t last!’ we thought.
Easter came. Still top.
“The wheels will fall off soon!” we shouted, quietly.
Defeat at Arsenal and Vardy’s dismissal at home to West Ham threatened to bring the wheels off, but it never happened.
Eden Hazard’s 85th minute equaliser for Chelsea last night handed Leicester the title; a remarkable feat for a club that has spent less on players in their entire 132-year history than Manchester United have in the last 24 months.
This was the Leicester player’s reaction to Hazard’s goal:
The Leicester story is compelling for a few reasons. First, it is a classic rags to riches story, but I think as well there is something more subtle going on.
Many football fans feel disengaged with the sport. Unless you support one of the ‘big four’ (Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City), nobody cares who actually wins the league.
The team that wins will be a giant brand who spend millions each year to guarantee their spot at or near the top of the league.
Nobody outside of Leicester supported Leicester City before this season. There was no global brand. I think a lot of ‘disengaged’ fans like me have engaged with the story because we can actually relate to Leicester as a club.
I tell you all this because it is essential to realise that stories make up the fabric of how we view the world. We’ll be talking about Leicester winning the league for years to come because it is an archetypal ‘rags to riches’ story. If Manchester United or Chelsea had won it would have been a stereotypical story.
In the long term nobody remembers stereotypical stories. Tell more archetypal stories and less stereotypical stories and you’ll gain more traction.