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From Non-League jerk chicken to £18 burgers and cheesy chips: The best and worst football food with Footy Scran

1:30 PM IST 20/01/22
Footy Scran GFX
Tom Sibley, creator of the social media sensation, speaks to GOAL about his experiences with food at football grounds - and why it's often so bad

A pie and a pint – part of the traditional routine of attending a football match for so many supporters.

Yet food at football grounds is often so much more diverse, for better or worse, ranging from sublime sausage and chips smothered in sauce and stuffed into crispy bread, to ridiculous Styrofoam platters of oven chips with processed cheese slices dropped tragically on top.

Food at football grounds is rarely like food found anywhere else – which inspired Tom Sibley to start the Footy Scran accounts on Twitter and Instagram, documenting the very best and absolute worst of what clubs have to offer.

The 23-year-old from the West Midlands initially started the account last year after being inspired by some especially audacious food from the non-league game in England – but it has only been since the return of fans to stadiums following games being played behind closed doors due to coronavirus that Footy Scran has gone viral, shooting up to more than 100,000 Twitter followers in a matter of months.

Speaking exclusively to GOAL, Sibley said: "What made me start Footy Scran in the first place was the Merthyr Town photo of the chips, sausages and curry sauce in a cob. It caught my attention straight away as it does for many people, and I decided to have a search of what other scran was about.

"I did initially start Footy Scran at the start of the first lockdown, but obviously with no sporting events being allowed I never got any content sent in and ended up deleting the account. It came to mind to start it up again now everyone's allowed back and it's taken off massively."

A universal experience across the often disjointed and divided world of football fandom, Footy Scran has started debates on national TV and radio, as well as on social media, about the state of food at football grounds.

The popularity has shocked Sibley after he only started the account through lockdown boredom, only to see his tweets picked up by players and football-supporting celebrities.

He says: "Seeing how well this account has done and how quickly it has grown has been a complete shock to me, especially with how badly it went the first time.

"My initial thoughts would be that eventually the content will die down, but we're still receiving so many messages per day that it's flying.

"At times, it can get quite overwhelming, especially when I open up the app on my phone to see messages and tweets from people like AJ Tracey and Roman Kemp."

Most of the popular tweets from Footy Scran concern the stereotypes of awful quality, overpriced junk food foisted on hapless fans at Premier League grounds.

For example, a selection of burned burgers at Leeds United has more than a thousand likes, while an £18 double cheeseburger and chips in the hospitality section at Arsenal is going north of six thousand.

However, Sibley says he is keen for the account to promote and praise clubs who have thought outside the box and deliver quality food for their loyal – and hungry – supporters, both at the top and bottom of the league pyramid.

"There are surprisingly so many great and unique foods you can now get at the football," he says.

"Firstly, the Merthyr chips, sausage and curry sauce in a cob is an absolute OG of the account and that's to thank for the creation of it. I still haven't even been to try that, which is something I really need to do.

"A few others to mention would be Tooting and Mitcham's jerk chicken which is completely unique to them as I haven't seen any other ground have that and it looks so good.

"Leicester's red leicester sausage roll is a hit, a huge sausage roll filled with cheese – there is really nothing to hate about that.

"On the other hand, however, there is a lot of bad scran in football grounds but that's what a lot of the Footy Scran followers want to see, from the cheese slice cheesy chips at Birmingham, to the burnt burgers at Elland Road and even the ridiculously overpriced burger and chips at Arsenal.

"There's such a good range of food at football around the world and I'm glad to have the platform to share it on."

Sibley is a match-going Wolves fan, so knows first hand how lousy food at football can sometimes be.

While Footy Scran relies on audience submissions for the vast majority of their content, Sibley has a tale or two to tell of his own bizarre and depressing experiences when it comes to the beautiful game's often less than beautiful approach to culinary service.

He says: "As I follow a Premier League team, you can imagine my experiences with food at the football haven't been very great, as it's usually made in bulk meaning it's bland, cold and overpriced.

"My worst football food experience would have to be when I went to Nottingham Forest, as, for some reason, the away end only had sausage rolls which only cooled down enough to eat by around the 70th minute."

So why is food at some football grounds so utterly terrible? For Sibley, it is about the desire of many to put profit over quality – but at some grounds, the tide is turning as clubs expand their palate and explore offering supporters rather more than a watery pint and dry pie.

He says: "I think the food in football grounds gets such a bad reputation because it generally is so poor and overpriced in the higher leagues.

"These companies have to make food for thousands and thousands of people so they do it the fastest and cheapest way possible meaning it's never that great, and a lot of the time they know however bad it may be, people will always buy food at the game.

"On the other hand, this is why the standard of food is so much better at non-league as they're dealing with a lot less fans so they can get away with trying different things.

"A big issue with the food is that it's so overpriced. Burger and chips at Chelsea is £11.95 ($16.25), at Arsenal, it is £12.80 ($17.40), and even Reading sell their pork baguettes at £8 ($10.90).

"These clubs and food suppliers need to make money, but the pricing is outrageous especially as a lot of the food is poor.

"Clubs like Hull and Barnsley really do need to be given credit when it comes to this as they're trying completely new foods for football with their loaded chips, loaded beef nachos, chicken flatbreads and much more all for usually between £4 ($5.50) and £5 ($6.80), which is so much cheaper than a lot of clubs and the quality is actually very good."