They tend to be healthy, vegan, and animal lovers, a new report suggests.
What do you envision when you think of a World Cup fan?
If you’re like me, it’s a tan, fit guy yelling at the television in almost any language besides English. But according to a new report by DMP Lotame, we’re not entirely off.
The newly compiled data — which is drawn from thousands of permission-based online behaviors from a staggering 86 million identified soccer fans — showed that more than half (56%) of soccer fans who make up the World Cup audience are male.
The most surprising part? The report found that World Cup fans are also much more health-conscious than your average person (or sports fan, for that matter).
Fans are a staggering eight times more likely to be vegan or vegetarian and six times more likely to be focused on a healthy lifestyle and wellness in other ways, such as meal planning and eating fresh, organic food.
Also surprising is the fact that more than two-thirds (67%) of the World Cup audience does not appear to have children, though they are seven times more likely to have a companion animal at home. Lest you think all this must mean World Cup fans are simply younger, the age breakdown is actually pretty evenly split.
So, what gives?
Erin Kwiatkowski, a World Cup fan and soccer player for almost 30 years, has a few theories. She fits the average fan profile, save for the fact that she’s a woman — she’s vegan, health-conscious, and child-free, and she has a companion animal at home.
Kwiatkowski believes World Cup fans are more concerned with nutrition because many are players themselves, which means they have to be in better-than-average shape for the running-heavy sport. She’s also not surprised that World Cup fans are eight times more likely to be vegetarian.
“Quite a few of the friends I’ve made through this sport, both men and women, eat plant-based,” Kwiatkowski, who works as the global vegetarian support manager at ChooseVeg.com, tells GOOD.
The health benefits of eating plant-based for athletes may indeed be the driving factor. A growing roster of professional soccer players are going plant-based, including Jermain Defoe, Hector Bellerin, Fabian Delph, Meghan Klingenberg, Sebastián Pérez, and Alex Morgan. Many other players, including Jack Wilshere, Chris Smalling, Baggio Husidic, Sergio Agüero, and Russell Martin, are vocal about eating mostly plant-based.
Jordan Moncrief, another lifelong fan and soccer player who’s vegan, tells GOOD he’s not surprised by the survey either — especially the popularity of plant-based eating.
“Lean muscle and quick recovery are two of the major benefits to my game since adopting a vegan diet,” he says. “Being conscious of my food has gifted a balance to my game that at 31 that I didn’t think I’d see. As more and more professional athletes turn plant-based, the more and more fans will be exposed to it.”
Kwiatkowski, who’s also queer, thinks the global nature of soccer keeps it progressive and more open to new ideas. She’s often found fans to be more pro-LGBTQ, citing evidence like Orlando City’s new stadium to commemorate those lost in the Pulse Nightclub shooting and fan displays (“Tifo”) during Pride Month. To her, it makes sense that “this tendency toward social justice and compassion extends to pigs, chickens, and cows as well, with so many fans eating plant-based diets.”
It may also be that the sport’s global bent keeps its fans healthier, even if they’re only watching games on TV. Kwiatkowski points out: “Many Americans follow leagues that play in significantly different time zones. It’s common for hundreds of people to meet at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning to watch their team.”
That means not everyone watching the game is drinking at a bar.
As to why more of those fans aren’t women, that stat should continue to shift. Women’s soccer fandom is on the rise, with women composing roughly 40% of worldwide television audiences for the 2014 men’s World Cup.
“There is a stereotype that women who attend matches are either soccer moms or wives and girlfriends of the real fans,” Kwiatkowski says. “We exist. As with all things, representation matters. To all the women at the soccer bars this month, surrounded by men, watching men’s World Cup games, I see you!”