What is loyalty? (Or what’s the difference between loyalty and jousting sticks?)

“I’ll buy you a diamond ring my friend if it makes you feel alright/
I’ll get you anything my friend if it makes you feel alright/
Cos I don’t care too much for money, and money can’t buy me love.”
Can’t buy me love, The Beatles.

What is loyalty?
Why are people loyal?
Is it “an essential ingredient in any civilized and humane system of morals” (John Gadd, philosopher from Brown University)?
Is it a commodity to be bought and sold on the open market?
To whom are you loyal?
To your family?
What defines something as loyalty?
Can loyalty only exist between people?
Are you loyal to your pets?
Is your pet loyal to you?
Are you loyal to your country?
Is that the same as nationalism?
Are you loyal to your State?
Is this loyalty a virtue?
Or does it obscure your view of potentially better things elsewhere?
Are you loyal to your favourite café?
To your train timetable?
Is behavioural habit the same as loyalty?
Is this loyalty a type of laziness?

What is loyalty?
Are you loyal to your favourite musician?
Are you loyal to your favourite cricketer?
Are you loyal to your favourite cricket club?
Football club?
What’s the difference between loyalty to player and loyalty to club?
Are they each loyal to you?
Do you expect them to be?
Would you follow Steve Johnson rather than follow Geelong?
Daisy Thomas rather than Collingwood?
Would you follow Thomas to Carlton?

What is loyalty?
Are you loyal to your employer?
What if you were offered more money to perform exactly the same job elsewhere?
Would you move?
Would you consider it?
What would you consider?
The location?
The prospect of leaving your coworkers and meeting new ones?
Are you loyal to your coworkers?
To your customers?

What is loyalty?
Loyalty requires commitment.
The commitment must be based on something for it to thrive.
A commitment based on family and/ or emotion may be strong, but not necessarily everlasting (e.g. high rates of separation and divorce).
A commitment based on logic and reason may be likewise (e.g. miniscule rates of people who commute by bicycle).
A commitment based on a known and defined two-way benefit, such as money for performance, or frequent flyer points for custom, has a good chance of succeeding for the life of an orchestrated, pre-arranged deal.
In this regard, loyalty can be bought and sold. It is a commodity on the open market.
I will be loyal to you for as long as I receive a benefit from showing you that loyalty.
No problem.

” ‘Dad guy’s selling a pair of jousting sticks.’

‘Jousting sticks, what does he want for them?’
‘Make us an offer.’
‘Dale, what da’ya want with jousting sticks?’
‘Oh, I don’t know but they wouldn’t come up all that often.’ ”

The Castle, a movie.

Fans’ loyalty to clubs is not usually bought and sold (though the very existence of entire marketing departments may indicate otherwise).  Those marketing departments seek to gain money from existing supporters. Existing support is usually a product of emotional history (e.g. my dad played for them) or emotional herding (e.g. my friends/ family all barrack for them).

Fans swapping allegiances from year to year is not yet common. Though perhaps it will come. Perhaps future supporters’ loyalty will be bought and sold weekly. Or daily. Perhaps loyalty will be negotiated at the entrance to the ground. Perhaps at each quarter break, depending on the score, supporters could be persuaded to shift their loyalties. Perhaps we should all be free agents, selling to the highest bidder.

What would it take for you to be loyal to Club Cha-Ching for a quarter? For a week? For a year? For nine years? Come on, you’re a free agent. And we all have our price…
Don’t we?

“The best things in life are free/
But you can keep them for the birds and bees/
Just give me money.”
Money, The Beatles.

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Chris @4boat says

    If the EPL model is our future, it seems to me that over there existing fans are loyal to their clubs unto death. And this loyalty costs them dearly – it is a point of leverage for the owner of the club to extract maximum cash.

  2. Skip of Skipton says

    I will be barracking for Chappy next year (even if he’s with Carlton), as much as the Cats. I hope he sticks it right up them. I want that blow-in Chris Scott and whoever else is responsible for Chappy’s axing with egg on their face.

  3. “We like someone because; we love someone despite”.
    Genuine loyalty has a depth of commitment that sustains beyond the transactional ups and downs of daily life.
    A lot of things get called “love” and “loyalty” that just mean a passing attraction to an exciting opportunity.
    Springsteen said it better than most:
    “We said we’d walk together baby come what may
    That come the twilight should we lose our way
    If as we’re walking a hand should slip free
    I’ll wait for you
    And should I fall behind
    Wait for me”
    Footy is a business. There is no club/player loyalty in footy; just transactional advantage and convenience. Fans have loyalty not players and coaches (understandably – its their livelihood – but our passion).
    Thanks for raising it E2R. It got me thinking, who lies more – politicians; footy players and coaches; or horse trainers and bookies??
    Only a flared nostril in it.

  4. Peter Fuller says

    A highly relevant offering at this time of year when player-club, player-fan and even club-fan loyalties are fractured to near-breaking point, and occasionally beyond.
    I came across a fascinating article this week which discusses the question of the loyalty and commitment to the orgnisation – essentially in an organisational/business management context – and how it is promoted or threatened.
    The thread isn’t about sport but it is germane to the issues you raise, as the writer discusses the merits and limitations of the “fresh view”which an external consultant brings to an organisation. In particular he canvasses the issue that is crucial to football clubs that everyone in the organisation is committed to, and identifies their personal achievement with the success of the organisation – Fremantle players’ embrace of the Lyon game-plan for example.

  5. Phil Dimitriadis says

    was there really ever any loyalty? It’s a myth mate. Proudfoot came from Carlton to help us win our first flag in 1902. Barassi once said that ‘loyalty is portable’. Us romantic fans can easily get deluded by such notions in regards to players and coaches. The fan will seldom change teams. It would be easier for me to change my religion and my political affiliation than to change my football team. I could leave my wife and family, but I’d still barrack for Collingwood. It’s one of those irrational paradoxes.

  6. A cynic (not me) would say that there is no such thing as loyalty. We attach ourselves to things to make ourselves feel better, not because we are loyal. We are not loyal to our family and friends, but we do love (or hate!) them. Our football team is the same. Its not loyalty, its self fulfilment.

    Loyalty is an extension of the human survival instinct. If its good for us, we stick. If not we flee.

    As Tony Soprano’s mother said in that brilliant TV series:

    “Its all a big nothing. You die in your own arms. What makes you think you’re so special?”

    Pretty depressing stuff. It must be Monday morning.

  7. Thanks all (online and offline comments).
    It’s a confounding topic.
    A point of interest for me in that piece, and has been for years, is the reversal in attitude of yer Beatles to songs of money.
    As was rightly pointed out to me today, “Money,” from the LP entitled “with the beatles,” was a cover.
    On their next LP, released just 9 months(!) later in July 1964, The Beatles insightfully and wisely included a juxtaposed viewpoint of their own, entitled “Can’t buy me love.”
    It was mainly Paul McCartney singing that one, at 22 years of age.
    I wonder how many 22-year-old men reach this epiphany (later reprised many times in their recordings e.g. “all you need is love”)?
    Perhaps the Amateur leagues are full of these men?

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