Footy Scran Asks One Seemingly Simple Question: Scran or No Scran?

Contemplating the chaotic domain of foodie-minded soccer fans

Fan squirts condiments onto fries.
Photo: Steven Paston/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images
Giulia Alvarez-Katz

There is a place where crusty buns cradle cheese, bacon bits, and the glistening, red-spiced meat patty of a Gurmanska pljeskavica; where curry sauce-slathered chicken nuggets rest on a bed of hot, fresh chips; where mushy peas and meat pies mingle in a pool of gravy. It is where lads of all sorts gather to venerate, disparage, and cast judgment on dishes served exclusively in cardboard or styrofoam, held aloft for the world to see. It is a space at the intersection of sports, food, and memes. It is a community. It is a hall of debate. It is a shitposting arena. It is one of my favorite places on the internet. It is Footy Scran, the Twitter account dedicated to “showing the best (and worst) scran at the football.”

First, you may be wondering: What is footy scran? It is, in essence, the obscene but delightful sustenance available for purchase at stadiums. “Footy,” of course, comes from “football” (what Americans may know as soccer), a sport that inspires a certain level of mania around the world. “Scran,” a term of unclear origin, once referred to British Army rations and was later used as a word for the food that ex-soldiers would beg for on the streets; nowadays it describes the object, the act, and the spirit of hearty, enthusiastic eating. The unrepentant gluttony implied by the term is crucial to its core: sloppy, drunken scran is far more enjoyable at a soccer match than a delicate epicurean nibble. Footy Scran reflects that ethos; each food item shared on the account can best be described as “unrestrained.”

I first came across Footy Scran via a photo of Kibbeling (fried cod bites from the Netherlands) that struck a chord with me. Maybe it was the appetizingly green sauce that came with the fish nuggets, or perhaps it was how delicious they looked against the artfully blurred soccer pitch in the background. It felt like I had disturbed some underbelly of society I hadn’t realized was there. Despite growing up in an Italian household, I am not a soccer fan, at least not in the way that I associate with a particular type of lad I call a “footy fella” — a term that I learned from a British teenybopper mag that used it to describe soccer hotties. Footy fellas are most densely concentrated in the United Kingdom, but do exist elsewhere; nor do they have to be lads, strictly speaking. It’s more of a state of mind, one marked by a particular dedication that sets the footy fella apart from a more casual soccer fan. They love every part of the game, championing players with K-pop levels of zeal and critiquing rivals with similar rabidity. They follow their chosen teams’ movements across the season with rapt attention. They share a mutual understanding, a common set of vocabulary and innuendos and wink-winks nearly inscrutable to outsiders. My anthropological observations can only gesture at the complete picture; to truly understand a footy fella, one must be a footy fella.

In spite of our different levels of interest in the noble sport, there’s one arena where I can find common ground with footy fellas: food. To a subset of these fans, a footy match is not just about how a team plays, but about the entire experience of spectatorship, including all things edible. In the Footy Scran universe — this includes sister accounts Footy Bevs (for beverages, mostly beer) and Sport Scran (for food at venues beyond soccer stadiums) — fellas congregate for rousing debates over one existential question: scran or no scran?

Scran is a way of life ... one that embraces entropy and unfettered culinary creativity

The query, which regularly comes attached to posts as a poll for followers to vote on, is deceptively simple. How can one circumscribe that which is inherently chaotic? But, through careful analysis of all the literature available to me (I read hundreds of posts on Footy Scran dating back to the account’s inception in November 2021), I have come up with a working set of parameters to define the scran-ability of any given food.

For one, portability is crucial. There are those who believe some foods are concourse-only, i.e. the scran can’t, or shouldn’t, be consumed while seated. There are the handheld-food evangelists, who believe that if you can’t eat with one hand and drink a beer with the other, it’s not really footy scran. (Still, never let anyone tell you that scran-ability is harshly uncompromising; there have been several appetizing fork-and-knife meals featured on Footy Scran that were given a community-wide pass, demonstrating footy fellas’ open-mindedness in the face of good food.)

Other (perhaps cleaner-handed) lads care more about the related metric of messiness, insisting that exceedingly saucy foods are unacceptable. A dispute about a very saucy jerk chicken at Luton Town had pro- and anti-sauce footy fellas clamoring to defend their preferred level of food wetness. Some in the pro-sauce camp think anything too wet is inappropriate stadium food, citing the inevitable sloppiness in its consumption. The opposing side, however, is largely British, and they have an axe to grind with dishes that strike them as too dry and crunchy. Fried chicken dishes are their usual target, but many other crispy delights have fallen victim to their disapproval. It might perplex the rest of us, but it’s on-brand for the Brits, given their love for match-day mushy peas and gravy-drenched pies.

As far as affordability goes, a certain (low) price point is expected. Here, food that costs over £5 (about $7) provokes skepticism and raised eyebrows; more than £10 ($13), and you might provoke the community’s ire. Bigger stadiums hosting flashy national teams typically charge outrageous prices for food that is usually roundly declared “no scran” — sometimes entirely as a result of the price. Even a decent-looking £17 ($23) burger at Paris FC couldn’t survive the inquisition. Despite the apparent idolatry of low-cost scran, footy fellas tend to take a measured approach, judging the price of a scran by its own context. At an Atlas FC match in Mexico, a small pizza went for £1.50 ($2), which might sound cheap to some, but fellas took the care to kindly point out that that is actually overpriced for locals. At a game in Copenhagen, a sad-looking but expensive sausage sparked a lively debate about the high Danish cost of living, illustrating that the where of a scran is just as important as the how much. The question of its price in this debate centered around the sausage’s size, which had been declared by some as inadequate. For £6 ($8), its middling length could not be forgiven. It’s important to note, however, that some overpriced dishes avoid these indictments, generally in one of two ways: when the sheer enormity of the portion justifies the cost, or because the food looks exquisite.

Scran is both specific and universal. While much of the top scran is what you might anticipate — extravagant portions of currywurst; chicken wings, burgers, and fries; flaky pastry-wrapped sausages of all shapes, sizes, and colors — others may be surprising. Spicy Thai sausages on sticks and bowls of Brazilian tropeiro are considered just as much scran as the many iterations of meat pies and mushy peas from England, each an encapsulation of the local flavor and pride. Aesthetics do matter here, but less than you might imagine. Team affiliation also plays a part, like when less conventionally popular dishes, such as haggis or pickled pork, receive higher-than-expected scran ratings due to the emotional connection that fellas have with the teams associated with them. Even unknowns and underdogs get to enjoy the limelight: delicious-looking scran from tiny community club matches can be deliriously well-received, bombarded with drool emojis in a ritual resembling a hype train on Twitch.

More than anything, though, scran is a way of life, an energy you bring to the table (or seat). It’s one that embraces entropy and unfettered culinary creativity. It’s the ability to have a laugh without being too inflammatory, the ability to not let things get to you. Mean-spirited jokes in the world of footy scran are rarely at the expense of a lesser fella or team. Insults and conflicts seem to resolve themselves as quickly as they arise, a reminder of the wonderfully fickle nature of sports-based feelings — your team might have lost, but there’s always the next match, so might as well shake hands and keep things moving. Competition may be part of the game, but the only real winner is good sportsmanship. In the world of Footy Scran, there is no real venom or discord. There is only scran or no scran.

Giulia Alvarez-Katz is a freelance writer and artist based in Queens. She writes a newsletter on Substack about culture, gastronomy, and life.