The other day a friend sent me a video. It was a clip of AFTV doing a watchalong of the Wolves game.
When we scored our second goal one of the fans (who has always claimed he has no agenda and is not influenced by the camera) ‘celebrated’ – not by high fiving or hugging the friends around him. In fact, he didn’t even smile.
Instead, in clearly a planned action, he just glared down the screen, nodding his head, raising his eyebrow, like he had proven the doubters wrong. Of course, that notion is not true as most times this season, we have done the opposite of silencing our critics. Yet it’s cringing to think that a man in his thirties is acting like he’s part of what happens on the pitch. He hadn’t proved anything to anyone. His opinion has no bearing on the result of a football match.
I was then baffled at what he did next. He proceeded to push people out of the way (two who were taking the knee to respect BLM) so he could have all the screen time. He turned around and pointed to what was written on the back of his shirt.
Yes, he was showing the number 9, the digit of Lacazette who had just scored, but above was not the surname of our striker but of the supporter himself.
You know how you might look in the garden and your child is acting like he really is playing at Wembley with the whole Arsenal kit on? What age would you expect that to end?
Now this isn’t an attack on the channel. Like me or you, they have the freedom to do whatever they want to. They make a lot of money doing what they do so good luck to them.
I don’t know if that was a sign of his YouTube celebrity getting to his head, or he’s now acting a certain way to get attention instead of actually watching the game naturally? Good luck to him either way, I’m only mentioning it, so you understand what inspired this article. My friend messaged ‘genuine?’
I responded by saying that as someone who’s been to the Emirates many times, I can’t remember anyone around me who responds to what was a crucial goal, by looking angrily into a camera, then pointing to his own name). My mate then pointed out ‘YouTube generation’. He’s correct. Yet it got me thinking, not just YouTube but how has social media and the internet changed the game? For better or worse?
I grew up watching my team win titles and was overjoyed. Now, it’s about who puts out the cleverest tweet.
I was heartbroken watching the Gunners so near and yet so far from winning the Champions League. That night in Paris, we were gutted – yet proud of the efforts of 10 men. If that happened in 2020, some (not all) would want to say the most swear words and shout the loudest in the hope their interview garnered views.
Here are 10 ways that social media impacted Football…
10 – Fans Have A Voice
This is the ethos of most fan channels. No, they are not doing this for the money, they are doing this because fans don’t have a voice apparently.
Growing up you had to rely on newspapers and pundits like Andy Gray to tell you what was right and wrong. Now supporters have various ways to share their opinions – such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.
It means clubs can no longer pretend that everything is as rosy, as their customers have high profile platforms to show their frustrations (some have exploited this opportunity and gone over the top).
Not just in sport but the rise of social media has seen the media industry take a hit. Why pay 1.00 pound to read Oliver Holt’s viewpoint, when for free you can have a debate with others online?
9 World Interaction
For many years now, other countries have seen the value of the Premiership as a brand and have paid millions so it’s content can be watched around the world.
Yet you no longer need a pricey TV package to get content. There are now (legally or illegally) numerous ways to, with a click of a button, watch games live (even some of the most random domestic Leagues).
I don’t feel sorry for the likes of Sky and BT as they have taken advantage with apps that allow their coverage to be available on laptops, phones, tablets, etc. Their fear will be the popularity of streaming services, with Amazon over Christmas testing what kind of audience they would attract.
Fans also can interact with each other from across the globe (which was the intention when the likes of Facebook were launched). As a resident in the UK, I can’t relate what it’s like being a Gooner outside of England who maybe doesn’t have a network of friends who share their passion. I would imagine if you’re abroad, you now feel yourself as a more involved part of the fanbase?
Yes, you could always stay up late and watch the match, but now you can share your opinions and views with fellow gunners. For example, right here on Just Arsenal we have readers from all over the world who can have their voices heard.
8- Made The Game Richer
I mentioned it’s hurt the sales of papers (although they have their own website versions), and maybe the credibility of pundits whose views are now challenged, but social media has made football richer in many ways. Clubs look at their followers on social media and will digest them with their shareholders.
Who cares where you finish when millions in Asia have subscribed to your in-house Facebook, Twitter and YouTube? Being able to share content around the globe within seconds will only increase your brand worldwide, which in turns increases your advertising and sponsorship deals.
The likes of Ronaldo and Messi make as much money from trending as many times as they do than their basic salary.
I already mentioned the likes of Netflix and Disney flirting with the idea of bidding for Premiership rights. How do you think Sky and BT will stop their rivals? They will have to pay a record contract, worth billions, for 20 clubs to share to stop them from even thinking about a Man United launching their own channel. As we saw during lockdown, owners were desperate to get football resumed because TV has become such a huge revenue stream.
Is it too much content? That’s your own personal opinion. I know some who watch every game possible and others who feel less is more. Yet take away the fact that you can watch 5-6 live games every weekend if you have Sky and BT, social media means you can watch, listen and talk about the game every minute of every day if you wish.
Most companies who cover the sport have some kind of podcast or YouTube channel, where of course you can pick when you want to listen. Forget companies, anyone can stream content.
YouTube of course (not just football) allows you to watch previous games and moments if you’re feeling nostalgic. If your over 30, you will understand that it was once possible to get to Match of The Day without knowing any scores.
That’s how we spent Saturdays, the news would tell you to look away if you didn’t want to know anything, your friends and family knew it was an unwritten rule, don’t give away the score. Now the BBC don’t even bother, as it’s assumed by 10.30 that their viewers know exactly what they are going to see. It’s not impossible to avoid the scores in 2020, but it would mean not going online or checking your phone all day.
6- Made Careers
I have been critical of what AFTV have become but I’m not critical of the original idea. Whether it’s a fan channel, podcasting or blogging, anyone who can make a living doing something they love, good luck to them. I would never begrudge that, and you have to be quite sad if that bothers you.
In a perfect world, society should be set up where an individual should have a chance to train and learn whatever field they choose. The facts are they go beyond football or social media. Some don’t have thousands to get a degree in Journalism, so good on them for finding another way to chase their dream.
5 Changed The Fan Base
Arsenal used to pride themselves on doing things the ‘Arsenal way’, now we have become a laughingstock for how fickle we have become.
Think about the reaction Arteta was getting after the Brighton loss, then compare when we won at Wolves. When I was growing up and we lost, sure you would debate it in the school playground or with your older brothers, but I never remember turning on players and managers so quickly? We had more faith because in sport you won or lost, there was no need to find a reason and stress about it.
That’s not criticising the younger generation, it’s not their fault. They are growing up where you get what you want within seconds. Food, clothes, music …. it’s all a click away. So, when you have been taught that you don’t have to wait, you then have the inability to understand the thrill of the chase.
If your team fails, there has to be a reason. Either this player is not good enough, the manager should be sacked, etc. Suddenly we are all experts because we have been given a license to display our opinions every second of the day, no matter if it makes sense (what am I doing now?).
My best friend to this very day used to sit in class with me and debate why Heskey (he’s a Liverpool fan) was better than Henry. That’s because mostly if someone wore your colours you supported them. Loyalty now only exists if you want your star man to sign a new contract.
A Gooner born today will grow up being taught that swearing on YouTube and verbally abusing your own player is not just normality but now expected of you. I referred to the CL Final earlier. In 2020 our keeper would get verbal abuse for getting sent off. Henry would be called all kind of names for not taking those chances.
If you don’t believe me, remember what Mr Wenger said the week before the Cup Final: ‘I will never forget the disrespect form certain fans’. He warned us we were in danger of losing our values and he’s been proven right.
4 Changes How Clubs Are Run
Most owners are successful businessmen or women. Don’t get me wrong you don’t become a millionaire without trusting your own decisions and giving in to public opinion. Yet there are numerous examples where the rise in social media has put pressure on clubs to make decisions. Take Arsene Wenger as the classic example.
In the first half of his reign, the backlash would be exclusive to the terraces and whatever the media wanted to print. In that sense an employer could protect their manager, as shareholders didn’t have a lot of information to go off. Today, instead of crowd interaction every weekend it’s daily.
You could argue Mr Wenger actually got more of a backlash away from the stadium. Fans became famous for verbally abusing the greatest manager in our history. Social media would help arrange protests and advertise banners, etc.
The greatest boss in our history, instead of being helped when he fell over at a train station, was filmed on phones as others laughed and mocked him. Again, the danger of losing our values.
3 Transfer Market
Kind of following on from point 4, where you used to just sit and wait for the club to sign someone, now there is daily pressure to do business once the transfer market opens.
Fan Channels and even Sky Sports quickly noticed the opportunity to make the market an event in itself to get more views. All they are actually doing is repeating what they read in the morning papers, followed by reaction to it.
Managers, owners and players have to hear rumours everyday, with some fans going as far as tracking planes or reading a wife’s Instagram to find out what a target might be doing at that precise moment. As already mentioned, there is so much content that everyone is an expert.
We hear a link and demand to know why he hasn’t signed, even though (if we are honest) some of us have never seen that player actually kick a ball. Some think checking out a quick compilation on YouTube counts.
It’s funny to me how morally conflicted some get by the idea of a betting company providing any kind of advertisement to a club. Betting companies themselves tick a box by ensuring they run adverts warning about the danger of gambling while they agreed not to air commercials pre-match.
The irony though is they have never made more money because of the rise of social media (and not just in football). Gone are the days when you physically had to walk into your local branch. Like most things, you can gain access with a click of button in the comfort of your own home. This has led to debates that it will turn many into addicts, as they might view online gambling as spending invisible money. You don’t even now have to deposit cash. How some apps work is you click an icon on your phone, live odds flash, hit a button and bet is submitted.
1- Players Mentality
A topic that the world is getting better at is discussing depression, and getting people aware that it’s an illness. Still though the game and social needs to do more to protect players from abuse.
Both the Premiership, Twitter and Facebook earn enough money to have a zero tolerance on inappropriate behaviour. They say the right things, and once a year your see players forced to wear some kind of shirt, but actions speak louder than words.
Sanctions still take too long, or are too weak to the point that many suffer in silence.
Too many fans live in this bubble where they think football has its own world where we can say what we want without any consequence. Grown men and women will come out with language they wouldn’t dare use any other time or in other situations.
Fans are growing up watching Youtubers call Ozil the C word without being challenged. That is okay because he earns too much and/or is not good at his job? Just think about that…
Mustafi spoke about the effect that trolls have had on him mentally.
Xhaka reached breaking point when he faced vile messages daily. These include wishing his baby died and his wife getting cancer. From his own fans? Wow. Then some have the nerve to ask Auba to be loyal and sign a contract like Ozil’s. Just to turn on him if he’s not playing well in two years.. .
Nothing has to be wrong to get depression. Yet being in the public eye can be stressful. There is pressure being a sports person without having to read certain things online.
What do you think are the pros and cons of social media? Has it made football better or worse?
Be kind in the comments