A constant debate that I have with my boss, a Forest fan, is the influence of media coverage, and the internet on the modern football fan.
Never before has so much information been available to fans about a range of things that, thirty years ago, rarely (if ever) mattered to many of us.
We now have a constant flow of information about owners, accounts, shareholders, players’ personal lives, managers’ personal lives, we have statistics galore and more replays and slow-mos from various angles , than you could shake a Sky remote at. The effect that this has had on football fans is absolutely immeasurable.
Some of the older heads on The Mag often bemoan many of the arguments put forward here, they rightly point out that we should be concentrating on the football side of things rather than what owner does with his or the club’s money, what the accounts say or how much profit can be made on a player.
They argue that nobody used to care about these things so long as the football was reasonable and even if it wasn’t, people blamed football reasons, not accounting reasons, and they are right….or rather they were.
I have also argued before that we should only be concerning ourselves with football matters, how good the entertainment is and how well are the team performing.
However, the unfortunate truth is that the vast amount of money pumped into top level football these days, particularly the Premier League, has bought the media an access all areas pass to throw as much information as they can, correct or not, to an eager public.
The huge audiences worldwide of the Premier League TV coverage have seen the popularity surge to a level which would have been inconceivable in pre-Sky days, and that public needs its hunger for information fed.
New ‘Sky generation’ fans are often lambasted for their lack of historical knowledge about the game and the clubs involved, for their fascination with statistics and the factors outside of the game which fill so many column inches, but it isn’t just those newer breed who are guilty of that.
Right here on this forum there are many older fans who spent considerable time and effort debating the moral aspects of Mike Ashley’s ownership and its effect on the clubs performance, and rightly so.
Sad as it seems, the only reason these debates did not happen thirty years ago was that the information wasn’t there, not because of some moral high ground that supporters took to confine their interests and concerns to 90 minutes of action on the football pitch.
The game has changed and probably not for the better in many people’s eyes.
Yes we have unparalleled coverage of our league, yes we have access to more televised football than ever before, but at what cost to the fans?
Without the huge contract money on offer and the benefits of worldwide advertising, would a man like Mike Ashley have ever considered buying Newcastle United? I would highly doubt it, what benefit would he have seen from it for a business the size of S***** D*****?
The unfortunate truth of the matter is that, as football fans, we should only have to concern ourselves with the 90 minutes of play, the players on the pitch and the bloke in the dugout, but we can’t any more.
Thanks to a combination of money, media, business and advertising we are saturated with information about everything associated with the game, and we genuinely care now about things which would not have entered supporters’ minds thirty years ago.
A case in point is that of the type of fan who will go to matches regardless of the quality of the football on display, what league the team plays in, or how much the club values their support.
Pre-Internet, this fan always goes to games and refuses to be too disheartened despite a poor run of form. This fan is optimistic at all times and defends the club to the hilt, like it’s his most precious family member, this fan is labelled as a hard-core supporter.
Post-Internet the fan who always goes to games and refuses to be too disheartened despite a poor run of form. This fan is still optimistic at all times and defends the club to the hilt like it’s his most precious family member but is now labelled as a happy clapper.
Is the above scenario fair?
Well this is where my debate with the gaffer always leads. I would argue that due to the sheer amount of information available, there is no excuse for these fans, particularly in the case of Newcastle United.
Nobody is asking them to change or sacrifice their love of the club, what we are saying is that they need to express it differently, and in a way which doesn’t boost Mike Ashley’s coffers further. Nobody says that walking away is easily done, but knowing what they know I don’t see an argument for it not being the right thing to do.
In many ways I do embrace the modern version of football, I like to be informed and when you are talking about something which so many ordinary people invest so much of their own time and money into, I believe that people would be stupid not to ensure that they are well-informed.
In other ways I resent the fact that these things have been forced upon us and are now a consideration, it seems that football is not only played on grass these days, but in boardrooms, banks, television studios and right here on the internet.
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