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Opinion

Football fans and the media – A sign of the times

12 months ago
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There is this strange notion now regarding football fans, that being against modern football means that you are desperate for a return of the days of football hooliganism. That you want to go back to the stone age, turning up to the game on a horse and cart to a tiny run-down stadium like they do in Sunderland every other Saturday. It’s not that though.

It wasn’t so long ago that I would be sat on holiday with my parents at the end of June, putting 50p into a computer and clicking refresh on the BBC website every minute, waiting for the fixtures to come out. Sadly, it is not like that anymore…because the fixture list doesn’t mean anything.

Events in 2018 seem to have gone to a level we thought they couldn’t be reached in terms of football fans being taken advantage of.

Firstly, the Everton game. This is a game that has been moved to a Monday night, at such a late date, for the simple reason that Sky can make money. It would be stupid of me to be against having football matches on the tele because it is obviously good for everyone. However, announcing a game change only three weeks before the scheduled fixture is a joke.

Personally, I have had to get my ticket refunded by the club as the fixture change really has made it impossible to get to the game. The only possible way we could afford to get to the game was to get the train to Liverpool, then stay in a cheap hotel in Manchester after the game, and then get the train back to Newcastle the next day. About £131. That was the cheapest possible way to get to the game. Excluding food and drink.

Where is the support from the clubs? Non-existent because nobody cares about the fans. I am not sure that Newcastle even have a Supporters Liaison Officer at the moment.

Then we come to the rearranged Spurs game. Now, I fully accept that due to cup competitions that some fixtures have to be rearranged, but it feels like the FA, Sky and PL have gone the extra mile to make it as difficult as possible for NUFC fans. Newcastle fans have been given one-month notice to plan a trip to London… this isn’t forgetting that they were FORCED into making plans for the original Spurs game in case it did go ahead. That is hundreds of pounds on tickets, trains, hotels etc.

When you take into account that NUFC face Watford on the Saturday and Spurs on the Wednesday, that is money not even worth thinking about in the space of only 5 days. Where is the justice?

Sadly, this is just typical of football in 2018 – football fans have almost become desensitised to being p….. on.

I never like bringing politics into football that much, but with this past week marking the 5th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s death, it’s a poignant reminder that the disdain, and lack of empathy for football fans that she transcended into the 80s hasn’t gone away at all. In truth, the source of the disdain has merely changed from the government to the PL and Sky.

Even 10 years ago, it wasn’t unusual to have the fans on Sky Sports. Now, it doesn’t happen at all, ever. Because fans aren’t needed to make the news go around. The news doesn’t have to be true, or reliable, for it go around.

I recently watched a TV report on YouTube from 1990s. It was an hour long and featured the battle between McKeag and Hall for control over Newcastle… it featured a group of Newcastle fans all sitting in a pub giving their opinion to the local TV. Can you believe it? Fans being allowed onto TV to give their opinions as if they weren’t uneducated animals or something…

There is a lot of talk with Sky and the PL about whether the bubble could burst, and well in my opinion, it doesn’t really seem to matter, because football fans aren’t in the bubble anyway.

This slowly brings me to my second point regarding the media, which was instigated by John Richardson at the Mirror, whose comments recently about an opinion piece (red HERE) by a fan on The Mag, go to show just how out of touch most football writers are with the average fan… at least Newcastle fans anyway.

I do exempt a few from this including the two main guys at the Chronicle (Douglas and Ryder), as well as Caulkin and Hardy. I know the Chronicle get a lot of stick by many but at the very least, these guys do their best to put across the ‘true’ story.

Funnily enough, I actually like John Richardson, but journalists like him, like the guys at Sky Sports, who incredibly have the cheek to complain about fans complaining about them, goes to show they have no idea what is going on, on the ground.

The reason some fans are sick of those stories being recycled on social media is that they have been proven time and time again that they are baseless. Fruitless. Micky Mouse stories.

So John, while I am in no doubt that the sources in your story may be reliable, and you may have written your story in the best of interests, but some of us simply don’t care. We don’t care what most journalists have to say about Newcastle Untied because it almost never turns out to be true. Maybe one day we will care again when one of your stories actually happens, when apparent ‘takeover talks’ lead to a takeover, or ‘transfer talks’ lead to a signing etc.

You represent an industry that has done nothing but undermine Newcastle United and its fans for at least the last 20 years, so with all due respect, please don’t act surprised when we get a little sick of that industry’s stories.

I know that there is a decent majority of NUFC fans who would argue that the media ‘have it in’ for us. Is there some covert vendetta that the media/journalists has against Newcastle United?

I would argue no: instead I think we see an industry of ‘professionals’, who have worked in the industry surrounded by the same people for a long time – largely free from the pressures of football fans – who can make up their own stories and pursue cases that fit the agenda of their given organisation. No longer are they representative of football fans.

It only takes one Sunday morning of watching Sunday Supplement to come to the conclusion that football journalists are now their own class – completely detached from the realities of the average football fan today (unless of course you support Chelsea, Arsenal, Man U, City or Liverpool).

At the very least though, like any work of life, when you get it wrong you expect people to own up to their mistakes. Yet there does seem to be a different rule for Newcastle fans.

The levels of hypocrisy within the media are staggering. Has anyone come out an said “oh yeah, turns out the Newcastle fans were right about Pardew?” after the national media castigated us for not wanting him to be our manager.

It turns out we were right about Rafa too, after areas of the media mocked us for getting behind our team/manager.

Wouldn’t you know, it turns out we were right about Mike Ashley too, after we were branded ungrateful for the decent financial position we are allegedly in.

All of this I can actually get over, but what I can’t get over is that the same rule isn’t applied to Arsenal fans, who want to hound out Arsene Wenger, who has won them almost every trophy going and they still sit 6th in the league and look like they can win the EL.

Nor is the same rule applied to Chelsea fans who want rid of Conte despite winning the league last season.

Nor was the same rule applied to Crystal Palace or West Brom fans who wanted rid of Alan Pardew.

Even then, when people do talk about our club, we are subjected to opinions from Dennis Wise, Jermaine Jenas, Craig Bellamy… even Paul Merson, who are given a free platform to slag off our own club!! And you wonder why we complain!?

I recently got asked to start writing for an online football blog – they said I would be required to write opinion articles about the big teams and stories;

I replied “I’m really sorry but I just don’t really have an interest in the so-called big teams” to which the editor responded with a single word email of “wow”.

It sums up the attitude amongst a lot of the media, who seem blissfully unaware that there are another 1,000+ football teams out there.

Perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise though. It was only a Friday night ago that I clicked onto the Sky Sports app after watching an incredible game in the championship involving Cardiff and Wolves, only to be greeted by a list of stories featuring Chelsea/Arsenal/City/Man U. News on the two top teams in the Championship was halfway down the page.

There is undoubtedly a solution, but sadly, a key part of the problem lies in our own apathy. For us, for football fans, there is something we want just that tiny bit more than to stand up to the media and make an emphatic point. That something is that we just want our football team do well, and most importantly, we want to be a part of it when it finally happens.

The media, the FA and TV companies have us caught hook, line and sinker, because the majority of us British football fans, especially in Newcastle, are craving success so much that we are willing to cling on to whatever club, company or institution that tells us they are going to take us there.

For the media, the FA, the PL, Sky and the government, it almost appears that being ‘out of touch’ is the new ‘in touch’.

You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn
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