Has the Arsenal Fan TV situation signalled changing attitudes within fan-driven media?

At the turn of 2009, the words ‘fan-driven media’ meant very little. Yes, there were websites catering for fans but it was still very much a niche.

As we drove through the last decade and the explosion of social media, fan sites became the norm. Every team in every league boasted a place for fans to visit that brought additional content other than the sanitised, club-sponsored content. That’s not to be critical of club content, certainly our own media team have excelled in recent seasons, but there is a limit to what they can and can’t produce. They have to be nuetral and opinion pieces are often the most engaging pieces of content for fans. We arrived on the scene in late 2015 in one guise or another and if I had a pound for every time someone said ‘I like the site, I don’t always agree with what you write’, I’d probably own a Range Rover now. That’s where alternative media thrives over club content; in the ability to offer viewpoints.

As a content creator, I had been around a while bfore the site came into existence, penning stuff for many years across a range of sites and publications. I always saw fan-driven media as a continuation of the fanzine, a place to be analytical, critical and still supportive. I recall once being told the best place for a site like ours to be placed is as a critical friend; one who will only lash out when there is a need and is willing to be a friend and supporter too.

Having attended the Football Supporters Association Awards in mid-December, it struck me how popular our little niche has become. The Football Blogging Awards dropped a huge hint, but there is an element of marketing around what they do; the awards are sponsored by companies looking to move into much of the fan-created content. There’s a good reason too; football supporters like well-informed reasoned pieces written by people who understand their club and their level. Sites like ours and behemoths such as the Anfield Wrap prove to be popular because they’re considered; they’re written by fans and therefore garner more respect than much of the content out there. It’s a growing market but recent events have also proven it to be an evolving market.

One of the most famous fan outlets is AFTV, formerly known as Arsenal Fan TV. For a while, they blazed a trail for others to follow, getting Gary Neville on their show and providing strong video content post-game for fans to enjoy. However, some of their content has become twisted against the club, with their income interpreted as going up when the side doesn’t do well. In recent weeks graffiti has appeared around the ground suggesting ‘AFTV Out’, Whilst ‘AFTV, Get Out Of Our Club’ has even been sung at the games. This surprised me, because my understanding of the Emirates is that singing was banned…

The recent unpleasantness culminated in Robbie, the presenter of AFTV, being jostled and abused outside of a game. Many fans feel they’re profiting from the club’s struggles and thrive on failure, rather than success. The situation is likely to continue over the coming weeks, but it does present an interesting conundrum to fan sites like ours.

It used to be okay to be highly critical because sites were niche: only a handful of supporters used the internet over newspapers or club content and therefore to get people on board it often paid to be outlandish and brash. I suppose it’s the Katy Hopkins effect isn’t it; the more controversial you are, the more people pay attention. However, whilst that carved a certain place in football for a short while, the backlash AFTV have faced is suggesting that approach is no longer applicable.

In fact, the whole idea of filming yourself at a game is becoming outdated very quickly. In my eyes, successful alternative media isn’t about the individual or team behind it, it is about the team. The discerning football fan doesn’t want to watch a person reacting to goals, just ask Andy Pearson. Instead, fans want content that is created with them in mind, not the presenter. Whilst some guy called Troopz might have made himself a minor celebrity by spitting anger and hate in Arsene Wenger’s direction, the lifespan of such content is limited. It’s like a novelty record at Christmas, everyone listens to it for a short while, but will it still get played in twenty years time? Tell me, how many of you played Fairytale of New York this Christmas? Now, how many of you played Mr Blobby’s 1993 chart-topper? Thought not.

I’m not blowing my own trumpet here, nor that of our excellent creators on the site. I wanted to pass comment on the AFTV situation because it’s actually been a bugbear of mine for some time. I went to the Emirates this year for the FBA’s, the third year in a row your votes put us on a shortlist but a Premier League club’s reach kept our name off the trophy. I watched as AFTV cleaned up, several awards going their way because of their extreme reach. Their brand of coverage really grated me because there’s no skill in spitting bile about a player and good writers, like Peter from Bury Me in Exile (and hopefully us) got stuck on a table at the back because although we take time over our craft, we don’t call our players out over every slip or defeat.

I’m not gloating here either. Robbie clearly started AFTV with the club in mind but somewhere along the line they lost sight of what is important. Your opinion, as alternative media, is only relevant if it is informed and balanced. It will only have longevity if it is reasonable and takes certain situations into account. Social media is such these days that everyone can immediately go online and call players names, there’s no market for it anymore. Kids sat in their bedroom screeching about being Sunderland fans losing to Lincoln City don’t hold long term interest anymore.

I do hope we never lose sight of what the Stacey West is about; Lincoln City. It isn’t about me, Malcolm, Bubs, Ben, Jake, Richard or anyone who produces content for it. We are merely in a position to articulate and debate, which is the same for any number of other sites like ours across the board. I sincerely hope that the future of fan-driven media is beginning to shift away from sensationalist ranting and towards more balanced and informed content that accentuates your enjoyment of supporting a club, rather than making you angry at the very team you’re meant to be supporting. By all means AFTV, be critical but praise the good for heaven’s sake. Maybe, if they had stopped to think for a few minutes and produced more balanced content, the backlash would have come around so tough.

 



 

I do realise I haven’t done a write up of the FSA Awards, you must forgive me. I came down with flu on the evening of the ceremony and have only recently begun to get better. Yesterday’s game was my first foray into the real world other than a visit to the family over Christmas and perhaps I’ve missed the boat a little with doing a full article.

What I will say is we had a truly wonderful time. Lincoln City had Lisa, Alan Long, us and Josh Vickers up for awards, but we didn’t bring any home. Our category, best Fan Site, was voted for and we were up against the Anfield Wrap who boast almost six times as many followers as Lincoln City. They won and rightly so; their site is much, much better than ours. They work full time on it and even if it had been a judged winner it would have been grossly arrogant to think our little corner of the internet deserved to beat theirs. I felt honoured in the extreme to even be sat on the table at such a wonderful event and I know Jackie, Alan, Maria and partners all felt the same.

I did see some criticism of the FSA and the ceremony from one or two people. I suppose, to a degree, I can understand where it comes from; a lack of understanding, but it is unfair. The FSA are actually relatively small in terms of the number of employees they have, but they do a lot of positive work across football with diversity and with fans who have been treated badly at matches. It’s easy to be critical on the internet without the full facts in your hand, Twitter allows you to be cutting in 144 characters (or is it more now?) and yet few probably understand fully what the FSA do.

They push the ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ campaign, they represent fans and groups who have been wronged and they work hard to make the game more accessible across the country. I have a much clearer understanding of the work they do now and coming away from the evening I felt even more pride at having been included on the shortlist. I can only hope that perhaps one day I’ll be invited back when I don’t feel like I’ve been run over by a bus and I can drink a little more of the free wine and champagne.

Thank you to those who voted for us, thank you to our patrons who are now in their third month of supporting the site and here’s to another year of supporting Lincoln City FC.

16 Comments

  1. Sorry I did not read all the content because it was too long. I just read the first half which was enough for me to respond on what you said about AFTV. I feel many sites, established media etc are extremely jealous of the successes of AFTV, yet it is interesting that the club itself has remained tight lipped on it – part from Arteta stating that he would like to bring the fans together. All the club did was insist that the site does not use its name. It seem to me that Arsenal FC which used media as well are a lot more professional at handling media than the lot of you. As bad as AFTV is or as good as AFTV is for God’s sake please leave them alone. They have a right to their views as every one else so long as they are not breaking the law. However, let me tackle a couple of the points you raised. First, AFTV did not set up because they want to be negative and prosper from it. The fact that this has become a byproduct is more to the nature of society we have as it is to AFTV. Kroenke profits from our club without putting his own money in it, yet he is the owner. Public workers profit from local residents paying council tax, and funeral directors will be out of business if nobody dies. Most jobs we have in society means we profit from someone else so long as we charge them for the service. To say that AFTV should keep quiet when it was obvious that the club was decaying under Mr Wenger is absolutely ridiculous. To keep quiet when it was clear that players had accepted a culture of only playing for the pay cheque is not acceptable. To keep quiet while paying the highest gate fee in Europe for a football match and yet your team refuses to perform is not acceptable. It is clear now that under Arteta that this is beginning to change. Hasn’t Xhaka’s performances now improved. While I did not agree with how Troopz (an AFTV staff) handled that matter I do understand his frustrations with Xhaka’s lazy performances over the years. Was it AFTV that abused Xhaka’s family? Was it AFTV that booed Xhaka to get off the field quickly to enable the team get on with trying to win the game?
    The second point I want to address is that the media has done such a wonderful job of blaming AFTV for the ills of the club (as if they are the owner, manager and players responsible for the results) that other ill-informed Arsenal fans believe AFTV are profiting from Arsenal’s downfall when it is actually the club that is responsible for this. I also suspect a racial undertone to the attacks on AFTV by merely looking at those involved with the channel and those attacking it.

    • I do wonder how you have to come to be on this site. But my favourite part is the bit where you say you haven’t bothered to read the whole article, superb.

      AFTV seems to me to do exactly what you say it does, it provides a voice to fans. And it did so during the Wenger years. Those awful, awful years, where you had to make do with endless champions league qualification and FA cup wins, an prior to that the invincibles. All AFTV did was put a microphone in front of fans and let them have their say. AFTV have themselves never been good or bad, just a very intelligent man and good journalist with a well-oiled machine and a microphone. The stars of AFTV have been the absolute buffoons ranting on it. People used the clamour to get on it. I have been to a number of Arsenal games over the years and crowds would form around the AFTV guys. Each person ready to vent their spleen and have a pop at their most successful manager of all time after a loss or draw. AFTV are no worse than Twitter, they are just platforms for the nonsense. What made AFTV so big over all other fan media was that the most outrageous rants got clipped up into 1 minute shorts and played all over the world. People came to laugh at the Arsenal fans who made absolute clowns of themselves. I am not being inflammatory, I am calling it exactly what it is. There are 100s of AFTV ranters for every Andy Tate of FullTimeDevils fame.

      And what has now happened is twofold. Firstly Wenger was sacked after a wave of rants on AFTV that Wenger himself talked about hurting him. And the new man has come in and little has improved, perhaps got worse and already a new man has come after him. So more rants on AFTV seem to be misplaced. They got what they wanted and still rant. Secondly, it has led to utter embarrassment. Arsenal fans by an large are a reasonable set of people who follow the game and know good football. They do not want to be represented by the very small percentage who appear on AFTV. For Arsenal fans this is a relative real period of suffering that they are going through. They don’t want the world laughing along at them as well. AFTV is leading to that. That is why the majority want them out.

      It is still just a microphone that AFTV provide, but the majority want it put away for now as only the extremes come across on there. The vast majority view are not incensed enough to elbow to the front to shout into that microphone. AFTV tends to carry the angry ranters view.

      • Wenger was sacked not because of the rants on AFTV but because the ground wasn’t selling out.There were thousands of empty seats that were clearly visible on the tv and it got so bad that I was even getting emails telling me there were tickets available ( I’m a red member ) which I had never had before. There’s a lot of hate for AFTV and I don’t know why. What they’re saying is only what they’d be saying in pub after the game or the next morning in work , the only difference is that Robbie puts a microphone in front of them and puts them on Youtube. And for the record, I don’t always agree with everything that is said on AFTV or how it is said, the only difference is that I don’t go on a rant about it , I just listen and give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down.

        • I had e-mails asking me to come in around 2009, and I am not even a red member. For the Arsneal v Lincoln game I couldn’t get a ticket, with my silver member friend, anywhere except the corporate section for well over £100 and that was in 2017. So it goes up and down and in his final season the average attendance was over 59k. Currently it is 60k. I think the biggest baring on leaving was not finishing top 4 again, and the treatment from the fans. He felt sad at the way he was treated, and the board feared revolt. And it was lead via AFTV with the voices on there. They set the tone and gave weight to the Wenger ou campaign that reaped its rewards last season 🙂

          And that is the nail on the head “What they’re saying is only what they’d be saying in pub after the game”. Firstly it should be left in the pub, like many comments people may make not suitable for broadcast. But it isn’t and it is played to the world. And secondly it is what the most extreme person says in the pub that would usually be ignored but people naturally give weight to something on tv.

          No one has gone on a rant. They have just shown the dangers of extremes of opinion being treated as a reasoned or representative voice. They have shown the darkside of fan coverage. Blogs like this that you have somehow stumbled upon (perhaps you regularly google AFTV “rants”) give balance and factual opinion. Unfortunately the former tarnishes the latter.

  2. You haven’t actually watched a lot of AFTV then, I have. They DO criticise when it’s warranted and they Do praise when it’s also warranted,and Robbie has pulled people over their negativity of the club and of players too.But I want you to bear in mind that there has been good reason for fans to be critical of both the club and players for the last lot of years as we have watched the slow decline of a once title challenging club and with the lack of investment by the owners of said lot of years. But only last night the fans were praising the players for their performance against Manchester United. Your article smacks of a little bit of jealousy too and don’t get me started on the the vitriol by Talksport which started the hate campaign against AFTV with their very open criticism of it and now THAT smacks of REAL jealousy by them. And one last thing ,Robbie shows all views of the fans both good and bad and he never puts words in their mouths, ever.

  3. Can’t say much about Arsenal tv as I watched it only twice and both times by accident 😊
    I do love to watch some of the football fans driven media but for me the best are the ones not associated strictly to one club. Not sure if anyone heard about PI ALFA , you tube channel about football fans. Proper groundhopping. Atmosphere and fans concentrated videos from different games in Europe. Couple of years ago they visited Lincoln for Lincolnshire derby. Interesting stuff. Sorry if am changing the subject a bit..

  4. The Comments above mine tells you that this your lengthy tales about how bad AFTV has been is a sign of nothing lasts forever. This is their time and allow them groove it to the fullest. It’s obvious the gloating was because you were jealous they stole the show at the FBA, just live with it because time catches up with everyone.

    • No, I’m not jealous of them ‘stealing the show’, my comments about the Anfield Wrap demonstrate jealousy plays no part. I’ve expressed an opinion on the style of content that has led to the recent reactions at Arsenal.

  5. I’m not sure I was entirely critical, Robbie came across very well on the Simon Jordan show for instance. I’m not a fan of their style of content but I’m not an Arsensl fan either. My point was made about fan media in the wider world but was prompted by the recent reactions to AFTV.

  6. Well done StaceyWest, clout chasing has convinced the YouTube algorithms to put you in my consciousness (I never heard of your channel before this article popped up). Generally, I find critics of AFTV are either ignorant of their overall content (lazy work) or are frightened (not threatened) by their foresight and success.

    If you had taken time to look at the channel thoroughly, you would have seen (outside of match days) they have broadcast regular technical post match analysis, reviews of the previous and forthcoming weekend fixtures, views from international Arsenal fans, fun items with other premier league fan channels (including banter and challenges) interviews with famous fans, ex players and officials, reviewed Arsenal Ladies matches (they say more content to come), started an amateur football team, helped other team’s fan channels to get established and supported charities.

    In recent times, they have exclusive interviews with Ivan Gazidis (ex Arsenal Chief Executive), Unai Emery (ex Arsenal Manager), Ian Wright, Lee Dixon, David Seaman, Perry Groves, Ray Parlour (ex Arsenal Players), Jim White (Sky Sports), Piers Morgan (twice), John Bercow (ex Speaker of the House of Commons), Gary Neville amongst many more.

    They have gone on (providing content for) Arsenal’s pre-season tours since 2015 (not exactly sure) and the 2018 World Cup.

    Yours is a small platform so hopefully very few will see your ill informed comments. But it did it made me realise that, “there is none so blind than those who refuse to see (whatever their questionable motivations)”.

    • Stacey west you are definitely jealous of AFTV just be bloody honest about how you feel about them. You and talksport are the same in your anti Robbie and AFTV. I think they have more subscribers than you have and more that talksport have listeners.

      • Of course they have lad, they’re following a Premier League club. Plus, we don’t do videos so you need to be able to read to take in most of our content. Thanks for stopping by though, enjoy the rest of the season.

    • A small platform we may be, but you don’t hear chanting against us at Lincoln matches, nor do we get abused by our own fans. I’ll leave it to you to figure out why. Thanks for stopping by though, best of luck for the season, yeah?

      • Gary: to be consistent I really think you should address the meat of Jeff’s point rather than picking out and reacting to a line or two that is admittedly a little inflammatory. It comes off as far less considered than your writing above.

        It is a valid and pertinent point (and one I must say I found conspicuously absent while reading) to note that AFTV is not just rants, even if those have perhaps reached the widest audience and generated backlash: there are a range of features and debates that are far more cogent and diverse, with people (hosts/guests) talking – or at least making palpably well-meaning attempts (generally no more skewed than regular punditry) – to talk through the lens of reason rather than rage. ‘The Supporter’s Club’ is one such show; so too are there regular interviews with a former player in ‘The Kevin Campbell Show’. Quite a few others too, as above. It’s quite a stretch to lump all of these together with famously hysterical (negative or positive) post-match reactions. You may dislike them too of course, but they warrant a separate, sustained and precise dismissal if so.

        I really think your article would have been better by acknowledging these – if you haven’t watched at least a bit of each, then I think you should, as it may make your appraisal of AFTV a bit more nuanced, even if your core impression remains more or less the same.

        Thanks for reading and happy new year!

  7. Wow. Sometimes I worry that we all need to get a life and not obsess for hours about fairly meaningless stuff that we use as a bit of escapism. And then I saw the Arsenal fans’ comments here. The guy who said he hadn’t read all of your piece before commenting then wrote about 1000 words more than you did. The long winter evenings must just fly by…

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