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Fan marginalisation and the rise in amateur football punditry

February 21, 2017 in Opinion

It is commonly – and correctly – argued that the rise of fan punditry in football can be credited with digital advances.

Technological developments have facilitated the entry of non-professional voices into the journalistic arena and completely transformed the nature of discussion and analysis.

“The modern trend of prioritising corporate influence over fan involvement has left supporters unfamiliar with the sport they once knew, and bred huge resentment”

The rules have changed: punditry has become increasingly uncensored, certainly on social media platforms. The grip of sports editors, radio and TV producers over  discourse in the football media environment has been loosened.

In recent years, YouTube channels, vlogs and social media sites have provided football fans with platforms through which to express their opinions, in both unfiltered and instant fashion.

These new media have had a potent effect on the way in which football punditry is conducted. Fans, smartened through easy access to historical records, statistics and tactical information, have used alternative platforms to demonstrate their lack of patience with mainstream punditry.

As football fans have become more knowledgeable, their dissatisfaction with the quality of professional punditry has declined, perhaps the result of higher expectations and a desire to see their footballing acumen reflected on television.

Disconnect

Microcosmic of the growing competition between fan-led and professional punditry were Gary Neville’s comments on Sky’s Super Sunday recently about Arsenal Fan TV, a successful YouTube channel attracting hundreds of thousands of views.

He referred to Arsenal fans outside Stamford Bridge participating in filmed interviews as “embarrassing”, and called one man inside the ground brandishing a ‘Time for Change’ banner an “idiot”.

Irrespective of the views that were expressed, the segment illustrated a disconnect between mainstream and fan opinion.

I do not think that comment on whether Neville was right is necessary. But his comments were a powerful reminder that many fans simply no longer feel represented in the footballing world.

 

Television companies, intent on maximising their viewership and advertising revenue, hire big-name pundits on lucrative deals.

The result is often a monotonous and one-dimensional sample of experts. Most big football matches today are analysed by ex-Arsenal, Liverpool or Manchester United players.

For broadcasters, it has become more about presentation than it has intelligent – or even watchable – discussion. This fact symbolises one huge change in modern professional football. Fan marginalisation is now widespread.

In the upper reaches of the the game, it manifests itself in sky-high ticket prices, intensive commercialisation and corporate sponsors dominating the financial and sporting agendas.

Where it was once considered the norm for the working classes to pay the top clubs a visit and watch them play, nowadays, those in attendance tend to be older fans and clients at various events.

Replaced by corporate hospitality, commercial leverage on club policy and TV rights, the modern football fan has seen his or her role in and around the stadium attacked to a demoralising extent.

In many ways, football was always capitalist, but the modern trend of prioritising corporate influence over fan involvement has left supporters unfamiliar with the sport they once knew, and bred huge resentment.

Trusted

Once upon a time, football pundits were liked and trusted. Fans were more deferential. They knew less and didn’t have the same readily-available information that they now enjoy. Fans appreciated those ex-pros and their ‘expert’ views.

“Perhaps the most potent incentive for this has been the treatment of the modern football fan, left sidelined by the cynical business executives who really run the game”

Today, fans have been excluded from football’s centre of focus. Their response to this crushing blow has been to mobilise and attack the game from the new avenues provided by digital platforms – and with impressive popularity.

The disenfranchisement of modern fans has given birth to a monster that football itself can do little to change.

The anger visible amidst the content of amateur punditry, too, highlights the growing separation between the interests of the average fan and the direction that the game is taking.

One only has to watch YouTube clips and browse the internet for a few minutes to find individuals committed to rallying against club owners and the excesses of modern, neo-liberal capitalism.

The digital age, it is true, has allowed supporters to venture into punditry, share their views in blogs and videos and engage with others.

But perhaps the most potent incentive for this has been the treatment of the modern football fan, left sidelined by the cynical business executives who really run the game.

Q&A with Fanfair co-founder Connor Reddy

February 20, 2017 in Interviews

In today’s footballing world, much of the real action is in debate and discussion across social media platforms. 

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, to name just a few, have become the home for fans’ views, opinions and knee-jerk reactions across the globe.

A new app, Fanfair, dedicated solely to football, hopes to join that list. Shortly before it went live, Fanfair’s co-founder Connor Reddy spoke to Elephant Sport about the app and what he hoped it would add to the existing market.

What is Fanfair?

fanfair2

©Fanfair

Fanfair is a new live-streaming platform that brings live football news and opinions together to spark discussions amongst fans. It seeks to be a live football community bringing fans from all around the world together to voice their opinions in a live environment with other like-minded fans.

How did the idea come about?

One evening watching the same old pundits rambling on Sky Sports, we began to wonder why it was only their opinion getting a platform and yet the average guy has to scramble together a 140-character message and hope not to get lost in the thick of it.

Surely the fan on the street had has much of a say as these guys being paid to churn out the same lines week in, week out?

What did you use as your inspiration for how Fanfair would work? 

©Wikimedia Commons

We looked at a company called Twitch that specialises in video game live-streaming, the reason being because they managed to build a community out of the passion of gaming, instead of just creating another social network or streaming application.

They really brought together a community, and that’s what we want to do with Fanfair.

They created a medium for true fans to interact with each other over a shared passion but also provide a stage for anyone and everyone to showcase their skill irrelevant of experience.

What makes Fanfair unique in this era of social media where football is already heavily discussed across multiple platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube?

In essence, Fanfair aims to be the sole social platform dedicated exclusively to football fans.

On a feature front, our unique audio commenting allows fans the chance to engage with one another like never before on a live-stream. We as football fans ourselves love to have ourselves heard when we’re raising our point to our mates, and this is what we are trying to recreate.

Traditionally, people have phoned into radio talk shows to have their say on the game, and we’re trying to simplify that process. We feel by using speech comments, we give passionate football fans the chance to really get across the emotion of what they’re feeling about the final score.

What do you aim to accomplish with Fanfair?

©Fanfair

Ultimately, we want to change the way fans interact with one another and make that a simpler and more emotive process for them to engage with one another.

Over the long-term, we want to develop Fanfair into a wider idea that transcends simply a football discussion app.

This has the potential to take form in an all-singing, all-dancing sports platform for fans of various sports and develop a fan-led content platform for the digital era that takes over traditional mediums such as radio.

With a younger, digital-savvy generation on the rise, our overall vision for Fanfair would be to see it become an innovative and interactive version of sports radio shows, where fans curate the content and have their say on the biggest talking points from the game.

Can you tell us more about a couple of Fanfair’s main features?

We decided to integrate live news into the app to help stimulate the conversation. A lot of live-streaming apps out there seem to be struggling to answer why to go live. We’re providing our community with a catalyst of live news to spark discussion.

Our audio comment feature gives fans the chance to voice their opinion so they can finally be heard. We noticed that all the other live-streaming apps out there focused heavily on the video aspect, whereas we want to place the emphasis on the actual engagement between fans and 140 characters just doesn’t constitute engagement in our opinion.

We’ve also implemented a ranking system that rates from: bronze, silver and gold with everyone starting from bronze irrelevant of their external background. The reason for this was because we wanted to allow validation for people’s opinions from other fans but also encourage those who want to build their own profile within the community.

What would you say is your favourite feature or aspect of Fanfair and why?

Definitely our audio feature, as we really want to be able to capture the real emotion that someone’s feeling when they’re talking about their team or a topic that resonates with them.

Why should football fans download Fanfair?

fanfair3

©Fanfair

Football fans should download Fanfair and join the community because they’ll finally have an interactive way to discuss with fellow fans about the game they love.

We’re taking the football discussions you have with your friends and connecting you to other people who share some of the same ideas! If you’re sick of hearing the same old pundits using the same old clichés, then Fanfair is for you!

Heated football discussions can sometimes provoke the wrong kind of passion. People can go from simply disagreeing with a point someone’s made to eventually insulting or even threatening them. How does Fanfair plan to combat this and, ultimately, keep the environment a civilised place?

We strongly believe that the platform needs to be real and authentic. For that to be the case, we have to allow people with differing views to interact with one another. We have our own moderation team who will block and delete content that we feel has crossed a line, and we are clear that we do not accept abuse and threats from one user to another.

Fanfair was born from the passion of football and we want to harness that to unite people and accept that you can disagree with someone else’s view, but that doesn’t mean you can’t respect them.

Much like with any social media platform, ultimately it comes with the territory that you are going to have to moderate the content. We allow users to block others and report inappropriate content and are looking at measures to put in place going forward, which will put the emphasis on users who are constantly engaged with the platform to moderate the community as well as the team in the back-end.

Where can those interested in trying out Fanfair download the app?

You can join the community via the iOS App Store and Google Play Store. We’re always looking to improve the app so it benefits our community, so feel free to send us feedback at team.ff@fanfair.co as we’re always willing to listen to new ideas and opinions!

Featured image: ©Fanfair

Media and Morality.

October 4, 2016 in Journalism, Representation and Popular Culture

As journalists we find ourselves governed by a sense of ‘common morality’ among men or citizens of a particular society or nation. These shared values are often imparted by a dominant ideology therefore we all agree that we must be hardworking, honest, charitable, so on and so on. These traits are seen as universal which allow us to identify with our fellow being and live in a constructed society where we supposedly appreciate and respect one another.

However as has been proved, on more than one occasion, this is not always true. The sense of shared values among people from different religions and cultures is similar to an invisible agreement, as a society, we accept and conform to. Yet there are some who chose to go ‘against the grain’ so to speak. This can happen in many differing levels of intensity ranging from small to extreme. In these instances these people can and are portrayed as new unknown threats to society and people’s way of living.

In todays lecture and seminar we discussed the meaning and origin of moral panics. In contemporary times Islam has become a complex root of moral panic within the West for varying reasons. Raising issues of eminent threats to culture, society and lifestyle.

I was intrigued by the manner in which ISIS uses social media to recruit. Their outreach has extended beyond people in the Orient they are now able to market to people in the West. In a way it feels like ISIS have sneakily infiltrated into life in the West by glamourising and naturalising their activities to make it more appealing to their target audience. Yet their techniques are not that different from those used by the likes of Buzzfeed as described in an article published by Wired.com.

Fear of the unknown has firmly settled itself whenever Islam, ISIS or muslims are brought into any topic of conversation. The threat is regarded, in a way, as not yet fully understood. We don’t know where they will strike next. It continues to generate fear and fuel a moral panic that Islam is a threat to our way of life in the West. Amplifying it’s reach, potential and power.

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