"...this is the most articulate and accurate piece written about the club for years!" - Tales from the Front, http://www.otib.co.uk/

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Social Media: Football Fan's Forums

The latest publication of my 'On the Social' column from the Bristol City matchday programme, Red Alert: Portsmouth, August 20th 2011

There is no news like bad news. The adage has proven particularly fitting this week as there has been a tremendous surge in online activity involving City fans following our opening two defeats. For a number of years now the radio phone-in has been an avenue for a few to express disappointment in performances and results, but for the masses, Twitter and fans’ forums, as well as the comments sections of online regional papers are now readily accessible. I’ve even noticed a couple of extra bloggers pop up this week. 

It has always been this way of course. Poor results fifteen years ago would have caused the same consternation and unrest amongst fans, however once a few pints had been washed down on Saturday evening, that would have been as far as the discussion went. Lost in a cider-induced Sunday morning hangover, perhaps relived slightly on reading the match report in the Evening Post on Monday evening, but then forgotten, wrapped up by match-day optimism by the following Saturday. Now however, the disappointment and criticism can be widely aired instantaneously (during the match for many) and is accessible to everyone.

Forums in particular can be feverish. They are largely uncensored and views on the team, the formation, the players, the manager, the coaching staff, the board of directors – probably even the mascots – are analysed in great detail. Many of those who try to stay positive are slated for being overly optimistic and blind to what is really going on at the club.

Fans argue and bicker and pretty much divide themselves into camps, often leading to long-standing arguments. Tempers can boil over, insults are exchanged and I wonder what might happen if some of these simmering participants ever bumped into their adversaries? Fortunately, most of these sites are facilitated virtually anonymously.

The net result of all this, is that the unhappiness languishes, the feelings of negativity continue right up until the next good performance and pressure builds to fever-pitch rapidly. A player whose performances have been criticised needs to make only one misplaced pass to suffer again in the next match. Managers are given an ever-decreasing window of opportunity to achieve success before a large, vocal minority start demanding change. Chairmen are under the cosh for not investing enough, or not reacting to the on-field troubles quickly enough.

It is, of course, unstoppable in this modern age, and if anything will only become more prevalent. The interactive culture surrounds us now, and just as shows such as Big Brother and X-Factor have encouraged members of the public to show their hand, the chance to easily air criticism and call for change has enticed many fans, previously discreet with their opinions, out of the woodwork. 

Can it be stopped? No. 
Should it be stopped? No. 

However damning the critics, we live in a country where the right to freedom of speech is cherished and supporters pay a lot of money to watch their team and are entitled to air their views.

Fans need to be mindful of the impact of these negative comments in the immediate lead up to a game however. One thing that hasn’t changed is that when a team is struggling, they need their fans behind them more than ever. That used to be guaranteed for each and every match, but does not always appear to be the case these days. Could this be partially attributed to the world of online interaction?

The Exiled Robin

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Social Media: Twitter, Football and the Players

This season I have been granted the honour of writing a piece on social media for each Bristol City matchday programme (@bcfc_redalert). For those City fans unable to get to the games, or for football fans in general browsing this site, I'll be publishing each article on here a few days after the match. The article will sometimes be City-specific, other times not, so keep coming back and checking what's new.

For this first article, from the programme for the disappointing opening
day defeat to Ipswich, I run the rule over at the extraordinary impact of social media, and in particular Twitter, on the game.

When you bear in mind Twitter only came into being five years ago, its growth has been phenomenal. The way it is used, sometimes abused and is revolutionising communication is fascinating and scary in equal measure. The world of @’s and #’s may seem bewildering but it is rapidly turning into the news source of choice for many, relying on individuals, journalists and official news ‘tweeters’ to get a broader, more current view. PR agencies used to judge success on column inches in newspapers; now many view ‘Trending’ (where a certain word/phrase is amongst the most ‘tweeted’) as the ultimate success.

Most of you will be aware of Twitter from the incredible furore surrounding the fact that so many people had unveiled Ryan Giggs as the “un-named Premier League footballer” whilst the press and media remained handcuffed. Was there any real issue there other than the tabloids being denied their big exclusive?

This summer has seen a range of football-related activity on Twitter, from the relatively inane when Wayne Rooney (@WayneRooney) confirmed to his followers he’d had a hair transplant with a photo, to Sergio Aguero (@aguerosergiokun) becoming the first high-profile footballer to confirm his transfer before the official club statements. Yeovil also signed a player based on an initial recommendation from one of manager Terry Skiverton's (@terryskiverton) followers, naturally causing it to be labelled the first ‘Twansfer’. [thanks to @benbarrett10]

Roooney's hair transplant was communicated via Twitter

Whether you care about Rooney’s barnet or not, and admittedly many don’t, the fact that he was able to choose to immediately communicate photos meant the tabloids, whom had no doubt been gearing up for days of ‘exclusive’ aerial shots, had nothing to chew on and the story was quickly extinguished. Surely that’s a good thing for everyone bar the bored hack?

It has seen its low points too. Spats can become very public, very quickly. Abuse of individuals horrendous. To see some of the vitriol handed out to the likes of John Hartson (@johnhartson10) makes you wonder what’s gone wrong with the world. Many have dabbled, poked their toe in the water but been immediately horrified by the abuse received. The whole point of Twitter – to be entirely open to the world – means any numbskull, with any view, can say what they want, to whoever they want. Most people have Apps on their smartphones so whether you’re in work or at home, in the pub or on the train, you can tweet anywhere, anytime. Rumours can spread like wildfire, with many untrue and potentially harmful.

However, the positives surely greatly outweigh the negatives, and you can easily interact with fans of your club and other clubs, some players, the odd manager and at least two Chairmen. There are national football journalists worth following, and the club-specific media teams are a fan’s dream as you can often get questions answered and find out what’s happening behind the scenes. Most importantly, you can instantly find out the latest news on anything you want.

Official club websites and 24-hour news channels have already usurped the written press, but nothing beats the speed of Twitter in 2011. Sky Sports News has spent years being at the forefront of announcing major breaking news – not any more. Twitter almost universally beats it to the post with the big stories if you follow the right people, and that’s a big part of its success.

The Exiled Robin
Follow me on Twitter at @cider1977

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Season Previews

Well the quiet summer period is nearly over and the first game is looming large on the horizon. In the football blogosphere - I think that's now officially a word - season previews have gone mad, with Twitter offering fans the chance to easily interact with each other and get a series of comments on the other teams in the league.

Below I've attached links to a few of the previews I've contributed to for your perusal. Enjoy!

I've got to start with this quite incredible collaborative effort between top football league bloggers @twounfortunates http://thetwounfortunates.blogspot.com/ and @the72Football http://theseventytwo.com/

They have pooled their considerable resources, links, contributors and acquaintances and put together a simply fabulous 108-page, printable blogzine (I'm pretty sure that's not a word!).

Go to either of their homepages and look for the Seventy Two Unfortunates football league preview. More than 18,000 people have read it to date and in blog-world that is quite phenomenal, so print it off and sit back with a few pints of cider to enjoy, it's well worth a read!

If 108 pages is all a bit much for you (although it really shouldn't be), there are Championship only guides also available courtesy of The Hard Tackle http://www.thehardtackle.com/2011/the-npower-championship-preview-part-1-birmingham-blackpool-among-others/

and Reading blogger, The Tilehurst End http://thetilehurstend.co.uk/2011/08/02/the-201112-championship-preview-in-their-own-words-part-1/

Both offer different types of questions and views and both summarise neatly each club's hopes, expectations and throw in a hint of realism.

For a view from across the Severn Bridge check out Nathan Walker's Cardiff blue Army blog http://cardiffbluearmy.blogspot.com/

An additional view comes from the ambitious newcomer on the block, it's Round and it's White http://www.itsroundanditswhite.co.uk/ which will have a whole series of previews, covering just about every club, over the next couple of days.

And if you're really short of time, and want an at-a-glance view, then why not check out the 'Short & Tweet' guide from Burnley's blog website, No Nay Never - each of the 24 clubs summed up Twitter-style, in 140 characters or less. http://nonaynever.net/4896/championship-preview-shortandtweet/

It's nearly here people, the wait is over. Bring on the action!

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