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Monday, 17 October 2011

Interview: Darragh MacAnthony, Peterborough Chairman

The latest publication of my 'On the Social' column from the Bristol City matchday programme, Red Alert: Peterborough, October 15th 2011

This week I’m privileged to welcome Peterborough Chairman and regular Tweeter Darragh MacAnthony (@DMAC102) to ‘On the Social’ as he gives his views on tweeting, rows with fans, blackmail, lawsuits and getting the truth out into the public domain.

You are one of only a handful of football club Chairman to use Twitter. Did you have any doubts as to whether it was a good idea?
I have never been a big fan of social media sites such as Facebook, Myspace or even Twitter. My wife loves that stuff as do many millions of people. It was actually an employee who is trying to help rebuild my online reputation who insisted I give it a go. She thought that my honest and direct views would give people an idea who I was and that the nonsense written about me online wouldn’t be so easy to believe.
I started using Twitter whilst away for 20 days in June with the family in the Bahamas. I didn’t think it would work or if I would like it but funny enough after the first week or so, I realised it’s not a bad way to communicate, quickly as well if something needed to be put across.

I have always loved having contact with Posh fans, doing public forums, interviews and so forth but now Twitter has opened up ways to communicate even with away fans from other clubs. I love a bit of healthy football banter like the next guy and thus far it’s been good old fashioned fun so to speak. I am after all a football fan like everyone else but privileged and fortunate enough to be able to own a football club.

Do you feel forums, blogs and Twitter have influenced the 'instant success' culture we see at many clubs?
We live in an age where there is massive leniency on the freedom of speech given to the internet which isn't always a good thing as recent things involving internet trolls have shown. Everybody is entitled to an opinion as long as they own it personally by using their name, and of course it’s factual, not lies or nonsense.

I definitely feel more and more managers and directors of clubs read forums to gauge public opinion as do the players, and it’s not always a good thing for a variety of obvious reasons. I have no doubt as time goes on that managers will lose their jobs due to pressure exerted from opinions and emotions built up by forums at football clubs, and there-in lies the danger and damage some could do. I also worry about young players reading sites and how that affects their confidence if they are slaughtered online every day, as not everyone has a thick skin.

Many players and managers say they take no notice of forums or blogs yet I’ve noticed you have had a few heated Twitter conversations with Peterborough bloggers @OnTheGlebe. Is this a deliberate attempt to refute what you see as excess negativity or does your passion just get the better of you, leaving you unable to stay quiet?
Sometimes my passion does get the better of me and I can be too direct or impulsive in a response if I don’t like the trend or tone of a particular message. The Glebe guys do a good podcast most weeks but have a tendency to dig out the same players every podcast and this I cannot agree with, so will make my feelings known.

As much as the supporters are allowed their opinions, I too am allowed mine and we won’t always agree. But as long as it’s healthy communicative banter then it’s all good. I am a big believer in positive mental attitude and keeping a positive environment around our club as it’s too easy to fall into a negative stupor as shown in past and that snowballs into a worse situation.

Following you on Twitter is enjoyable as you seem determined to tell the truth and not let the press have their moment in the sun. I particularly remember a series of tweets in the summer about a player who you had on trial, and you were also very honest around transfer deadline day with regard players you may or may not be buying or selling. Do you feel this is a natural next step of communication for all clubs, and might it eventually reduce the insatiable volume of rumours and stories that spread so quickly in this era?
One of reasons I am enjoying Twitter is I have the instant opportunity to answer back to any mis-truths or false comments that are out there and yep, I used Twitter this summer to dispel some of them and give an accurate account of what’s going on.

The BBC and Sky signed up to my Twitter feed and have used my comments for stories but at least it is 100% accurate and so definitely a way for future stories to be put to bed quickly and kill any rumours.
Our press department at the club were getting a bit agitated with me for breaking news on Twitter first so I had to pull back a little but fear not, I shall continue to speak the truth when needed!

You also have your own website – www.darraghmacanthony.com – and have most notably used it to write an astonishing open letter concerning extortion, persecution and blackmail. This related specifically to the contents of a lawyer’s blog which were eventually used in filing a lawsuit against you. Could this have happened in the same way without the advent of social media, and does it not put you off the whole thing and make you never want to look at any of it ever again?
I had to come out fighting for a change as there have been some disgusting stories written online and in the media about me which have no truth to them but give me little chance to respond, and blogs like this and others seem to be able to write or print whatever they like and when they want.

Internet trolling is becoming a danger and there are too few laws in place to stop them. Already we are seeing high profile people and even their children targeted, and in some cases in the US there have been suicides involving teenagers who have been bullied online by said internet trolls.
I want laws brought in so that criminal action can be taken and strict sentences given before it gets out of hand. To stop people being able to hide behind pseudonym names online, and forums or blogs where the server is hosted overseas and beyond reach, or not held accountable for their actions. I feel strongly about this and will push for change until it happens.

There are an increasing number of footballers on Twitter, not without controversy. Do you think they will still be allowed to tweet in the future?
I think clubs will take individual stances on this subject and go from there. From what I hear legally it’s important to put this into player’s contracts if you want to ban them from using social media and even then it’s tough to impose. I think as long as they use it in right manner and liaise in a healthy way with fans it’s ok, but needs to be defined more.

Finally, a couple of questions on today’s match: Peterborough have surprised many by their start to the season – have you been surprised and how do you think the rest of the season will go?
I am not surprised or stunned as I kinda knew from our pre-season summer trip that our youngsters were showing encouraging signs and the style of football our Gaffer plays might just suit the Championship. It’s a terribly unforgiving league but a massively entertaining one, and one we need to work hard every day to compete in and stay in so Posh can keep moving forward. I am a big believer that you get what you deserve and am hoping our style and way of playing gives us many good years to come.

And finally, what do you think the result tonight will be?
I hate making predictions but have no doubt it will be a great game for sure and my only hope is that whoever plays the best and deserves the result, gets the result. My wife is a Bristol girl and I bought her folks a house in Bristol but am hoping their loyalties stay with the Posh for today.

All the best for season after today!

SOME OF @DMAC102’s NOTABLE TWEETS:
“How have we lost that game? Powder puff shooting when in box frustrates life out of me. Big thanks to referee as well for awesome officiating”
“@(edited) More racism from ya. Do you want to be banned from football for life? Nobody wants racism in football. Grow up.”

“Wouldn't it be nice to get referees with balls the size of melons instead of peanuts sometimes. Another home ref today.”
Following the 7-1 win over Ipswich: “Listening to Talk sport about Game on Sat, All about whats wrong with Ipswich, any danger of complimenting Posh and way we played! Yawn!”

“Cant stop laughing, just read email demands of agent for 19 yr old kid who never kicked a ball in football league. putting the silly wages to the side, he wants 12 first class flights + hotel rooms for kids family every year of his contract lol. Talk about greed over ambition! Never know a summer like it for agents & players demands. You would think money has gone up 30%, not down. Clueless clowns some of them!”

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