It is quite obvious that football has dramatically changed over the last decade. On the pitch, things are less rough and more elegant and a certain level of tactical know-how is required to reach the top level. Gone are the days of Roy Keane and Patrick Viera turning a football match into somewhat of a fight. For the most part, gone are the days of scrappy, over the top, football. Things have simply changed on the pitch and in the dugouts. But, again, that was obvious. It is off the pitch where things have progressed the most; progress that has had an unforeseen impact on the modern game.
Before, the likes of Sky had control of the football media world; it was their opinion and coverage that was spoken about the most; mainstream media outlets were the be-all and end-all of football media. Fast forward a decade, however, and the ‘mainstream media’ is being directly rivalled by fan channels and other independent outlets. Suddenly, instead of Sky Sports securing an interview with Jurgen Klopp, it is The Redmen TV; instead of watching the post-match coverage of Super Sunday, people are tuning into Arsenal Fan TV for the next angry rant. Like it or not, these outlets are having a large impact on football whether it is a negative or a positive one.
Youtube, in general, has had such a big impact on the world of media, with football just one example of this. Fan channels, at the start, were attempting to replicate the likes of Sky Sports with interviews and post-game pieces of analysis. But, now, it is Sky Sports who are attempting to replicate those within the Youtube world with five-minute clips of highlights from across the Premier League; they even produce a live stream on Youtube with household names based on discussing the Premier League as the games play out. The idea is literally a replicate of True Geordie’s Kick-Off and an example of how the old are attempting to keep up with the new. These days, people would much rather watch the goals in a five-minute video than the whole highlights package on Match of The Day. Our attention span simply prefers the shortened version.
BT Sport, too, have converted some of their content to Youtube with documentaries and behind the scenes footage – original content that has made them more successful than Sky in the Youtube world.
Overall, the emergence of Youtube, and therefore fan channels, has been a positive one which has brought a much needed fresh perspective and voice for fans and professionals alike to indulge. With anything in today’s world, however, it does have its negatives.
For the most part, a person with a camera in their face and a microphone in hand will speak with some sense, but, unfortunately, most of the time, this doesn’t generate clicks. A viewer will always take drama and despair over calmness and positivity; an angry rant will receive more views than a positive, happy go lucky, chat after a 5-0 victory. And that’s why Arsenal Fan TV is the most popular fan channel. What do you get when you mix a camera and microphone with a club on a downward spiral after a previous expectancy of success? Fuming fans and views, views, views.
I’m not discrediting the work of AFTV here. When the camera is not in the face of a fan after defeat, the content is still of a very good level. At the end of the day, the channel does exactly what it’s meant to do by giving the fans a loud voice for everyone to hear. But, that same voice played a key role in taking a club legend and pushing him out of the exit door. Arsene Wenger brought them ‘the invincibles’ and with that, a league season that may never be topped. So, to suddenly turn on him in such as toxic way with banners and the screaming of ‘Wenger out’ seemed unfair and unjust when considering the legacy that he had built; a legacy that was torn down.
In the end, sure, they got their wish and Wenger departed due to the unrest amongst the fans, yet it may forever be a dampener on the success of AFTV after some treated Wenger like he was Unai Emery.
AFTV and its reality show-like characters have played a massive part in the emergence of the new way of football media, but its platform has helped mould Arsenal into a ‘banter club’ at times. People find it more entertaining when Arsenal lose than when they win because of the chance to see DT or Claude’s next viral rant.
In the Emery era, in particular, the divide between the club and the fans was like never before. The scenes of Granit Xhaka walking off the pitch as his own fans shouted abuse just highlights this and was perhaps a turning point and the realisation that people had ranted too far and too much. Only now, under Arteta, we are seeing the club and the fans come together as one to hope for the reemergence of success at the Emirates.
The Redmen TV is perhaps the perfect example of when a fan channel shares a good relationship with the club; they are often invited to interview players and even Jürgen Klopp himself; Jamie Carragher, too, is often seen on the channel. This could be down to the club’s success nowadays, however. Back when Roy Hodgson
took the seat of Jürgen Klopp and Hicks and Gillette took those of FSG, those that are seen on the Redmen TV would have been apart of the protests to get Hicks and Gillette out of the club. Just a few years ago, they walked out with many fans in the 77th minute in the Sunderland game in protest of the £77 ticket pricing, a protest that ended up working.
The fact is, they have used their platform for change much like AFTV did and now have the privilege of positive results to match their positive content. The main difference between the two, however, and perhaps why The Redmen TV haven’t got a plethora of characters each week, is that AFTV uses individual fan cams and The Redmen TV use a collective one.
Whilst individual interviews take place at the Emirates, sing songs and collective player ratings take place at Anfield. Both provide a platform for fans in different ways. The Redmen TV has taken a bigger step towards closing the gap between mainstream media and themselves. It could even be said that they, alongside the Anfield Wrap, are the leading media contributors for Liverpool. A decade ago, that statement would have been bizarre. Now, it is the reality. Football fan channels and football media has welcomed a new age that gives the fans a previously unheard voice.
Football Twitter, too, has given fans the chance to be as outspoken as ever. So much so that a viral Tweet has the chance of appearing on Sky Sports News. The platform and, at points, its toxicity even has the power to ruin a career. Make one mistake and, best believe, you will soon become the laughing stock of football Twitter. The fact is, players have to be more careful than ever due to the modern-day media and its ability to pounce on any and every kind of mistake, whether on the pitch or behind a screen.
It’s not just the players who can be affected by the new wave of media, however. When your team loses, be prepared to hear about it for the next week as viral Tweets and videos are sent your way. When your team wins, be prepared to become the sender of those very Tweets and videos. A decade ago, when your team lost, you just didn’t read the paper. Now, you must actively avoid Twitter, Instagram and Youtube. Being on the winning side has become all the more important for fans; it can decide their experience on social media.
All in all, however, the modern-day nature of football media should be welcomed as, for the most part, it has given opportunities to those who deserve to have a place in the world of media.
Nobody can argue the change that has progressed off the pitch and on social media in football and, like it or not, football media will continue to change and the gap between mainstream and Youtube will, therefore, keep getting smaller and smaller.