Debate featured

Debate – The modern game

1. Fan Cams have exploded into the mainstream conscience in recent years; are they a parasite exploiting the clickbait culture, or a genuine voice of the fans?

Richard Pike: Whilst some fans on the programmes do make some decent observations and I understand why they exist, Im not a huge fan of the Fan TV programmes. After a win/draw/loss i prefer to air my delight/ observations/frustrations on club message boards.

Simon Toye: Difficult one to judge really. Arsenal Fan TV seem to get a bad rep and perhaps for good reason. The idea in principle is a sound one. Sky Sports used to have a red button feature for alternative commentary by a fan of each of the participating teams. Sometimes this was genuinely funny and conducted in a respectful, banterous fashion….others less so!  

James Foster: I think to begin with they probably thought they were there as an outlet for the genuine fan, a platform for the unheard masses in a sea of pundits and polished press releases, but over time I feel they’ve become an outlet for the presenters, Arsenal TV being a great example. As the following grows and the views keep increasing on YT etc, the channels almost become an extension of the presenters personality instead. There is certainly a place for them, but in the same way that no player is bigger than the club, the same sentiment should maybe resound with the fan TV world. But then again, if you’ve got a formula that’s pulling in the views, why would you change it?

Andrew Flint: Part of me says fair play to them; they’ve explored a niche in the market, and the most successful of them are pulling in six-figure salaries after sponsorships and freelance opportunities are taken into account. If people continue to click, they’ll continue to churn out garbage. 

They have become detached from the actual game and support, and are far more about creating the most outrageous way to spout ridiculous opinions, so another part of me despises what they have become. They aren’t journalists or reporters though, so they shouldn’t be judged as such. In that sense, while I cannot personally stand them in their current form, I don’t begrudge their success.

2. How important are print publications such as fanzines and match programs in the modern game? Why?

RP: I still think programmes/fanzines have a place in modern football. For many fans of an older age they are a good collectable item from a game and are preferable as a game souvenir than a half and half scarf. In addition, fanzines can offer a good independent perspective on club events as opposed to the usual neutral narrative trotted out by club media.

ST: I was chatting to my brother-in-law the other day about fanzines. He follows Man City and he and his dad used to collect them when he was a kid and they’d do their own player scores after each game. He mentioned one of the City ones was called Bert Trautmann’s Helmet which I found rather amusing! Anyway they can become somewhat of a fascination with supporters, particularly seeing a match live. Getting the program and/or fanzine is as much a part of the experience and routine as a pie and Bovril at half time.

JF: Programs are a must. In this digital age we live in, there is so much instant content online that the ability to simply sit down either before the game, or the day after and have a flick through is something we shouldn’t lose. There are plenty of related articles I’ve read online that could have been bound together and turned into a printed collection that I’d buy, purely to be able to revisit them and literally feel the pages instead of finding a bookmark on a browser. I’m an old fashioned kind of guy at times, I love having a book to read, the kindle/browser is always the second choice.

AF: They are absolutely critical for me on so many levels. The very format of print fanzines means the enduring success depends on quality content and not online clickbait. They are run almost exclusively by those with a real connection to the club. Thankfully it feels like there is a renewed appreciation of fanzines with award ceremonies highlighting their good work, but I fear that some will be tempted to move inline soon to save on costs, then they’ll start dying a slow death.

Match programs are important too, but for different reasons in my opinion. You are aware that any content is officially vetted by the club so will not contain any controversial takes. I like to see manager’s comments more for how they word their views, less for the message in general. Most of all though I love them as tangible records of the gams I’ve attended.

3. Should there be a ban on excessive usage of mobile phones on the terraces?

RP: Sadly some people cannot seem to function without their mobiles. No issue pre game recording a song sung by group of fans under a terrace, a pre game recording of YNWA on the Kop etc or at half time checking scores or accumulators. However, during the match people should put away their phones for 90 minutes. When people record videos of your fanbase celebrating a last minute winner i despair. Put away the technology and enjoy and live the moment.

ST: This genuinely baffles me. Other than a couple of pictures, particularly if it’s your first live experience, the use of phones at a live game is ridiculous. The amount of fans whom I have seen watching the match through their recording equipment is unbelievable. The world moves on and technology is a wonderful thing but you may as well have watched on TV!

JF: It’s so painful to see people spending more time trying to get their phones out than celebrating when the goals fly in. Not so long ago, a guy was caught filming himself react to a goal a couple of minutes after it had gone in. Doin’ it for the ‘gram. Live in the moment, enjoy the experience, if you get some pics or videos in the process, great. But don’t look back reliving Rooney’s overhead kick against city through a 5 inch screen, it’ll never be as vibrant a memory as the full experience etched into your brain.

AF: When you fork out up to 100 pounds just to attend a home game once travel, food, tickets etc, it is astonishing how some people are more interested in squeezing every retweet out of a video rather than watch what is happening in front of them. In and around the match, great; during the match, no. How one would actually go about policing any ban is beyond me though, and it won’t happen unless you go to the impossible extreme of searching and banning phones from entering the stadium full stop. 

4. Is online broadcasting the way forward? Are you concerned about the major online broadcasters being based overseas, and perhaps looking to profit from overseas markets rather than put match-going fans first?

RP: Its a concern as match going fans can be sidelined. The 3pm Sat blackout must be maintained. If Big PL matches involving Liverpool and Man Utd etc were shown online Saturday at 3pm it could have a massive impact on lower league attendances. Some in England may bemoan that they cant watch a 3PM kick off on Sat when mates in America can. However the English footballing pyramid is like no other and must be preserved at all costs

ST: Online broadcasting is the future whether we like it or not. Not just in sport but in the way we all experience film and TV too. There is a culture it seems now of illegal streaming or foreign companies being able to purchase the right to air matches that the country of origin cannot. It can certainly have a detrimental effect on matchday revenues and live fan attendance. Why go to Stoke on a cold Tuesday night, as they say, if you can watch online in the comfort of your own home. 

I listened to the Sky Sports podcast and heard Gary Neville tell Geoff Shreeves that he genuinely believes that very soon there will be a subscription service for the bigger clubs offering “behind the scenes” content. Certain training sessions will be streamed live and on demand, players vlogging en route to the match and training etc….we may not have seen the half of it yet!

JF: Streaming is the way of the world now. As audiences become more technologically astute, the online audience is only going to continue to grow. Add into that the emerging markets of places like China and India and they’re increased internet connectivity outside of the cities, and you can see why those executives value those deals. You can’t blame them either. That investment has allowed sides to attract the biggest and brightest talents from around the globe, and I for one love watching the best players. Don’t get me wrong though, there must surely be enough left in the pot to subsidise those ticket prices in some format…

AF: There’s no question it is, and I’m going to surprise myself by saying I am in favour of it. Aside from being an inevitable consequence of the times, once the online streaming service is refined and robust it will give people more access. It will also open up far more markets for broadcast rights for overseas viewers, and with virtually all new TVs nowadays being smart TVs with built-in menus for online services you won’t notice the difference anyway. 

Out in Russia the new broadcast contract for English Premier League games is OKKO Sport – an online broadcaster – and it has had teething problems with streams. When it works, though, it is fantastic, with a 50 frames-per-second stream that is unreal. If an online broadcaster can provide a service with reliable streams, I’d be happy.

I don’t think there is anything to worry about when it comes to overseas providers like Amazon Prime. As long as they deliver a good service, people won’t complain. If I lived in the UK, my concern would be that the broadcast market will break up into a multitude of subscriptions that will end up being impossible to keep track of. The Premier League should not sell more than two packages to protect this type of situation developing, but I think they will be tempted by starting bidding wars for smaller packages.

When I was 12, my letter to United We Stand fanzine was published, and I will never forget the euphoric thrill of seeing my words in print. Two decades later I work as the Russian Premier League website's official English-language version from my home in Tyumen, Siberia. I have had my work published by When Saturday Comes, Four Four Two, These Football Times, The Guardian, The Football Pink, Futbolgrad and Russian Football News.

2 comments on “Debate – The modern game

  1. I’d say that famcams at their best capture everyday fan culture and life in the grounds better than anything else. I can imagine some if these being fascinating in 20-30 years. At their worst they are just a chance for people to seek attention.

    With print media, there is always an assumption that it is not for younger people, but those young people will be older one day. It may be that age rather than generation determines a preference for print over screen.

    Don’t get me started on people who film penalties on their mobiles rather than watch them live…penalties mostly look the same, and are one of the dullest things to watch again (even if your team scores).

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    • Andrew Flint

      At their best they can be great, agreed; the democratisation of broadcasting in the loosest sense has been both a blessing and a curse, because those valuable, knowledgeable voices can get lost in the melee of clickbait garbage peddlers. It’s a shame that anger, division, and hatred appears to sell better than insight and intelligence on some platforms.

      Like

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