The media centric world which just doesn’t understand what it’s like to be a fan


There is an article in the Athletic, the essence of which is making fun of fans that leave early, or fans that get up to go to the toilet during a match.  It is a light-hearted piece, but it struck me that it is also just another example of how journalists writing about football totally fail to understand both what it is like to be a supporter, and what matters to a supporter.

Arsenal’s stadium is, compared to many, a modern ground built to 21st century standards, but even here the queues for the gents can be extensive before and after the game, and doubly so at half time, thus going out to the gents during the game can be the only way of being able to make it in time, if you see what I mean. 

(I can’t, for obvious reasons, give any comparative comments about the facilities for those of a female persuasion.   But in terms of the arrangements for gentlemen, the toilets are inadequate if considered at times of peak demand.)

Now the fact that this is made a matter of fun in the article, reflects on the reality of the journalist – he or she sits in a specialist area where more than double the space that fans get is allocated to each person, along with arrangements for “refreshments” and the like.   Their time watching a game is one of luxury compared mine – and indeed I have one of the most expensive seats (aside from boxes and club level) that it is possible to get.

And I bother to write about this, because it seems to me to be at the very heart of the way that football journalists fail to understand their audience. They are not supporters as we are, they don’t attend games as we do, they don’t have problems with parking and getting into and out of the ground as we do…  Indeed they don’t have to deal with getting away from the ground when most of the trains are cancelled and one of the local underground stations is shut, as happened for this week’s game.

In short, they watch in luxury, without any of the angst that supporters have.   And yet it is they who are employed to write about the game and tell us what it was like.  In fact they have a total lack of empathy with and understanding of the world of supporters, for whom they are writing.

Let me give a simple example.  Arsenal changed their mode of entry this year so that to get into the ground we have to have a mobile phone with “Play store” or something akin to that on it.   Which is ok if one has such a phone and if the system works.

In fact there are all sorts of oddities within the system – in that my phone didn’t update itself to show details of the last game, but rather contained an entry pass for the game before.  Quite a few people seemed to have that for the match, but it turns out that it doesn’t matter.   You can have a pass for completely the wrong match and still get in.

OK it’s a bit of a detail – but it still makes for a lot of people hanging around trying to work out how to get into the ground.

Perhaps more of an issue is the size of the queues for food and drink – it really isn’t worth bothering about unless you are utterly desperate and don’t mind either getting to the ground very early or missing part of the game.

Such things are beyond the understanding and knowledge of the writers of the football reports and the commentators on TV and radio and hence their commentaries start from a position completely different from those watching the game.

Worse, when we get to the game itself, we find that they are forbidden (or have mutually agreed) from writing about referees apart from in a fairly oblique way that suggests that any error there is, is something unusual.

Likewise they won’t mention numbers – either because most of them are numerically challenged or they have been told not to.  The fact that Tottenham Hotspur have more than double the number of yellow cards that Arsenal have received seems not to exist in their world (although such numbers used to be highly relevant when Arsenal were top of the yellow card charts!)

Is it that the journalists don’t like Arsenal but admire Tottenham?   Or is it that yellow cards don’t matter anymore?

The same is true with their inability to notice things about referees.   Does it matter that Simon Hooper hands out almost double the number of yellow cards a game, match by match, as Paul Tierney?   Well, actually yes, since they are all supposedly working by the same rule book.

But really it’s not just facts like that which are the trouble, it is the fact that they apply across the matches.  Get Robert Jones as a ref and the home team is pretty much nailed on to get something from the game.   Get John Brooks and it is the away team that will enter the game full of the feeling that a win is extremely likely.

These are the big issues, and yet somehow they don’t get mentioned in the media.   It’s all a bit odd.


3 Replies to “The media centric world which just doesn’t understand what it’s like to be a fan”

  1. I was watching the Two Robbies, NBC’s pair of pundits on YouTube this morning. They both mumbled their way through commenting on the referee’s debacle at the Spurs/Man City game in a manner that would leave you to think they had been instructed to tread lightly. Robbie Mustow said some nonsense about the ref having blown his whistle too softly earlier and had decided to blow again so everyone could hear.

    Now if I were a grown man and had to make such a statement for the world to hear, I would quit and do gardening. Naturally his fellow Robbie the Neut agreed with him in a similar fawning fashion. You can watch it here at the 13.30 mark if you have the stomach for such crap:

  2. It really is quite stomach churning listening to so called “experts” whilst watching football on TV. I think most of the time they are on a different planet rather than a different ground to the match they are speaking about.

    Last night I watched Barcelona – Atletico Madrid. Once again the referee performance by Jose Sanchez was an amazing display where he made a complete mockery of any rules the game has. He booked players for non fouls and then let bookable tackles go without even blowing for a foul! The commentators completely missed every error and then had the temerity to say he had a good game. Once again he was the centre of attention!

    I felt sorry for both teams as they were completely confused about what the ref was going to do next. Is it any surprise that players try to con officials when the referees are so poor.

    This brings me back to your article here – of course the media are the way they are – they never go to games as real fans – they go as cheerleaders for the latest “fashion” team. I do not think Man City will be penalised for this weekend – I say that as a totally neutral fan. I gave up looking for integrity in the EPL a long time ago

    I now believe the standings at the end of a season (or tournament) were decided before the start by media cronies who wouldn’t know fairness if it smacked them in the face!

    I don’t hold out much hope for the future of the sport – it is has become so corrupt.

    If only fans would work together instead of being tribal – they could achieve so much more!

  3. Tony,

    I agree with your perspective of defending the fan, the one person without whom no football would exist.

    I’ll add a little lighthearted contribution….

    A friend of my cousin – in Germany – was watching the Germany Bbrasil game back in 2014.
    He was alone at home.
    At the 20th minute, he needed to go to the bathroom. Score 1-0 for Germany.
    He came out a few minutes later and the score line was 4-0… him wondering if he had just been beamed into the Twilight Zone ;=)))

    He took it in stride…and this story will be told way past his time in this world… and make for a good laugh.

    But then again, as they say in french : you can laugh and make fun about anybody but not with everybody.

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