The strangeness of the abusive behaviour of football fans on the internet

By Tony Attwood

Rudeness is part of human behaviour.  It is part of life, although since the invention of the Internet it seems to have become more prevalent.

Football fans have always been rude about other teams’ players, their own teams’ players, their manager, everyone else’s manager, the supporters of other clubs and so on.  It’s just part of the behaviour surrounding football for some reason.  Part of being in a crowd I guess.

But for people who by and large don’t go in for excessive or extreme abusive behaviour, there is a rather interest thought to hold in mind.

Psychologists mostly agree that rudeness damages one’s ability to think and harms one’s mental health.  The ability to focus and the clarity of decision making is cut short, because rudeness is a short cut which takes out discussion and debate.  You don’t have to put together a logical argument to be rude.  You can just do it.  Do it enough and it becomes a habit and the ability to consider logical debate goes out the window.

For people who are always rude, logical analysis becomes completely impossible.

Rudeness, abuse etc just becomes part of the brain’s central process, intelligence and intellect is swept aside and being abusive is all that is left.   Being rude rather than joining in a debate is a neurotic lifestyle that a lot of people seem to engage in – and when they do they can’t escape.

The alternative of course is to sprinkle one’s commentary with evidence.  So you can say Giroud is a moron and should not be playing for Arsenal.  That’s just abuse.  Or you might say, “let’s look at the evidence.  Giroud is played in order to score goals.  He has played 15 games in all competitions this season and scored seven.”   Then base your next statement on that evidence.

To me, evidence based debate is what I’ve always wanted on this site.   Of course supporting a team is an utterly emotional affair – I support Arsenal and it would take something pretty huge to stop me doing so.  I’m Arsenal, my parents were, my grandparents were, I grew up a few miles from the ground… that’s it.  But still I like to find some evidence to support my view that Wenger knows what he is doing, and has delivered something incredibly important – a magnificent new stadium while keeping the team near the top.

The response to this that “coming fourth isn’t a trophy” is just a statement which doesn’t help the conversation along.   Of itself it is not abuse, but it is akin to it, if that’s all that is said in reply to a crafted argument, it gets close to being abuse.

Of course I’m not sure how I’d have felt if I had to live through another collapse of the type we had in for example 1993 to 1995 (10th, 4th, 12th).   Or during the dark days of Mee in 1974/6 (10th, 16th, 17th).  Or even worse 1960/66 when I started watching the club (13th, 11th, 10, 7th, 8th, 13th, 14th).

What I have become abusive if Wenger had failed and he and his successors had delivered another era like those dark days?  Maybe, but hopefully I would still have done it with some evidence to back up my points.

By there’s far more to the issue of rudeness than just feeling nice or being a reasonable person, presenting points with a smattering of logic and/or evidence.  Rudeness ends friendships rather than creates them, and leads to isolation.  In really serious situations it can lead to catastrophic errors – because if someone is rude to you, you are much more liable to make a mistake afterwards.  It’s outcome is always negative.

And sometimes it can be very negative.  In studies of work in operating theatres in hospitals, where a surgeon is rude about one of the other people in the team, the team’s performance is severely hindered.  People can literally die as a result of rudeness.

This negative effect of being rude is everywhere.  Be rude to waiters and you get a worse service.  Be rude to people around you, and you get fewer friends.  Be rude to people serving you in a shop, and you get worse service and they probably up the bill and don’t welcome you back again.


People who fail to read the rules of engagement on a site are themselves being simplistically rude on the internet, as in Colesy’s recent comment that,  “Wenger is past it and his stubbornness and lack of ideas will prevail with the team missing out on the league-again.”   We have no argument presented to back up this point of view, although many of us would think it is wrong.  What makes the statement abusive is that it has no evidence base.  It just says the writer is wrong, and listening to someone put forward an argument (no matter how poorly argued) and then saying “This is wrong” without giving any evidence, is at the very least boorish, and is generally very rude.

Of course it is not just football that gathers rudeness.  One of the dance clubs that I used to go to (but don’t any more because I got fed up with the people there) had a Facebook post today in which there were complaints about the rudeness of dancers (mostly middle aged) when speaking to the DJ and asking for particular dance tracks to be played.  It happens anywhere.  Like a five year old, if people don’t get what they want immediately they want it, they get abusive.

But football and the internet seem to attract a particular kind of rudeness.   Take for example the time when people write comments with no evidence or which are just plain rude, and then when they don’t get published here, write abusively to the publisher or editor or writer, accusing him of all sorts of things because he didn’t publish the original rude comment!

It is as if I came and stood outside your house, threw a brick through the window, shouted abuse and then complained when you don’t ask me in for a cosy chat.

Since I started Untold I have been bemused by the level of abuse I’ve received.  I expected some, but not so much and not at this level.    But then I suppose I underestimated the number of rather silly people around.

More anniversaries

  • 1 November 1983: Tony Adams first team debut in a testimonial v Chelsea.  He had signed as a schoolboy in 1980.
  • 1 November 1997: Derby 3 Arsenal 0, Wright missed a penalty, as Arsenal slipped to their second defeat of the season.  13th league game of the 2nd Double Season   The second double: part 1, part 2, part 3.

The Untold Books

21 Replies to “The strangeness of the abusive behaviour of football fans on the internet”

  1. Sorry to be off topic, but this is quite interesting.

    For those who watched Arsenal’s game against Everton might remember that Deulofeu dived clearly and blatantly at 3-4 times during the match without getting punished.

    Today against Sunderland this happened.

    The ref booked him a minute later. This clearly shows that these refs know their job and know what is right and wrong, but most of the times they look like under strict orders from a certain someone named “Riley”.

  2. Spot on. Most rudeness is a control issue. The internet and the anonymity it affords promotes rudeness from people who might never talk like this face to face. Football rudeness is feeling without fact but by the same token factual statistics are not always correct. They may provide a starting point but not always an answer.

  3. Shouting abuse is part of football. My evidence, I’ve listened to abuse at every game I’ve ever attended. Now we have the Internet as another channel.
    A noble attempt to educate abusers, but futile. My evidence, unsolicited advice is rarely welcome. Should be in an academic rag not an Arsenal blog.

  4. Sounds as if you have had to put up with particularly upsetting and personal abuse, Tony. If that’s the case, sorry to hear it. You have done us all an immense service by setting up Untold and keeping it going. Thanks for saving us from having to read all that crap as well!

  5. A nice article Tony.It is so easy to be abusive nowadays.I do try not to be, but others think it is their right to be.
    How dare the one at Chelsea or Morgan(The Mirror liar) be rude to AW.I see Morgan has tweeted today “Mour….. has not won the League for 5 months and gets abuse and Wenger has not won it for 10 years and gets away with it!.
    This is the guy who staged a mock fight of British soldiers beating a guy and allowed it to be front page news.
    Can we all hit his twitter account and tell him he is a total tosser,must not be too abusive.

  6. Lisa,I really don’t get what you are trying to say…whether it has no place in the blog or it’s plain stupid for him to publish it here in the first place? it’s true what he’s saying about rudeness and it could help one or two rude people appreciate rudeness better. I also learnt a thing or two about why people may choose to be rude and it’s consequences.

  7. Just ignore them guys . Don’t get into a slinging fight with them . There are no winners here. Just wasted time and print space .
    Laugh them out and away . Never acknowledge their duplicity and stupidity . Their learning curve always points downwards . Maybe when the fall on their heads , it may knock some sense in them .
    In the meantime , be like the AKBs and enjoy the ride . WHHEEEEEEEEE !!!

  8. Hey Mandy:
    “Piers Morgan is a scab on the scrotum of Arsenal fandom” Is this an opinion or fact??
    Evidence please!!!?.
    Seriously, can we all agree that no one need to be told to provide any evidence to abuse the hell out of Piers…
    Which exposes another aspect of abuse and being a fan: some fans just wanna have fun. Many go overboard in so doing but at a mild level of use, there is something cathartic and “fun” about doing so….as in abusing Piers?.

  9. I think the term ‘rude’ (rudeness) is quite broad and we are in danger of using it to describe the behaviour of anyone we disagree with (indeed ‘rude’ can mean disagreeable). Abuse however is something different because it (to me at least) suggests deliberate moves to hurt, offend or take advanatge of another person. Rudeness I ignore, abuse makes me take action

  10. Do remember that old football saying about how you would find the true class and character of a team , “.. on a cold , rainy night in Stoke in January “?
    Apparently this year due in part to global warming and in part for God’s or Karma’s,( if you prefer ) zany sense of humour , the date has been moved forward to this weekend !
    The Orcs are already licking their chops in looking forward to a bloodletting of epic proportions ! Clear your logs , cancel those dances , play hookey from work – ’tis is a spectacle not be missed !

  11. Abuse or banter ? Certainly as the U.K has become more sanitised with the onset of political correctness what is deemed acceptable has changed. The Highbury crowd was always criticised for it’s quietness but some of the stuff handed down to Sheringham , Le Saux and even Ashley Cole was vociferously abusive . We have always been one of the kinder crowds when it came to racism based on colour but not religion or sexuality , monkey chants were few and far between but regarding Tottenham especially, religious taunting continues to go on today. Telling a player that he is useless even spiced up with a few swear words is banter whether they are opposing or our own players and sometimes the humour is rhetorical and purely taking the juice. It’s a difficult line to follow but certainly the crowd mentality gives anonymity and lets people hide and say and do things they would not normally, however providing what happens at football stays there and doesn’t spill over it’s probably best to allow it to continue as even trying to stop it often creates more problems than existed in the first place.

  12. “One of the things I discovered in Japan was from watching sumo wrestling. At the end you can never tell who has won the fight, and who has lost, because they do not show their emotion because it could embarrass the loser. It is unbelievable. That is why I try to teach my team politeness. It is only here in England that everybody pokes their tongue out when they win.” – Arsene Wenger

  13. Shakabula, I would say with Piers, that is something beyond a fact, perhaps a pan omniversal constant…

  14. Mandy – your assessment of Piers Morgan is so apt. Problem is like all men we occassionally scratch our ….. & I don’t want to think of him at those moments!!

  15. Morgan

    3 teams. Yep, just 3 teams have won the Premier League over the last 10 years.

    -2 are sponsored by Oil money. One is the biggest Club side in the World.

    -All make a LOSS, on an average, of around £50 Million per season on transfers, and what’s more have been doing so for a vast majority of those 10 years.

    -None have self financed an entirely new stadium.

    The problem with the likes of Morgan is you cannot refute a thing they say. They hold a public platform, but at the same time are secure in the knowledge that there words can never be challenged.

    Take this for example from Talksport.

    Last night as I drove home from work they had a text debate asking people for there top 4/bottom 4 predictions for the season.

    One texter had Arsenal to win the PL. Neither hosts where having that. Fine, I can live with that. But it was the evidence for this conclusion that had me screaming at the radio.

    The conclusion was based onone thing. We cant beat the ‘bigger’ teams. This is a broad transcript of what was said:

    “Arsenal will never win the League whilst they still cant beat the big teams. Didn’t they just lose to Chelsea a team that anyone can beat, and didn’t they draw with Liverpool when they where rubbish? Until they sort this out they’ll never win it”

    Not a mention of the fact we played Chelsea with 10 men.

    Not a mention we had a perfectly good goal ruled out against Liverpool.

    But hey, why bother with trifling little things like that when you’re totally overlooking a season and a half of results.

    Just taking 2 games, totally out of context, is typical of the way they do these things. No research. No attempt to support a theory with any worth while facts. Just a couple of random results selected purely because they support a preordained thesis.

    So, because they cannot be bothered I will.

    This is our record against the ‘Big’ teams since the start of season 2014/2015

    Arsenal 3 – 0 Man City

    Arsenal 2 – 2 Man City

    Chelsea 2 – 0 Arsenal

    Arsenal 1 – 2 Man Utd

    Liverpool 2 – 2 Arsenal

    Man City 0 – 2 Arsenal

    Man Utd 1 – 2 Arsenal

    Arsenal 4 – 1 Liverpool

    Arsenal 0 – 0 Chelsea

    Man Utd 1 – 1 Arsenal

    Arsenal 1 – 0 Chelsea

    Arsenal 0 – 0 Liverpool

    Chelsea 2 – 0 Arsenal

    Arsenal 3 – 0 Man Utd

    Arsenal 2 – 0 Munich

    That’s 15 matches, a fair sample I would of thought, giving us:

    7 Wins

    5 Draws

    3 Defeats

    If you take just the 10 matches since the turn of the year we get:

    6 wins

    3 draws

    1 defeat

    Scored 15

    Conceded 5

    Now if that doesn’t completely contradict the ‘cant beat the bigger teams’ thesis I don’t know what does.

    The fact they can spout such inaccurate twaddle, without any fear of ever being held to task, is what we hear happening every day, across all our media platforms.

    Morgan, Durham, Scholes, the list goes on and on.

    They all spout there, often as not, wildly inaccurate musings without EVER having to support what they say with any facts what so ever.

    If any of them had the balls to face one of the Untold lads in a fair and open debate they would be slaughtered.

    But ‘fair’ and ‘open’ are 2 words completely alien to likes of Morgan.

    The media make me sick and Morgan is just a shameful example of all that is bad within it.

  16. @Jambug: I heard that part in the show, I can’t remember the guy’s name, he usually do the days match reports for the lower leagues. I think it was him who said Arsenal can’t win title if they can’t beat big teams because of our past records but the funny thing was he didn’t know that Arsenal beat ManU 3-0. The two hosts wasn’t sure at the start but then the main host said Arsenal beat ManU. Then the other host back track on his Arsenal comment. How can you make such statement without knowing if you are right or not, it’s unbelievable. Having said that, I like the segment and that guy usually make funny comments.

  17. anger is a natural reaction, and if you don’t stop to consider your comment the most articulate of people can make themselves look like an idiot and more worryingly genuinely offend people .
    the level off offending sensitive folk about un pc comments has come to a rather frightening level but one has to move with the times and as this is a public forum respect that.

    ” swarming” in my view was a rather recent example of that, although the chap in the media who said it is a rather count to ten well lets not go there .

  18. Define what you consider abuse? Slagging someone who has a different opinion to yours? Having an over the top dig at an Arsenal legend ? Stating that northerners are corrupt and southerners would be a better choice for referees? I could go on but some of the comments on here are ludicrous on the same context as people who want Wenger replaced and will under no circumstances change their point of view. Those in either camp will always have their own point to prove as for me I have always stuck by who ever is wearing an Arsenal top and tries their best with either limited talent or limited funds and only slag off people who slag them off and have done for nearly 50 years

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