Why do some football supporters of a certain football club get so very angry?

By Tony Attwood

As I have reminded regular readers on occasion, I set up Untold in January 2008, just so I could put forward a few thoughts I had on stories that were never run in the newspapers or on TV relating to football.  I hoped I might get a few people (apart from my mates) to look at the site, although I never imagined it would be as big as it is now.

Of course I’ve tended to publish the stuff I’m interested in.  Things like refereeing, the way the media projects football opinion as investigative journalism, the financing and corruption of football, the ineptness of the FA, the lunacy of the transfer market and the hype that surrounds it.

But I have also been bemused quite a bit, by the anger.   In a sense I suppose the anger that we see expressed on football sites is a bit like the anger that there is in the UK these days – the 500% rise in hate crimes since June 23rd was surprising at the time although listening to some people speaking before then I guess I should been ready for that.

And in football the anger seems to have risen as well.  Only about 2% of the readers of Untold write to Untold, and we publish only about 60% of the comments we get.  So by and large I have no idea what the majority of readers of Untold think.  Which adds to the fun of writing and publishing the articles.

Anyway, the most common reasons for not publishing comments are

a) abuse

b) not related to the article

c) assertions that have been made many times before but without evidence.

d) the writer puts a false email address in

e) the software went wrong and kicked out the wrong person.

Putting in fake email addresses has always bemused me.  I know that the convention on sites such as this is that people often don’t put their real name up – and I can understand that.  But giving a false email address (which is of course never published) shows absolute contempt for the publisher of the site.  In which case why bother to write in?

Likewise the abuse issue has always bemused me.  Why write to a guy running a website to tell him what a moron he is, then expect that guy to publish your comment, and then act as if some deep and important moral line has been crossed when he doesn’t?  To me that is just plain weird.   Indeed one correspondent announced in the last few days that because he had “discovered” that we don’t publish every comment, the world could now see me for what I really am.  Well, fair enough in one way but I am not sure the world deserves that, or actually needs to know.

So what made him so angry?   I guess because he KNEW he was right, and the failure of Untold to publish his commentary (if we did, and I really don’t know if we did or not) upset him so much that his logic circuits were by-passed.    But still I ask, why would anyone expect me to publish, on a site that I run, abuse against myself? It doesn’t really make sense to me.  Especially in a world where everyone can do what I have done: set up a blog and work each day to find an audience.

It reminds me a bit of one of the anti-Wenger sites that the Daily Mail sponsors which, on receiving a comment for publication, changed what the correspondent had put.  When this was protested against, it was explained as “a mistake”.    It is easy for a publisher to change what a correspondent has written, but to do it by mistake??????

I suppose one reason for the rise in anger is that football discussions as handled by radio phone ins tend to be utterly emotional, related only to the last game (and often then just the last few moments of the last game), non-factual and non-sequential.  In short what has been lost is a sense of perspective.

And I guess the reason I enjoy running the Arsenal History Society blog is because it gives me a sense of perspective.  At the moment I’m writing the history of Arsenal in the 1930s, with a few lines on each game, and as I’ve progressed with the series I’ve expanded the writing so that I occasionally include notes on what other teams at the top of the league did that weekend.  It gives a sense of perspective – at least to me.

But in today’s commentaries complex issues often become simplified and considered without evidence to produce purely emotional responses to matters that invariably need far more than emotion.

And yet this has become so commonplace, many people don’t realise it is happening.  It was how the UK decided to make what was perhaps the most monumental decision since 10 May 1940 (when Churchill became PM).  I have a few relatives who voted Leave in the referendum and I’ve been asking them why they did.  The answers are quite honestly, frightening, for their knowledge of what would or might happen next was tiny, and thus far as been proven wrong in every detail.  Today, it seems, most decisions are made for trivial reasons and most viewpoints based on a lack of evidence.

What also interests me is the difference in response to comments that are made on Untold about other clubs.  Of course if we run a piece about Tottenham there are always three or four comments about Untold having a fixation with Tottenham and a few items a bit ruder than that.  But we also get some reasoned comments and some interesting exchanges with information provided by Tottenham supporters without any exchange abuse and I am always grateful for that.

If we have a bit of fun at the expense of Liverpool? we don’t generally get anything back although I do have a couple of correspondents who write to me and say “I would never put this in writing, but you are right – it is a shambles”.  But when we talk about Man City – the abuse level goes through the roof.   And not just this time with the issue of getting around the rules on child trafficking, but it was just as bad before when we covered (ahead of virtually every other football outlet) the fact that Man City could get into trouble over FFP.  The level of abuse was huge as the level of knowledge was minute.

Why do we get more abuse when we run a story about Man City which shows them in a poor light?  I really don’t know.  But what bemuses me is that one of the main arguments against us is that Arsenal themselves have some faults.   Which I find very odd for of course Arsenal have faults.  But does that mean we don’t point out issues we see elsewhere?  If I had been arrested in my past for some minor crime (which I haven’t – just in case you were wondering) would that mean I shouldn’t report a crime I see elsewhere?

Untold proclaims what it is on the home page – a site that supports the manager, the team, and the club.  I put that up because there are loads of Arsenal sites that don’t do that.  It seemed a good way to provide a bit of balance.

Anyway thinking of all that, I remembered the old phrase about the “pot calling the kettle black” which always struck me as nonsense because no one has never got something wrong, made a mistake or done something that in retrospect they wish they hadn’t.  If we followed the rule that only the absolutely purest of people could ever criticise another, no one would ever enter any debate at all.

So, to round all this up, bemused and bewildered, I asked our occasional psychologist, Dr Billy “the dog” McGraw to look at the comments (including some of those we have not published) made on Untold by Man City supporters to see what he could glean about the causes of the anger that was expressed in relation to the piece about child trafficking.

I asked Dr Billy to give me his immediate reaction to the psychological state of the writer of ten different comments sent to Untold.  Here’s what he said.

1: I think he was overtired.

2: It was probably something he ate.

3: Could it be growing pains?

4: I suspect he was teething.

5: Maybe he had a virus.

6: I suspect he is coming down with something.

7: Maybe he’s not himself today.

8: They get that way at the end of term.

9: Perhaps he forgot to take his pill.

10.  It could be a rash.

Which I think really makes the point.  Commentaries made in anger can actually look a bit silly from a distance.

I’ve now got that list of Dr Billy’s explanations printed up and put on the noticeboard in my office.  Looking at some of the comments that have been swirling around of late, it seems to offer me a little solace as I work with Walter, Andrew, Blacksheep, Don and all the other hardy souls who stay with Untold through thick and thin, to keep Untold running.

Anyway, enough introspection.  There’s been another 2,354 transfer rumours since Sir Hardly’s last piece, so I’d better go and kick him into action.

If you have been, thank you for reading.

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19 Replies to “Why do some football supporters of a certain football club get so very angry?”

  1. Thank you so much for all the posts on this site. since i came to find out about the ‘untold’ about arsenal, i have much peace. The problem is envy, we have many ‘so-called’ arsenal fans who don’t love the club, and many fans of other clubs who envy us for who we are’DE ARSENAL’….who cares. go on with the good work….football should be an art….writing truly artistic and reading is not by force…

  2. Sorry for goin slightly off piste but there is a connection…

    Jetemy Corbyn has been called the Arsene Wenger of politics and for me that’s true on more levels than the person who stated it meant.

    The way Corbyn is treated by the mainstream media is akin to how Arsene and Arsenal are.

    Either vilified ignored or undermined. Just look at the recent stuff with Henry as a great example. Or the striker crisis peddled by the Independent.

    Corbyn and Wenger ate so shabbily treated it’s a disgrace. Both are honorable men in a dirty world that values narcissistic self serving twat’s more than decent human beings.


  3. There have been some well argued comments made by Mancs supporters. I grant you not many.

    I have observed that the occasional piece on another club usually brings the charge that there is a fixation with that club.

    The charge of ‘fixation’ is valid on the following subjects.

    1 All matters Arsenal

    2 The belief that the FA is corrupt.

    3.The belief that the PMGOL has a fixed program which by referee control it delivers.

    4. The English media does not report what is really happening in football.

    5. The controlling bodies of European and World football are corrupt.

  4. I finished a conversation yesterday by saying “I may not be right about everything but I may not be as wrong as some of our politicians” which resulted in laughter all round. It was a conversation in which opinions were exchanged. Each person was allowed to express their opinion. There were differences in opinion but it did not result in any abusive behaviour. I am certain I have not changed anyone’s thinking, as I am certain my own opinion has not changed. It was a minor amusement worthy of note due to its lack of aggression or abuse. I wonder if the fact that none of the participants were looking for any celebrity value or infamy may have allowed such a civil exchange. One wonders if we might end up with punditry in a studio version of parliament with pocket experts using similar antiquated terminology from leather benches on either side of the studio. I do ask myself if these people ever have any other form of public discussion, as it seems a well known fact that once you do allow anger into your comments, others stop listening. Perhaps we need a new age of enlightenment.

  5. The anger generated by fans personifies the abject state of modern society. The rhetoric of most journos is their vehicle to kick-start characteristic reactions from Arsenal fans in particular. I agree that the treatment of AW and the almost ‘witch hunt’ status that reporting on our club has now reached has indeed, surpassed all boundaries.

    There has always been a fixation with the other club in north London – puzzling as it is 55 years since a championship was delivered – and indeed most other clubs get preferential treatment. Imagine if we had signed Ibrahimovic? We’d have been accused of raiding the OAP’s home!

    The anger – and your subsequent with-holding of comments is understandable on both sides. You see, as a fan of Arsenal you are already on the defensive. You also expect, that with our talented squad we should be doing even better. Add to that the frustration of every single transfer window and, hey presto! Angry, frustrated and bemused fans who would dearly love to throttle journos like Giulianelli – who once told us that Higuain had signed!

    BTW, a great site with intelligent and insightful articles.

  6. Hi all.some really good ideas but the problem you will have with possession would not work beacus3 all you would find is that teams would keep possession and pass the ball about without any sort of penetrative play.sort of who can keep the ball the most.

  7. Tony
    It is your site and you can do what you like with it. I disagree with you on many points but I never get angry with you. If you write an article that upsets me, I just stop visiting the site or read the other writers on the site that I enjoy reading.

  8. I think the ‘internet anger’ is to some degree a reflection on both the age of the age of the teams support and it’s international following. By that I don’t mean that they’re all a bunch of children that know nothing of PL football, but that their support has grown dramatically since the Internet became popular.
    Most of my gooner mates rarely/never come to football forums. They’d rather discuss it between us in the pub, face to face where (depending on how many pints have been consumed) they can also listen to others opinion. But we do have an enormous on-line following who aren’t in the position to do that, so they get their opinion from highlights packages/pundits/the loudest guy they work with etc.
    Liverpoo!! haven’t been very successful recently and their support tends to be older guys (or children of) who remember their glory years but less of them are keyboard warriors.
    $iteh were the team with supporters most other teams supporters liked. We could see a very local fan base in the shadow of their much trumpeted local opposition (Who’s main following was surrey glory hunters), and who had been screwed over year after year by poor club and team management together with some hit and miss quality players. But now they’ve bought their way into success via an ‘iffy’ Thai billionaire followed by a family of human rights ignoring oil trillion aires which grew their fan base enormously during the internet-world. Suddenly they have millions more young supporters which (as you say) have little perspective on life or football.
    The funny part of their rants yesterday was that they refused to actually read the whole article and any of the comments before typing their first comment which just made them look like complete idiots.
    Unfortunately our newer support insist on doing the same thing which then bring out the worst in the responses.

  9. @Tony

    I think we live in a world where our emotions are either magnified or minimized by the media. Also, we all want to believe in our intelligence, that our heart is in the right place and that our point of view is the correct one.

    Throw those two sentences in one situation and you’ll get a lot of comments burdened with inner frustration of the commentator. For instance, I was angry as hell after Mike Dean’s robbery at Stamford Bridge, especially after idiots blamed Arsenal and Wenger for naivety. God, I was mad! You don’t blame a victim of a rape for wearing a short skirt!

    Less you read about some topic, lesser the frustration you feel and lesser the chance you will make an angry comment.

  10. So, to switch on my inner Swift, I advise you to avoid reading and in-depth knowledge on any issue. Ignorance is bliss.

  11. Anger comes from fear, which comes from thinking we are X or Y, but are neither ,but are both,at the same time. Thinking we are X or Y leads us to to an identity and from there we develop desire and the idea that we are “needing” something to be, not getting “our” desire leads to despair or hatred through fear as a root cause.Even getting our desire leads to hatred and despair. And of course other emotions on top.
    Also identifying with false identities,but by not deconstructing ourselves and understanding there is no central identity to find,leaving that place of Nihilism and then reconstructing ourselves as compassionate beings free of the traps of desire and that understand that all life is suffering,leads only to more suffering.As long as we believe there is something to achieve then we will suffer.Most of what we identify as “bad” we agree is “bad” but “good” is just as equally “bad”,as the two are equally rising at any moment, and the Egos are never satisfied.As long as we believe there isn’t anything to achieve we shall suffer.
    Humans mostly don’t not know who they are,why they are here(if we are here to learn,then what for and why?),where they have come from, and especially where they are going to. And even most of the ideas around this have lead more to suffering from fear.

    On top of this is Time, which doesn’t exist but does exist where there is movement. More suffering arises with the passing of Time as we fear death,because we don’t see it as change.We see it as an ending.But where can we find ending or beginning-(Im not saying that they don’t exist, but as an ordinary being I cant see or know them, I am part of stream)?
    We look to memory for comfort, but it is a false picture because that can never be “what happened”,how can it? But feeling inadequate from the “fictitious”past we project our fears into the “fictitious”future.Instead of “not-knowing” as a relief, we perceive it as something to suffer over.

    Then we have social conditioning.More suffering from yesterdays psychological hang-overs(though not always).Wanting to be a part of things and not wanting to be a part of things again all wrapped up in flux.Also social conditioning brings up conflicting ideas of what’s “good” and “bad”,and are of course subject to revisionism at any moment as epochs come and go.Again with suffering and fear through not knowing. Even though we do.

    Then people are bombarded with Capitalism like never before,goods and lifestyle that will never satisfy.And that much of what they see in the media is a competition,driven by fear.

    The conglomerate of human Egos are all fear based systems,driving the mind to ever analyze and objectify (is that truly possible?)and fear the “other”, having the fear of “being ourselves” and “not being ourselves”. These are false premises as its difficult to find anything thats objective in subjectivity(relativity).But we judge all as “other” and therefore dangerous,if not now then maybe later. For some this is a loud set of psychological patterns and others less loud, but all have it.Unless they have claimed to have escaped from duality,which isnt possible, but have therefore changed their understanding and relationship to duality.This is the key.

    Then its all very well to speak of compassion (leading to loving kindness), but Flux might just be the humans biggest problem, in that despite learning what a system might be, it is ever morphing and even that which seems to be a stasis is on the move,and changing.That includes scientific analysis.
    So we can invent as series of systems that can guide us(or stop or limit suffering), but each moment changes,leaving us open to hypocrisy and a change of view and scrambling for theory to help. Which means to practice every moment, to be vigilant. Even this practice will initially lead to much suffering.But now we see the need to quieten the mind.
    Of course the more we are attached the our emotions(through the conglomerate of Egos)and unaware of processing them, the more prone we are to only think in fear and have what people condemn as a “knee jerk reaction”. Our reactions to reactions are lightening quick,and if we are impassioned we are no longer in control, but are being used by fear. Fear can drive us that which we perceive as “good” or “bad”.But its still fear. And all reactions will have further reactions and consequences.

    Footballs the biggest problem of all, as its a system that’s its almost impossible to not be free of duality within the game (even if its a draw), as in the end there must be a “winner” and that is the point,at its most basic(it isnt) but it is major driver .But all winners know this is a false position as without the other participants (“losers”) they too would be a loser-or worse non- existent (another major fear of humanity). All teams(etc) need a significant other to energize and quantify their existence-otherwise they would turn in on themselves and divide.The only way to not suffer in football is to just enjoy the athleticism without judgment or expectation,to not support anyone but to watch all,and to have no expectations of what is “good” or “bad” in terms of play or result but to just watch. Apply this to life and you will also not suffer. And not create more suffering (hatred/despair etc).
    Any notion of football being unifying is flawed,it might be to some groups(even these are divided) by its nature as mentioned before it is dividing.Although again, Football itself doesn’t exist, but only the machination of mind, in form,and not in form, affecting all and being affected by all.
    Despair is just a lack of hope, but this only because the Egos ask the impossible, to see the unseen and impossible now. For the Ego systems there is no hope, no safety,no tolerance and no compassion, and when these systems don’t get what they want they create despair and another set of emotions,in fact behind despair is fear again,and on it all goes.
    Of course its even more complex than this and we can cover many more subtle areas, but that might be the basics. I haven’t written about love but that can be included in “desires”(at least in some senses) etc. Nationalism is lumped in with identity etc.

    So adding a bit to this is another key point of “desire”,this craving leads to all sorts of systems of thought we can easily see: “I know” therefore “I must have””its my right””my club”-the list is endless.But time again, it comes back to the idea that each person believes they are absolute (ie the one, the only), so absolute psychology bangs up against absolute psychology.Which of course means anyone thinking they’re absolute are mistaken, as linguistically how can you have a relationship with anything else when you are indivisible,and unrelate-able?
    So what we really have is relative and relative believing they are absolute.Which creates our psychological hell.But no matter the type of >bad hair day reasoning<, the underlying reasons in life that drive people to believe they are not "enough" are deeper (as sketched above) and from this fear comes more fear and loathing and anger.
    From this position we can see the ignorance of us all (sooner or later).Ignorance is a word that the Ego system loathes,as it believes its absolute and all knowing, but when we have any form of compassion,we see that its not such a big deal,and in some manner or other we are all struggling with this.But its not easy to see that its not a big deal,as our Ego systems remind us constantly all day long.And from this we see the complexity of the world and how most Utopian systems are always bound to fall.
    Also a last point here about any relativity, is that people often consider football to be an isolated event, this is not true either, how can anything be isolated from anything else?
    Everything is related, and always affecting everything else,and therefore topical.How can it not be?

  12. ….wow…very happy, the first time my comments are published@ 9:15. started following when Kanu Nwankwo was signed, as young Nigerian, he was(still) loved by many young stars. I love Arsenal for what i stands for, i love the manager and i like untold for balancing the media injustice done to Arsenal Fc. Since i discovered Untold, managing transfer windows has never been this sweet. On 26th february 2015, was my mum’s service of songs(funeral service on the night before burial in Nigeria)and Arsenal playing in the champions league, i couldn’t help turning to the sports channel… My point is, like i always tell friends here, instead of abusing the club,the players and the manager, you can choose to support the teams you think are perfect(none). Why should accept Arsenal as defined by the media that are controlled by people who envy my club, maybe you could as well go by names given to you by your enemies. Thanks Oga Tony, Walter, Sir Hardly and the untold team. You guys rock….roll on the seasons…

  13. The two wolves –

    One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

    He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all.

    One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

    The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

    The grand son thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

    The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

  14. @Brickfields G,
    Your contribution to Untold has, for yonks, been a source of both amusement and sobering thought, each in equal measure. As one who is an avid reader of whatever is beneath your pseudonym, my appreciation and thanks. Long may you continue. 😉

  15. I’ll second that. Long may the Brickfields amuse and sober us all!

  16. I’ll third that. Brickfields for a knighthood I say. I’m most annoyed that he got not one but two dislikes on a post last night.

    Anyway, what was the question at the top of this article again? 😉

  17. The internet has revolutionized communication between close and distance sources and people. This allows anyone to comment,share their opinions, moan, lament, express their emotions without reserve or regret,abuse,amuse or confuse whomever they like. It allows people with an agenda to shout it from the cybernet rooftops with impunity.
    Tony battles this clandestine chicanery everyday, refusing to allow multiple e-mail addresses, fake addresses or patently abusive comments and posts to be seen on UA. Those who do this subterfuge are cowards, sniping behind the anonymity and ubiquity of the net without any responsibility or consequences. Perfect for adolescent mindsets and
    faceless, frustrated plastic fanboys and girls.
    There is so much anger and angst expressed here because bloggers know this site promotes rational and insightful,fact-based discussions, and that angers them,inflames their sense of infallibility and leads them into a very uncomfortable place; the thoughtful, balanced world of Football. When they are confronted about their convictions and beliefs, they react like the parish vicar whose faith and beliefs are questioned by laymen who don’t share any of that. They become offended and in some cases outraged that apostates could have the gall to question their absolutism and surety!

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