By Tony Attwood
I have recently run a couple of pieces expressing my dislike of AFTV (see for example here), and although many readers have agreed with my view, as is always to be expected some disagree.
Normally I’d leave things at that and carry on with Untold’s message of supporting the team and the manager, but a point was raised by several readers that I feel could do with a little more exploration. This is quite simply the view that AFTV have as much right as anyone else to put forward their point of view and that Untold is arguing in favour of a removal of freedom of speech.
Of course everyone in a democratic society has the right to put forward their point of view, as long as doing so does not break the law, or encourage others to break the law. (OK that is a simpilfication because there are all sorts of issues around racism, homophobia, arguing against specific religious beliefs in particular ways and the like which are illegal, but I’m sure you get my general point).
So of course under the law, and in terms of the democracy that I very much believe in, yes AFTV have as much right to be here as does Untold Arsenal.
But one issue struck me as I started to read some of the criticism being made of Untold and some of its readers, and that quite simply was that such criticism ignored the notion that some comments and actions are likely to harm the club and the team. And that really is the essence of my point.
As anyone who has seen AFTV will know, a lot (not all, but a lot) of the comments made therein are incredibly negative – negative about the players and about the manager. This surely can’t have escaped anyone’s notice – after all the attacks on Mustafi, Xhaka, Kolasinac, Chambers, Ozil cannot have been helpful… and that is before we get onto the players who have gone out on loan following constant criticism.
In relation to this criticism, if the only judgement to be considered is the one giving people who identify themselves as fans the right to criticise in any way they wish, then of course they have the right to say what they want, and of course AFTV should continue its own way.
But if one believes that the negativity of AFTV comments, combined with the incessantly negative comments on other blogs, on TV, on radio, and in the newspapers, can result in players losing their confidence and their form, then it seems to me to be reasonable to criticise the media that indulges in this behaviour. If it also means that players then feel they would sooner play for other clubs where there is less criticism, then it means that Arsenal loses out all the time.
However if one feels that comments made on AFTV make no difference – then why do it, other than for the self-aggrandisement of those who comment?
And if one believes that the comments make things better, on what possible grounds can that be the case?
What we can see on occasion is a player who was an excellent player for his previous club, comes to Arsenal, makes a couple of mistakes as he is settling in, and starts getting booed and jeered in the game, and gets an endless assault from the media. That certainly does not help the player settle in, so his performance declines still further and the boing and jeering continues, sometimes even combined with threats against him and against his family.
Such players are then inclined to ask for a transfer, and at the same time talk to other players who are thinking of coming to Arsenal and tell these players of their experience. If you want to know why some of the dead cert transfers don’t happen, this can on occasion be a reason.
At the same time the club has to manage new players, easing them into the first team much more gently than might otherwise be the case, for fear that they will be on the receiving end of the anger and criticism, and will never settle down. Remembering in all this, one poor match is all it takes.
This is not to say that everything always has to be sweetness and light in everyone’s commentary, but rather that the emphasis should be on supporting the team not criticising individual players and their manager.
What is particularly tragic is that in an era where much of course society is showing itself willing to acknowledge that mental health is as important as physical health, those who boo, jeer, insult and criticise, simply don’t seem to be able to take this step forward. Instead one sees and hears comments that players should “man up” and “knuckle down” and “show some steel” and the rest – something that shows an absolute ignorance as to what mental health is about.
I do think AFTV and much of the media does a huge amount of harm to Arsenal, and that it should be criticised for what it does, and I really would like the players at Arsenal now, and those who maybe think one day of coming to Arsenal in the future, to be aware that there are many of us who thoroughly oppose the views often expressed on AFTV and wish they were not there.
Of course we are not proposing a restriction of freedom of speech; rather we are saying that AFTV and its allies in the media are harming the club we support, and it is time we spoke out against them and put forward the notion that what they do is harmful. AFTV probably makes the people who put forward the negative views feel good and empowered, but it is hard to find any way in which these expressions do anything good for Arsenal.
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- The statistical evidence that shows PGMO are biased against Arsenal
- How European football has taken up the fight against clubs breaking FFP