Blog off! I don’t want to know…
It’s a much discussed topic on football forums, social networking sites and in blogs by sad moaning wannabe writers like myself: Do footballers, managers and owners of football teams actually look at online supporter opinion?
I suppose the extension to that question is do they actually care? You’d think that in earning a four or five figure sum, having the adulation of millions, the cars, the holidays, the bling (especially if you’re a jeweller like DaMarcus Beasley), then you really wouldn’t be caring one jot just what some internet geek thinks of you.
However apparently it seems that increasingly they do.
The crossover of internet geekery into the mainstream, thanks to the exponential growth of social networking and fecundity of technological capabilities (any footballers reading now will have stopped doing so), has lead to people engaging with online content that would never of traditionally dreamed of doing so. There is a reciprocal relationship now – fans can now interact with players and celebrities at their will through sites like Twitter and Facebook.
Celebrity gossip rags and the blood thirsty west of Scotland media morons have circled upon this as a quick fix to get a story from no where. One only needs to look at the way in which the story of the racial slur on Maurice Edu was broken after his 140 character or less, micro-blogged Tweet; which obviously carefully detailed exactly what happened on that fateful night after the game against Gonorreah FC.
Wait, no, he said; “Not sure what hurt more: result last nite or being racially abused by couple of r own fans as I’m getting in my car…smh (shaking my head]…off to rehab”. Conculsive. There might of as well have ben HD video of it. Because he said it, it became fact. News of the Tweet filtered onto fans websites where it was then picked up by the lurking media morons and it was being reported on the radio and on news websites within the hour.
Essentially, the dynamic between player/celebrity and Joe Public has changed and will continue to change.
However this goes back to the original question – do players look at or care about online supporter opinion? The majority of the time these Facebook and Twitter pages are nothing more than one big backslapping mission from fanboys that want the recognition of one of their idols replying to something nice that they have said about them. But forums and blog posts are different. Whilst blogs tend to hold the opinion of an individual, it is forums that hold a broad spectrum of opinions, both positive and negative, on all things related to football clubs.
Today in the Guardian, a mountain has been made from a molehill on just this topic.
At the weekend Bobby Zamora scored a goal. I know, it’s been a while for the big man and I too was a little bit shocked to hear it. I’ve read this occurrence compared to the notion that even a blind hen sometimes pecks the odd piece of corn. Zamora suffers from Kenny Miller (or is it Kyle Lafferty) syndrome of looking pure dead busy and holding up the ball perfectly for strikers and advancing midfielders. “Harry them Kenny, Harry them!“. Before passing it the opposition.
Anyway, upon scoring, Zamora went radio rental and refused to celebrate with his team-mates, pushing them in a right old strop (in fairness I would push Gordon Ramsay lookalike Damien Duff given half the chance). Instead, he went running to the Fulham supporters furiously pumping his chest and spitting out an invite them to “shut their effin mouths“.
Subsequently, the Guardian today has ran with a story written by David Hytner with the lead “How The Bloggers Got The Better of Hot Headed Zamora“. The article explained Zamora’s behaviour somewhat. Essentially, there is an odd situation at Fulham that is different to that of Rangers, in that the club run a forum for supporters to talk about player and club issues. According to Hytner, the players at Fulham quite regularly check out what is being said on the forum and after the incident the effervescent Fulham boss Hodgkinson said; “Maybe he reads too many of these blogs that people write in to.”
So it does happen. Players are just as internet savvy as any other teenage or twenty something and the extra kudos that their footballing profile gives them on the internet means that anything that they do online will be scrutinised – just ask Ever Benega of Valencia about Webcams or Andrei Arshavin about his trip to the waxworks…
However, it surely isn’t widespread. Is it?
If the Rangers management read only a portion of some of the supporter opinion, then they would be surprised if not disgusted. The negative voice is more often than not the loudest voice and its for that reason that sometimes online supporter opinion is ignored or sadly pigeonholed as being the collective belief, when the truth is that opinion is usually much more divided and in the large part supportive. That is what keeps these forums going. If everyone agreed then what would the point be? Well, it’d be a collective backslapping like Maurice Edu’s Twitter page of course.
Articles like the one released about Graeme ‘TOSIT’ Duffy (or is that ‘TOAST’?) by Boss on RangersMedia pertaining to his business interests and information gathered from Companies House draws the attention of a wider audience. With national news agencies picking up the story and further interview questions paying particular reference to the exact title the article, it would be silly to not think tha Mr Duffy has been passed a copy of the article – never mind actually communicating with the site?
The ease at which people can remain anonymous whilst using football forums is always going to hinder a quantifiable understanding of whether Rangers staff use fan forums to garner opinions or to just plain be nosey. There’s not many people out there that would be silly enough to sign up to a website with an email address that gives away their identity (although you would be surprised).
One thing that is for certain is that the increased interaction would be welcomed by the masses. Edu’s aclimitisation to life in Scotland was in no doubt aided by the fact that the Rangers support could interact with and get to know him before he was even playing the first team. Also, Walter Smith said yesterday at the AGM that Rangers could adopt the European technique of hotelling and schooling youngsters which is an idea that was discussed and poured over in detail in the Setting The Standard Campaign.
So perhaps it might actually be a good idea for the club and the players to integrate themselves with the supporters via whatever means possible in this technological age. We’re certainly ready and waiting for them.