Speaking out on the Internet: Present Status and Future Prospects

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One of this website’s latest followers on Twitter, Simeon F. W. Pickup states his interests as ‘Reading FC, Atheism, Labour. In that order.’ Although Ed Miliband’s negligible impact on the polls may have something to do with his party being relegated behind Brian McDermott and Richard Dawkins in Simeon’s thinking, I did read this as tongue in cheek. Nonetheless, therein lies a message.

Football has always been a major tugger of primary impulses but in recent years, its importance has become more intense. While before, communities will have rallied around a political party, a cause, a labour union or a religion, these days, many people’s primary social identifier is via the scarves and replica shirts of their club.

Hence, the outpouring of acute partisanship that has accompanied recent incidents in the Premier League. Whether you support the club that employs Patrice Evra or Luis Suárez; Anton Ferdinand or John Terry, loyalty has been everything. While it’s true that the facts of each case are blurred by competing claims and unverifiable ‘facts’, colours have been affixed to the mast all too rapidly and the level of unquestioning adherence to the cause might make the people of North Korea appear uncommitted.

Given a choice between an appearance in a play-off final and the emergence of a serious deal to combat climate change, it’s not hard to imagine which option most fans would plump for. The abandonment of traditional rallying grounds and disregard of wider political issues has been slow and steady – the club is everything now and even that old standby the England team has seen its support eroded (understandably, I might add). If Shostakovich labelled football the ‘ballet of the masses’, it has now become its mental lifeblood.

Of course there are naysayers. Not the rabble of Blackburn fans who have so shamefully called for Steve Kean’s head – they may be correct in calling into question the Venky’s regime but the mode of complaint has been offensive too often – more those who stop to think and realise that it may actually be a bad idea to spend money on Jordan Rhodes when one’s club is already £80 million in debt; those who object to the renaming of a stadium for commercial ends; those who acknowledge that Tottenham Hotspur is not an East London club; those who might suspect that Milan Mandarić is neither proper nor fit; those who feel uncomfortable about Steve Evans’ increasing success; those who acknowledge the importance of cutting one’s cloth; those who are realistic.

But standing up to the tyranny of general opinion can be problematic. On Christmas Eve, Viva Rovers, a pioneering club blog devoted to all things Doncaster Rovers, was wound up. Its founder, Glen Wilson had had his problems before – the site had initially emerged as part of the conglomerate Rivals network, abandoned by Sky Sports in 2009. Then, Glen ran into trouble for daring to use photos he had snapped within stadia – these are the property of the FootballDataCo., you see.

But all this has paled into insignificance in recent months. With the sacking of Sean O’Driscoll in September, the appointment of Dean Saunders as his replacement and the involvement of football agent Willie McKay, Rovers had suddenly become a different business altogether. In came, as Matt Rowson has put it, a ‘menagerie of desperadoes’ in El Hadji Diouf, Pascal Chimbonda, Habib Beye, Hérita Ilunga, Lamine Diatta and others, and the money that had not been forthcoming during O’Driscoll’s spell in charge was suddenly mysteriously overflowing.

Glen felt that questions needed to be raised about the new regime and its sustainability, especially in view of McKay’s masterliness in wheeler-dealing over player sales and sell-on clauses, his previous arrest by the City of London Police and a suspended ban he incurred after being found guilty of breaching PFA rules over the transfer of Benjani from Auxerre to Portsmouth.

But instead of speaking for the bulk of Rovers fans, Glen has found himself at the head of only a minority willing to demur. As this valedictory piece states, the abuse has been deafening and the marginally improved results since the arrival of Saunders cited as means-justifying ends. The torrent of invective has been one thing but it has also been accompanied by phone calls from the Viking Supporters Cooperative as well as notification that the club itself was ‘keeping tabs’ on what he was saying. A message to owners – you are not participating in a theatrical revival of The Godfather.

Across Yorkshire, another long running site, Boy from Brazil also ceased to exist towards the back end of 2011. As this terse statement suggests, the decision was made ‘after talking to Bradford City Football Club’ and that the move ‘was made by’ the site’s founders ‘alone and not at the request of the club’. Boy from Brazil had been critical of Chairman Mark Lawn in the past, but  in a constructive way – we should leave the facts of this out of respect for Michael Wood and Jason McKeown’s position, but suffice to say, a lot appears to be unsaid.

Indeed, such examples of unquestioning loyalty on the part of fans and clubs’ desire to curb criticism from an increasingly unruly online community are legion. As Pompey fan SJ Maskell hints in a comment at the foot of Glen Wilson’s article, the half decade of shame at Portsmouth was happily ignored by those willing to buy into the Faustian pact of FA Cup glory and the employment of the England strike force despite gates of under 20,000. Now, the latest set of owners have been exposed too, with Vladimir Antonov and his business partner Raimondas Baranauskas appearing in court in connection with the alleged asset stripping of a bank in Lithuania. Blogger PM Ryder raised questions about the new hierarchy when it was installed but was shot down in a volley of online flames.

This suspicion of an unholy alliance between an intelligentsia of shady operators at board level and an army of supporter apparatchiks who provide the verbal muscle on their behalf is insistent now – as unwitting as the latter group often are. For it surely suits owners as the controllers of surrogate social clubs that have replaced more traditional and, let’s face it, more troublesome networks that might endanger the status quo.

For football clubs are businesses and old loyalties – be they religious, political, communal and not for profit – are now in danger of being displaced by allegiance to companies. Much of this is down to the erosion of respect for traditional power brokers – be they from church, state or workers’ chapel – and much of this has been justified. Enter the men of business – less liable to pontificate, seemingly apolitical and seemingly working for no other good than the football club that is part of one’s very being. ‘You are either with us or against us’ was a refrain of a famous Texan and that’s the message now – if you don’t want to be part of all this, just shut up and keep quiet.

Tribalism is cleverly channelled into the local or, as is increasingly the case, not so local XI. ‘You’ve gotta get behind the boys’ is a familiar phrase. Otherwise, you are nothing but ‘miserable, sad and pathetic’ in the words of Glen Wilson’s more polite interlocutors. The kind of abuse that Stan Collymore suffered on Twitter in the wake of Gary Speed’s death is now increasingly widespread as is the appalling treatment suffered by blogger Ian Rands when he attended an FA Cup Semi Final; if you support Rangers, anything is justifiable in your anti-Celtic crusade and vice-versa – the pressure to conform is aggressive and ‘in yer face’.

How to fight back? This website has examined the spirit of the fanzine movement in the early days and some of the battles won – When Saturday Comes’ heralding the resistance to Colin Moynihan’s ID cards scheme, the pursuit of safe standing, the more recent coordinated attempts to combat racism and homophobia in football. These efforts must continue.

However, I’m increasingly of the mind that our no votes should be more proactive. That boils down to one main principle – the withholding of revenues. Denying ourselves football altogether is perhaps a step too far (although Damon Threadgold of The Real FA Cup’s reaction to EPPP has shown many are willing to take a step in this direction). No, if we are unhappy with the way our club is run, we should think seriously about not spending money in other areas – merchandise, coach travel (cheaper though it is) and above all, subscriptions to television companies that foster the current climate of the sport and provide the basis on which the whole farrago rolls. Words do hurt and, as the reactions I have detailed above prove, football club directors are not immune to them, but coordinating complaints with an attack on pockets may begin to bring about change.

Rob Langham (pen name: Lanterne Rouge) is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 45 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Football Attic, The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, A United View on Football and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.

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21 Comments on "Speaking out on the Internet: Present Status and Future Prospects"

  1. Great article about a truly saddening subject.
    As a Leeds United blogger myself, I’ve had to contend with similar problems. There can be no grey area for Whites fans, you’re either a “Ken Bates apologist” or part of “the problem” – the latter seemingly in the majority these days.
    In recent months, this seems to have extended to Simon Grayson. Any suggestion everything isn’t his fault (lack of transfer funds, poorly funded club in general, misguided priorities of those above) invariably leads to abuse from those who have accepted attempts to shift blame elsewhere and now see a manager whose record speaks for itself as the ultimate villain in all this.
    Like VivaRovers, I have no problem with an alternative opinion – that’s why we’re all here in the first place after all – but they’re seldom constructive and are often pretty abusive. The blame for any troubles at Elland Road pertaining to the chairman has been shifted on to myself more times than I care to list by fans – the man himself even took a shot at internet sites not so long back further fuelling this ridiculous notion.
    This particular paragraph sounds all too familiar at Leeds, as our board attempts to outcast those of us who dare question their methods;

    “‘You are either with us or against us’ was a refrain of a famous Texan and that’s the message now – if you don’t want to be part of all this, just shut up and keep quiet.”

    My own personal answer to this problem has been a little more radical than that of VivaRovers. I took the self-deprecation route and had fun with this perceived bias. Our header read “Your #1 source of anti-Bates propaganda” for a while and currently reads “Proud Dissidents since 2008″ (after Bates branded anyone who dare question him as such). I refuse to let anyone take the fun out of it for me.
    I guess the problem with questionable owners is that they hog the spotlight. They can instantly turn fans against individuals by claiming it is us “dissidents” that are “unsettling the team” and not problems within, like the fact our team is suffering from an extreme lack of investment. By putting yourself out there, you’re allowing yourself to become a target.
    But all this is easier when you’re in the majority, and I think I probably am at the moment. When the day comes that someone speaks out with a minority opinion – like VivaRovers did – the real troubles begin.
    He stuck to his guns and spoke out regardless. Unfortunately, in this instance, he allowed the bastards to grind him down and I fully understand his reasons for throwing in the towel. Nevertheless, this is a sad loss.
    PS. The site is looking great – top marks.

  2. Stanley says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who has been dismayed at the increase in witless, aggressive abuse in the game. And it seems that it’s not just in the spirit of `winding up the opposition’, as the apologists would say. Glen Wilson can testify to that, as can the players, who must now expect a torrent of vile abuse from their own so-called fans on Twitter if they have the temerity to have a bad game.

    It’s a great shame that Glen felt that he had taken enough abuse. I certainly don’t blame him for his personal decision. But I hope that people will continue to express the kinds of considered opinion he became known for. Otherwise, football really will die on its feet.

  3. Lanterne Rouge says:

    Thanks for your comments folks. Those from Scratching Shed are especially horrific to read about but well done for sticking to your guns. Having everyone pulling together is all very well but not if the direction the puppetmaster is facing is the wrong one (especially if that puppetmaster bears an uncanny resemblance to Captain Birdseye).

  4. Ben says:

    Great article LR. I didn’t know about Viva Rovers shutting down – a real shame, as it was everything a good club blog should be: intelligent, well-written, insightful, informative, partisan and occasionally provocative but never mindlessly one-eyed. It’s a testament to the site’s quality that it attracted a readership among fans of other clubs who would otherwise have little interest in Doncaster (myself included). Something we aspire to at Black & White & Read All Over.

    We’ve experienced a similar phenomenon ourselves, though I certainly wouldn’t want to suggest that the abuse has been anything like as vicious, voluminous or regular. I for instance took a pretty critical stance on Joey Barton from an early stage, and would happily have seen him sacked when he was sent down – for which I was widely criticised, as though it was a measure of my disloyalty to be questioning both the club and one of its players. Afraid I’m not someone who believes you blindly support the shirt – though some fans would seemingly be happy to have Hitler in the number nine shirt if he could contribute a guaranteed 15 goals a season…

    When switching to the new Blogger platform a while back, we took the decision to use its commenting facility and screen/vet comments. To be honest, it’s something I’m not entirely comfortable with as it lays us open to the accusation that we filter out negative comments. We don’t – but we do filter out anything that is needlessly abusive. If we’ve written a post that might be construed as shit-stirring (we’re admittedly not always above that), then some stick is understandable, but otherwise all we ask is for the courteous expression of disagreement, preferably with some form of justification/explanation. Like Glen, we welcome the expression of alternative perspectives – that’s the only way that debate can develop – and are also careful not to imply that we feel we’re somehow ‘right’ or that we presume we speak for other fans. Not least because the two of us disagree sometimes too! Like Glen too, we write for pleasure – and if that pleasure disappeared then I can understand his reasons for quitting, sad though it is.

    On a different note, it’s incredible to see this mob mentality existing at the highest levels too, not just among fans or online. The way that Liverpool as a club have reacted to Suarez’s ban – the inability to accept his wrongdoing and the punishment and move on – is appalling. As I think you mentioned offline the other day, what if one of the players decided they didn’t want to join in that T-shirt-wearing show of support for Suarez? Presumably any dissidents would have been silenced or forced out as the club closed ranks behind Suarez – and, if you’re a fan and are uncomfortable with the club’s stance, you’d be shouted down as a traitor.

  5. Lanterne Rouge says:

    Thanks Ben. Thankfully, the comments section on blogs are still largely free of abuse when compared to twitter and the message boards: searching by a club hashtag can be a truly dispiriting experience in the wake of a game.

  6. Gerschenkron says:

    Excellent post, much appreciated, though lumping the Suarez case in here (in one of the comments) is wrong-headed: http://newsframes.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/media-on-racism-churnalism/.

  7. John Mc says:

    Rob, a superb post…

    You and I have had this conversation before with regard to some of the stick I’ve taken from fellow Carlisle fans. Whilst I’ve never found myself on the end of the wrong headed nonsense that Glen faced I’ve been saddened by some of the personal abuse that has passed for comment on some of my opinions. This has spilled over into other forums, including Guardian comment threads and various Carlisle related discussion fora. Indeed, the most popular Carlisle forum has it’s own version of ‘Godwin’s Law’ where posters clamour to devalue my opinion (if it conflicts with their own) by bringing up the Leeds United articles I’ve produced for you and Twisted Blood – ‘how can you know, you supported Leeds then?’ ‘Erm, well if you’d read that piece you’d see the sentence ‘I have always gone to watch and followed Carlisle’ right near the start’. You’ve often rode into battle for me on threads – I continue to thank you for that.

    From a purely personal point of view – right now I feel I have plenty to be smug about. Because it looks like I have been right all along. Now wait for it to go belly skywards…

  8. James says:

    An intelligent voice of reason, and an admirable, thought provoking piece. Thank you. As an exiled Man City fan, I was reasonably shocked to return to Manchester in September last year to find Gary Cook and all his hideous faux pas (golf with Shinawatra comments, the Onuoha cancer email etc) being stoutly and vociferously defended by all around me, many of whom were politically conscious, liberal folk. Maybe I shouldn’t have been.

  9. Matt R says:

    Good stuff Rob.

    The only bit I’d dispute is the assertion early in the piece that football’s importance “has become more intense” in recent years. I don’t see that… football has always provoked primary emotions. Tribalism too, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing… personally I welcome the opportunity to be irrational and partial on a Saturday afternoon as an escape from a job that demands objectivity.

    What’s changed is the movement of information, the ability to share, mobilise, inflict your opinion on other people. It’s always the people who shout loudest that get heard… and typically, folk want to defend their ability to unquestioningly side with their tribe for as long as possible.

    I’d echo the sadness and sympathy for the loss of Viva Rovers, I always followed the Twitter feed for its own sake despite having no particular interest in Donny.

  10. Lanterne Rouge says:

    Thank you for the recent comments. @James Manchester City are an interesting case – having watched them a lot as a student in the city between 1987 and 1990, I loved my trips to Maine Road and, having visited for an FA Cup quarter final last season, it’s quite simply a different club altogether in many ways – City fans have every right to enjoy the current success and the superb football in particular but to accept every move the hierarchy makes blindly is naive in the extreme.

    @JohnMc Not come across ‘Godwin’s Law’ before but it sounds apt here – I have witnessed the abuse you have received – constructive criticism is always welcome but the sheer witlessness of some of it has been bemusing.

  11. PhiltheRover says:

    I think this very pertinent and well-written piece highlights a real issue in the modern game and I personally subscribe (and indeed am currently doing so) to the actions recommended in the final paragraph. I just feel it is a shame that, in an otherwise excellent article, you unnecessarily make mention of the situation at my club, Blackburn Rovers, by seemingly taking the populist view that the supporters (and I certainly do not count myself, at the age of 56, as part of any “rabble”) have somehow been unfair and unkind to Steve Kean. Believe me, if you knew the full facts behind Kean’s reign at Ewood over the past 13 months, you would be surprised that the Blackburn fans have not been more vociferous and animated in their protests.

    We are another Portsmouth in the making, and that’s assuming that the Venky’s don’t actually put us out of business totally: it is that serious. It’s also interesting that you note that some Pompey fans were blinded to their club’s plight by temporary success under a flawed administration. The “temporary success” of avoiding relegation last term and occasional, unexpected wins (Kean has yet to win two successive League games in his 13 months) have similarly led to certain Blackburn supporters wishing for him to be given more time, somehow missing the bigger picture of a club in total crisis.

    Let’s see what happens under the present Ewood/Pune regime, since change (certainly radical change as we have seen at QPR) seems impossible. But I can say without fear or favour that Blackburn Rovers will be joining the 72 “unfortunates” this summer and, whilst we try to hit Venky’s in the purse as things continue as they are, it still feels a fairly feeble gesture by season-ticket holders such as myself – though what else can we do (apart from continuing to protest, in the slim hope of ousting both Venky’s and their incompetent, puppet manager)?

  12. Lanterne Rouge says:

    @PhiltheRover I really appreciate your getting in touch and, having had time to reflect, concede that it was perhaps a bit throwaway of me to drag Rovers into it – I think what I was getting at was a criticism of the nature of the abuse and I have little doubt that you are right that a large number of fans have gone about things in a more constructive way – certainly Venky’s need to be called into serious question and sadly, Kean does appear to be a busted flush of a manager.

  13. Lloyd says:

    Really enjoyed this.

    Plenty of comments and parallels to make at my club, Plymouth, when Ridsdale was in town although at least the majority kicked up a fuss when it looked as though we were going down the tubes with Kevin Heaney.

    Just a sideways thought, but yesterday morning I must have played against the most miserable bunch of moaning gits that I’ve ever had the misfortune to come across in Sunday League football. Hurling abuse at the ref every time he made the ‘wrong’ decision (i.e. one that didn’t favour them); mindlessly calling for every single throw-in/ corner/free-kick and generally just being a bunch of morons to the point where they ruined the game. There’s an analogy to be made with the partisanship of club supporters there.

    Finally, how about putting together a Dan le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip “Thou Shalt Always Kill” tribute along the lines of the following paragraph:

    “those who stop to think and realise that it may actually be a bad idea to spend money on Jordan Rhodes when one’s club is already £80 million in debt; those who object to the renaming of a stadium for commercial ends; those who acknowledge that Tottenham Hotspur is not an East London club; those who might suspect that Milan Mandarić is neither proper nor fit; those who feel uncomfortable about Steve Evans’ increasing success; those who acknowledge the importance of cutting one’s cloth; those who are realistic.”

  14. Lanterne Rouge says:

    @MattR I guess you are right about tribalism and vitriol – perhaps as a Reading fan I have been cosseted from this down the years – you must regret Luton’s current plight in a strange way as those matches were heated in the past.

    @Lloyd LIke the Dan le Sac analogy – the whole atmosphere of behaviour in the Sunday League game is another topic entirely – but a very pertinent one. This general, no-holds-barred arguing for one’s own standpoint is perhaps an outgrowth of economic theories of rational economic man – the idea that if everyone behaves selt-interestedly, then society will benefit as a result, with the meek definitely not inheriting the earth.

    • Matt R says:

      I regret that the club is in a parlous state, and that it was so harshly treated for seemingly trying to come clean. Hardly an incentive for openness, that.

      But I don’t miss the derby games, at all. Quite different from anything else at Vicarage Road, and not in a good way.

  15. Ben says:

    Sorry Gershenkron, I can’t agree that bringing up the Suarez case (alluded to in the article, prior to my comment) is ‘wrong-headed’.

    The article you linked to suggests that the full facts/findings of the FA report haven’t been reported, resulting in biased media coverage. The post’s author makes a convincing case for that (if not for Suarez’s innocence). However, the fact remains that the FA panel assessed the evidence presented to them and found Suarez guilty. In view of that, it’s extraordinary that neither the club nor the player should have shown genuine contrition, instead preferring to fire off accusations about the bias of the inquiry itself. The club and player should either accept the judgement and move on, or challenge the verdict formally – if they genuinely are convinced there’s been a miscarriage of justice, then why don’t they appeal? (Incidentally, the club’s decision to issue a strongly-worded statement before the FA’s report was published (and assessed by their lawyers) struck me as unbelievably naive.) Is it any wonder that fans adopt an ‘us vs the world’ mob mentality when clubs themselves give the impression of having a persecution complex?

    (As an aside, Liverpool’s determined public support of their player makes a mockery of their condemnation of Tom Adeyemi’s alleged abuser in the strongest terms. One person faces a lifetime ban from Anfield, the other has T-shirts donned in his support for much the same offence, in nature if not degree…)

    As a Newcastle fan, I’m partisan, sure – but I’d like to think that doesn’t blind me to the myriad faults of my own club. As mentioned in my previous comment, the criticism verging on abuse that we took on our blog for our stance on Joey Barton came from vocal fans who clearly felt that if one of our players was universally vilified then we should rally to his support, regardless of the circumstances. We simply didn’t feel that ‘But he’s a Newcastle player’ was a good enough reason to back him, but our refusal to bow to tribal loyalties was for some fans unforgivable. There may be some pro-Suarez Liverpool fans who’ve analysed the FA’s report in detail and come to the conclusion that the evidence doesn’t merit the verdict, but I suspect that most have simply leapt to his defence on the strength of the fact that he pulls on a red shirt each Saturday.

    As I said, it would be interesting to know how any Liverpool fans (or players) who dissent from the club’s official line are faring amongst their peers.

    Of course, there’s a facile response to this – namely that, actually, those clamouring to condemn Suarez and Liverpool are equally guilty of mob mentality. So I’ll just make clear that this isn’t my own latent tribalism coming out: I have no particular beef with Suarez or Liverpool, and my issue is specifically with Liverpool’s reaction to the verdict. While I haven’t pored over the FA report, I’m aware of the debates and inconsistencies given little coverage in the media (your link was illuminating in that respect, Gershenkron) as well as what Liverpool would no doubt describe as the media witch-hunt, but still take exception to the way the club has responded.

    Anyway, to move away from Liverpool, I really feel for Glen and Viva Rovers. I suspect to most of us looking in from the outside, there’s something rotten at the Keepmoat, but it was brave of Glen, as a fan with club loyalties tugging at his heart, to assess the situation coolly, stick his head above the parapet and state his case. Most of us are prey to tribalism to some degree, and the temptation to believe the story Saunders, McKay et al are trying to tell (or should that be ‘sell’?), particularly when you’re bottom of the league, must be strong. It’s Pompey all over again – buying into a wholly unsustainable model for short-term success, and ignoring the long-term health of the club. Glen’s detractors seem to have failed or refused to engage with his reasoning, dismissing it cheaply as the ramblings of an O’Driscollite who was stuck in the past. Time will tell, but I suspect he’ll prove to be right – more’s the pity for Donny.

    It’s a sad day when those who reject the rose-tinted glasses are shouted down and silenced. The best club blogs aren’t totally one-eyed – in fact, in a world in which the local media are force-fed stories by clubs’ PR men, blogs can perform a vital function by virtue of their independence, questioning the status quo when necessary as well as offering support.

  16. Glen says:

    I’ve only just seen this article and the accompanying comments. Its a little bit weird; like reading your own obituary. Hopefully should I merit an obituary on my passing then it’ll read as well as this. Thanks to all who’ve made kind comments about myself or Viva, it really is appreciated and frankly quite humbling, as have been all the comments left on the site since I pulled the shutters down and waited for the inevitable Spray Tan and Fish-Nibbling-Your-Feet Salon to open up in its place.

    I admire the resolve of The Scratching Shed in revelling (for want of a better word) in the scorn and responding with irony and gallows humour. Perhaps its easier to stick two fingers up at those giving you abuse, when there is a team behind your site and its a joint project. Viva was just me writing, because I enjoyed writing. There were over 1,000 articles penned on the site, and all bar five were written by me. I like writing and Viva gave me a vehicle in which to do it and one which ensured I would keep writing when I couldn’t land a day-job that enabled me to do so.

    Inevitably, when every article you write is greeted with abuse, and increasingly abuse that is not based on what you;ve written, but an incorrect caricature people have chosen to create based on the throwaway comments of others then the enjoyment evaporates somewhat. (As an aside on that, Lantern Rouge makes reference to one of the “more polite interlocutors” calling me ‘miserable, sad and pathetic’ , oddly it was that comment that nailed my decision to call time on the site, as it came, along with others, on the foot of The Guardian’s Half Term Report piece for which I’d been asked to contribute the Doncaster bit. I’d been looking forward to that piece, because it would mean I could reference it on my CV (I’ve been unemployed for the last five months) and try and give my claims that I’d make a decent copywriter more sway. But, alas you can’t really show potential employers evidence of yourself writing for a ‘national title’ when the same link also shows the general public labelling you as ‘sad’, ‘miserable’ , and ‘spouting bile’.)

    What I think facilitates the reactionary comments that writers, players, chairmen et al face from ‘supporters’ is the immediacy of the internet. Its all too easy for folk who are so inclined to level abuse at someone, immediately and without thought or effort. Type the word prick. Press Submit. Get back to your copy of FHM. Job done. As well as Viva I edit the Rovers print fanzine. The content is very much of the same ilk of the site (indeed some of my contributors have gone much closer to the bone on McKay and John Ryan than myself) and yet five issues into my stint as editor we are yet to receive any abuse. It takes a lot of effort to carry your rage back home to a computer and verse it in an email, then flick back through the fanzine to find the appropriate email address at which to hurl your expletives.

    I’ll keep doing the fanzine because I do still enjoy writing, and the challenge of mastering the software. However, it’ll be a while before I feel the need to write articles for a website any time soon. Thanks again for the kind words folks.

  17. Lanterne Rouge says:

    I really appreciate your comments Glen and it’s informative to hear that the fanzine articles have received less abuse – maybe the anonymity of online communities is another reason why people feel they can be abusive? It’s easy hiding behind the alias.

    Needless to say, anyone who wants to continue to follow the denate surrounding Doncaster should subscribe to the Popular STAND Fanzine as advertised on facebook (google it) – you don’t need to be a Rovers fans to see the issues discussed therein as important.

  18. Jack Mayflower says:

    An excellent article Rob. We have our same new supporter apparachiks down here in Plymouth who are dismissing naysayers of the new owners as freaks, wierdos and scum. It’s fascist allright, no doubt about it…. no need for me to expand on what you have said..
    Our fans’ forum that urges an audit on what is going on is under continual attack from these people.

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