Buidling Dreams Together


Football Fan Media: Look out Fleet Street!

The date is the 23 April 2023 and Newcastle United have just had one of their finest hours, putting six past a Tottenham Hotspur side devoid of any rhyme or rhythm. On the sideline, Cristian Stellini hangs his head in shame as chants of “you’ll be sacked in the morning” ring around St. James Park – in that moment he must know that he is soon for the chopping block. Back in London, two Spurs fans are sitting at home reacting to the afternoon’s events. Their expletive-laden review gains immediate attention, registering 142,000 views in the time since its upload, making it one of the channel’s most successful uploads. These two men are the face of WeAreTottenhamTV, a YouTube channel responsible for giving a voice to one of the country’s most enduring fanbases. However, more broadly, they represent a new wave of football content creators pushing back against traditional mainstream media.


This and channels similar to these represent a breakaway from the wide variety of Fleet Street journalists and former Premier League stars that we are used to listening to. Yet, there are still those who are struggling to come to terms with the rise and growing influence of football content creators. To them, these newcomers embody the antithesis of convention – the class clown not to be taken seriously.

To the dismay of the mainstream, it appears that these creators are here to stay, shown by The Overlap’s decision to commission several fan debates throughout the 2023/24 Premier League season. This featured some of the most recognised names of the online content creation space; such as Rory Jennings and Adam McKola. These Individuals regularly offer their personal opinions on platforms such as YouTube and Twitter, often attracting tens of thousands of views in the process.

The large number of clicks they receive can be partly attributed to the theatrics viewers can expect to see. These fans do not have to keep within the boundaries of a television company’s behavioural guidelines, therefore, they can say exactly what they want without fear of damaging their professional reputation.

However, this degree of freedom can often be to their detriment as without moderation, what originally was intended to be genuine debate can quickly become a point-scoring exercise where individuals become riled up and unwilling to listen to potentially valid criticism of their team. Debates can often become shouting matches where conflicting agendas jostle for supremacy. For example, during a fan debate on the Overlap, Rory Jennings calmly tried to reason that Kai Havertz was a wasteful player who had been poor for many years at Chelsea. Whether or not he was wrong, Arsenal fan, Pippa Monique, was unwilling to listen to this and instead attempted to ridicule Jennings whilst presenting poor counter-arguments.

This is not an irregular occurrence as passionate fans will frequently overstep the mark so much so that their criticism treads a thin line between actual criticism and abuse. It must be remembered that with the size of following that some of these people have, this negativity can quickly snowball and leave the recipient on the receiving end of a barrage of personal attacks which they didn’t necessarily deserve. 

Could this be why large scale production companies are unwilling to integrate these creators into their content? Or are they?

There is growing evidence that companies such as Sky Sports and talkSPORT are paying attention to these new media formats more so than ever.

Individuals such as Mark Goldbridge, James Allcott and Theo Ogden (Thogden) are regular guests on Sky Sports Saturday Social – sometimes to the discontent of its viewers. With these individuals you can see the true spectrum of fan reaction as whenever Allcott appears there is general good feeling towards the creator who is well-researched and regularly provides astute analysis, however, whenever Thogden is in the lineup, there is widespread condemnation of an individual who seems largely incapable of acknowledging or even listening to others opinions.

Apart from this, Sky have begun to produce more content designed for YouTube: Off the Hook with Jimmy Bullard, Micah Richards and Roy Keane’s Road to Wembley.

On the airwaves, talkSPORT have begun to feature more personalities from fan channels such as AFTV, Redmen TV and The United stand. When asked about the presence of regular panelist, Rory Jennings, talkSPORT producer Tom Scholes said, “when Rory arrived at talkSPORT, some people had never heard of him, most people thought he was just some YouTuber but I remember seeing him on The Kick Off and other channels and remember thinking, no he’s got something in him. Just because he isn’t an ex-footballer or a traditional presenter or pundit doesn’t mean he can’t do a job.”

This changing of the guard comes at time when it is quite possible that a partnership between the new and the old may be beneficial for both parties.

Traditional media are in desperate need of new impetus. In December 2021, talkSPORT recorded an average weekly listenership of approx. 2.8 million – the lowest it had been since 2017. The figures have since improved, but can the mainstream media really afford to ignore everything social media? These figures pale in comparison to some of those enjoyed by the more popular YouTube channels. For example, in the last 5 days, Manchester United fan channel The United Stand recorded 6,300,000 views; these numbers only increase when United lose.  

It is entirely possible that in a not-too-distant future the printed press may have to cater to the whim of these ambitious self-starters who are redefining sports coverage.

As a result, big media must swallow their pride and realise that fan content has arrived in a big way and is likely to only continue to grow. According to Scholes, “You can try your best to not look at new media if you want but they are coming up with new ways to create eye-catching content that makes it impossible for you to ignore them.”

Radio stations such as talkSPORT have begun to pay more attention to the benefits YouTube and its various personalities can bring – they now create daily short-form content using clips from their live broadcasts to tap into a generation who appear to be unable to digest content any longer than a few minutes.

Potentially this content resonates more with a younger audience because its main characters are more relatable than the ex-pros we see on our television screens. Lots of those who have risen to popularity are working-class people who, like the vast majority of the population, work hard in order to be able to afford to support their team.

Or maybe it’s a generational thing? According to one outlet, the average age of a talkSPORT listener is 37, leading some to believe that this outright rejection is something to do with someone’s age.

When in reality, the most likely cause of the rise in football fan media is the personalities we see on our screens. More often than not people will tune in to see their favourite creators lose their mind when their side loses on a Saturday. These reactions are watched, re-watched and then compiled into long compilations of suffering – just ask Mark Goldbridge.

As stated by Mike Keegan from the Daily Mail, “Gone are the days where you could just be a journalist and no one would know your face, you’ve got to be ready to put yourself out there, go on radio and TV and stand by your work.”

Regardless of whether or not the wider world can come to terms with it, it is clear to see that the fans remain at the very heart of the game, and it is uplifting to see this reflected in the direction of the mainstream media. 

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