FOOTBALL originated as a working man’s game.
The Saturday 3pm kick-off time was set because factories closed at 2pm and fans could go straight from work to support their local side.
During a World War I armistice in 1914, a match was played between British and German soldiers before the real hostilities resumed.
A century on and the game is now consumed by tribalism, driven by mis-guided loyalties.
Social media, that 21st-century phenomenon, has taken the way those who watch football and what they say about it in a new direction.
The likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram dominate every aspect of people’s thinking and have in part been responsible for the election of an American President.
Twitter is the Wild West of unregulated commentary, with Premier League stars such as Raheem Sterling and Wilf Zaha regularly racially abused and often for simply being good footballers.
Last week we also had rabid outbursts from people passing as fans, with death threats aimed at the Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford for his challenge on Virgil van Dijk in the Merseyside derby.
Then we have the ridicule and abuse of Marcus Rashford, whose crime was to try to help combat child poverty.
The list of victims is as long as the Magna Carta.
Society and sport were woefully unprepared for the cesspit that social media can be.
The platforms allow cowards to sit behind keyboards in their mum’s back bedroom spewing bile.
Of course, the players can opt to not be in those environments — but these platforms are in desperate need of regulation that strips its users of anonymity.
Football has always had a dissenting outlook, whether it is hooliganism on the terraces in the 1970s and 1980s or the taunts and raft of other “isms” that make up a large proportion of chants from fans.
Then there’s the shouting out of managers from their jobs and the advent of the radio phone-in revolution enabling fans to vent their spleens.
Owners of clubs receive dog’s abuse while emptying significant parts of their wallets for such pleasure.
I remember my first day as Crystal Palace owner. They had been in administration for 18 months — a carcass of a club that had been given its last rites several times.
Despite the euphoria of me saving it, one of the first posts I read on a fans forum said: “Thank God Jordan is here . . . let’s give him a couple of weeks before we hammer him!”
So while social media giants need to deliver more, they are also often amplifying what was already there.
Like the tendency for a club owner to listen to the 500 vociferous fans in a 20,000 crowd who think they’re a w*, Twitter occupies that same value.
It is a small, inconsequential minority who are spreading their brand of nonsense.
Remember, empty vessels make the most noise.
Listen to Simon Jordan and Jim White on talkSPORT at 10am Monday to Thursday.
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