After Granit Xhaka reacted angrily to Arsenal fans booing during the draw with Crystal Palace, Jasmine Baba looks at whether social media and fan channels are normalising negative behaviour.
It’s Sunday afternoon and Arsenal face Crystal Palace. Despite having a 2-0 lead after 10 minutes, Palace had pulled it back to 2-2 through Jordan Ayew just after half time, much to the disappointment of Gooners everywhere. But what occurred in the 62nd. minute has been on everybody’s lips, and the subject of every article ever since.
Granit Xhaka, who had played relatively well (note; relatively), was being substituted for Bukayo Saka. At 2-2 fans expected him to rush off. He didn’t. He was jeered at and booed by a section of the fans, which Xhaka reacted angrily to (in my opinion, quite rightly), cupping his ear towards the crowd as he walked off the pitch before removing his shirt and storming down the tunnel.
Now, I’m all for professionalism in the workplace, what Xhaka did was ultimately wrong and this piece isn’t going to be about his captaincy or the problems at Arsenal because I’ve already covered that last month here and nothing has changed, it’s just escalated.
But what I am going to talk about is the fan culture that has led to this point. That a fanbase known for sitting quiet and having a moan has, in the last few years, sometimes turned abusive.
In 2012, ‘Arsenal Fan TV’ (now AFTV) was created by Robbie Lyle as an escape from the usual criticisms of pundits that weren’t at the game, and instead take views from fans that were. He quickly had a troupe around him, almost caricatures of different types of angry.
Clips from the channel started to go viral and it’s still not clear whether the majority of the viewers of the videos at the time were for analysis or entertainment, but who cares, it became popular and it made money.
In the next couple years, Arsenal started to dip, falling out of the Champions League in the 2016-17 season. Despite winning three FA Cups and that wasn’t good enough for AFTV and so the ‘Wenger Out Brigade’ became mainstream.
Vitriolic views, which lacked any basic logic or understanding of games and was overruled by emotion, mainly rage, became their thing. The more views it got, the more money it made, the more popular it became, the more normalised these abusive messages were.
In my view, this helped infect part of a fanbase’s view, that things were a lot more negative than was really the case, and what they set out to do, in the years that they wanted Arsene Wenger out, they more or less achieved.
They had won but is this the way to behave if things don’t go your way? Abuse, vitriol, anger. This hasn’t been helped by certain players interacting with these characters. I’ve had run-ins with several of these Fan TV types, which has resulted in abusive personal messages.
They get rewarded in relationships with players – we’ve seen Troopz on Instagram posts with Aubameyang etc – even though some are publicly criticising their teammates.
But we also have a societal problem when it comes to the age of social media, and I mentioned this in last week’s column, that every person now has an opinion and you can broadcast that opinion to a platform devoid of facts and overruled by emotion.
There’s also an added layer when you can be anonymous. Because of this, you can go to any professional football players’ social media and view their comments, and it’s just mountains of hate. Shkrodan Mustafi’s wife got so much abuse she had to turn her Instagram on private, and the same situation has occurred with Xhaka’s wife.
In context this, added with the jeers and boos Xhaka received, could have made him outburst the way he did.
This abuse is never okay, and just because a football player isn’t performing how you want them to or if their skill set is not up to your standards, attacking them in this way won’t make them perform how you want.
In other clubs it is happening too, for example, when Tammy Abraham was targeted on social media with racist abuse after Chelsea lost on penalties to Liverpool in the Super Cup.
Even though this concept isn’t new; it was usually whole teams that were targeted but now it’s individuals.
Clubs should work more towards their partnerships with fans, and generally steer clear of “Fan TV’s” because they produce an unrealistic, and hat-filled culture that only benefits its owners, and helps normalise the negative of everything else.
Follow Jasmine on Twitter @_BabsJ