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Russell Berrisford

Russell Berrisford

Russell’s support of Derby County eventually led him to leave the country. He has lived in Canada since 2007 and currently writes about soccer for The Vancouver Sun.


I Blame the Internet

Written by on October 20, 2011 | 14 Comments »
Posted in English Premier League, General

One of the great paradoxes of the modern digital/internet age is that whilst simultaneously handing us the opportunity to access a far greater range of resources than ever before, it also grants us the excuse to spend so much of our free time amongst like-minded souls.

This is all too clear in the world of politics where both left and right have become so cocooned in their own echo chambers that they barely speak the same language any more.

Yet it is also be true in the world soccer. Never in the history of the game has the average fan had such access to so many different leagues, opinions and all round coverage of the beautiful game; but neither has it been so easy for them to become so thoroughly embroiled in the private world of their own club.

Supporters of the wealthiest clubs now have their own television channels that provide more than their fill of (highly sanitized) news about the team, and even the smallest club will have any number of blogs and discussion forums dedicated to ensuring that those who wish to avoid the opinions of those that differ from their own can do so with ease.

Of course it would be foolish to deny that one of the joys of watching football (especially when it is your own team) is that it grants you licence to indulge and express emotions that need to be suppressed in regular life.

It’s okay to scream your anger at an opposing player, it’s acceptable to feel cheated by a referee that you are convinced is biased against you, and it’s even permissible to throw your morality out of the window and wholeheartedly celebrate when your team is the beneficiary of a ludicrously bad penalty decision.

That kind of emotional release isn’t just cathartic, it’s positively healthy.

The problems come when those emotions carry over into the rest of the week and you start to really believe that your team and their fans are somehow different to all the others.

How many times do you read in a comments section that supporters of team x are always complaining, or that supporters of team y are arrogant, when what it really boils down to is that team x are on a bad run and team y are doing well?

There is nothing wrong with feeling part of a group, but parts of the online world have become so incestuous that group thinking can replace rational individual behaviour far more easily than it ever did in the past.

Anything written about either Barcelona or Real Madrid for example will immediately bring out factions from either side with far more interest in damning the other than any interest in genuine debate.

And in recent weeks we have seen Arsenal fans chant their wish that Adebayor had been killed in a terrorist attack and Tottenham fans chant abuse at the Arsenal manager, as well as Leeds United and Manchester United supporters mock the fatal tragedies that each club has suffered.

All that is bad enough as it stands but, despite the condemnation from so many sources, a number of those fans have since retreated to the forums to somehow try to defend their actions whilst simultaneously condemning their counterparts, thus stoking up the outrage for any future encounters.

There is no easy answer to stopping this I’m afraid, although the clubs could certainly do far more to clamp down on the chants inside the stadium and fellow fans could do more to exert peer pressure to silence the idiots far quicker than any security presence could.

For those of us who watch the game from afar however there is little we can do apart from not falling into the trap of thinking that a cabal of journalists and media outlets have a secret agenda against our team.

And try to explain to our none soccer loving friends why several thousand people are mocking the deaths of others at a sporting event.

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14 responses to “I Blame the Internet”

  1. Ed Gomes says:

    The fact remains that there will always be idiots.
    What the Internet has allowed them to do is congregate and make the rest of us realize that there’s more of them than we even realized.
    It’s a “mob” mentality. If we all do it or believe it it must be ok. Throwing a banana, flare, bottle, coins, or even golf balls at players all of a sudden is ok. It’s pathetic and it should be punishable immediately. The FA has to stand up and actually do something that’s not in best interest.
    How about forcing Arsenal to play a “dark match” in their next home game. If you say, it’s not fair for fans to be punished, because of a few idiots. I say that’s even more of a reason to punish them. Maybe now fans will stop such stupidity before it begins.
    The EPL has done a ton to stop the violence, and needs to continue to do just that. Their games are broadcast throughout the world, and if fans actions harm the financial rewards, it must be stopped.

    Take a look at teh BundesLiga, who worked hard for years to get families out to the games. Their stadiums are full, and by all accounts no stupidity.
    Ny contrast, take a look at Serie A, where Ultras control the stands. People stay away in droves.

  2. Tom H says:

    Russell, great article. You’ve expressed something that I have noticed, but had not thought out as clearly as you have. This groupthink is so frustrating. When there is an incident, involving a team or certain player, if you regularly read soccer media, you can usually predict exactly what all the articles are going to say the next day. So many take the easy, obvious story instead of making an effort. That’s why finding those journalists who can look at things from a different angle (or can see them as they truly are) are so valuable. As an Arsenal fan, the bevy of predictable articles this summer almost caused me to ignore any news websites for awhile (if I wasn’t so bored at work, I would have). As far as the chanting goes… are there any specific rules in the Premier League regarding what is over the line? Those would have to be outlined before any sanctions were handed out to fans (or teams eventually if they were negligent in failing to stop the chants).

  3. Gus Keri says:

    And you blame the internet for that?

    these things has been going on for as long as I remember. Hooliganism and crowd troubles are not new.

  4. Soccerlogical says:

    I’m with Gus… another irrelevant and incoherent article, sorry to say.

  5. Soccerlogical – the website has been up for a year and we are still waiting for your first article rather than counter punching of others labour.

    I think it is time you to did some of the heavy lifting instead of critiquing.

  6. Russell Berrisford says:

    Tom-there are rules about “offensive” language in stadiums but they are almost never enforced.

    Gus- the headline was meant to be slightly ironic since I’m aware that such behaviour has been around for a long time, but what is new is the ability for the perpetrators to “meet” on the internet and attempt to justify their actions in a way that wasn’t possible before.

  7. Gus Keri says:


    It only made it easier.

    Hooligans had never before had problem gathering and planning. There were telephones and other methods to communicate.

    The internet, no doubt in my opinion, is one of the most significant invention in human history. It’s like inventing “fire” and “electricity”.

    But you can’t blame it for the misbehaviour of some people.

  8. Soccerlogical says:

    I apologize Russell, you have written some great stuff and I just know you can do better is all.

    Bobby – I thought each one of my posts is a tiny gem, which speaks volumes in a few poignant sentences. Raising questions a la “Things that make you go Hmmmm…”

    I give and give…. yet ask for nothing in return. Just ask Gus!

  9. Russell Berrisford says:

    SL- no worries. I can’t really write something about people taking intenet forums too seriously and then be offended by something that somebody writes on the internet!

  10. J says:

    Boy, don’t we all think that each of our comments are little gems? And I’m sure that there were a small group of supporters who thought that the Adebayor chants were just brilliant, too.

    There are thousands of articles out there, analyzing internet behavior, so I won’t pretend to claim an original view by saying that anonymity allows for the abandonment of civility on various levels. The range of available media out there is broad enough to capture just about any expression regarding any topic. So what we’re exposed to is the full diversity of human thinking – no matter how beautiful or ugly. Coping with that diversity takes some doing, and we haven’t had much time adjust to this ‘new world’.

    I think I get what Russell is saying here – that electronic communication makes it easier for folks to organize/develop these chants, etc., and that this behavior is offensive to potential fans. But knowing that the internet is available in London, Milan and New York, I’m more interested in what makes it okay to unfold the act at one stadium and not another. Or in one sport, but not another.

    If I lit a flare at Yankee Stadium, I’d be tasered before I got it above my head. If a group of folks started chanting about violent acts, they’d be escorted out in no time. So why is this tolerated, elsewhere? Just a difference in cultural norms. Unfortunately, I think that (in the Adebayor incident) racism is still tolerated to a higher degree in London than elsewhere.

    So here we are on this site, and Russell lays the foundation with the article and out comes the reaction. Some like the article and others don’t. Bobby takes note of a shot that he considers to be below the belt and fires off one of his own. All of that seems pretty normal in the Blog-o-sphere. But I’m willing to bet that Bobby and Russell were writing well before the time that rapid and anonymous feedback were so readily available, and that coping with that feedback has taken some time to adjust to.

    So, to credit Russell for raising the point, we should all speak out against idiocy in this sport we love and, when we’re in the stands, let the morons have it when they say something that offends us. And, when we’re participating on this blog, do what we can to stay focused on ideas and less on anything that could be summarized as “you suck”. To credit Bobby, I think this blog has been a success in provoking intelligent thought, especially when compared to others.

  11. Russell Berrisford says:

    J- thanks for the comment, and I agree that this blog is happily free of some of the mindless (and offensive) trolling that goes on at other sites and the articles aren’t designed as just “hit” generators but are actually trying to say something.

    The instant and anonymous commenting is one of those things that you just get used to.

    When it works it enlivens the debate and creates tangents that are genuinely enlightening, when it doesn’t it can drag everything down.

    I think that for a writer the less thought out internet comments are like being insulted by a homeless guy in the street, the words may be harsh but you would be foolish to take it personally.

  12. John Bladen says:

    Ed: Well said.

    Russell: It’s all part of the apparent drive to reduce everything to the lowest common denominator… yet more evidence of a civilization that is, in some aspects at least, in steep decline.

  13. Soccerlogical says:

    Russell – You sir, are a scholar and a gentleman.. and I promise not to tell anyone!

    PS How about writing a piece on how NYRB Luke “Pillsbury” Rodgers has been getting away with shoving defenders and midfielders to the ground all season and not been yellow carded once…. UN-FREAKIN-BELIEVABLE!!!!!

  14. Ed Gomes says:

    J, since you brought up the Yankees a funny story.
    I remember Jay Buhner (former Yankee) being interview when he was with the Mariners and playingat Yankee stadium.
    They asked him how rough it was out there in the outfield (right).
    He answered by saying that the coins that were being thrown at him, really hurt.
    The commentator whent on to mention how the coin throwing could be expected everywhere due to it being the playoffs.
    Buhner remarked, No just in NY.

    We’ve come a long way. You see what $2500 seats stops. Remember the people that were able to afford behind the plate are now in the bleachers.

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