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Rivers & Ross. “‘This channel has more subs from rival fans than Arsenal fans’: Arsenal Fan TV, football fandom and banter in the new media era.” Sport in Society (Dec. 2019): 1-20. : Gunners

Since this is a scholarly article, I’m going to quote more extensively than from, say, The Athletic, in the interest of education and public discourse among those who don’t have institutional access to T&F or this publication specifically:


Football fan participation within the context of the English Premier League (EPL) has diversified through the rise of fan channels hosted on YouTube. As a pioneer within this participatory new media landscape, AFTV (formerly Arsenal Fan TV) is the most prominent example within the genre having amassed over one million YouTube subscribers. Drawing data from the comments posted under 36 post-match reaction fan interviews, this article analyzes the uses and functions of banter or mock impoliteness. Within the UK cultural context banter is understood as language used primarily in male-to-male bonding interactions where ego maintenance is a high interactional priority. We subsequently propose four thematic classifications of banter discourse; personal banter, legacy banter, impersonal banter and banter violation. We ask whether football fan channels such as AFTV should be seen as a source of financial income for the operators, entertainment for rival supporters or as of genuine interest and value to Arsenal fans. [emph. added]

Based on my reading of the article, this is a good abstract.

Alluding to AFTV as a source of entertainment for fans of rival EPL clubs, and in reference to the one million YouTube subscribers, the author suggests that such a number reflects ‘one million Spurs, Liverpool and Chelsea fans that swarm to the comments sections to ridicule these ‘personalities’ when Arsenal lose’. [12] However, perhaps the harshest source of criticism has been that of serving player Hector Bellerin. In a 2018 talk at the Oxford Union Bellerin stated that it was ‘so wrong for someone who claims to be a fan and their success is fed off a failure. How can that be a fan?’ (cited in Eccleshare 2018).[13] (5)

Hector cogently lays out the central problem.

From our preliminary analysis it was apparent that the number of views and comments was significantly greater when Arsenal had lost a particular EPL fixture. The average number of video views was 44% higher when Arsenal had lost (638,346) as opposed to when they had drawn (355,998), and 47% higher when Arsenal had lost as opposed to when they had won (333,291). Similarly, the average number of YouTube comments was 35% higher when Arsenal had lost (2,784) as opposed to when they had drawn (1,807), and 59% higher when Arsenal had lost as opposed to when they had won (1,127). This descriptive data suggests that AFTV as a YouTube channel is potentially more profitable when Arsenal lose than when they win or draw due to the larger volume of participants. It was apparent that across all 36 post-match reaction videos the same two interviewees were responsible for the single most viewed videos, two Arsenal fans known on the channel as ‘DT’ and ‘Troopz’. DT was responsible for 78% of the most viewed post-match reaction videos (28/36), while Troopz had the most viewed post-match reaction video on 22% of occasions (8/36). Moreover, DT was the most viewed interviewee on every occasion when Arsenal had lost (9/9) and on 83% of the occasions when they had drawn (5/6). This suggests that there are certain characteristics which make the DT more appealing to viewers when Arsenal have lost or drawn a game as opposed to when they have won (Figures 1 and 2). (7)

Broadly, this supports the commonplace claims that A) AFTV make more money when Arsenal lose than when they win, and, subsequently, B) that AFTV aims to make money from the viewership of supporters of other clubs, not Arsenal fans:

Founder Robbie Lyle declares that the channel was created as ‘big clubs like Arsenal have become to some extent corporate machines, and this has meant that their focus on the fans has diminished’ (cited in Menmuir 2014).20 However, there are several tensions which need unpacking within this statement. Although AFTV might have been started with an anti-corporate agenda and a desire to give regular fans a platform to express their views, the unparalleled success of AFTV within the genre means that the channel currently seems more in alignment with the ‘corporate machine’ that Robbie was originally resistant toward. For instance, AFTV is not a channel that seeks to be representative of Arsenal fans in general as it is heavily reliant upon a small number of regulars who perform the same post-match reaction interviews after each fixture. Therefore, rather than broad representation, AFTV has prioritized and promoted certain individuals and viewpoints over others. This approach has led to the current situation in which AFTV features ‘known characters’ rather than ‘unknown fans’, characters who play a known role for the audience in relation to their personalities, characteristics and traits (Figure 3). It is telling that only AFTV regulars are named within the title and description of the post-match videos whereas other fans who are not regulars are not mentioned by name, an act which places them outside of the formal AFTV structure.

These named and consenting characters can then be set in opposition to each other as a means of creating drama and entertainment for the viewing public. Several of these characters have also been able to create their own YouTube platforms based on this their AFTV celebrity status, which while serving as good business sense, is something which suggests that the corporate agenda is being upheld rather than resisted. The current header on the AFTV YouTube channel, shown in Figure 3, lends support to these views and affirms our observation that the AFTV post-match reaction interviews are more focused on producing consumable drama than providing a representative voice for a diverse collective of Arsenal fans. Although AFTV is now a diversified media platform hosting more than post-match reaction videos, this critique remains valid as the post-match reaction videos are responsible for the greatest number of uploads and views, and thus also, YouTube revenue.

In conclusion, our study cautiously suggests that fans channels such as AFTV should primarily be framed as a source of financial income for the operators and the associated named characters who make regular appearances and spin off self-promotional sites etc. Framing channels such as AFTV as producers of reality-TV-esque drama and entertainment rather than as a forum for broad fan representation, allows us to better explain why the channel might therefore have a greater appeal to fans of rival EPL clubs and why the channel has received criticism from various sources connected to Arsenal FC. As a form of entertainment, those who watch the post-match reaction videos now expect entertaining interview performances by the named characters. This facilitates an explanation as to why named characters such as DT are the most watched on the channel and why viewing figures are significantly higher when Arsenal have failed to win. (15-16)

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