In Defence of The New Age Era

This past weekend, The Non-League Paper published an article entitled Losing Old Ethic is No Smart Idea – Fans Straying in New Age Era, which featured an interview with the Chairman of Bridlington Town, Peter Smurthwaite.

In the article various theories are given as to why attendances at Bridlington are not as high as they should be. The main reason being the increase in televised football, an argument that we at FCUM Radio very much sympathise with.

However the second reason given, and one which the article suggests for a directive from leagues and the FA to help prevent, was the use of match day updates using social media, except for the giving of half time and full time scores.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that FCUM Radio is writing something on this specific point.  Now in our tenth year, we have been going nearly as long as Twitter and Facebook have, indeed, we are that old that we actually have a Myspace page.

Formed in 2006, FCUM Radio was established originally to help supporters keep engaged with how FC United were fairing on the pitch.  Ten years on we are now hosting music, comedy, community and football content 24 hours a day, in an effort to keep supporters engaged with the club throughout the week, not just on a matchday.

We are writing today to argue that instead of being suspicious and negative towards the social media age we live in, we should instead reflect and embrace the very exciting times that we live in.

For years, non-league clubs have been screaming for greater exposure and attention, bemoaning the fact that the local BBC or community radio stations, or the local newspaper is not giving them a fair crack of the whip.  

Thanks to social media, YouTube and internet radio, clubs are now able to generate their own noise, and now have the ability to stay in contact with their supporters and communities (and dare I say it, commercial partners), with match day updates arguably being the biggest driver in increasing this level of interaction and engagement for a club.  

Indeed, it should be no surprise that the Non-League Paper promoted their article on this issue by using their own Twitter feed, it is indeed a very effective medium for promotion.

FCUM Radio would argue that the reasons behind a drop in attendances at any club can be varied, and it is slightly self-defeating and a little simplistic to suggest that a league directive to stop social media officers producing minute by minute tweets could somehow help buck this trend.

The truth is that football clubs are operating in 2016, not 1976, there are now many distractions out there, and this is despite the sad loss of Ceefax. Distractions not just from the aforementioned axis of live top flight football on BT and Sky, but there’s also 900 other TV and Radio channels out there too offering something specific to an audience. You also have a blockbuster film released every week, Netflix, Vine, Google, Amazon Prime, Boxsets, YouTube, iPlayer, iTunes, ITV Be, Smart Phones, Fantasy Football League, Online Gaming, Sega Mega Drive, Spotify, internet streaming, Tamagotchi, Bloggers, Vloggers, Podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, cheap flights abroad, and the NPL Facebook Group.  

And we’re not even going to bother raising issues like wage stagnation, depopulation, industrial decline, ageing facilities, ageing fan bases, a drop in active participation in sport, or climate change as possible reasons either.

The simple truth is that the aforementioned NLP article offered a simple solution to a very complex problem, but in the spirit of simplicity, we would like to ask a very simple question in response.  In a world where human beings are saturated with choice and content, often specifically catering for each individual’s needs, why on earth would non-league football clubs want to remove themselves from that world and not take advantage of it?  

Sure, clubs could quite easily cut themselves off, stop communicating with their audience during a match, and allow purely traditional media to bring exposure to their club after the event, but it’s a sad fact that due to those distractions we mentioned earlier, some of these older mediums are not as popular as they once were, and many of them are moving towards this newfangled internet thing to help them survive.  It would be short-sighted to suggest that football clubs should not follow suit and thrive in the exciting new age era that we all live in as well.

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