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Have your say but sign your name

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Jim Spence | 17:27 UK time, Friday, 15 January 2010

As a football fan I enjoy a good rammy and I'm happy to roll with the punches in a football debate with anyone.

Most fans I know are the same, especially when you're a few pints to the good after a match where your team has been cuffed.

A good going argy bargy adds to the gaiety of nations and lets us all get a few things off our chests.

So, I'm all for vigorous, intelligent and argumentative debate in football.

But not when it comes from fans who hide behind pseudonyms and monikers, who want to dish out the criticism - some of it vile and personal - from the anonymous safety of their mobiles and laptops.

This week, Dundee Utd director Derek Robertson resigned from the Tannadice board.

There were many and various reasons for his resignation, sheer weariness after seven years of toil being one of them.Text message on mobile phone

But he had also been subjected to an ongoing stream of criticism and flak, albeit from a very small section of fans who were short on facts but long on opinion.

So it is that a red hot United fan, who stood on the terraces of Tannadice for 50 years, and who joined the board as a fans' representative to look after their interests, decided that enough was enough.

When your best efforts, usually involving 50-plus hours a week for the club you've loved man and boy are met with savage, sometimes personal and often factually inaccurate criticism from fans who won't put their real name to their complaints, then no wonder people decide the game isn't worth the candle.

My introduction to football journalism was through the fanzine movement.

But to the best of my recollection the guys who admittedly wrote some pretty excoriating stuff in the Final Hurdle or Not the View, and others of the ilk, also stood outside Tannadice, Parkhead and other grounds selling their "Zines".

That meant they had to learn to fight their corner with the many who disagreed, often very vocally, with the views expressed in those various publications.

In the fanzines you voiced your opinion, but you did it in the full public glare.

You also thought pretty hard about what you were writing because you knew you would have to defend yourself publicly outside the ground or in the pubs, where other fans quickly got to know you as one the fanzine guys and were not slow in taking you to task.

The fanzine movement was a seminal moment in Scottish football: it democratised debate, saw scorching scrutiny of those in power and paved the way for supporters trusts and fans websites.

But in most cases it was open and accountable.

The modern trend for anonymity in texts and on websites allows instant comment without any serious thought.

Strong debate is healthy for football. Opinions need to be passionately and powerfully made and those in power, whether they are football directors, managers or indeed journalists, should be held to account.

But those doing the questioning should have the courage to sign their name.

A strongly-held view is surely all the more valid when someone making it has the courage of their convictions and refuses to hide behind anonymity.


  • Comment number 1.

    Some of us posting want a bit of anonymity, unfortunately it is because some of the same idiots that are out there to stir the sh*t for the sake of it that you are talking about above
    You only have to look at some of the vindictive, often bigoted, crap that is thinly disguised as some form of (intellectual ?) debate that appears on the 606 discussion boards to see why most of us don’t use real names !
    The point you make though is totally correct though – valid debate is one thing but personal attacks hidden behind pseudonyms is not on.

  • Comment number 2.

    I understand where you're coming from Jim, but like Scott I have to say that expecting people to use real names is unrealistic. That is simply the society we live in. Your idealism is honourable but impossible.

  • Comment number 3.

    What difference does it make? RWellies may be my real name. If I use my real name is anyone from down South going to say "yeah, I know him"

    If you ARE going to slate anyone, how about getting the terminal bore Robbo Robson to do the same then?

  • Comment number 4.

    hahaha. Great point about 'robbo robson.' so refreshing to see him get the criticism he deserves for once. Uterly unnamusing and tiresome for me.

  • Comment number 5.

    On another note what does 'The Old Firm are interesting, but so was my breakfast this morning.' in your about this blog section mean? Perhaps i'm being thick but i cant understand what your talking about.

  • Comment number 6.

    The thing is you have to put your own house in order get the system on this site changed so that everyone that posts is doing so with there real name.....

  • Comment number 7.

    It's not necessarily about being anonymous to those you are criticising or others on that site. It's about not wanting postings on message boards etc. to come up on Google searches of your real name. Not because those postings are abusive or insulting, but simply because you wouldn't want everyone who knows you to be able to search your private conversations!

  • Comment number 8.

    Fully agree with you here Jim.

    Some of the things I’ve read are unacceptable but have you asked yourself what fuels these vitriolic outbursts?

    One man’s banter is another man’s insult and with today’s style of informal communication that is proliferated by electronic means, who is to say where the line should be drawn, and who can tell the difference?
    Derek Robertson’s departure for me is a loss to football and it saddens me to think of what he has had to endure however, it is also evidence of the misgivings I have often voiced about the state of the game at board room level.

    It is all the more poignant as he was in charge of communications, for on that score, communicating is one thing that Scottish Football just doesn’t do.

    Year after year of not being able to get through to those that run the game, at club level or national level, has driven fans away, and those that remain are driven to frustration. Little wonder they vent their spleens, especially if they think that they are being encouraged to so.

    So it has to be said, that club Chairmen and Directors bring these pressures upon themselves when they fail to see the value and necessity, of replying to people who have taken the time and effort to articulate their concerns directly to them or their club.

    Dundee United - Stephen Thompson, if by some miracle you are reading this, take note! – cannot claim to be any different. Chairmen and Directors cannot lock themselves in their ivory towers when under siege but should confront this issue head on. When they don’t communicate back, people will make up their own minds and rightly or wrongly Chairmen and Directors will be judged accordingly. Arrogant? Rude? Dismissive? Not interested? Think they know better? And so ad infinitum.

    But before you and your BBC pals start congratulating themselves on how you are breaking down barriers and fostering more open communication, these forums aren’t as open as some of us would like. I know I am at risk of disobeying the house rules here but I tried to get some debate going when I posted this article on 606, so I appeal to the moderators for some latitude here.

    Communication is also about listening and as Chic Young said on Sportsound earlier today, everyone knows football is in trouble but nobody is listening, but all we get is speculation and innuendo.

    Any truth in the rumour that you will be applying for the job?

  • Comment number 9.

    Jim, somewhat ironically im going to have a go here behind one of the acroynms that you dislike dispassionately. You have a go through your blog about this so take it up with your bosses-anyone who tells you that they have signed up for blogs/606/have your say is one of the first tasks you are asked to perform is come up with a memorable name-so we do!

    You cant have it both ways Jim-ie expect users to particiapte with different usernames as opposed to their own then moan because we 'hide' behind such names that we are asked to register with in the first place-by the way my name is Kevin-i dont think you need to know my surname so i aint going to disclose it as I believe I dont have to.

  • Comment number 10.

    Unfortunatly Jim the biggest problem with your idea is the media itself. For example one of your colleagues at the BBC insisted in his recent blog that several senior ministers were ready to resign if anyone else did to take the PM down, none of them did, but had your colleague named those people, they'd have been forced to resign and the plot may have worked. How is a reporter quoting an anonymous critisism of the PM any different from a fan wno won't leave his name on a message board on the web? If the person the reporter doesn't want to be named the reporter shouldn't quote them. It is very easy for words like "high level source" and "senior" to be bandied about when you don't know who that refers too, when it could just be the head cleaner!

    In short what you suggest would be nice, but it's a bit of the pot calling the kettle black with the way the media act and isn't gonna happen. If ministers being critical get to keep their anonimity why cant we?

  • Comment number 11.

    #7 I couldnt agree more with your assesment on the lack of communication within Scottish football especially when it comes to keeping fans, who are the integal part of keeping c,ubs afloat with paying for the clubs wages via the purchase of tickes, merchandise etc.

    When it comes to the crunch to many club directors go ahead and make off and onfield decisions that affect the whole club but they dont seem to give the fans the chance to voice their own opinions on these matters so alienate the very people they need to make any chance of succes vaible by turning the very people who can help with this away in their droves due to their sheer arrogance

  • Comment number 12.

    Interesting points but this is something that applies to absolutely everything in the world. Thanks to the internet anyone can voice their opinion on anything with no repurcussions, it's just the way it is.

  • Comment number 13.

    " hey pay me to watch football and talk football. That’s some people's idea of Christmas every day. I can't deny it's mine too. I view the football world through a different lens from some journalists, because I live and work in Dundee. The Old Firm are interesting, but so was my breakfast this morning. There is a whole lot more on the Scottish football menu than the big two. From the SPL to the juniors, the game offers lots of dishes, and they all get my taste buds going"
    That should read " they pay me to watch football, and talk utter pish"
    I mean come on wheres that patter comin from ffs?

  • Comment number 14.

    #1 sh*t? crap? 606? – did you read the link in #8. Seemed fair enough to me.

    #2 idealisim? Society we live in? – thanks to apathetic unmentionables like you.

    #3 enlighten me, who is RR and what he got to do with it?

    #4 care to share the joke?

    #5 I think I know what Jim’s on about, but otherwise I’m in full agreement with you.

    #6 they don’t need to change the system. People can put their own name on their account if they wish.

    #7 fair point. Me, I’m a serial axe murderer. What are you hiding from?

    #8 he’s already been doing the job, for at least as long as I have been reading this blog.

    #9 you and #8 said it. BBC could do more.

    #10 I think you have it wrong. Like it or not, individuals have rights that the media shouldn’t be allowed to abuse simply to bump up newspaper sales or TV ratings. It’s the same right of anonymity as you say but in one instance it’s the media reporting on other people, but in the other instance it’s people voicing their own opinions. In the first situation the actions of the individual affect a 3rd party and in the 2nd, the individual hides behind anonymity to get at a 3rd party.

    Who’s calling the kettle black? I didn’t quite understand what you meant by that.

    #11 fair point but you are preaching to the choir. Take it up with your club.

    #12 following on from #11, I can’t help wondering if these blogs do anything to improve the situation. Do the people who run the game pay any attention?

    #13 you need to work on your punctuation

  • Comment number 15.

    #7 - I think that perception is part of the problem. Posting on one of the most visited websites in the world isn't a "private conversation".

    However, I totally understand people wanting a bit of privacy and, in the case of the BBC, if you step out of line they have your contact details from the registration process anyway, so your username doesn't really matter.

    Like others have mentioned here, it's part of a much wider problem on the internet, and I think the best way to improve the situation is by putting more pressure on site owners to ensure that content on their websites is attributable (is that a word!?) and legal.

  • Comment number 16.

    Brilliant piece Jim ... the facade of anonymity should end when the facts are in short supply


  • Comment number 17.

    Its easy to demand that people stand up and be counted for their opinions when your standing on a soapbox yourself, but i'd like to see Mr Spence's opinion had he not been collecting a wage from the 'zines or indeed the BBC. Usually I look forward to this article, but this weeks lofty position on its critics leaves a bad taste.
    The main difference here is that we as posters are asked to give our views on the things written, which are supposedly for our pleasure. Mr Spence may claim he too is asked to write those things, and he cannot afford to be anonymis, but surely the decision to put your name and face on your work is to advance your career, something that cannot be said for 'armchair fans'.
    A poor week Jim, and unfortunatly, if you cannot deal with criticism of your work, deal with that on your own time, and next week, try to write something which deals with Scottish football as a whole, not just your own bruised pride and hurt feelings, thinly disguised as concern for others.

  • Comment number 18.

    So spency!, Basically what you are saying is that everyone who has commented on your blog here and put their input and opinions across are cowards? For the simple reason they have sent it via laptop, phone, pc etc.
    Il happily go to any ground in the country and have the great fortune of getting to see free games of football (like you guys do) and voice my opinion. Provided i get the large pay packet and all my expenses paid (as you guys do) by my employers.
    In any job you are criticised by people who do not know all the facts, conditions, enviroment and exact situations you are working under, thats just life, deal with it.
    Anyone on here can feel free to criticise what ive wrote because i wont write my own blog having a pop at them for expressing an opinion that i dont like. They are entitled to their opinion wther it be by laptop phone etc.
    Why write a blog then have a pop at people for responding via their laptops to it? Beats me.

  • Comment number 19.

    Interesting link to similar article, another writer complaining about something similar!

  • Comment number 20.

    I do agree that most, but not all, anonymous contributors have written something on one one occasion or other that they would not have the courage to say out loud in person to the party in discussion. None of my decisions have ever been affected by remarks by any moniker that I couldn't tie to a real life person of any standing. If what's put Online by nobodies dictates your decisions in life, perhaps its you and not those making these vile comments that lack character.

    The anonymity afforded by the Information age is brilliant and like most inventions has a good and bad side to it. While it allows the otherwise weak to have a shout out against those in power, it also has the potential to be used to destroy some poor soul's reputation. So, a balance perhaps? But any ideas how to do it?

    Even here on BBC Online, there are two extremes. There is Phil McNulty that does not allow any opinion unless it is wetted out to meet the author's personal opinion. On the other scale is Robbo Robson's blog that will allow you to say anything you feel like. Well, almost anything. I know which one I prefer.

    As far is it concerns football, I, for one, am ready to express my opinion with my real name but is the BBC ready to put it online? Is such a policy in line with the very powerful British Lible laws?

    And one more thing regarding 'football banter'.
    Football fans, including myself, would be better off once we realise and accept that the professional football has come a long way from the days when a club equalled community and vice versa. Now, they are business, run for profit with little or no consideration for the 'fans'. Today, someone born in the Old Trafford dressing room is as much connected to the 'Manchester United' as someone who bought the shirt off internet from his living room in Kualalampur.

    The sooner we accept the FACT, the easier it will be for all involved to lose the chips off our shoulders.

  • Comment number 21.

    As some else said, this is very much the pot calling the kettle black.

    How many times do we read stories in the sports pages of newspapers - particularly Kim's colleagues in the Scottish football media - quoting "unnamed sources"? A lot is the answer.

    Jim seems to think that if he has to put his name to what he writes, so should we. Well, no. The difference is you get paid to put your name and face out there. You are paid to put up with people disagreeing with you. It's your job. Why should someone who is not paid get all the grief from people who disagree with them - and none of the benefits (money and a career)? And why should someone risk their own job by posting under their own name during work hours? Or why would they risk upsetting their boss? Or why would they risk online crazies - eg Old Firm fans - trying to track them down?

    You are paid to take those risks. We are not. Pay me to give my views - which is basically all you do - and I will gladly let you use my real name and even my picture. I also used to write a fanzine and my name and address was on it. However, that was before the Internet. Now I wouldn't put my name on anything online. Pay me though and I'm yours!

  • Comment number 22.

    As an aside - Google indexes blogs like this one. If you use your real name, when someone, eg a potential new employer, Googles your name, they will get to read your views on everything you post about. I'm sure you would agree that's not acceptable. Plus, if everyone used their real names, unsavoury comments by someone with the same name as you could create huge problems. And what's to stop someone using your name to slur you? That could happen now but it would be much easier to spot and stop as very few people post using actual names - that's why we have "online identities".

    The key to this is not stopping people posting anonymously but to create better commenting systems using things like reputation scoring, thumbs-up/down systems and the like. This is currently happening and it is becoming easier to filter out trolls and unsavoury comments (eg by sorting comments by the highest rating down or hiding comments with less than 10 thumbs-ups.

    Being able to comment is part of the global democratisation of the media and in general it is a good thing, whether journalists like you feel threatened by it or not.

  • Comment number 23.

    people are just cowards

  • Comment number 24.

    hahaha. Great point about 'robbo robson.' so refreshing to see him get the criticism he deserves for once. Uterly unnamusing and tiresome for me.


    your doing it.

  • Comment number 25.

    it's one thing commenting on a blog, sending a guy abuse and not having the balls to back it up with your name is just childish chicken doo. But a guy who has a phone these days, that people have the number of, well that's asking for trouble. Get a phone ex directory for personal use and tell your contacts you don't read sms ever. How did people get by without them before? Simple.

  • Comment number 26.

    Jim out of interest are you going to respond to aby of those who have wrote on this blog page or are you somewhat ironically going to be like those people you detest-ie write an article then go into hiding when people voice their opinion?

    On another note I would like to ask you is-does it really matter on the username with regards to these threads if the user, under their own acroynum, poses a question that is worthy of discussion? Or is it your own personal belief that you will only respond to those who dont not hide behind so-called 'anonymity' which is ironic considering the beeb have full details for anyone who signs up for their opinion boards? Surely the only thing that matters is if the person asks a valid question or has a valid point as opposed to what their name is?

  • Comment number 27.

    #15 A balanced view at last! Thanks Martin.

    #16 Agreed. Do you think that the lack of facts would cease to be a problem as #8 suggests if we go direct to the clubs? Trouble is, people still might want to protect their identity even if they take things up directly with their clubs.

    #17 Was Jim not suggesting that he can accept criticism? Was he not making this point to elaborate on what Derek Robson had to put up with? Depends on your interpretation, I suppose.

    #18 People only have to put up with valid criticism. Invalid criticism can damage a persons reputation. Is it fair that they cannot have any form of recourse. I lost the plot with the point you were making at the end. Maybe you could explain it again.

    #19 A good link but did it get through to some of the contributors to this blog?

    #20 Does anyone have an answer to #20’s question on libel laws? What would the BBC do if it was libel? Who gets sued?

    #21 If #8 is right you can always apply for Jim’s job when he moves on.

    #22 I hear you but is all this really a democratisation of the media? With libel laws an what not, at least you have a chance of being able to rely on what they say to some extent.

    #23 nice of you to admit it.

    #24 ?

    #25 You been that herb again?

    #26 Go on Jim. Care for a rebuttal? Or have you had enough?

  • Comment number 28.

    27# sfmcftb, Which part would you like me to explain and il only be to happy to?
    I did go on a bit of a rant but i will try back up my opinion.
    Il even sign my name and address if big spency wants me to haha.

  • Comment number 29.

    Thanks for coming back. It was your reference to laptops that threw me but I’ve read it over a few times and it raises a question about the article. Although Jim also made this reference, I thought it was irrelevant.

    I think there two issues in the article are, what you say and how you say it. Letter or laptop it doesn’t really matter.

    Take the second point – I don’t need to go over all the valid points in favour of anonymity, after all it is everyone’s right. The ‘how’ part in question is the vile nature that’s questionable.

    The first part is straightforward – it’s either valid or it is not.

    So I’m now confused by the article and by blogs in general, so I would like Jim to clarify this question – is it acceptable to mention someone by name, and make a valid criticism, that is not vile or contemptible, and still retain one’s anonymity?

    The article seems to suggest that it’s not acceptable – or have I totally missed something.

    The more I think about this the more confused I get!

  • Comment number 30.

    I think Jim was using the sacking of Derek Robertson as an example of how things can go wrong, and I have nothing but sympathy if indeed the abuse was the reason that Robertson quit his post. But as Jim pointed out himself, it was only one of 'many and various reasons' that he quit, and it struck me this was being used as an excuse for Mr Spence to have a pop at the people who post negative comments on his article. I say 'his' because the article above seems very defensive, aimed at those who read his work, not just at posters in general, thus suggesting he can't take criticism.
    But as you say, depends on your interpretation.

  • Comment number 31.

    Small apology regarding the previous comment, Robertson wasn't sacked I know, he quit. But its still my feelings that Jim only mentioned it so his post could be filed under the 'Scottish Football' banner.

  • Comment number 32.


    No problem at all. Im always willing to try and explain myself.

    Thanks for your contribution it's been more interesting reading the feedback and opinions of others than reading the absolute rambling mince in the article itself.

  • Comment number 33.

    Perfect example of what Jim's saying is his collegue Jack Ross' first blog - riddled with abuse from disgruntled Hartlepool fans, half of which had to be removed, they were so mallicious. Not one of them using their real name. Going further back, Chick Young used to get dogs abuse on every blog he posted, mainly because a lot of fans think they're in on the massive conspiricy theory, unwitting started by Jonathan Watson, that Chick is a Rangers fan in disguise. You can't comment on Chick's blogs any more, it's a real shame it came to that.

  • Comment number 34.

    Its a fair point you make, but would the abuse have been less if the posters were forced into using their real name? And how do you know a persons real name? I could quite easy tell you my name is Alan Jackson, but that would be a lie. Point is you don't know, but it sounds more plausable than Circle K. Prime example is the Daily Record phone in, I've read people phoning up just to say someone else is using their name.
    Do we now have I.D checks just so Chick Young, Jack Ross, Jim Spence and the rest don't get offended for doing their jobs, being journalists? Surely it comes with the territory, and let's face it, although Chicks recent post talks about wages, I'm sure he is still on double what I make a year, at least. In short, suck it up and get on with the job.
    Just like to point out, I'm not actually condoning the abuse Jack Ross or Chick or anyone gets, but the mods can remove the worst stuff and protect those of a sensitive nature, so I don't really see a problem, on these boards at least.

  • Comment number 35.

    As the author wrote, "They pay me to watch football and talk football.". He should have stated that the license fee payer is the "they" reffered to. Therefore the author is providing a service to the license payer and we have the right to know who he is, the reverse however is not true. nuff said.

  • Comment number 36.

    Mr Spence, let me get this right. You are complaining about personal attacks emanating from texts, blogs and message boards I can only imagine, towards club officials, players or members of the press.

    Do you not work for an organisation or organisations that actively encourage the use of texts, blog comments, emails and the scanning of message boards to obtain content for radio and television shows? Yes I am sure that somewhere I have experienced this being an accepted practice.

    What is more, if seiously threatening texts, emails, blog posts or message board entries have been made, the electronic nature of this correspondence suggest that there is always a source and therefore always a means to investigate such threats.

    I would suggest that, whatever incident or incidents you are referring to could easily be passed to the police if they are of a sufficiently serious nature. Compare this to unsolicited phone calls, protected "sources" and shadowy articles that contain no quotes in the newspapers and columns that pollute this country's sports media. Compare it also to the idle threats that echo from the comfort of a large crowd watching a football match, often of a racist or sectarian tinge.

    Texting, emailing and blogging all provide a trail of information as to the source, from a phone number to a registered email address and ID. I simply cannot understand this gripe as it has no basis in logic, and is inconsistent with the active promotion of the pursuits on BBC radio, television and internet that you rail against.

    Just so you are not offended by my anonymity, Kenny Stewart, Dundee.

  • Comment number 37.

    Hi i'm a Dundee United supporter and thought highly of Craig Levien while he was manager, after all he had done for the team, but he has just gone down in my estimations (I know he won't give a toss what i think) but i don't think i'll be in a minority here but what Barry Ferguson and Alan McGregor did was unexceptable it was not just a slap in the face for the then manager but also to the thousands of supporters who religiously follow the team through thick and thin. I think the supporters should have had a say as to whether they should have been allowed back or not. As for Kriss Boyd he fell out with the then manager and not Scotland he just refused to play under Burley, not the best either but he never made any rude gestures to the Scotland contingient.


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