By Joel Griffiths (@JoelOTGriffiths). This article first appeared in Nerve magazine issue 4, and has been modified.
Football vlogging is, in my opinion, the greatest embodiment of the exponential globalisation of the Premier League.
The ability for a fan to record and share the match day experience with thousands of people across the globe is revolutionary.
The fact a Chelsea fan from South Korea can consume the atmosphere, chants and celebrations as well as a West Londoner who lives around the corner from Stanford Bridge is astonishing.
Perhaps even wrong?
There is a section of fans from every club who dislike vloggers.
I’d go as far as to say they’re repulsed by every camera they set eyes on.
It’s as if someone holding a camera represents a knife into the heart of their club and vloggers personify some entity hell-bent on ruining the beautiful game once and for all.
For every fan that feels that way, I’d suggest looking at the titanic investment into the Premier League over the past 15 years which has morphed the country’s top division, before looking at a smartphone.
Simply because the investment from broadcasters and owners, who have made the idea of trophy-based success a billionaire’s play-thing, have changed the game more than someone making a video ever could.
Vlogging isn’t wrong, it’s a mere consequence of a product which is so profitable that every fan wants a piece of the action.
I spoke to Sam, a vlogger of a Premier League club who has built a significant following on YouTube over the past two or three years.
Sam creates brilliant content which puts his audience at the heart of the experience.
“My first experience of backlash for vlogging was actually from a kid,” Sam said. “Couldn’t have been older than 14 or 15 to my judgement.
“He took one look at me and the camera and just screamed expletives at me. I just burst out laughing.”
I asked him what the difference was between receiving abuse in the ground and online.
Sam said: “Funnily enough, to start with I was taking much more offence to the stuff that was said to me online rather than in person. That’s because I feel like I can process these things better in my mind and I react in a better way.
“There was one particular day where it got really bad, I didn’t react to it well. I maybe thought that it was going to spiral out of control, however since then it has got a lot better.”
He released a video in late December about ‘The war on vloggers’ in football. In a thought provoking piece, he responded to some of the abuse he’d received and addressed some deeper issues about mental health.
The London-based Youtuber has always been a strong supporter of raising awareness for mental health and suicide.
This is illustrated by a yellow ribbon in the bottom right-hand corner which is ever present in his content.
It really is a topic which is only now being properly acknowledged and embraced by football and society.
Sam says: “From my personal perspective, it’s jealousy and a superiority complex (why some fans don’t like vloggers).
“I don’t think anyone would have any rational or logical reason to want to abuse a vlogger, without those factors involved.”
“Of course I respect if it isn’t your thing, I have zero problems with that. The one thing I can never negotiate or compromise with is personal abuse.
“I think from their point of view, vlogging breaks a traditional boundary that going to the game represents.
“At one point in the 90’s, ticket prices in football increased by over 300%, which is a lot considering this is meant to be a game for the people.”
In a sense, I recognise the frustration. This is a sport with working class routes that has undergone monumental globalisation.
It’s not a massive surprise that vlogging is seen as a personification of this in the ground.
However, it’s almost as if we forget that there is a person behind the camera who ultimately is a paying fan like everyone else.
There seems to be this idea that by picking up a camera in a game you become exploitative. Perhaps sometimes this is true, but speaking to my interviewee, there are clearly so many other factors that motivate vloggers.
“I started doing this because I have a lot of family abroad and literally just wanted to give them the match-day experience.
“This was my initial motivation. I’m just a passionate fan like anyone else.”
The most important thing the footballing community has to do is accept that technology is going to keep flooding into the sport, especially at the top level.
There are better places to channel aggression and bigger problems in the sport, than taking exception to a vlogging culture which inevitably will continue.