Following Manchester United’s highly charged 2-1 victory at Anfield, most newspapers and media outlets reported referee Mark Halsey received sick and hateful abuse on Twitter from Liverpool fans.
Like almost everyone I was shocked and disturbed on hearing this until I actually read these articles. The 51 year old wasn’t addressed directly, he isn’t on the social network site and this supposed barrage of abuse came from just two people.
Two despicable tweets making light of the referee’s life threatening cancer which he over-came is disgusting and sickening but the sensationalistic nature of the way the story was presented distorted the truth.
Millions of football fans watched the match, even more have Twitter accounts and yet only two people were moronic and insensitive enough to cross that line so pathetically. If you were to look broader and use this as a reflection of society when 0.1% of those in a demographic act inhumanly it isn’t that great a cause for concern.
There is an unhealthy determination to slam footballers and football fans in the media. Prior to the start of the Premier League season any ex or current footballer thrust under a microphone or attending a press conference were forced to argue unfair questions comparing the best of Olympic sports, against the greatest faults of football. The “tribal” atmosphere at football was vilified against a feel-good patriotic three weeks at the London Olympics. Failed drug tests, issues of athletes being expelled for deliberately losing were conveniently ignored. Also the less sanitised atmosphere at football grounds is a major part of the sport’s appeal for some.
While there was some unsavoury behaviour at the fixture which triggered this blog, football is also a sport which has progressed and dramatically improved as a spectator sport. The 1970s and 1980s was rife with hooliganism and racism at football fixtures, but exceptional progression has changed the atmosphere at games, for the better and in highlighting the issues that still exist this is often forgot. There also appeared to be an effort to emphasise the trouble at this fixture with football chants and respect dominating the build up to what was Liverpool’s first fixture at Anfield following the findings of the Hillsborough inquiry . Producers both on radio and television seemed determined to highlight any unsavory chanting when often they do the opposite. A match between Leeds and Manchester United in the league cup last year brought ill-tasting chants between the supporters. Many reporters tweeted about the horrible atmosphere among a minority of fans but watching the game on television I heard nothing.
While some football fans are or can be idiotic in their actions, the good behaviour of the majority is too often tarred or ignored.
Follow me on Twitter @jimmylowson