Critique of Football’s Digital Engagement strategy. What’s next for ‘The Beautiful game’?

I have been active on Twitter for approximately 4 years now and it still fascinates me every day. The growth of Twitter has been stupendous and it is now known that there is up to 1.3 billion twitter accounts with over 320 million regular users. Far from being just a typical form of social media Twitter has now provided firms with the opportunity to platform their organisation in a way that allows them to advertise, self-promote and engage people in the current digital landscape.

A good example of an organisation firmly active on twitter is FC Barcelona. The Catalonian football team have an almighty fan base on Twitter of 17.2 million followers. Moreover they have several accounts in a number of languages which allows them to not only be culturally diverse all over the world but to furthermore build a community to digitally engage and interact with supporters no matter where their location is in terms of Barcelona.

Arsenal also strongly utilise their position as one of the world’s most glorious and lucrative football clubs by their team’s wonderful style of football. But Arsenal also communicate very well with their target audiences on Twitter and through supporters’ clubs and communities. The growth of Arsenal Fan TV has seen an enormous rise of fans being able to have their opinions broadcasted to fans people all over the world and create a real sense of belonging.

Arsenal do a lot to endorse Arsenal Fan TV  by allowing interviews with first team players, linking them in on twitter, and sharing a YouTube platform which benefits both the Arsenal as an organisation and Arsenal Fan TV as a standpoint for fans to speak their mind and gain attention from it. However I feel Arsenal’s twitter account on a few occasions is responsible for many PR embarrassments and disasters. For example after Arsenal’s 1-1 draw against Crystal palace which effectively ended the season, the Arsenal official twitter account tweeted this:


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Which was met angrily on twitter by several distressed fans….

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Arsenal do a very good job online and have built a strong fan base and are followed by up to 4.3 Million followers worldwide. However I feel that timing is everything in PR and in digital engagement. Sometimes things are better left unsaid and Arsenal’s PR and social media team should know better than to directly release tweets that they know will test the nerve of fans worldwide after such a destructive draw yesterday. They really are throwing logs on the fire with tweets like this and I can’t imagine what reaction they were honestly expecting!

The use of Social Media in this day and age is simply incredible and the position it can give an organisation like Arsenal among the twitter community is invaluable. The thought behind tweets and the time of which they are released needs to be better and the content needs refreshment in order to maintain a positive light to really get behind the team and give the fans something to be proud of.

It is to Arsenal’s credit that they have invested into a Snapchat account in order to give the fans a real behind-the-scenes feel to Match days and make people watching feel more involved at getting such an exclusive look into Arsenal’s football environment.

Sometimes Football accounts adopt a comedic approach to digital engagement on Twitter, This was seen here with West ham here after Manchester United  were about to arrive for kick off at Upton Park. The Red Devils were late to a fixture at Tottenham the week previously due to traffic, and West ham’s twitter took the opportunity to ridicule:

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This approach is healthy for the game and I feel to us as fans and really engages people in the form of humour. It’s shown with over 10,000 retweets that this is a popular method of digital engagement and long may it continue.

Fans from the Football League have been told that they are to ‘benefit’ from a new digital revolution inside and outside the stadium. According to the article; WIFI will be available at all the grounds and fans will be able to access this seamlessly 365 days a year 24/7. However I feel this will be terrible for football. It is well known that in the current generation we often find ourselves looking down at our phones, and digital media is at the forefront of society. But at Football in my opinion this should  simply not be the case. Fans should seek to enjoy the spectacle rather than having their head buried into a phone. It is a shame that the world is developing in this way but it was eventually inevitable.

Digital engagement of fans is good for Football in a number of ways. It allows more people to be involved and have opinion whilst also giving the club a chance to self-promote, advertise merchandise, and maintaining a good public image.

When Football and digital engagement is run effectively it is beneficial for us all. Although I fear in my final point is that it is potentially at the stage where it may be taken too far, and the modernised game may be on the verge of becoming too commercial and we see it becoming out of touch with the fans and clubs. A situation where elsewhere  have tried to engage with the supporter so much that they are actually pushing us further away. Football is my favourite aspect of every weekend and important to so many people nationwide and worldwide. I feel it’s important that the organisations that surround the beautiful game don’t get carried away and make the game too ‘techy’.




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