The Case for a Grown-up, Well-Moderated Leeds United Forum – by Rob Atkinson


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Mature debate

What makes for a good football forum?

That’s a fairly vexed question, these days.  It may even be the kind of issue best looked at from the opposite perspective – in other words what are the elements to be avoided, at all costs, in order to have the best possible football forum?  In the case of Leeds United – where of course there is usually an elegant sufficiency of controversy, with plenty to get the old teeth into by way of intractable issues such as takeovers, transfer policy, managerial tactics and so on – the need for a really good internet forum is even more urgent than for most other clubs.

Sadly though, there appears to be a distinct lack of anything truly adequate out there.  Most of the existing resources are fundamentally flawed in one way or another.  Above all, there seems to be a pervading right-wing presence which makes for a hostile environment for anybody lumbered with, for instance, a social conscience or a bit of good, old-fashioned socialism.

This might be just about tolerable if all you’re looking for is simple football information and debate – but most forums seem to have pretensions to a wider and more eclectic scope. Some even have different sections expressly devoted to music, cars, politics, entertainment, topical issues, etc.  Now, this is all well and good, but when it goes hand in hand with the presence of a sizeable minority of vociferous right-wing boneheads, the debate (in some areas more than others) turns into a futile endeavour, with the more moderate points of view being shouted down by “I’m alright, Jack” tories, racist EDL apologists and other such unpleasant creatures.

The two most obvious offenders in these terms are probably the so-called Service Crew forum, and its more anaemic shadow, WACCOE – which, as I’ve previously pointed out, used to be half-decent – but are now dominated by cliques of what I can charitably term loudmouth smart-arses with unpalatably Thatcherite agendas.  I’ve recently found myself in a very small minority on both forums, and the outrage and resentment I’ve encountered, just for daring to be different, has – quite frankly – defied description.

The Service Crew forum in particular makes a habit of parading its right-wing leanings and is overtly hostile to anybody with a libertarian outlook.  A lot of this behaviour is, of course, motivated by a desire for peer approval. The overweening need to be “one of the lads” is very strong on this forum, and what used to be a reasonably useful resource for information and debate on all things Leeds has now had its waters muddied by the presence of a group of people who evidently need an outlet for the anti-social and otherwise reprehensible views they don’t feel safe expressing elsewhere.

This manifests itself differently according to the age of the contributor – there are clearly a few dinosaurs who hark back to what they think of as the good old days of football violence (FV for the ITK), and are forever re-living the days when they showed the world what jolly tough chaps they were by gratuitously banging heads with like-minded morons who happened to sport the colours of an opposing team.  Most of the younger contributors have no memories of such laddish behaviour, as organised hooliganism is largely consigned to the dustbin of history.  But this doesn’t stop the young and stupid tendency from wanting to ape their elders, and there is a lot of hero-worship going on, the objects of which are all too clearly those retired knuckle-draggers mentioned above.

There is a slight overlap from the SC Forum into WACCOE; some of the older boneheads have a presence there too, and again they find no shortage of young and foolish acolytes desperate for the approval of what are still comically known as “lads” (you have to remind yourself occasionally that the majority of former hooligans are now grandads of fifty-plus who are firmly in the “old enough to know better” club).  But WACCOE has another element too – generally these are a bit younger and frequently claim to be in some or other well-paid employment that doesn’t require much deep thought or originality, depending heavily on “I earn this much a year and I drive this or that inadequacy-compensating car”.

Again, this overly-defensive group are identifiable by a horror of seeming “different” to those they worship and by a poignantly-obvious need to bunch together with kindred spirits; to be accepted as part of a collective with a distinct and identifiably limited, conservative world-view.  The anonymity of the internet then affords these needy people the opportunity to jump on anybody with a viewpoint that doesn’t conform to the mainstream views prevalent on either WACCOE or the SC Forum, thus validating in their own minds the self-image they’re so assiduously cultivating.

On both sites, the moderation is insipid at best, so the abiding tendency of the rabid defenders of the current draconian government, to shout down voices of protest, is generally quite unfettered.  Any lone voice which does demonstrates a determination to have its say, or which defends its position vigorously, is left in no doubt that such views are unwelcome. Not altogether in the spirit of free speech, there are frequently appeals to the moderators to close threads where the cosy prejudices of the anti-intellectual hoi polloi are too enthusiastically challenged.  At the end of the day, it is likely to be the voices which shout loudest who prevail; free thinkers tend to get shouted down and any rational debate is drowned out.

One odd irony in this process is the tendency, during the initial part of the shouting-down phase, for those who wish to impress their heroes on the forum to attempt put-downs of a distinctly aggressive and/or abusive nature. However, if the response to this is in any way aggressive or abusive in return, then hurt, shock and outrage are tearfully expressed – and there is usually some petulant demand for the minority party to be banned, ironically for “not being able to debate rationally or without descending to abuse“. Clearly, then, reciprocity of invective is unwelcome.  Such a blatant contradiction is comical on the face of it, but the double-standard it exemplifies is deeply unattractive.  It appears that these forums are not primarily about debate, but are instead much more about that old demon of “wanting to belong”. All of which tells us much about those who wish to form and belong to cliques – but it doesn’t help in the search for a useful and stimulating, diverse forum with Leeds United AFC as its focus, but with an eye on other issues as well.

The key to having an internet forum which satisfies the requirements of those who don’t crave the approval of a boorish majority, would seem to be strong and impartial moderation.  This is where some of the better blogs out there probably score heavily over the anarchic babble which so typifies too many of the forums.  But, really, there should be a place for both forum and blog as, ideally, they exist to meet different needs.  The typical blog will, initially, carry the views of a strictly limited number of people.  This particular blog is a one-man operation; some, such as the excellent We All Love Leeds, have a group of able writers moderated by a dedicated editor. In either case, a lot of the diversity is achieved through the comments received to blog articles, frequently amounting to a thread of debate.  On this blog, I am extremely fortunate to have a collection of regular contributors who enhance and enrich the content with their entertaining and informed viewpoints.  I exercise quality control by eliminating the unacceptable trolling, and the result is – I firmly believe – a balanced resource which reflects viewpoints from all shades of opinion, without any need for recourse to childish name-calling.

The content of the typical forum, by contrast, is led by its public; there is no particular editorial position. Pretty much anyone can say pretty much anything once they are accepted onto the board and, without strong leadership and continual monitoring, many of the threads swiftly descend into slanging matches, pack hunting or – probably worst of all – escalating competitions where the desperate-for-approval strive to out-do each other in appearing successively more zany or off-the-wall witty than the contributor before.  That’s a skin-crawling thing to witness, and by no means conducive to grown-up debate, which consequently tends to wither on the vine.

I’m probably on the point of being ejected from both of the above-mentioned forums just at the moment, and it’s not something I will waste any time in mourning over.  What I am really wondering is: are there any resouces out there which are much better?  Any more enlightened forum where the young and yappy aren’t falling over themselves to gain the approval of older members who undeservedly gain this foolish cabal of admirers simply by regaling the ether with tales of what tough guys they used to be?  I do hope so.  Even these days, both the SC Forum and WACCOE occasionally produce little gems of information, scandal or gossip that remind you they used to be much more useful places, and not the barren wastes of time they have become more recently.

I’m well aware that many who read this blog will be frequenters of one or both of the forums I’ve mentioned above.  It may well be that some will wish to defend them against what might be seen as unfair criticism on my part.  That’s great – non-abusive disagreement has always been welcome on this blog.  So bring it on, I welcome all views that add to the debate and my position is not set in stone. But if anyone out there sees the smallest merit in what I’ve written – and especially if they know of a forum I could try which might not make me want to throw rocks at my screen – then I’d be grateful to hear about that, above all.

After this little rant, I do feel a bit better about things, thinking I may perhaps have touched a nerve here or there.  Now I just need a cup of coffee, some good TOMA news and maybe – just maybe – to have my faith in that whole “Marching On Together” thing restored a little.  Over to you on that last one…

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47 responses to “The Case for a Grown-up, Well-Moderated Leeds United Forum – by Rob Atkinson

  1. So start one. 🙂

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  2. Head on over to MOTforum Rob – http://www.motforum.com, where you will be most welcome.

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  3. cadillacjukebox

    You should pay a visit (and stay) at http://www.lufctalk.com – a broad, sensible and friendly (international) lufc forum, with firm but fair moderation and absolutely no trolling allowed. Bodgan and the Hanging Sheep will welcome you with open arms. This is the forum of choice for Rob Endeacott so intelligence is always valued. You’re welcome. @cadillacjukebox

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  4. Brian Wade

    Something more than schoolboy lingo with no swearing or blasphemy and reasoned discussion would be welcome.

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    • purewhite74

      I agree with the other points, but how can you have a site that bans ‘blasphemy’ and welcomes reasoned discussion? Surely that’s a contradiction in terms? Or have subtle tones of sarcasm glided above me?

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  5. Vital Leeds is a well informed site with a forum devoid of FV and obscenities.

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  6. Sorry to say it’s just a sad fact of life Rob. Put anything out there with public access and it won’t be long before it is found by the people you want to stay away from. The types you mention, and other types don.t see it that way. They think they are right/funny/cool/impressive/whatever. It;s just not worth the hastle.

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  7. We have one which is not right-wing in the slightest http://lufcchat.lufc-fan.com/ipb/

    Problem with Football Forums is that they are easily perceived of as being right wing, but it’s only when things go off topic, which is easy when Leeds have been in such a state for such a long time.

    Ignore the right wing Tory zealots and just have fun, better still either argue an alternate argument like i had to on Waccoe on the recent Austerity thread.

    On and On

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  8. Sniffers shorts

    Come on nothing wrong with venting steam from time to time, we all pump blood around our veins, self preservation society ..:.. Free democracy free speech Hence the beauty of the web ….. Good god Rob taking this one tongue in cheek me ald mucker

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  9. You are an island of reality in a sea of diarrhoea.Your blog is rather pertinent tonight as by sheer coincidence i got a load of abuse from the “hard of thinking” on the Unofficial Leeds United forum for suggesting that we should re-sign Becchio on loan. After reading about the right wing scum just there,i’m starting to wonder if the reason these people don’t want him is because he’s Argentinian.

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  10. Just a humble blogger, so humble you label at will, but then again you are clearly a modest humble blogger, whereas the rest of us wince at your shining intellect, oh great one .

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    • Quite right. Take note people; the standard form of address now when you presume to speak to me directly is “Oh Great One”. Glad we got that sorted.

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  11. Watch the blood pressure Rob, don’t care so much about other blogs & Man. Utd Your writing is good & all you need to worry about. I like the fact you put my comments up even when I disagree strongly( sometimes)

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  12. Has this got anything to do with you getting a cyber kicking for continually trying to wind them up on the sc site Rob.

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    • A cyber kicking, Theo. Well, well, well – don’t you sound a right tough little toy soldier. I’m afraid you rather make my point for me, but for the sake of clarity, let’s be emphatic about this: that geriatric lot on the SC forum couldn’t cyber-kick their way out of a wet cyber bag.

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  13. Steve Bruce Ate My Hampster

    What about Scratching Shed…….

    This feels like a clip off Life of Brian…..what have the Bloggers ever done for you ??? Well theres Vital Leeds, Scratching Shed…..yes yes but apart from them What have they given you ?? Well what about We all Love Leeds ?

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  14. Thanks Cadillac for the forum tip, I’ll have a look.
    One forum that’s very much a mixed bag, is Yorkshire Evening Post’s comments sections on LUFC articles which are themselves of wildly fluctuating quality. The worst presence on YEP are the self-righteous types whose efforts often include the phrases “you lot” and some preachy admonishment that dissenting voices are not “proper supporters who support” or know our place presumably.
    Others love to insert the word “FACT” when really they should have typed “OPINION”, and a well-worn sentence closer the old “END OF” which is the ultimate (literally) giveaway of the closed mind.

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  15. david scown

    There is a small site named lufcloaded. Been going for about three years, and is (almost) totally wum and idiot free.

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  16. ozziewhite

    A good site is http://www.lufcloaded.co.uk/index.php?app=uportal Friendly site with a good chatbox, particularly on matchday. Always looking to welcome new members Rob

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  17. well iv just made my last comment on a certain blog.. cudnt believe the amount of people slagging off McDermot and calling for his head.. Do these idiots see the same situation as the rest of us? cudnt help but call em glory-supporters and to head across the border for a nice new red shirt.. Iv always enjoyed your blog.. cant say as i always fully agree with you but ur open to debate which quite frankly is a credit to you.. carry on as you are kid.. i enjoy ur blogs..

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  18. Aaaaaaa whats a matter you haigh
    gotta no respect haigh
    Why you looka so sad haigh
    Itso not so bad itsa nice place a shuddupa your face.

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  19. You are always welcome on Vital Leeds, Rob. A small group of users who have been using the site for a number of years now. I cannot remember the last time there was a really serious argument and it never gets personal.

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    • Quality, well-constructed and well-written site Daz, and invaluable to me as you know. Never really thought of it as a “forum”.

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      • Daz King

        Quite a small community of users on the forum but like I say, they have been coming on the site for a number of years now. I drink with a few of them now at home and away games.

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  20. Don Ancient White Mawby,isn’t it a shame that i had speak their own language,with it’s limited vocabulary just to make myself heard? Now i’m quite sure Rob is capable of perusing the various Leeds forums without the need for Victor Meldrew piping up to say “he did it too”. I would point you towards my original comment on the site in question and the subsequent vitriol that came my way. You’d think i’d suggested a minutes applause for j,savile at the next home match, the way these cretins responded to my “bring back Becchio” comment. As for being monosyllabic, i may not be as erudite or articulate whilst commenting. This is due to me using my Nokia phone to comment and i’m usually on the move anyway. Despite this, i don’t think either mr Mawby or those in need of anger management on the unofficial Leeds site are adequately armed for a battle of wits with me.

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  21. http://www.lufctalk.com is well worth frequenting, Rob, as mentioned elsewhere in your comments.

    Friendly, informative, and blissfully devoid of the name-calling and gratuitous insult-slinging found on so many forums.

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  22. you should try out – http://www.unofficiallufc.co.uk/index.html – best forum about IMO

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    • Thanks to everybody who has suggested alternatives to SC & WACCOE – I’ll definitely be checking them out.

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    • Angday123,,are you serious? UnofficialLufc isn’t excactly the home of free thinking,it’s more of a “swinging from trees thinking” site. If you’re not a regular local yokel and you dare to be different and disagree,it doesn’t half upset them.

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  23. Very interesting article and one I will post for our members at LUFCTALK to have a read of!
    When our forum was born back in 2008 our idea was to create a forum for Leeds fans everywhere to be able to have friendly discussions about the club regardless of their location, years of support, age and attendance. It wasn’t a fluffy ideology, more of a desire to create to a place that was just easy to log onto and have a moan without making your weekend worse!
    The thing is, forums are very much personal choice, one persons choice is not necessarily the choice of anothers despite them sharing the same club.
    As Leeds United fans we are lucky to have a broad and varied spectrum of supporters forums to join and participate in, I really think there is something out there for everyone!
    MOT

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  24. wetherby white

    blimey rob, you didn’t expect much “right on” debate on the Service Crew site did you-I think the name gives it away! Im of the fifty something generation who remember ER in the eighties being something like a Hitler youth rally with violence and racial abuse the norm. Mercifully times have changed but there still out there.
    I usually post my pearls of wisdom on the YEP forum but its regulary spoilt by the papers liking for printing posts from southerners (man u fans) and bitter Yorkshire rivals.
    Don’t see much politics in Right in the Gary Kellys or numerous other good sites. For me personally I don’t like seeing politics in sport anywhere, no matter what colour it is.

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  25. Rob

    You are always welcome on http://www.not606.com/ you will just have to view as a guest 🙂

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  26. The SC forum is a joke and has been for years – I was once threatened by some ‘hard old un’ who wanted to meet up to have a do stating ‘you name the time and place and I’ll be there’ – well at the time I lived in Manningham in Bradford and named the place, time and date – he went very quiet on me after that which was very amusing – though all his mates went on about Bradford for months and in particular about p*k*s. It would have been very amusing if any of them would have been stupid enough to come over to that part of Bradford spouting their bile (though I’m sure Eccleshill would welcome them with open arms) – intolerance is born from impotence and there’s no better example that those who frequent the SC forum.
    I have to ask though Rob – did you post on said forum just for a laugh? cos I’m sure you would know the manner of response from that sad little ‘crew’

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  27. 25,000 posts on waccoe and I’m none of the above…I’m also marginalized as Bates tolerant, anti GFH from day 1, and not being a fan of the much overrated Brian McDermott…I also have 10,000 plus posts on MOT..

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  28. A good modern friendly forum with plenty of additions such has a good shoutbox, create your own blog which appears on News Now, all the latest videos etc and an extensive gallery … http://lufcchat.lufc-fan.com/ipb/

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  29. Leeds United Forums – LUFC Chat – NO others come close !
    Living in France it’s Right on the Nail for latest news,honest opinion,humour,varied topics & offers something for ALL age groups from all backgrounds with excellent Moderators whom let the Threads flow. MOT – MrsORichSenior (lufc chat)

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  30. Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Many thanks, However I am experiencing troubles with your RSS.
    I don’t know the reason why I cannot join it. Is there anyone else having the same RSS issues?
    Anybody who knows the solution will you kindly respond?
    Thanx!!

    Like

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