It’s a tough life being a Birmingham City supporter. On Saturday the team lost again and subsequently found themselves in the relegation zone in the Championship. Thanks to the pandemic it’s been nearly a year since fans were able to vent their frustrations in the ground and as such there has been a rise of vitriol on social media.
On Saturday, that spilled over into the local football phone in on Radio WM as presenter Richard Wilford received the ire of one fan for not pushing back harder on Blues manager Aitor Karanka or CEO Ren Xuandong.
While it’s understandable that people are angry at people in the local media, there is definitely a talking point about what is wrong with shooting the messenger.
In recent times, Richard Wilford has been pretty much the only conduit between local media and the board. Wilford’s connection with the powers that be at the club, and with Ren in particular have given him an insight into what’s going on behind the scenes that few others have.
That’s become partially manifested as what have become known as “Wilfbombs”; nuggets of transfer news on Twitter which have been extraordinarily accurate due to the sources involved. Blues fans on Twitter have quickly become hungry for this news and every “Wilfbomb” is met with a sea of GIFs and hyperbole from excited supporters.
There is a downside to this though.
While everything is good, people are happy with being given these snippets of news as it gives them something nice to think and talk about.
When things start turning bad (as they have done right now), that happiness turns to ire as people demand more is asked of those in power at the club. As frustration boils over following repeated defeats, vitriol which would normally have been expended on the terraces at the ground instead finds itself manifesting as angry tweets and messages.
With the club now in a real relegation fight, there is now a fair number of people looking for someone to point the finger at. Unable to get to the board or the manager, some have started blaming the local media for not “having done more”.
One particularly unhelpful thing I’ve seen people do online is to compare reporters and broadcasters in the media such as Wilford, freelance radio reporter Tom Ross or Birmingham Mail journalist Brian Dick to me.
There have been accusations that these people (and others) who are employed by local media have not done enough to report on what is happening at the club in comparison to the work I’ve done for my website almajir.net
I’ll be honest; comparing the work I’ve done to the work the local media do is like comparing chalk with cheese. There are huge differences between what I can do and what they can do which makes comparing the two just daft.
I freely admit I work as a lone wolf; that I’m not particularly comfortable working on stuff to do with Birmingham City as part of a team. I write when I want, how I want, about what I want. I have no deadlines, no editorial line and no real need to sell anything or make any money from what I write.
This means that if I want to write 2,000 words about how the Stock Market of Hong Kong works and how that affects the ownership of the club, I can do that. It means if I want to talk for seven and a half minutes to camera about Cambodia and the connections to the club there, I can do that too. It doesn’t matter if no one reads it or watches it — I’m doing it for myself and my own reasons.
People employed by the local media do not have that luxury.
They will have only a small amount of time to broadcast their reports on the club, and are duty bound to use that limited amount of time to talk about the biggest talking points.
They have only a limited amount of space and time to write articles and reports on the club, and are duty bound to write articles which will attract newspaper purchases and website hits as advertising is what pays their wages.
The issues surrounding the club are long and complex, and cannot be neatly summarised into a 400 word bite size report. It’s impossible to put everything accurately into context in a five minute soundbite for the radio, or for TV — and as much as it’s going to pain some people to hear this, no one outside of Birmingham City fans really cares about the club.
If there is one word which is guaranteed to annoy me, it’s “awareness”. People talk of raising awareness of the issues surrounding Birmingham City in the media as if it will automatically solve a problem.
While I have no doubt that there being more people interesting the issue would ensure that there are more people aware of the problem who could do something about it, I don’t think it guarantees that they would do something,
Talking about the problems the club is facing is a good thing, but in my honest opinion, action is what is is needed.
Action is hard though, because many people do not know what they need to do. Last month, I wrote a Medium piece where I talked about my ideas for how to cause change at the top of Birmingham City.
I stand by what I said in that piece; that change can only be brought about by forcing regulatory bodies to enforce their own rules when they have been broken. Since I wrote that piece I know a few people who have tried to do their bit, but as always there is no cohesion.
Part of that is because there is no actual consensus of what the problem the club has.
Some believe it’s as simple as changing stuff on the pitch; whether it be playing with two strikers, or more attacking players, or changing manager to one who would do one of the first two things.
Some people believe that the problem is a little bit deeper; that there are issues in the boardroom that need to be resolved and that by changing the CEO could be what is needed to bring about improvement.
Others (including myself) believe the issue is even bigger; that the issues surrounding the ownership and their motivations have an effect on everything underneath them, and that some kind of change needs to be brought about at the highest level.
If there is no consensus of opinion on what the problem is, how can anyone be expected to be aware of it and to do something about it?
Likewise, if there is an eagerness to shoot the messenger because of the problems the club faces, why would anyone want to get involved with trying to do something?