I heard it on the Twitter Vine


Football has much bigger things to worry about than six second videos being shared across Social Media hasn’t it?  Well not if you read some of the more recent news stories and official comments made by the governing bodies that run the game in England.  Statements using words such as “crackdown”, “unlawful” and “infringing” have elevated the issue to headline status with organisations including the BBC, Bloomberg and The Financial Times covering the story in depth in the past few weeks.  But is it all just a storm in a tea cup?

It is important to take a step back and understand the context before we can really pass any judgement.  The facts on face value are simple.  Any distribution of copyrighted material, irrespective of the medium, is piracy. Back in the day it used to be confined to taping the Top 40 off Radio 1, finger ready at the pause button to avoid Mike Reid’s voice.  Technology has presented us with so many opportunities to take our media with us wherever we go in a digital form, but that has increased the problem of piracy to untold lengths.  Illegal distribution of latest film releases is still a major issues for film studios as well as cinemas who need to constantly police their theatres to ensure nobody is covertly recording movies.

Vine-LogoVine seems to be the latest problem child.  The app, designed specifically for the smartphone, allows users to make their own 6 second “movie”, condensing video and pictures, then sharing with the world at the touch of a button.  Formed in June 2012, the start-up was acquired by Twitter before it even officially launched for a reported $30 million having been seen as a natural rival to what Facebook were trying to do with Instagram.  Today, with over 40 million users, Vine is a platform for those with creative vision, challenging users to make those six seconds unique, compelling and above all worthy of sharing on Social Media.  According to an article published by US Library of Medicine earlier this year, our attention span has dropped to just eight seconds on average, meaning that Vine is becoming the perfect media for advertisers who want to grab the attention of Internet users.

The fact that the word “vine” has now entered the modern day lexicon along with Tweet, SnapChat and Like shows how we consume digital content.  So why is there a problem?

During an average 90 minute football match, the ball is only actually in-play and live for around 50 minutes.  Out of that period how many minutes are taken up by goal mouth action or incidents?  Five minutes at the maximum?  You only have to watch the final game every Saturday on Match of the Day to see how brutal an editor can be with a mediocre game, reducing 90 minutes down into 90 seconds.  So if you are able to compartmentalise the key moments, Vine becomes the perfect medium to share the action.  With our short attention span, do we really need to see the same incident for every angle or just be able to pause and rewind it ourselves?

The Premier League is the richest football league in the world. The excesses in our national game have been driven by outlandish commercial deals, spiralling ticket prices but above all, multi-billion pound TV deals.  Having invested so much money into these deals, broadcasters such as Sky have to get the return on their investment in terms of subscribers.  One way to get new viewers and keep the old ones coming back month after month? Invest in the technology.  Sky Plus, TiVo boxes and hard disk recorders are all now staple items in living rooms up and down the country allowing us to record, pause, rewind and access additional content as standard.  By being able to rewind the action to the point where the latest action starts, Vine users can then simply take a screenshot of the action then press publish.  Seconds later the goal can be seen on timelines of millions of people across the world on Twitter. This has been the catalyst to the high-profile issue that the Premier League want to clamp down on.  So in summary, the commercial rights that they put on the table have essentially fuelled a problem they now want the broadcasters and Social Media to stop.

So what exactly is the issue?  In its simplest form it is one of copyright infringement.  Everything that happens on a Premier League football pitch is copyrighted, owned by the clubs, the governing bodies, the advertisers, the broadcasters or the sponsors.  Even taking pictures within a stadium can get you ejected or even arrested – the use of any device that can capture or distribute digital content is explicitly banned according to the stadiums conditions of entry, although few will mind you taking the odd snap or two.  The reason is that every time you capture an image it will contain copyrighted material.  A shirt sponsor, a perimeter board even a player’s face themselves.  Companies pay millions to have exclusive rights to be associated with the players, the clubs and the stadiums and they take a dim view of anyone else having a free ride.

Good old technology again has made the professional production of instant highlights possible and so the Premier League has been able to offer additional rights packages to commercial partners.  Last season the Premier League sold the online digital rights for the distribution of goal action to News International to mobile devices. Their paid-app product touts “almost immediate” access to every goal in the Premier League.  Yet before they can push the net-rippler out, thousands of people have already shared the moment through a Vine on Social Media.  What is the value then in a subscriber using their service if they can get it quicker, and cheaper, elsewhere?   If existing subscribers simply walk away from the paid service, what value are News International getting from their significant investment and are they likely to renew it?

Match of the Day used to be our only way of seeing the day’s main action.  Today, before the famous theme tune starts just after 10.30pm on a Saturday, all of the day’s main talking points have been shown around the world thousands of times. What football fans want to see are those incidents that the TV broadcasters never show.  Take the example from the opening day’s Premier League game between West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur.  An eventful game with two sending offs, a missed penalty and a late winner for the visitors.  But the main event which was shared across the world via Vine was when a pitch invader ran on the turf and took a free-kick on goal that was being lined up whilst being pursued by stewards.  Yet that one incident will never be shown on Match of the Day, Sky Sports or BT Sports. Why?  Because it may encourage others to do the same? Maybe, but the main reason is that it could be deemed to undermine the value of our game to those commercial partners.

So what can the Premier League do to enforce the laws on copyright infringement on Vine?  Practically, very little.  The one aspect here is one of the fundamental principles of English law.  To be found guilty of an offence the perpetrator has to demonstrate the “mens rea” and the “actus rea”- the guilty mind and guilty act.  In theory, if someone didn’t mean to do something wrong, they can’t be found guilty of an offence.  It is not always as simple as that but does someone who takes a Vine of Aaron Ramsey’s 90th minute winner for Arsenal versus Crystal Palace doing so because he is intent on infringing the Premier League, among others, image rights or because he wanted to share the moment with millions of fellow Arsenal fans across the world?

Once infringing content has been identified, there is still the issue of removing it.  The beauty of Social Media is that it’s instantaneous.  I can quickly search using hashtag for the material I want and see immediately.  But if material needs to be removed there is a set process that has to be followed and that takes time.  The reason why hundreds of millions of people use Twitter is that it allows free speech.  If it was heavily policed then people would simply move elsewhere.  So whilst the Premier League can request that content is removed for legitimate copyright infringing reasons, it will have been seen by thousands of people already.

So is this just sabre-rattling by the football authorities, or will they genuinely crackdown on users sharing illegal content?  Brand and reputation monitoring solutions are becoming more effective every month but they would still need to justify the investment in a comprehensive solution would be effective in eliminating the problem.  We see technology advancing all the time, so who is to say what medium we will using and consuming in six months let alone six years.  Football has far too many other issues that need to be addressed before it can genuinely think about policing social media to stop these issues.

PS – I wrote this a few weeks ago.  On Saturday I noticed that a very well-known ex-Premier League footballer who is now a commentator on a national commercial radio station tweeted a “Vine” from the Liverpool v West Brom game whilst it was still in-play to his hundreds of thousands Twitter followers, breaching the rules.

AVB highlights Defoe importance


Jermain Defoe has often struggled to cement his place in the Tottenham starting line-up during his two spells with the club, but the striker has highlighted his importance to the team this season after a sensational run of form.

Already with 10 goals to his name and leading the Spurs’ strike-force under new manager Andre Villas-Boas, Defoe looks critical to the club’s hopes of getting themselves back into that all important top-four, upsetting the Unibet Premier League odds and securing Champions League football in the process.

Laughing off suggestions that Defoe could be set to link up with former Spurs manager Harry Redknapp at QPR, current manager Villas-Boas made it clear the England striker was one of Europe’s finest finishers, comparing him with Atletico Madrid’s Falcao who the coach worked with at Porto.

“I certainly put Jermain alongside Falcao in terms of finishing ability,” insisted Villas-Boas.

“His hunger for goal is extreme. That makes things easier for you to work with because you don’t have to teach a lot.” Continue reading

Arsenal’s defeat no laughing matter


As Arsenal stumbled at stuttered to their worst ever Champions League defeat last week, the medium of choice for the clinically insane, Twitter, light up like a flare launched from the bowels of the San Siro.  Spurs fan Peter South analyses the effect.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic completed Arsenal’s humiliation by claiming the fourth goal of the night, a penalty after Johan Djourou had invited the former Barcelona forward to tumble to the ground, but by then the Gunners had already been embarrassed on the grandest possible stage. Even casinos mobile pundits were watching.

“It was a shocking result and a shocking performance. It was of those nights you never forget,” said Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger as he examined the ashes of another failed Champions League campaign.

“There was not one moment in the 90 minutes we were really in the game, and it was always the same problem, balls over the top and we were well beaten.”

The Frenchman added of his side’s chances of progressing to the quarter finals: “We don’t play in dream world. There is maybe a 2% or 5% (chance) statistically.”

What struck most however was not the obvious pain of a man who is desperately trying to prop up the house he has spent 16 years building, but the enjoyment some took in his humiliation.

Is there any point in wasting energy at another club’s expense so vigorously that some supporters seem to enjoy it more than a victory for their own team? Is there much enjoyment to be taken from seeing an English side fail so dramatically on the European stage, in front of millions of watching spectators?

Wojciech Szczesny  was open to the most amount of criticism having claimed before the match, in reference to rivals Tottenham’s victory over Milan at the same stage of the competition last year, that if they could do it, so could Arsenal. Cue much mirth from the white half of north London at the Polish shot-stoppers expense.

As ever, Szczesny fronted up after the game, coming out to do a post-match interview as he so often seems to do, and was, as ever, honest and fair in his assessment of the game. For that alone, after a game such as last night’s, surely some credit is due.

There was nothing satisfying about watching a once great side humiliated. There was also nothing to fawn over as one of the greatest men to ever pull on an Arsenal shirt, Thierry Henry, was forced to bawl and scream at his lost team-mates on quite probably his last ever game for the club while Milan run riot, seemingly able to score at will.

Social networks were set ablaze with the cruel tone of mocking and satisfaction in their failings, but I see no reason to celebrate and laugh at their shortcomings, if only such energy was put to positive use. I’m a Tottenham fan, and took no joy whatsoever in Arsenal’s public capitulation.

Parliamentary privilages


The rise in profile of the women’s game in England has been more noticeable in the past year than at any other stage in its history.  There are a number of reasons for this – the success of the inaugural Women’s Premier League this season; the hosting of the UEFA Women’s Champions League final at Craven Cottage in May and of course the huge success of the sixth FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany.  However, it is not all about of the onfield progress.  It is the progress of what is going on behind the scenes.

One thing is for sure.  The amount of dedication of key individuals off the field will make the on field success even more noticeable in the years to come.  We have already spoken to one of the most respected female officials in the Northern Leagues, Linzi Robinson, and in the coming weeks we will be talking to the manager of Lewes Ladies, Jacquie Agnew, on the success of the Sussex club.

But in one of those random Google searches we all do once in awhile we managed to stumble upon Tracey Crouch.  Qualified Football coach, Spurs fan and Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford.  Two out of three isn’t bad I suppose.  I met up will Tracey at Portcullis House a few weeks ago and was bowled over by her enthusiasm for the game.  Regularly checking her Blackberry, not for updates on policy making, but on whether Modric would be staying at White Hart Lane, we chatted for an hour about the game, the politics and why Clive Allen left Arsenal after just 7 weeks and zero competitive appearances for the club. Continue reading

Not all clubs are born to succeed


Pete South explains why not all clubs are born equal, and not all clubs are born to succeed.

Whether that affects who you follow or not is up to you, but like most of us, I was born into supporting a club, and mine happened to be Tottenham Hotspur.

Why I support Tottenham Hotspur
It wasn’t because my Father placed me upon his shoulders as we watched the likes of Paul Gascoigne strut his stuff around White Hart Lane – nothing anywhere near as clichéd as that.

In fact, my Dad doesn’t even support Spurs. He is a Leyton Orient fan (much to his detriment) and I would have been quite happy to follow the trials and tribulations of a lower league side with all the kudos that comes with it for being a real fan, but I wasn’t given a chance.

I was born into the Premier League era. I was born into the proliferation of money and glamour that has now swamped football. The image of the Liverpool FA Cup side in their garish white suits remains, while the ’94 World Cup was my first real experience of the power of football both in terms of money and influence. And I wanted to be involved.

So frankly, although there was no conscious decision, Orient would have always have struggled to win my affections.

I was born into a club, but the influence came from my brother. The fire came from, somewhat peculiarly, a small, glossy, signed postcard of Erik Thorstvedt owned by him.

With thanks to Historickits.co.uk

The over-riding memory of my childhood and football came from the fact that the man who stood in the goal on TV had signed a picture and handed it to my brother. My brother had met a famous man who was on telly and played football? That blew my mind and from then on I was intrigued, and the hand-me-down yellow Holsten Spurs kit sealed the deal. OK, so that is a bit cliché, but I was a Tottenham fan.

David Ginola. Gary Mabutt, Justin Edinburgh, Sergei Rebrov, Darren Anderton are the type of names that filled my mind as a youngster. But it was the wonderfully talented Teddy Sheringham who was the object of my affections.

Sheringham was the archetype of a fans favourite. Skilful, composed, quick of mind and feet, full of artistry and he went against the grain. We loved him and he loved us. The day he left for Man United for £3 million (a sum which still angers me today) was a sorry day for me.

The greatest thing about supporting a club like Spurs comes from the sense of pathos felt by the White Hart Lane faithful. Only a few clubs (West Ham and Newcastle spring to mind) have managed to master the art of impending doom and honour in underachieving during my formative years like Spurs.

But things have all changed at the Lane. We are successful now, even playing Champions League football now. I still moan about things which make friends who support less successful clubs furious, but I reserve the right to complain (why do we have a black away shirt  like Liverpool this season? That type of thing) in what is effectively the halcyon days. It has been bred into me. It’s my club, after all.

The proudest moment of my life…apart from the birth of my daughter


I may have seen the greatest football match of my life the other week. I have supported Tottenham Hotspur my entire life, not because of any family loyalty and definitely not for any glory but mainly because of the Moss Man figure from Masters of the Universe but that’s a different story altogether.

The Peter Crouch headed goal at Eastland on 5th May last year guaranteed Spurs a place in the Champions League. This would be the first time in my supporting life that I would get to see my team playing in Europe on a Tuesday or Wednesday night and not on Channel 5 on a Thursday.

I’m not one for nostalgia but I do recognise the history of the club I support and have been filled with a sense of optimism and excitement as well a deep sense of pride for the achievement last season. Many talk about the European pedigree of the club and of 1984 but I am just too young to remember that let alone feel part of it, this is my time and I want it to count. Continue reading

My first game – Martin Searle


Crystal Palace 0 Tottenham Hotspur 2 (Pearce, Chivers)
Saturday 23rd August 1969
Selhurst Park
Football League Division One
Attendance: 39,494

First, a confession. This wasn’t my first game – that was Chelsea 1 Nottingham Forest 1 in August 1968. But my only memory of that is of some lads trying to get a bonfire going on the North Terrace, and I’d also have to confess to being a Chelsea fan at that age. And indeed, when I went to my second football game, the first of what turned out to be countless Palace games.

It was my 11th birthday treat, but Chelsea were away, so my brother Graham and myself were to meet up with his brother-in-law George and his mates, who were all die hard Fornton Eefite Palace fans, to watch this game as neutrals. It was Palace’s 3rd ever home game in Division One, and none of us were expecting them to get anything from it. Spurs had Greaves, Chivers, Gilzean, Mullery, Jennings, ‘Nice one Cyril’ Knowles. Palace had John Jackson and Steve Kember, and nobody else those outside SE25 had heard of. Continue reading