AFTV: Fans Views or Giving Toxicity a Platform?

Anyone who’s a football fan (and probably quite a few who aren’t) will know who AFTV are. For those who don’t, AFTV (formerly known as Arsenal Fan TV) are a channel on YouTube created and hosted by Robbie Lyle who create content about Arsenal football club. The videos that gain the most attention are the interviews they do after games with regulars often appearing such as Troopz, DT, Claude and Ty. I’ve known about it for a long time with the first video I ever saw of theirs was at the start of the 2013/14 season after the loss to Aston Villa on the opening day where a fan called Chris Hudson went on a rant about the result, board and poor transfer window (it’s mental how most of the points he made wouldn’t seem too out of place in an AFTV video now nearly 7 years on). The general perception towards AFTV for a while was just that of ‘meh’, nobody really cared too much but that’s beginning to change. With that I’m going to try and look at a few of the positives and negatives surrounding AFTV.

Disclaimer: This post is not a dig at Robbie, anyone who appears on the channel or AFTV themselves. It’s just a look at what the channel is and the arguments around whether they’re good for the club or not.

First of all, how the hell did AFTV get to where they are? They currently sit on 1.1 million subscribers on YouTube with those being Arsenal and rival fans alike. Their growth in the last few years has been insane, however if I had to pinpoint it to one moment where it started then it would be around December 2014 with the help of Twitter. Around this time was when the Wealdstone Raider and Andy Tate were blowing up across social media and some of the same people who were making parodies of them did so as well with AFTV personalities such as Claude, Chris Hudson and Ty. Whilst they never were as big as Andy Tate and the Wealdstone Raider, it still put Arsenal Fan TV (as it was known as at the time) on the map. In the next few years when you add in the introduction of fans to the channel such as Troopz and DT who were staunchly in the Wenger Out brigade and were seen on AFTV every week usually moaning about results, you then see this following develop where AFTV became the channel that it is today.

It’s important to take a look at the positives of AFTV to make a balanced argument and there are a few. Ultimately, it does what it says on the tin in that it’s a platform for Arsenal fans to express their views and opinions. It also gives supporters an opportunity to see what fellow fans are thinking and will most probably find somebody or a few people who share the same views as them. It’s also given some of the fans on there new opportunities to pursue careers online with YouTube. I’ve referenced them a few times already but the two most famous of the lot are probably Troopz and DT and this has shown with them starting their own YouTube channels. Were it not for AFTV giving them the platform that they do then it would’ve been much more difficult for them to build up the following that they’ve gained. One of the biggest criticisms that comes their way is that they profit off of negativity. But is that really their fault? They’ve been interviewing fans for years through ups and downs and because the last few seasons have been particularly naff then that doesn’t mean that they should just stop. It’s not their fault the players aren’t playing particularly well and they’ve been inconsistent. You can argue that they’re not profiting off negativity, they’re just profiting off Arsenal who happen to be having a pretty poor season so far.

However, there are definite negatives that come with AFTV. The strongest I believe is that there is a feeling of toxicity surrounding them. Especially towards the latter years of the Wenger era, a lot of fans with anti-Wenger narrative found themselves on the channel with some of the fans on there somewhat establishing themselves as the poster boys for the Wenger out brigade. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion however constantly slagging off the manager and players won’t go unnoticed by the club and will have a negative impact on morale. If you had a particularly bad few days at the office would you really be okay with people you’ve never met in your life shouting at a camera and saying you need to lose your job? Do me a favour. Many fans now are starting to get sick of them with some chanting at the Everton game “Arsenal Fan TV, get out of our club” with it also being picked up on the Sky cameras. The tide is starting to turn. There is a split starting to form amongst Arsenal fans as to whether is it really a good thing or not. There is also a feeling of this from some players with Hector Bellerin criticising them a few years back saying how it’s wrong for somebody to call themselves a fan yet thrive off negativity and criticism. Gary Neville has also criticised them in the past calling the channel an embarrassment. With a lot of the same faces coming on every week, there’s an argument to be made that the channel doesn’t really represent Arsenal at all. The minority of fans interviewed don’t reflect the views of all Arsenal fans in the slightest. Are you trying to tell me that every Arsenal fan on the planet wanted Wenger out or wants Mesut Ӧzil to be sold? Of course they don’t, yet there could be the perception that the majority of Arsenal fans think this because this is what’s mostly heard on AFTV. Many of the people who tune in to AFTV when Arsenal lose are fans of other teams. Not that there’s a huge problem with this, it’s just that at what point does is stop becoming content tailored for Arsenal fans? Other fans only watch it to take the mick when Arsenal play poorly so is it even for Arsenal fans anymore when the bigger market comes from elsewhere?

AFTV are going nowhere whether you like it or not. They’ve built an unbelievable internet empire and whether you love them or loathe them, you’ll probably find yourself at one time or another watching some of their content. They have essentially become the voice of Arsenal on the internet whether you perceive that to be a good thing or not. I’m not here to say whether it’s right or wrong, everyone’s entitled to their own opinions and who am I to say what people should or shouldn’t enjoy. It does make me wonder sometimes what would need to happen for AFTV to actually stop? Their presence cannot be ignored and whether you think it’s a good thing or not, they’re in for the long run and despite the potential toxicity that comes with it they’re not going anywhere.