by Rob Ward

For many, it was Sky’s billions which ruined football. The advent of the cash-saturated Premier League saw the working-class masses alienated by playboy players and diving foreigners, with their places in the stands stolen by prawn-sandwich chomping chancers claiming the ‘people’s game’ as their own. But those dewy-eyed romantics would do well to remember the improvements in quality which Murdoch’s millions have brought the game during the last twenty years: free-flowing football, graceful technicians such as Gianfranco Zola, visionary managers like Arsene Wenger, European Cup triumphs for Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea.

Maybe then, the blame for killing our game should be apportioned to those exponents of its dark arts: the divers, injury-feigners and shirt-pullers? Or is it the racists? The fans chanting sick chants about other teams’ tragedies? Is it Manchester United pulling out of the FA Cup? Jim White’s absurd deadline day histrionics? Robbie Savage’s multi-platform media career?

It is none of these.

What ruined football was the internet.

Now, literary arse-gravy like Josh Green’s anti-Manchester United diatribe on this very website is afforded an ill-deserved home. Myopic, impartial, abusive twaddle is given an audience, encouraging equally mis-judged and thoughtless responses which rapidly dissolve into a series of slanging matches, pissing contests and potentially libellous accusations which make everyone involved look positively rabid.

Of course, Mr Green is entitled to his opinion. But his article is based on nothing else. There is no journalistic merit to his rant. No balance. Not even wit or charm. It’s simply a list of grievances, allegations and generalisations linked together with nought but bile. Anyone with a semblance of intelligence could rebut every one of his points at will. Someone with time on their hands might even dash off a quick list of half-truths and conspiracy theories about Josh’s club (Tevez practising his golf swing in Argentina, Balotelli’s many indiscretions, Mancini rumbling with his own players, the manager’s ‘mind games’ in last season’s title race, stadium naming rights sold to the club’s owners at vastly inflated prices, mocking the Munich air disaster and using the ‘they did it first’ defence, Joey Barton’s Hamlet advertisement, Kolo Toure’s second job as a used car salesman, etc…).

Why are the rantings and ramblings of Green provided with a platform? Why has Twitter become a rogue state for petty-minded tribalism? Why are message boards filled with trolls and trouble-causers? And why are rival fans so eager to bite?

Sadly, this abysmal stream of literary detritus exists because the internet is utterly unfiltered. To restrict it would be to deny us our freedom of expression – and our inalienable right stand at a distance, obscured by our Twitter avatars and profile pictures, stirring the sh** and ignoring the stench.