We’re all on the same side

By Jason McKeown

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Bradford City game to chew over. This is the biggest gap between City matches since the second world war. And the late start to 2020/21 means we’ve still got several weeks to go yet.

The break from Bradford City has affected different people in different ways. Some people are really missing it and finding it hard, at least based on some of the messages I receive from readers. Others have switched off from City completely, understandably dealing with a lot bigger and more pressing issues in their lives due to Covid-19.

And then there are others, who seem to be getting angrier and angrier about the direction of the club.

It’s very understandable that many people are feeling frustrated. The bad old days of League Two football, 2007-2013, were supposed to be a thing of the past. Without torturing ourselves again, City were a dodgy offside decision away from edging promotion to the Championship just three short years ago. The collapse has been really painful. 2019/20 was meant to be about the rebirth of the club again. But the engine stalled.

Finishing ninth in League Two last season is not good enough for a club where supporters understandably have ambitions of Championship football. And when we look at the health of Bradford City on and off the field, we see a distant owner and infrastructure still weakened from the Edin Rahic wrecking ball. And a chief executive in Julian Rhodes, keeping a low profile.

There’s a lot to be unhappy about. A lot to urge the club to improve on. And an understandable frustration by the current state of flux.

There’s not a single City fan out there who would disagree that we need to strive for better. Nevertheless, the anger that has been building up on social media is in danger of spilling over and becoming very toxic. There is also attempts to bully City’s director of communications and commercial, Ryan Sparks, to the point it is rumoured he is thinking of quitting Twitter. Over recent months Sparks has clearly gone out of his way to communicate directly with supporters – sometimes revealing warts and all – but this has been met with scorn by a section of fans online. It is noticeable he has already stopped replying to Tweets.

Beyond that, fans with a more positive outlook are ridiculed or shouted down. Some have told me they’ve been busy with blocking and muting people on Twitter, because they’re fed up of receiving unprovoked attacks. More worryingly, a couple have even told me they’ve stopped following City, at least in terms of news and the conversation, because they’re struggling to want to be part of a fanbase where their views are shouted down.

“I think those people have successfully ended my connection to the Bradford City community,” one fan told me. He was talking about one particular Twitter account, well known to fans who frequent the #bcafc timeline, run by a handful of people who criticise the club relentlessly and turn on people who disagree. A couple of who have been publically outed as middle-aged men who frankly should be capable of behaving better. Another added of this particular account, “They’re online bullies. Arrogant and always wanting the last word. They never let an occasion slip to criticise the club or supporters who say anything to the contrary.

“I have blocked them and I know my friends have too. I’m fed up of the nastiness.”


What I love about football is that everyone can have an opinion. The Bradford City online community has generally been a really good melting pot of different views and ideas. You’re not going to agree with everyone, and you certainly have some heated bust-ups at times, but there’s a general respect for each other. We’re all City, together. Supporting the same cause. Wanting the same things.

Arguments are good fun. I enjoy a nice debate. Some City fans on Twitter are highly skilled at constructive challenge and in making you think deeper. There are times with City-related matters where I wonder what Ben or Gaz or Paul or Ian or Jo or Cathy think, and I go and find out.

But the problem, which has grown in recent weeks and months, is how nasty the wider conversation has become. How a group of people with a certain viewpoint have helped to breed a culture where people who think a different way are often bullied. Those central to this cause have even attracted other followers, who have started acting and behaving in the same way. You see a fan air a positive opinion and watch the pile on attacking them. It’s not nice to see.

There are worrying connotations about the direction that this is all heading. Everyone is entitled to their view on City. And a lot of the criticisms aired about the club are extremely fair and well argued. But for months a central group of fans have engaged in low level harassment of individuals they disagree with, and that is allowing a space and culture to open up where this sort of behaviour is seen as acceptable. So others revel in that space, and feel empowered to harass other people too. People who are, I’m sure, lovely and reasonable in real life feel they have licence to attack other people online.

There are fans who have been vilified and ridiculed, and those people are probably less connected to the club because of that.


It’s also changing the wider mood around supporting Bradford City. No one would disagree that the club deserves criticism for where we have headed these past three years. But equally, there comes a point where we have to let the club rebuild. Recognise they will be working hard to turn it around. Understand that they will be hurting too.

At the moment, every half-baked transfer rumour from an anonymous Twitter account or click-bait website is given credibility it doesn’t deserve. Often because it fits a narrative that others are determined to pedal. Leaping on every small news development and false rumour, as some sort of confirmation of a wider theory, undermines that constructive criticism.

Calls for better scouting, more analytical transfer thinking, and a director of football have merit. Who wouldn’t, upon looking at the last few transfer windows, dispute that City need to do better? But even though everyone can get on board with this thinking, the constant jabbing in the ribs that we “shouldn’t accept the situation” grates.

Are we supposed to boycott the club because it won’t appoint a DoF? When Billy Clarke plays, should we boo his every touch? If we can’t trust Stuart McCall to choose who he signs, should we start a campaign to get him removed? Just how do we go about “not accepting the situation”? There is a feeling from some quarters that the only way to bring improvement is to start a civil war.

The criticisms are not just angry but incomplete. None of us have access to the financial realities of the club. We think we do, but we don’t know the granular detail. But we do know that right now the vast majority of Bradford City staff are furloughed, and that the club has had no real income coming in since March. In fact, Rupp is believed to be putting in additional money to underwrite these losses.

As a business, is the club in a position to take on new staff, invest into a new scouting system, right now? And if Rupp was to put more money in, what do the majority of us think is the financial priority?

These are constructive and very interesting debates to have. We fans can and certainly should be asking more of Rupp. But it strikes me that Rupp has no good reason to listen to angry Tweets from anonymous accounts who in the next breath are accusing him of pocketing windfalls, or insulting club employees and fellow fans.

If I was Rupp, I’d struggle to understand why such people deserve to be taken seriously.


The great thing about football supporting is it gives you a deep connection to something. And it naturally generates strong opinions on a topic that only a few thousand of us are really knowledgeable about.

But having strong opinions can limit our ability to learn and be accepting of new information. Of understanding other points of view. Of developing empathy.

Each and every one of us can be guilty of suffering from confirmation bias. This means developing certain beliefs, then favouring information that confirms those biases, and ignoring information that challenges it. Social media can magnify this effect.

Just think of a City player you really liked. Every time they did something good, like scored a goal or produced a strong performance, you will have placed great weight on this ‘evidence’ as it confirmed your belief. If they had a stinker or made a mistake, you would dismiss or make excuses for it. And it would be a detail your brain quickly forgot.

According to VeryWellMind.com, “People who support or oppose a particular issue will not only seek information to support it, they will also interpret news stories in a way that upholds their existing ideas. They will also remember details in a way that reinforces these attitudes.”

This is very telling about a lot of the social media arguments that are happening on the BCAFC hashtag right now. It seems every piece of news is interpreted in a way that suits a pre-determined belief about the competence of Bradford City. And the history of the club is reframed in a way to try and justify that argument.

It is strong confirmation bias. But is can be dangerous because it will continue with every development from Valley Parade. Somehow, it would be nice if we could all get back to taking a more balanced view. Campaign for change and improvements positively. Understand different perspectives, especially if you want yours to be understood. But the trenches have already been dug.

The question is – do we have to stay in our own bunker?


The Bradford City supporter community – and social media – would be healthier if we all just stepped back a little bit. Let’s not rush to praise the club – but let’s not condemn them either. We don’t have to decide everything they’re doing is doomed to fail, or guaranteed to succeed.

There’s a really good constructive discussion for us all to have about the future of the club – the leadership, the infrastructure, the strategy, the planning, the ambition. But they can and should be done through civil open dialogue, rather than from behind a pitch fork.

No one has to just get behind the lads. No one has to accept merely being grateful just to have a club to support. But let’s remember that we are all Bradford City supporters. Wanting the same things, and let’s channel that energy and desire into something more constructive.

And above all else, let’s stop marginalising and bullying people who don’t happen to agree with us. Stop going after good people like Sparks, who are going out of their way to try and communicate openly and honestly with supporters. Because if we all stop and listen to each other more, we could all learn a lot.

Categories: Opinion


32 replies

  1. Jason, thank you for your timely reminder about etiquette on social media. In particular, I’m sorry to read about the abuse Ryan Sparks is getting on Twitter. I must admit bullying is an issue on other sites but I’ve rarely noted it on WOAP.

    • a bit rich from someone who t has a go at Rhodes for one on th et and a site…if you truly mean your comment here you need to think about the negativity to share everyday on the telegraph and argus Woody…..

  2. As usual an excellent and thought provoking article. Very little to disagree with the article. I guess 2 words come to mind frustration and resentment. Frustration for many with the current COVID situation and not being able to watch City, resentment against others rational opinions could be contributing factors to what’s going happening on social media.
    Let’s hope we will be able to go to city matches soon. And let’s trust McCall’s judgements and give him time to rebuild. How knows we could be back in league 1 next season!

  3. What a load of rubbish. Massively overexaggerated with some of your word choices in there Jason. Just adding to any perceived conflict.
    Every forum has debates and users that go OTT at times. You (and Bantams Banter) are picking choice examples to try and ostracize a group.
    I am so disillusioned with city and pro football in general, I don’t really care who is right or wrong and rarely read anything now, be it twitter, t&a, BT, CA or Woap. The odd times I do dip in? There is only one place where there is informed and reasonable debate, followed in 2nd place by some of the writers on here. Yes there is the odd wild opinion, profanity and sometimes comments that may be hurtful to a person, although those bear no comparison to what the idiots on Twitter write.
    Even those insensitive comments usually come from a place of truth, then twisted by someone else arguing against it.

  4. Absolutely spot on, no place for bullying whether it’s in the playground or online!

    Fans need to respect each other and differing points of view.

    These people are just Twitters version of ‘Kevin’s’ and ‘Karen’s’.

    Although I do sense there is a lot of un-welcome frustration and anger in general around the world at the moment – what with Brexit, Covid, Korea, Russia, China, Trump, Bojo, fake news, you name it….but thats not to condone anything that’s happened on the #bcafc.

  5. Thats really shocking.

    I’m not that old, and I’m an electonics enginneer used to working with technology so I’m no luddite. Strikes me the problem with social media is that there is no weighting given to the views expressed on it. Comments from a world renown economist and from ‘Barry the Binman’ are given equal weight when discussing global trade. Similarly Barry’s expertise is not acknoledged when discussing recycling and the plastic polution problem with the economist.

    Thats why I’m still a bit of an old duffer and buy a newspaper every week. I think you should pay money to fund trained journalists to filter out the rubbish and provide news and opinion in a coherent manner. Ideally I should buy a different paper every week to guard against confirmation bias but I just can’t bring myself to buy the daily mail.

    We need a football match to watch. To a greater or lesser extent this happens every summer. With no football to discuss people get preoccupied with niff naff and trivia. Once we have a result, a performance, a refereeing decision or a league table to discuss all this setlles down.

    In the meantime lets just be civil, kind and chill out. Following football is meant to be fun!

  6. In the current climate I’m looking forward to moaning about all things #bcafc. It must mean normality is just around the corner.

    Social media has its good & bad points. It gives the club greater options than ever before to communicate directly with the fan base. We have had the Lockdown Zoom based Captain’s Evening which was fantastic & tonight’s online fans forum, which in the past would have been hidden away to a 5 minute review on Radio Leeds news update if we were lucky,

    Look at the world at larger, especially in the US where we have a ‘Twitter President’ & all kinds of theories over what is and isn’t happening. So much so that experts are shouted down and lives are put at risk by those dismissing masks & vaccines as work of a global elite who go around eating babies & want to take away freedom.

    We will always have different options of how the club is run,it’s part if being a fan & mirrors the pre match discussions over a pint on many a Saturday. In Ryan Sparks we have a bloke trying his best to improve & repair the relationship between club & supporter. I for one welcome that. It’s a tough job, especially with our invisible CEO. In the past it was David Baldwin, James Mason who were the ones to put there to be shot down for the decisions that were not made by them, Now it’s Ryan, don’t shoot the messenger if you don’t like what he is saying, just remember he most likely had no say in the action the club is taking.

    Roll on September, when hopefully we can go back to moaning about cold overpriced pies & crap warm beer sold at VP.

  7. we were never ‘a dodgy offside decision away from edging promotion to the Championship’.. for us to have gained promotion that day we would have to have scored a goal and apart from Billy Clarke’s chance, we were nowhere near and well off the pace. that’s another myth that needs to be put to bed.

    • I mean it’s a side point but for what it’s worth, against Millwall the stats were we had 61% possession 18 shots to their 14.

      “Nowhere near and well off the pace” is simply not true.

      • possession means nothing unless you do anything with it – we could have 60% possession passing it between our centre-halves but it’s not going to win you a football match. McCall’s teams tend to dominate the ball but when looking at ‘goals scored’ we rarely trouble the stats-man.

        we had 5 corners compared to millwall’s 14 which suggests they spent more time in our half than we did theirs and made us defend more.

      • I do not understand what you are arguing. The original point was three years ago we very nearly reached the Championship. What is there to dispute about this fact?

        Your words were “nowhere near and well off the pace”. This doesn’t stack up to the match stats. I can appreciate an argument to say we didn’t deserve to win, but a team nowhere near does not out shoot and out pass an opponent.

        Not that it really matters anyway.

    • There was feck all between the sides in a cagey game. Clarkeys was the only gilt edged chance prior to the goal as far as I can recall although I have tried to blank out the day. We were certainly at the races

      • Paul, I think Brisbane’s issue is the definitive claim that the Millwall goal was offside. How anyone can make that claim is beyond me. I’ve looked at the film a dozen or more times and even going frame by frame, nobody knows for sure and anyone who claims otherwise are wishful thinking. The camera angle makes it impossible to call.

  8. Its all about credibility really.
    WOAP and `City Gent` have built up a great reputation and won acceptance by the fans, but it did not happen overnight.
    City Gent have always encouraged fans dialogue under the mantra `only the best drivel gets in`!!!
    WOAP has always been accurate in its reporting and comments about the club which has generated trustr amongst its readers the fans.
    In the case of CG although critical of the club when its warranted they have also contributed to the club with profits going back into player sponsorship etc. This enables them to give a balanced overview, sometimes something that the club and even the T&A cannot do.
    I would say that the two publications have never shirked their responsibility to report bad things to the fans when it has been required but always done so in a responsible way.
    Many fans still wont believe much of what went on during the early days of Edin but WOAP had its ear to the ground and started a campaign to resolve the issue well before many fans knew of the size of the problem.
    In the end a amalgam of CG, WOAP and some better know fans were instrumental in bringing the growing problems caused by Edin to the attention of Stefan Rupp. One supporter who does not want the credit for the removal of Edin deserves special mention but wishes to remain anonymous.
    The fact is that these groups and individuals had over many years built up credibility and were listened to.
    Would other Bradford City related groups have been as effective?
    At that time the Supporters Trust, Friends of Bradford City, Supporters Board and other `official` groups connected to the club had been silenced or ostracised by Edin, as part of his micro management of the club.
    One could argue that they have not been effective for some time and one rarely hears of them.

    The point being that other groups have either lost the trust of the fans (The Supporters Trust) or the way they operate means they will never achieve that credibility (The Cows Arse).
    One thing we did when we started `Friends of Bradford City` was to adopt the mantra `Positive in our support` which the club liked and it opened all kinds of doors for us and helped us help the club.
    Unfortunately FoBC lost its way about 2015 after doing a lot of good work for the club and would appear to exist now in name only.
    Would it not be really great if all City related organisations could work together to the betterment of what we all wish for.
    A better Bradford City Football CLUB!

    • I clearly remember the supporters trust essentially ‘sucking’ up to Edin and blaming the fans….poor move by them and showed they did not represent those that they are there to support imo

      • Didn’t Rhodes do the same when he came back in a consultant role? Praising Rahic and telling the fans how difficult a job the poor beggar had.

      • ”Didn’t Rhodes do the same when he came back in a consultant role? Praising Rahic and telling the fans how difficult a job the poor beggar had.”

        At the time it was about shoe-horning JR into the club to get ER out and that meant flattering the ego of the latter to make it happen. Once JR was established in the role, ER was kicked-out.

      • John, interesting spin but I believe it was Rahic personally who hired Rhodes. Actually, if you want to defend JR a more believable spin would be…once hired Rhodes discovered the gravity of the situation and informed Rupp. I think my spin is mor likely.

      • Woody believe what you want. However I can assure you that it was Stefan Rupp who ‘suggested’ to Edin that JR be engaged. It’s not spin, it’s a fact.

      • So, am I wrong in claiming Rahic personally hiring JR? Rupp having some secondary involvement likely makes sense but neither of us knows that for sure. What I’ve stated is based on reports in the T&A.

      • I was told separately by both SR and JR.

      • Thank you. So in conclusion, JR “deceived” the media and fans in order to stroke the vanity of Rahic and gain his confidence. Wow!! Sounds like something from a James Bond novel. So Rhodes was working undercover. Interesting.

      • The ST issued a statement that was laughed out of court by the majority of fans. I cant remember the detail but from memory it said that the ST was going to enter in regular dialogue with Rahic. They dismissed protest of any kind by the fans as unhelpful and basically took the high ground that they were the only body capable of meeting and speaking with Rahic. The wording of the statement was so ludicrous that it was unbelievable. Any lingering credibility in the ST was lost with the fans.

      • ‘Didn’t Rhodes do the same when he came back in a consultant role? Praising Rahic and telling the fans how difficult a job the poor beggar had’.

        I have read the T&A article where Rhodes says: ‘I feel for him a little bit’ (Edin) and expresses empathy for the situation he is in. There is nothing I could find that suggests Rhodes is ‘praising’ -express admiration or approval of the achievements or characteristics of a person….. (Cambridge English Dictionary)- Edin Rahic. I think after publicly questioning JR’s integrity -and in the context of the article Jason has written- it is only fair that you provide the quote of the praise you are accusing him of giving ER.

        By the way Woody, you claimed, on the 6th November 2018, at the time of Rhodes being appointed as CEO, that Rhodes was ‘just another PR Ploy to be used and cast aside’. Would you, therefore, accept the fact that Rhodes is still at the Club and Rahic had left the Club by the 4th December 2018 that it was nothing of the sort?

        Woody, I would hope that you would agree, that if individuals are accused of a lack of integrity via public media regarding specific issues and that evidence later shows the accusations to be false, that those individuals deserve a retraction of the accusation and a public apology from their accuser. Or do you believe in a different set of moral principles?

  9. After reading the exchanges between Jason and the anonymous Cows A”%e on here i decided to go have a look at their site… fair to say that there were posters slagging off everything about the club then also admitting that they don’t go watch anymore????

  10. Twitter has much in its favour as a platform to communicate and share observations but it is far from perfect. For a start, you can’t have a nuanced debate and maybe for that reason it attracts a lot of people who see the world in black and white.

    Of late #bcafc social media has become extremely toxic and it’s been a stuck record with the same rants and conspiracy theories. The blame for a lot of this can be pointed at Cows Arse on Twitter, an account that I long ago blocked. For a group of fans who want to change how things are run at Valley Parade they go about it in a way least likely to make anyone take them seriously.

    Neither can the abuse and constant vitriol directed at the club be described as a constructive way of giving support, it is in fact the opposite. The bullying attacks last week on the club’s representative, Ryan Sparks were completely counter-productive and unnecessary – something which has wider implications for all supporters who want open communications with BCAFC.

    Equally obnoxious and unacceptable is the way that people who disagree with them are ridiculed and labelled as gompers or more often than not, targeted with profanities. All of this is damaging to the best interests of the football club and overlooks the fact that we all make an emotional, time and financial commitment to it. If feedback to this feature by Jason McKeown is anything to go by, it looks like a lot of people share similar opinions about the Cows Arse approach and that only a very small minority subscribes to it.

    WOAP and Jason has been similarly attacked (labelled as a club propagandist) and he has been ridiculed for recent features. However it demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding about how supporters’ media CAN be a force for change and transparency if used responsibly. It also underestimates the credibility and influence that WOAP has established at Valley Parade through being independent.

    In 1985 when I was involved with The City Gent, Patsy Hollinger wanted us to publish a diatribe about the then chairman Stafford Heginbotham. We refused to give credence to pub gossip and conjecture and told him that if he wanted to publish he should do so himself. To his credit he produced his own fanzine to make his case which older supporters may remember. The fact that it was utter jibberish is irrelevant, he was at least prepared to be visible.

    If those who run Cow’s Arse want to drive change by convincing people of their views and they have the courage of their convictions to have a public diatribe about Julian Rhodes, they could launch their own blog as a rival to WOAP. It would of course mean a change in language and style from that which characterises the Cows Arse message board forum but maybe that’s a small price to pay to attract an audience.

    The Cows Arse could even accept the responsibility and accountability of evidence based publishing and would derive credit doing that instead of continually sniping and tweeting the same bitter comments. Whether anyone would take notice is questionable which probably explains why they stick to abusive tweeting that seems to be the only way they know to get attention. I suspect that they wouldn’t like to be on the receiving end of the ridicule that they are happy to mete out, but provided that they can substantiate their claims and offer some constructive ideas that should not be a worry. For once they could generate some credibility instead of opprobrium and starting gaining some respect.

  11. Supporters representation was always something I tried hard to implement when I was Chair of the old official Supporters Club. I managed to persuade the then board that we had a Supporters Rep at every board meeting. I pushed for a second but they were not having that. The present ST is all about the fans having a share of the ownership but it’s not a realistic aim. The Supporters Board is essentially the next best thing but sadly we never hear from them and together with the Trust they seem toothless and ineffective. Its left to WOAP and CG to use the credibility they have built up.ovef years to best represent the fans views. In no way would I decry the efforts of Shipley Bantams etc for they do great work but i would distance myself from.the inherently negative ‘Cows arse’. Its easy to be negative towards the club but more is achieved by a positive working relationship

  12. To be honest I take all forms of social media and fan sites with a pinch of salt – as well as WOAP I post on Bantams Talk and there are some notorious ‘negatrons’ on there but I actually find some of them quite amusing, its the totally miserable gits that I just ignore because NOTHING pleases them.
    Some people post to simply get a raise and how many comments they can get back – just let them play their little game, its harmless.
    Where it becomes more serious is when someone like Ryan Sparks, who does his best to keep us all informed of what is going on at the club, has to consider whether it is worth it or not to use social media platforms due to so called fans giving him abuse. For fans like myself, i.e. based south of London, his updates are a vital communication link in knowing what is going on at the club – I expect to hear some things I agree with and some I dont, that is part of being a footy fan.
    To Jason and all the other writers on WOAP, keep up the good work and ignore the knucklescrapers who just knock everything and can be quite vitriolic. And hoping Ryan reads WOAP, keep up the good work mate, it is not an easy time for any of us but the vast majority of fans just want whats best for the club and are right behind you 🙂

  13. Excellent and timely article yet again Jason.

    Most of the time I spend on social media relates to BCAFC issues. About 90% of this time is spent on challenging those who throw abuse and accuse the Club’s Manager, Owner, CEO, ‘Infrastructure’, Coaching/scouting ‘program’, ‘lack of ambition’, ‘recruitment’, ‘support staff’ etc, etc of not being fit for purpose. The criticisms will usually the sort that would be acceptable in meeting Twitter rules of less than 140 characters. Ask them to provide some further detail or evidence to support their accusations and that is the end of any debate in the vast majority of cases. I suppose it can be likened to attempting to have a discussion with someone who has daubed graffiti on a building you pass each day. They’ve said their bit in public but there isn’t going to be any discussion on the subject.

    On the very rare occasion they do engage in a discussion, then the more they open up about any of the subjects they are critical of then the more obvious it becomes that they have little knowledge or understanding of the subject and their naivety and ignorance of the costs and practicalities are highlighted.

  14. Depressing to read this. Personally I avoid all the more negative social media pages & wouldn’t know where to find the cow’s arse…i take my son to the games, have enthusiastically shared & discussed the recent signings with him, and look forward to supporting the team next season as the twelfth man, alongside most other fans. Even after the slog of more than 18 months of losing matches, we love the game, the club, and the hope every Saturday when the whistle blows at 3pm.

    Naive? I’d rather my outlook to grumbling on social media or a bar week in, week out.

    • From a Happy Clapper

    • Yup there is a significant cohort of fans for whom the dross on social media does not register. Twitter appears to me to be nine tenths bollocks such that its not worth the time finding the odd tweet that might amuse or inform. A cursory glance at TCA is enough to confirm it is the abode of the intellectually and emotionally stunted. Personal experience of City fans is the best measure from which it is clear that overall they are a down to earth and fair minded bunch

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