Chris Lakey: King's Lynn Town taking the right approach over social media issues

The Walks is a better place to go - now the club are cracking down on social media abuse Picture: Ian Burt

The Walks is a better place to go - now the club are cracking down on social media abuse Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

Football afternoons at King’s Lynn Town are somehow better nowadays.

A few years ago I thought there was a rather aggressive and sweary element among the support. For what reason I have no idea but it was uncomfortable at times – certainly not a place I would want to take children.

Nowadays there are more welcoming faces: I’ve noticed it in the crowd and I have noticed it behind the scenes too, and not just because Colin and Co always say hello, but the way visitors are treated.

Yes, you get your moaners (I have A-levels in moaning so I understand) although some of the reaction during the midweek win over Royston did take the biscuit.

I have rarely seen players perform so well on a surface that started off perfectly prepared as always by the groundsman, Steve Curtis, but then being subject to persistent rain for 45 minutes before someone switched the dial to snow setting for the second half. The white stuff settled, the pitch had a dusting throughout, yet both teams made a genuinely excellent fist of playing football.

Lynn put together some good periods of passing at times and Royston chased them for everything.

Yet there were still fans moaning. What on earth do they expect? It was treacherous and I was surprised players were able to keep their feet, let alone play decent football.

However, moaning I can understand. And it is acceptable. Why? Because I could see them doing it. I could go and point them out at this afternoon’s game if needs be. I won’t, because it was a tame expression of their views – especially compared to ones which had been discussed under the stands in the club’s offices earlier that evening.

Lynn officials had met with a fan who had published a comment on social media which was utterly appalling and aimed at one of the club’s players following their defeat at Hitchin a week earlier.

The fan had come forward after a response from the club itself and other supporters in a shared feeling of disgust.

The fan met with club officials who did the right thing and issued an indefinite ban and ordered the fan to pay for and attend a course organised by Kick It Out.

The fan also has to meet the player he aimed his abusive text towards and apologise.

Lynn could have taken a different tack and banned the fan for a period of time – a three-year ban might have been deemed too little, a life ban too long. The actions were shocking, but I tend to think the fan has a right to prove he or she has learned a lesson and is a reformed character. I have zero sympathy.

And there was another, for me, expected response from the club, who want to talk to “a small group of individuals about previous social media activity and general behaviour, both here at The Walks and also at away games, in the very near future.

They will be warned about their future behaviour and informed any repeat of actions deemed not acceptable would also result in banning notices”.

Now this is interesting, given the line it might cross when it comes to freedom of speech: the club cannot and I suspect will not, ask for favourable opinion. But it is within its right to point out that some behaviour brings shame on the club and other supporters. Frankly, I think Lynn have a bit of a reputation and, sadly, there will always be some supporters for whom that label is an acceptable badge of honour.

The club is owned by one man, Stephen Cleeve, and he should be within his rights to ban those he believes cannot distinguish between free speech and abuse.

I do believe the banned supporter needs to be made to apply to reenter the ground and then prove that he has changed. And I do believe the management and players need to be consulted – after all, they are the targets.

The fans who moaned in the snow did nothing wrong – you either agreed or you didn’t. They aren’t bad people.

The identity of the miscreant with the dodgy keyboard skills is not generally known. He is like many who hide behind anonymity.

Social media organisations have been dealing with life and death issues of late and they have a duty to repair the process so social media is a safe place to go.

At this level, the football club have done their bit. Let’s hope good comes out of it… and meanwhile, moan on, moaners (just not too loud eh?).

You’ve been Hibbed

In a previous life, I followed closely the fortunes of Peterborough United.

Every other week I was at London Road, as it was then properly named.

It wasn’t great viewing at times – by the time I was able to go on my own (or more correctly, with a mate and his dad) Posh had already won the old Division Four title in 1974 and the wait for more glory was long and difficult.

In 1978 Posh missed promotion to Division Two on goal average and the following year were relegated. By 1988 when they missed the promotion play-offs on goal difference I was miles away, in pastures new.

The FA Cup provided the only cheer – beaten by Middlesborough, Manchester United, Newcastle and Manchester City, my highlight was a third round win over Leeds in 1985-86.

And managers, we had a few – the legend that was Noel Cantwell (twice), John Barnwell, Peter Morris, Martin Wilkinson (an appointment that, when he left prompted me to apply for the job on an ‘if he can get it so can I’ theory) and John Wile.

Now I find myself following from afar, a lapsed fan, work standing in the way, and I wonder if ever during my time as a regular supporter a manager was sacked when Posh were in a play-off spot.

Steve Evans and his assistant, the former King’s Lynn player Paul Raynor, went last weekend to be replaced, with rather undue haste, by Darren Ferguson for his third spell in charge.

It comes to something when your club is sixth, when it is evolving after a summer of huge change, and then the manager hasn’t been given a chance. It almost seems a luxury to be able to make a change whilst in that position.

Perhaps Posh should have gone down the Hibernian route: the SPL side parted company Neil Lennon after a period of suspension, which had followed a meeting between management and players.

The club said Lennon and assistant Garry Parker had left by ‘mutual consent’, but stressed they had not been sacked and had been cleared of any misconduct.

So you managerial departure choices are: sacked, left by mutual consent and Hibbed.

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