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The Forum Factory- An unflinching look back at the history of football forum aggro

I reckon this book will be written in 20 or 30 years from now....


The Forum Factory- An unflinching look back at the history of football forum aggro. Tales of having it online from those very much on the scene 20 years later.

 PART1

September 2020. It was the Autumn of apathy with the UK in the grip of a global pandemic.

Football forum violence had subsided significantly given the vast majority of those active in the game now had little time to partake, with most web-based activity those days spent in online queues attempting to book Covid tests or bulk order toilet roll deliveries.

To quote a popular film of the same name, The Forum Factory:

Some commentators speculated the decline in Football forum violence was due to the rise of the Vitamin D tablet and Tik Tok culture or that the cyber thugs simply got bored. You’re wrong there mate, we’re not dead, we were just resting. I mean what did you think we’d be pilled up and dancing like mugs in shoddy camera phone videos for the rest of our lives?!

It’s in man’s nature to fight and when the lockdown camaraderie stopped working, we came back to online football forums.

Are you gonna go home to your cosy little flat in ‘nowheresville’ and pull your IKEA curtains shut and stay offline? Or are you gonna sit down, log on and be counted, make a difference and feel the rush.  I need forum aggro just to make me feel I’m alive.

I know what I would rather do, mate.  Tottenham’s forum away. Love it!”


Fig1.  A scene from box office hit film the Forum Factory starring Danny Dyer as an online football forumer who types off more than he can chew.

 

Football forum aggro emerged in the late 90s on the BBC 606 boards.  It was long before the days of social media and well before people learned how to really and prolifically dish out venomous abuse to faceless strangers on the internet. It was before the global economic crash and prior to advent of spleen- shitting rallying against leftie TV presenters’ salaries becoming in vogue so the Beeb’s budget saw that their forums were heavily moderated with literally each post being screened extensively by mods before publication.  This made any sort of ongoing conflict virtually impossible.

Technology was also a challenge back then with dial up modems making a decent virtual tear up a hit and miss affair but the introduction of fibre broadband was a gamechanger.  Suddenly club forums were set up the length and breadth of the land and lads all over the country could meet and have online offs at the click of a button.

There has always been a north/ south divide on the football foruming scene.  The northern club forums have always been a bit scruffy and basic…using outdated JavaScript- the equivalent of cave paintings by contemporary standard. 

By contrast London club forums have always had a bit about them; they’ve generally been sharp and carried themselves with style and swagger. Arsenal lads had been over to browse some of the Italian forums in the late naughties and brought back the “Edit post” facility whilst Fulham’s forum was the first to introduce the “Like comment” functionality, all of which was pretty much standard within the M25 foruming world by 2020.

 The English foruming scene was pioneering and relentless forging a formidable rep all over Europe where loads of English lads would log onto to the Italian and German message boards and have it.  The Dutch were particularly game with their good command of language and quirky humour so there were some legendary offs over the years until the authorities clamped down and blocked international access.  Some of the hardcore continued to go on overseas forum raids after the ban by using proxy VPNs but it was never the same.



Fig 2.  A member of England’s forum firm preparing for a big off vs Holland, circa 2021.

 

So, by the 2020s when my lot, the Charlton Life Forum (the famous CLF) were active, the forum scene was predominantly domestic; and local rivalries spilled over to heated debates often getting very ugly with average attendance stats even getting pulled out regularly on unsuspecting punters. It was not for the faint hearted and you could be going about your business posting on a thread about favourite cheeses when some lairy **** turned up from another forum belittling your gorgonzola.

There was even inter- forum rivalry between competing message boards from the same club.  Just as rival estates or schools vie to be top dog so did rival football chat rooms in the constant battle to be “cock of the net”.  There was also infighting of forum members on the same forum when there were no rival fans to row with. That would get particularly ugly with some of the real psychos resorting to direct messaging.  I never understood that direct messaging lark…. I mean what was the point of an online row if you couldn’t bask in the glory of the “likes” and “LOLs”? But each to their own.

Admin would always try to nip it in the bud but often it went unchecked so you needed to look lively at all times otherwise you would just get picked off as the weak do in nature. A forum with a lackadaisical admin is very much a jungle in that respect and no place for the vulnerable, so from very early on you had to learn your way around a keyboard if you were going to survive an evening of forumming unscathed.

You also constantly needed to be alert to the grammar old bill who were always out to spoil your fun. A long planned and well-constructed argument to take down your opponent could easily come unstuck with a simple transposition error e.g. using “there” rather than “their” which would then see hours of arduous drafting go down the pan.  It was a constant tightrope walk and you needed your wits and spellchecking skills about you at all times.

There was a legendary Charlton forummer back in the day known as “The Thesaurus”.  In 20 years of active posting on the scene he never once misused a semi colon, let along made a grammatical error.  Whilst most punters had a limited armoury of language like “muppet, “troll”, or last resort when things really came on top “You c***”, the Thesaurus was in a league of his own could dismantle an opposing firm with a diction so broad and hard- hitting it became the stuff of legend.

 People still talk about how he single- handedly got the better of 9 QPR fans who had ambushed a thread after Charlton had beaten them 1-0 earlier that day.  Articulating evidential flaws in the basis of their arguments he sent them home packing, many of whom retired from the forumming game that evening as a result. And he did it all without using a single cuss word.  Proper old school and respected across the whole forum community up and down the country amongst all clubs.



Fig 3. The Thesaurus.  A keyboard legend of the football forum aggro scene.

 

 

The kids coming up these days think that a “u wot u melt?!” or mere hashtag “mug” counts for forum violence and whilst most online scarfers not involved in the scene might recoil at such an exchange and start flagging comments demanding mods take action it is not what it is like back in the day at its peak in 2020 when you literally took your life in your hands each time you logged on.

As nasty as the inter-same club forumming wars could get, you could not beat a local derby. 

Charlton’s forum nemesis was Millwall who had a fearsome reputation cultivated over the years and marked by an inability to type a sentence without referring to the object/person/ topic at hand as a “cunt”.  Away fans were not welcome on their forums and were dealt with in short shrift leading to their infamous ditty “No one writes us, no one writes us”.

There were always ongoing spats between Charlton and Millwall*out in the wider cyber world such as Instagram and twitter but it was all generally handbags with Addicks pulling out solitary FA Cup wins and ground capacity stats whilst the Lions steamed in with trainspotter memes.

There was however a real undercurrent of menace bubbling under and it was not pleasant for innocent bystanders and lots of website banning orders got dished out and twitter profiles removed but that was the way it was back in the day. 

*The irony being many of the club’s rival top boys would mob up together on Facebook anti - vaxxer/ 5g mast conspiracy pages.  The real nutters amongst both firms would even regularly collaborate on the “ ‘Ang the bastards!” comments section of the Daily Mail website.

 


Fig 4Charlton and Millwall team up for an off against the notorious Liberal Metropolitan Elite on Katie Hopkin’s twitter page.

 

However, it would really go off on the forums where the big boys played. “Offs” would have to be planned with military precision and would generally be limited for tit for tat comments about knuckle- dragging and tartan blankets/ thermos flasks before admin got hold of it and closed down the fun by sinking threads.

Millwall’s forumers generally used pay- as- you- go mobiles to facilitate their feral lifestyles and criminality.  This meant data limits were often reached before things really got juicy in an online spat.

Conversely, many of Charlton’s top forum faces tended to be suburban middle-class mummy’s boys so a heated exchange would often be halted when mother called up for supper.

But when it went off, it went off big time before being wrapped up by admin.

Occasionally trolls would wade in from Crystal Palace looking to get involved.  However, they lacked he acerbic take no prisoner retorts of Millwall forumers and did not possess the cutting, articulate wit of Charlton posters so they were usually fucked off back to Mumsnet pretty sharpish.

 

Fig 5- Palace try to take the main Charlton Forum with claims of “The Internet is Ours” in summer of 2023 but are held off with ease.

 Online battles would rage on through the night with posters of rival clubs going back and forth with shouts of “Stand firm, don’t log out….DO NOT LOG OUT!!!” rallying through cyberspace until the early hours as panic- stricken mods tried in vain to put out the fires popping up simultaneously on various threads.

Millwall would always come with big numbers and nerve touching digs from the outset but Charlton fans would hold their own and stand firm given vastly more in their ranks had attained at least GCSE level English.

No doubt fans of either side will claim results always went their way and that they never ran from an online dual but those who know, know and have the screenshots and forum bans to show for it.

Over excessive use of the C bomb or blatant WUMmery from the get go would mean that the forum moderators were all over it before a chance for any real exchange and were often given an escort back to Google resigned to spend the remainder of the day trolling Z list celebs on twitter or rowing with American teenagers on Call of Duty.

However, those more determined in the ranks and hellbent on getting it on, on an oppo’s forum would side step forum bans by registering new user names to slide in under the radar and before mods had clocked their IP addresses wreak virtual havoc.

I recall a single afternoon when a tidy little firm of Charlton managed to infiltrate the Crewe Alexandra forum under the guise of “CAFC lover”, CAFC4eva” and other such monikers and caused absolute bedlam on there for weeks before the mods decided enough was enough and suspended the entire forum until they could “root out the cuckoos in the nest”.

Posting in caps lock with exclamation marks was an intimidatory tactic than many of the bully boy northern clubs used to pull when dealing with smaller clubs but they always came unstuck when they went toe to toe in a debate with a firm that could come back at them with a barrage of well-crafted lucid paragraphs.



Fig 6 Northern forum hoolie dishing it out on the Dover Athletic message board circa 2022.


The hangers on at the forum firms were the worst.  Never contributing anything other than to egg the main posters on or passively aggressively “Like” or “LOL” the posts of others before slinking off into the shadows and claiming the stolen valour of those who had put their forum cred on the line by engaging in an online off.  Then crying off to forum moderators if ever called out on their behaviour.

They were the worst kind of bottom feeders and every club forum had them.


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Comments

  • Absolute genius. Crying with laughter. Well played Sir!

  • I doff my cap!
  • edited September 26
    Bravo, that is excellent
  • Nolly had me crying with laughter. 😂

    👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼
  • Absolute genius. Love it
  • "The northern club forums have always been a bit scruffy and basic…using outdated JavaScript- the equivalent of cave paintings by contemporary standard". Observational comedy at its very best.


  • Well funny and proper laughed out loud!!
  • Sponsored links:


  • "Millwall would always come with big numbers and nerve touching digs from the outset but Charlton fans would hold their own and stand firm given vastly more in their ranks had attained at least GCSE level English."
  • Excellent 
  • Great stuff 
  • That is bloody brilliant. Nice one. 
  • mate that’s unreal 😂
  • Love it - great stuff!
  • That must have taken ages to draft. Worth it!
    Absolutely  brilliant.
  • Sponsored links:


  • I was about to turn in and tune into radio 4E's (largely unfunny) comedy slot.  Glad I didn't - this was a brilliant read - and far funnier.

    In fact I might just stay up a bit longer and check out some of the threads for randoms - can't wait to use my new secret weapon.



     
  • Brilliant.

    There were times that it all went too far and I recall one time a Leeds scarfer accidentally waded into the wrong thread looking to post about possession statistics and was set upon with gleeful malice by our more unhinged element.  It was sickening and it had all come a bit out of control. 

    This had me proper laughing.
  • Just bumping this as surely people have missed it - it's still on it's first page of comments and has only got 29 lols.

    Come on folks this is a work of genius. Funniest thing I've read in ages. Show young Rodders your appreciation - he's got two GCEs you know!
  • Bonnet de douche as Del Boy would say.  Great read mate, superb creativity 
  • edited September 30
    Excellent
  • Absolutely fabulous, Rodders !

    You've definitely been hiding your light under a bushel !

    WE  WANT MORE ! 
  • Needs a promote surely! Excellent
  • That just cheered me up on a horrible rainy, windy afternoon. Grammar police there/their reference especially funny. Cheers Rodders.
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Roland Out Forever!