The internet is changing the way we see the game in the 21st century
If you glance around the Etihad on any given Saturday during the season, you will likely see fans glued to their smartphones, checking numerous apps for scores, updates and reaction.
This is a far cry from days gone by, when supporters would listen to the radio to stay in touch with what was happening elsewhere or wait for the evening newspaper to reach their local shop.
Besides making everything more instant, in what other ways has the internet changed football?
The Saturday morning stop at the bookies on the way to Maine Road used to be a rite of passage for all City fans, but now bets can be placed from home using one of the multitude of sports betting apps that are now available. Competing bookmakers fall all over themselves to offer the punter the best deal, with the promise of a free casino bonus being one of the latest ways to convince fans to place a bet.
The football phone-in is still an institution for many fans who are on their way home from a game, but social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have opened up football discussion to the extent that the actual sport is now almost a side show. Fan sites and “below the line” comments on articles now descend into fevered arguments between rival supporters, which means that football has now become more tribal than ever.
The English Premier League is popular worldwide. In fact, Manchester United's global fan base is thought to number around 600 million, although City are quickly catching up. The internet has been a huge reason for this explosion in popularity, with streaming sites allowing anyone in the world to catch a glimpse of the stars plying their trade. With fans in the United States, China, India and Australia shunning their local leagues in favour of more established European competitions, our league has become more and more valuable on a global basis, as the latest Sky deal exemplifies.
When your dad was growing up, football news would have been confined to the back three or four pages of the newspapers, with the occasional magazine available on a weekly or monthly basis. Now, with content available at the click of a button and easy distribution possible through the various social media platforms, there are countless websites dedicated to football and all of them are trying to lure you in with barely believable rumours and the latest scoops.
There can be no doubt that the proliferation of smartphones over the last decade and the ubiquity of the internet have had an impact on football and the way in which supporters consume the sport. For some, it is now a 24/7 endeavour from which they can never switch off.
From our point of view, however, you still can't beat that Saturday afternoon feeling at the Etihad – even if everyone around you is viewing the action through their phone screen!