AFTV has made the headlines once again after one of its regulars was removed for making a racist comment about Tottenham forward Heung-min Son.
Claude Callegari, a pundit for the popular YouTube channel, could be heard saying ‘DVD’s going off’ when the South Korea international was withdrawn in stoppage time of Spurs’ 2-1 win over Arsenal in Sunday’s north London derby.
It’s the latest moment of controversy for Robbie Lyle’s AFTV, which has been no stranger to criticism in the past.
Many within football, including Gunners right-back Hector Bellerin and Gary Neville, have taken issue with the platform over its content, which often includes angry rants and violence among supporters.
Indeed, talkSPORT’s very own Simon Jordan once had it out with Lyle live on air after labelling AFTV ‘drivel’ and claiming ‘it thrives on toxicity, it’s a commercial venture and the guy [Lyle] makes a fortune’.
Arsenal have distanced themselves from the channel and made it abundantly clear it is not an official voice for the club.
But despite all that, AFTV has become a cultural phenomenon, paving the way for a new form of punditry, whether that’s a good or bad thing.
Its success and popularity is undeniable, with more than one million subscribers on YouTube, and many other supporter groups have followed suit.
How did it start?
Lyle, a former BBC reggae host, quit his job as a surveyor to launch AFTV in October 2012.
The platform was designed to give a voice to real fans with real opinions amid a growing sense of frustration with the established group of television pundits.
Its rise came about mainly due to viral videos of furious rants, providing fans with a giggle more than anything else.
But despite the method, AFTV quickly gathered a huge audience, which was helped by the climate around the club.
The channel provided a platform for the #WengerOut movement, allowing fans to vent their frustration with the former Gunners boss whenever things went badly, especially during the 2016/17 season.
However, as well as regular interviews with fans after games, AFTV has sat down with the likes of Gary Neville, Ian Wright, and Thierry Henry.
Why is it controversial?
Claude’s comment about Son is the latest in a long line of controversies connected to the channel.
In 2017, Neville called the channel ’embarrassing’ for its treatment of Wenger, and even joined AFTV to defend his comments.
The platform has been accused of stoking tension between Arsenal fans, resulting in fights at matches, such as the 2-2 draw against Man City in April 2017.
One fan shouted ‘Arsenal Fan TV won’t be happening today’ as Lyle and other members of his team were targeted.
In similar scenes earlier this season, Gunners supporters confronted Lyle outside Goodison Park, chanting ‘Arsenal Fan TV, get out of our club’, forcing police to get involved.
Bellerin came out in criticism of the channel in February 2018, saying they shouldn’t call themselves fans if they profit on the failure of the club.
Meanwhile, talkSPORT host and former Crystal Palace chairman Jordan took a similar view on our station, prompting an extraordinary exchange with Lyle live on air.
Arsenal forced the channel to change its name from Arsenal Fan TV to AFTV after accusing it of breaching the club’s copyright by using the term ‘Arsenal’ without authorisation, resulting in a negative effect on the Gunners.
Now, the Gunners have come out in criticism of the channel following Claude’s racist comment about Son.
The club said in a statement: “We operate a zero-tolerance approach to any form of discrimination and we unreservedly condemn this unacceptable racist behaviour. The platform in question has no official association with Arsenal.”
It would be unfair not to point out some of AFTV’s good moments.
As a channel, it was revolutionary in creating a new type of pundit, which fans clearly find entertaining.
Supporters of other clubs have created similar channels as a result, like Full Time Devils (Manchester Untied) and The Redmen TV (Liverpool).
If you’ve got 1.15 million subscribers, you must be doing something right.
Meanwhile, Lyle has been vocal in the fight against racism, and speaks eloquently about his own experiences.
While the presenter originally tried to defend Claude for his comment during the north London derby, he quickly apologised for doing so and swiftly removed the regular from the channel.