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Poem-gate: something out of nothing and the Streisand Effect

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For those unaware, the poem-gate "fiasco" (if you want to call it that) stems from Bolton Wanderers fan Dennis Swift claiming that he was questioned by police for poems he wrote about his displeasure with Bolton Wanderers and the direction the team was going in under Owen Coyle. Swift says that the police targeted him after he posted poems on an internet forum about the manager. Bolton Wanderers insist that the police were contacted thanks to Swift's abuse of a Bolton Staff member on the internet.

There may have been a better way to handle the situation as calling the police seems to have had a Streisand effect on the story. That is, when a group tries to hide a story through police action or lawsuit, it ends up publicizing it more. Had the club just let everything lie, there's only a small chance that Swift's comments and rant would have been picked up by mass media.

Swift said of his situation:

"I have nothing against Owen Coyle, I think he's a nice bloke, but he is not up to the job.

"I had also written a book of poems which did not contain the ones about the manager and I asked the club if they would sell them in the shop.

"They told me they would if I sorted some copyright issues which I did.

"I ordered a load of copies but then Mr Gough told me they were not going to stock them.

"That is when I went online and made the comments about him."

Following the shop telling him that they would not be able to stock his book, Swift once again took the forums and launched a heavy four-letter-word-laden critique of Head of Public Sales Richard Gough.

"There were two officers, a man and a woman. They said Mr Gough wasn't bothered about what I had put on the forum but the club did not like my poems and did not want to write any more.

"They were laughing about it. "I couldn't believe it. It's ridiculously over-the-top and a breach of my freedom of expression.

"I have been singled out. They could have got the police to speak to hundreds of people who have abused staff on that forum but they chose me. It's clearly because of the poems."

Bolton have denied Swift's claims, saying that:

"The football club has a zero tolerance policy as regards employees being subject to foul and abusive language, and in line with standard procedure the matter was referred to the police for their consideration.

"[The poems were] categorically not the case. The fan had abused one of our members of staff using foul language and when that happens we contact the police. It has nothing to do with his poetry."

To us, this "case" seems like a whole lot of something out of nothing. Bolton Wanderers' fan base is divided on whether they like Owen Coyle or not. Many voice their opinions very publicly on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter but have not had the police called on them.

We'll see how this plays out.

Manchester Evening News