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Difficult choices await the media as they beat a rearguard action on refs

By Tony Attwood

“City fans fury as Webb appointed for crunch Newcastle clash”

That headline from the Sun was interesting, as it was something of a new direction for the “paper” (I use the word loosely).    Of course they did not come out with any statistics about Webb’s predeliction for one team rather than another, but they did actually highlight the sort of issue you see on Untold every week.  And that was either a first, or at least fairly unusual.

The “paper” went on to say that, “The South Yorkshire official has a long-standing reputation with them for favouring arch-rivals Manchester United.  Webb landed Mario Balotelli in bother by claiming he had not seen his stamp on Scott Parker in January and gave United two penalties as they came from 3-0 down to draw at Chelsea in February.

“Kevin Parker, secretary of the City supporters club, declared: “History tells us he has generally favoured United. City fans do feel that.  We’ll just have to hope that isn’t reflected on Sunday as it’s such a huge day for Manchester.”

The general press view is that

a) refs do make errors but

b) it all balances out in the end and

c) it makes a good story if a manager has a “rant” [note “rant” is the obligatory word at this point in the story) but we, as sensible independent reporters, just report what they say.  Not our fault if the managers get worked up and believe in conspiracies.

So the pretence that all is ok, and that it is just biased fans who blame refs, is kept up.  Perhaps because the newspapers think this is what readers want, perhaps because they are behind the times and don’t realise how much a talking point referee corruption and bias is, and perhaps because it doesn’t fit with the image of the British that the papers put forward.

The image is simple: the British are honest, fair and gentlemanly.  Trickery and corruption is what funny foreigners (who wear odd hats and speak with funny accents) do.  Indeed you can still hear the old comments on BBC Radio 5 match commentaries such as “he’s lazy – typical of Spanish players…”

In fact in the current position that “everything is ok”  and that problems are created by foreigners, the Sun is actually breaking ranks in this story.   The Guardian, for example, recently ran a piece in which complaints about refs by the manager of Liverpool were compared to the wild ravings of David Icke (a goalkeeper who became famous for his views on flying saucers).  That story itself smacked of desperation – a last ditch attempt to pretend that the ref issue was not of importance.  I doubt that many were convinced.

But the reality is that all is not as neat and smooth within football as the papers suggest – and the media has a long history of ignoring stories that don’t quite fit.  There is, for example, the notion that supporters of a club come from around the area.  A victory for Arsenal, for example, brings, we are told, happiness in north London.   Which is true, yes, up to a point, but as this site shows every day, also brings happiness in Northamptonshire and Antwerp.  As far as I can see a victory for Man U brings happiness in Cornwall and Kent.

Clubs go bust – again as we know – but if you were reading only British  newspapers you would hardly have had any indication of what was happening to Rangers until everything really exploded.  Even now the implications are only being discussed slightly because on very persistent blogger kept on and on talking about the tax case that caused the collapse of the club.

Indeed the fact that Rangers have a ban on player transfers for next season, and will lose most of their squad at the end of this season (because the players agreed to cut their salaries in return for agreed transfer arrangements this summer) is generally getting little coverage.  The notion that Rangers could play in a lower league in Scotland from next August, with a team made up of EPL loanees next season hasn’t really been debated anywhere much in the press

My point is that slowly, very slowly, the real agenda in football is being taken over by the blogs.  The newspapers and TV still have access to managers and ex-players but increasingly their comments are either too bland for words, or just game-playing with the media.

That cosy club-media-ex-player relationship has however slowly broken down, not because either side has got fed up with the other, but because the fans have just had enough and want something different.

That something different is given by the blogs, and although I am always very cautious about suggesting that Untold does have an influence anywhere, I think maybe we are helping write a new agenda.

The story in the Sun might turn out to be a one-off, but I think that gradually some people in the media are understanding that it is they who are becoming marginalised, and that many of their stories are now increasingly irrelevant.

Untold Arsenal Index

 

20 comments to Difficult choices await the media as they beat a rearguard action on refs

  • Magneto

    Good article. And I agree that much of what passes as “Football Journalism” from Fleet Street is irrelevant, which has been the case for some time.

    “Making the inconsequential, consequential” should be their motto.

  • Shakabula Gooner

    Tony,
    No doubt, in matters concerning Arsenal football club and the footballing industry in general, UA has led rather than followed the news especially in the 2 seasons. So, UA deserves the kudos.

    At the same time, it is a big challenge to UA, Swiss Rambler, etc., to keep plugging away and uncovering new areas – just to maintain the cutting edge.

    Bear in mind that it is not that the TV and newspapers are not aware that they are beginning to lag the news or that they don’t have journalists as well equipped to give the leading blogs a run; it is that the vested interests of the TV and newspapers’ owners don’t coincide with the type of incisive and indepth look required at this time.

    Therein lies the challenge to you bloggers. What will it take to blunt UA’s focus? Tony’s appointment to a privileged and prestigious position in FA or AST? A nice deposit in Tony’s cat’s name in Cayman Island? or, may be, an invitation from FIFA to tour South America, Australia and far East, complete with nice holiday stops for 6months?

    Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

  • Arun

    Great piece Tony. It’s good to see at least one of the ‘newspapers’ (if they deserved to be called one) to highlight this issue. May be they did this because FA criticized them over their mocking of Roy Hodgson.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Great article Tony and thank you for sharing that the Sun has actually talked about it.

    I can only speak for myself but I will keep on banging on the same nail till there is no more nail to bang on. 😉
    That is the only thing we can do in fact.

    If I can dream a bit I hope that at the end of the season when all the numbers have been digested and put in tables we might gather some interest from other people.

    Depending on the numbers we can come up with it should be very interesting stuff. And who knows maybe we could bring in even more reviewers to do a full review of each game.

    And maybe use the website Dogface mentioned in another article….

    Just the fact that even the media cannot ignore the (low) standard of refereeing in the PL in the last weeks and was mentioned is just a first little step.
    They still live in a state of denial because I think they believe their own stories a bit. But talking about it could bring the much needed opening to more coverage.

    I do really think that none of the big media is actually doing what we (and a few others) are doing. And they have all the possibilities to do this compared to the things we use and how we work.

  • gooner murphy

    Good to hear questions being raised in the so-called Newspapers I just wonder if someone was to email/write to these papers with some independent analysis, would these pillars of society start to ask any pertaindent questions? Anyhow keep up the good work on this outstanding site,

  • El Gringo

    @Magneto–spot on about journalistic fluff, but you have to add “and the consequential, inconsequential” to say what’s really going on. Though this be madness, yet there is method to it.

  • Wooby

    Tony, I am in absolute agreement with your points. To all of the UA writers, do not ever sell out. Without UA, the dark side wins.

  • ak47

    great stuff

  • jayjay

    To do with the Rangers administration, do they get to still compete in the champions league third qualifying round? assuming they finish second.

  • jayjay

    and great job by the way, loving the articles

  • Jacobite Gunner

    @jayjay

    No, Motherwell are the scottish team along with celtic who are into the qualifiers

  • Mandy Dodd

    Shame the media did not report Mike Dean helping out the Spuds for their first goal last night, a Sandro handball, not given Bolton should have had a free kick, instead ended up with a goal against them.
    As I am sure many are aware, Dean is 4th official for Villa vs Spuds. Apparently Dean features rather a lot with the Spuds, almost as much as he does with us.
    As we all know, it is vital we win these two games, anyone know who our ref is against Norwich? Whoever it is, I am sure it is not good news…….

  • bjtgooner

    @Mandy

    Yes the Dodgy Dancer chose not to see the Sandro hand ball; obviously Sandro has had netball coaching from the Hand of Vaart. But it will even itself out before the end of the season!

  • RedGooner

    Tony well said, good article.
    Whats the latest though on liverpools finances surely they havent by some miracle improved overnight. I cant see the current owners paying off the huge debts and continuing to spend without champs league football as if nothing ever happened ? and im pretty sure Kenny wants new signings ?

  • Notoverthehill

    Tony, a well written piece.

    Looking at the number of games referees have officiated in this season, it would seem that Howard Webb and Michael Dean have more games to their credit (?) than the others. It would seem to me that Webb and Dean are given first choice on which games they wish to officiate (?) at. I have not yet checked the EPL, FA and League Cup break-down. IF the selection is random, then why has one referee less than half the Webb games?

    As Tony mentioned the rangerstaxcase is fascinating at how David Murray and Walter Smith conned the public for the last 20 years. Looking at The Arsenal and Employee Benefit Trusts is
    very illuminating. Should The Arsenal lose one or two of their trophies? Just speculating?

  • none

    @ Mandy

    Saturday 5th May
    Arsenal v Norwich City (12.45pm)
    Referee: A Taylor
    Assistants: S Bennett, S Massey
    Fourth Official: L Probert
    Match Delegate: P Allen
    PGMO: K Morton

  • Gord

    @none

    S Massey is the female assistant referee? From writeups, she seems a competent and conscientious official. I hope she has a good game (and all the other officials as well).

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Sian Massey is sharp and very competent.I would prefer her running the line than her male colleagues.Plus she is cuter than them !

  • Poogs

    You’re brilliant Tony, a master. I confess my naivete but I do not fully understand the paragraph on clubs supporting from the area? It seems such an innocuous example. Maybe one needs to be a local.

  • Poogs

    I understand now.