By Tony Attwood
It is amusing, at least when there is nothing else to do, to contemplate if a blog can have any effect on football.
By and large the answer is surely no. No, because it is hard to imagine the manager or players bothering to read a football blog, no because it is hard to imagine journalists from the press and TV actually knowing that blogging exists, and no because it is hard to imagine that anyone at the FA is literate.
And yet, and yet, we do get tiny rays of light that suggest, maybe, just some blogs might have an effect.
Certainly the RangersTaxCase blog in Scotland did alert the English media to what was going on. The Scottish press, you will remember, got confused and ran Rangers’ press releases as if they were investigative journalism, but eventually the blog was picked up in England, and the Scottish media had to take the plunge and start looking at what was really going on at Rangers. They only got there just in time, as well!
We’ve had our own little signs at Untold. Mr Wenger re-ran one of our jokes at a press conference just an hour or so after it had gone on line, and he later said that the club was up against “Rotational Fouling” – an Untold phrase which at the time was never seen anywhere else.
Then Amy Lawrence at the Guardian wrote a sturdy defence of her work after it was criticised on Untold, and off-line engaged in a very good exchange of views with Untold. So maybe we are having a little effect. Or at least being noticed.
And that is what struck me the moment I read this in the Guardian this morning:
“Arsenal have won just one of the past 14 league games they have played with Mike Dean as the referee”.
Now I can’t imagine reading that anywhere any time apart from Untold last season and Referees Reviews this season. But there it is. Straight from the mouth of the horse.
These are indeed strange and interesting times. The Premier League top dogs seem to be involved in eternal meetings with each other to talk about salary caps and a Premier League version of the “financial fair play” rules – both points of discussion here for some time.
Among the concepts being recycled from three years of Untold debate is a limit on salaries for the club, a limit on salary increase, and a limit on the percentage of turnover that can be paid in salaries. (You may recall the point made here on many occasions that it is not the transfer fee that matters it is the salary. This was illustrated in the long line of articles on the Flamini Effect, which pointed out in particular just how much it cost Barcelona to have Henry on the pitch, game by game. Around quarter of a million pounds an appearance in fact).
The idea is that instead of just the clubs going for Euro places having to break even, more or less, all clubs in the Premier League should have to do that.
The arch conservatives need only five votes to block any change in Premier League rules and Chelsea, Fulham and Manchester City are already there. What’s more there are dark rumours now circulating (and these are not in the press) that the big spenders are prepared to make donations through private accounts in the Virgin Islands to other clubs, to vote against all such radical rule changes.
There’s even a wind of change blowing through the way the press see Arsenal. This appeared in the Independent today…
Mark Ogden’s prediction: Manchester City 1 Arsenal 2.
which is quite extraordinary for the media. (Remembering that these predictions are made as part of an overall official approach to how a club may be viewed by the media. For example, the official line is that the chants between Liverpool and Man U fans must stop. This official line allows no discussion of the homophobic chanting of Tottenham fans for their away at Portsmouth, directed for 95 minutes against Sol Campbell. The pictures of the culprits were revealed, Tottenham knew who they had sold tickets to, but nothing was done. Indeed I think that just about the only publication to have attempted to keep this connivance between the clubs, the police and the homophobic public is Untold.)
But how easy it is for the press when everyone agrees on the story. Forget that Fabregas has only played one full game this season, and that Song is mostly an unused sub on the Barca bench, the story is that Arsenal have a new Fabregas in Cazorla (not forgetting that gives a chance to re run the Arsenal can’t hold onto players, story) is the one to follow. No one as far as I know has run a story in the press or on TV or on radio about how the careers of the majority of recent Arsenal transfers out have collapsed, nor how much money Arsenal has made in the transfer nor how much they have saved in salaries.
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