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Football Betrayed: Guardian use the same trick as the trolls

By Tony Attwood

The Observer, which is in the same newspaper group as the Guardian, publishes a weekly column, Said and Done which makes fun of Fifa, football  managers, players and the ladies who hang around with players by running sequences of events – what they said and what they did.

A typical piece from this week reads

Setting the record straight

27 Jan: Barcelona float the prospect of removing Qatar as sponsors due to reputational brand damage from “social and political issues”. 5 Feb: Qatar float the prospect of a new more lucrative deal. Barça vice-president Javier Faus: “We have zero, zero, zero problems with Qatar.”

Trailing the details of the possible new deal – Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker: “Qatar Airways and Barcelona share the same values. It’s possible our name will be added to Camp Nou.” Al Baker says the earlier “political remarks” from Barça’s Josep Maria Bartomeu should be ignored. “Don’t get carried away by comments from people who may say things they don’t really mean.”

—–

Of course what they never publish are any of the stories from the media in which they screw up totally, getting predictions of transfers horribly wrong, mixing actual news with wild fantasy, and publishing press releases from the FA as news without actually thinking about them or checking facts, and above all, always failing to ask the question “why?”

However what they do occasionally use are the trick of the “single negative”.  This is an approach that is widely used by trolls and simplistic commentators, and it involves giving a single example of an issue, and then generalising outwards.

So, for example, Untold publishes numerous examples of time wasting which is not punished by referees and cut from TV coverage, and an individual, hiding behind a nom-de-plume writes in to say, “so Leicester were time wasting but when Ospina went down without being touched and lay there, he wasn’t time wasting!  You are as biased as you claim the refs are.”  Not the actual text sent in, but words to that effect.  No wider analysis, no examination of what happened – just an accusation.

In the article we were pointing to multiple examples of what seemed to be time wasting, the writer pointed to one, but claimed one example negated the multiple examples we’d cited.  We get such commentaries all the time.

Now some of the Guardian and Observer writers most certainly know what we are saying in terms of ref bias, and they know Untold’s connection with Belgium.  So it is interesting that the Guardian has published a story about an allegation of referee bias in Belgium without an author’s name being given, and then said, oh no, it wasn’t bias at all.  Wrong man, wrong organisation.  Ho ho, silly football fans who claim bias.

The implication is that all ref bias stories can be equally easily dismissed.   Just little football fans getting worked up.

What makes this story particularly interesting is that a story like this would never normally make the Guardian.  Like all UK papers it covers little in regard to European football beyond Spain, and when it does it focuses on Germany and very occasional mentions of Italy.  France only gets mentioned in terms of PSG, Monaco and transfers, and as for the rest, nothing.

So, using the football journalist’s absolute no-go question (why?) we can ask, why did this story trivial non-story suddenly turn up?

The opening of the story says, “The Belgium Football Association has been forced to dismiss speculation that the referee who officiated in last weekend’s Jupiler League match between KV Kortrijk and Club Bruges is a member of a Kortrijk supporters’ group.”

Note “forced to”.  It suggests a big movement.  Forced by whom?

The story is that Frederik Geldhof was the ref in the first defeat of Club Bruges in 31 with a “controversial” penalty and there were allegations of bias.  (Why “contraversial”?  We are not told.)

Then a “fan” (unnamed just like the writer of the article) “noticed” a “Facebook user named Frederik Geldhof was a member of a group called “Red Side Kortrijk”.”

The Belgian FA issued a statement that said, Red Side Kortrijk “is a social project of the city of Kortrijk. Frederik Geldhof is also not a member.”  It was a different person with the same name.

This is in fact a non-story from a country that the Guardian in football terms ignores, and yet the paper is running it.  Why?

As a person who is rather interested in disinformation, I would argue that the inclusion of this non-story is there to cover the fact that the Guardian, in keeping with other newspapers in England, will not cover any story that hints of the corruption of football except perhaps in relation to Italy.  Even the flagrant abuse of Fifa rules by Barcelona and their subsequent farcical appeals only got occasional mentions.   It was exactly the same throughout the UK when evidence upon evidence piled up that something was seriously wrong with the finances of Rangers FC in Glasgow, and the press would not print a word about it, instead taking the press releases of the club which ignored the issue.  We still see the same with the FA and its battle for finance with Sport England.  Nonsensical press releases are published, but no analysis or questioning.

When the Rangers story finally broke the media bleated that they were unable to cover the story before “for legal reasons”.  In fact the regime at the old Rangers club (which went into liquidation with the new club being relegated to the fourth division) told the media that any mention of the scandal would result in that outlet being banned from all Rangers press conferences and matches.  So they gave in.

Is PGMO or the Premier League issuing warnings to the media in England that their licences to cover games will be withdrawn if they follow up any match fixing stories?  Possibly.  We can’t prove match fixing is going on, but there is a mountain of evidence that suggests something very screwy is happening, and yet the media don’t want to know.  Funny that.

What would be interesting would be to know who suggested that the Guardian run this Belgian non-story.  It has all the hallmarks of the highly secretive Professional Game Match Officials, who through this season appear to have been slipping stories to the media following commentaries about match fixing here and on other sites.

And “other sites” is certainly relevant now.   One of our regular correspondents from Switzerland pointed out this article to me this week.  It deals with match fixing from the gambling point of view – Type I match fixing in our nomenclature – in which the result of a single match, or events in a single match, are manipulated primarily for gambling purposes.

It is an extraordinary piece of evidence.  I am certainly not qualified to comment on its accuracy, but it is well worth considering.

But to return to my main theme.   PGMO has remained secretive and silent until this year.   Even if Untold had done nothing else this season, getting them to respond a number of times in what appears to be a rather ham-fisted manner (the sudden article on video referees in response to Walter’s blank page under the heading of what the Premier League is doing in relation to video refs was one of the most amusing) has been rather jolly and amusing.

We’re about to come up to our 5000th article and I’ll write up a little piece about some of the other debates I think Untold has contributed to, by way of celebration of our survival.  But for now, thanks to the Guardian for today’s piece.  Most amusing.  Most thought provoking.  More please.

Untold Arsenal

Anniversary of the Day: 

13 February 1892: First ever recorded incident of a club song being sung at a football match.  “Ta ra ra Boom de ay The Arsenal’s won today”

 

19 comments to Football Betrayed: Guardian use the same trick as the trolls

  • WalterBroeckx

    Ah being from Belgium has its benefits in this case 😉

    The facts.
    Red Side Kortrijk is now claimed to be “a social project of the city of Kortrijk” But when I go to this public group on facebook I see that they are a supporters site of Kortrijk. I nowhere see any link to a social project and if there is one they sure could provide a bit of information on what they do. In fact most articles are related to the football club of Kortrijk and the person who runs the group also seems to be a Chelsea supporters as lots of other posts are about Chelsea. But final conclusion if you ask me : someone is lying about what red side Kortrijk actually is.

    The ref in question was a member. Because someone added him they say. Now I don’t know for others but I know that I only am a member of the groups that I picked myself to become a member of. Of course from time to time one gets an invitation from certain groups. But then still it is up to me to decide if I will actually join this group or not.

    So if you ask me: the ref in question was invited and accepted the invitation. Very, very, very, very unprofessional from this ref to accept this invitation. So I think that is another lie that is being told that he didn’t knew anything about it. The word stupid comes to mind.

    A final remark is that maybe this group could do something about their spelling. As the only information they give on facebook about their group is and I quote in Dutch: “voetbal en fiarplay”. As you might gather yourself voetbal in Dutch is football in English. I’m still puzzled what “fiarplay” is to be honest as it is a non existing word in Dutch. Maybe and probably it should have been fairplay.

    But when I add one and one and remembering that the person running the group also is a Chelsea supporter it will just be that he isn’t the brightest one around probably. 😉

    Fact is despite the denial from all and everyone and trying to cover it up as just some big misunderstanding the group was and is a supporters group of Kortrijk and a ref from the Jupiler League was a member of this group.

    It sure looks like a massive cover up operation has taken place. One wonders why?

  • WalterBroeckx

    And yes there is another Frederik Geldhof member of this group but the ref himself was also member. This can happen. My brother has the same name as the mayor of a City in Belgium. He is in fact family. Each summer we played football together in the park. And my brother has been asked at a few times if he is the mayor of this city. And our last name is not really a very common one. So people can have the same name. 😉

  • Va Cong

    Just gets dodgier and dodgier! That’s funny Walter when questions are asked that can’t be answered smells of bullshit! Another great read tony!

  • When will the English version of this “tales of the unexpected” come up for public viewing? Soon I hope, very soon. Lies and deceit can’t be covered forever, can they?

  • @ Va Cong. Dodgier and murkier. I wonder what words will be appropriate to describe the English version of this Belgian mess. Or dare any deny it doesn’t exist? Maybe not in the same crude form, but I guess a little more sophisticated. But no less sinister.

  • finsbury

    Perhaps the author was Howard Webbalty?

    Wasn’t he meant to take up some kind of media consultancy* position. Even though most other former representatives of the much respected and admired PGMO are paid money to stop them talking to the media after they retire? I guess that Master Webb must have been a special case. One of the Grandmaster’s favourites? Something.

    *Perhaps the PGMO replaced Webb with the lesser Neville (sacked for being a crap coach, mocked for being a poor player by most who saw him play)and of course that stand up icon for English Football the much respected Joey Barton:

    “See this Alexis sanchez. He’s really good at football. But the PGMO refs will let opponents foul him without any reds, like this Cahill stomp. Look! This is how you have to play against the Arsenal…”, meanwhile they use the moans of Mourinho for cover of the bias in favour of the petro-club. A cunning plan, as some would say. Or maybe not!

    Quite amazing really. When you reflect upon this level of observable and undeniable bias in the media alone. Not really a mystery why the FA never gave Clough the job (as well as being quite good at the football stuff he also called out some of their bogus favourites for the cheats and crooks they were, and hacks for the hacks they are…), why the England team struggle.

    Do the FA like Association Football? Seems a reasonable question.

  • finsbury

    Is Gollum/Dean crawling his way up the slippery slope of Mount Doom to Riley’s job, his precious? Hence the penalty in the Arsenal’s last game – the first from him since, oh, around about the time Riley became grandmaster…

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin.

    Let us for a while forget the negativism of the Guardian newspaper as regard to their non reporting and non highlighting of the ugliness in time wasting tactics as being employed by some teams against the Gunners in their games. And let’s concentrate on come what may, the Gunners MUST unequivocally dealt Middlesborough a heavy defeat at the Emirates stadium on Sunday’s evening. The Gunners must make the Boro to become the sacrificial lambs to pay for the Foxes misendervour of trying to force the Gunners to a drawn game at the Emirates stadium on Tuesday night. The Gunners must inflict 5 casualties on the Boro as they venture-in to the Emirates stadium pitch. Ozil, Walcott, Giroud, Welbeck and any one of the yet to score trio of Flamini, Coquelin and Monreal are to architect and execute the 5 casualties on the Boro. No any excuses of injuries and tiredness will be accepted from the Gunners as any reason for their not beating the Boro by 5 goals to nil. AFC 5-0 MBFC FT 90” +. I think the boss should rest Sanchez for the Crystal Palace and the Monaco games.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin.

    Let us for a while forget the negativism of the Guardian newspaper as regard to their non reporting and non highlighting of the ugliness of time wasting tactics as being employed by some teams against the Gunners in their games. And let’s concentrate on, come what may, the Gunners MUST unequivocally dealt Middlesborough a heavy defeat at the Emirates stadium on Sunday’s evening. The Gunners must make the Boro to become the sacrificial lambs to pay for the Foxes misendervour of trying to force the Gunners to a drawn game at the Emirates stadium on Tuesday night. The Gunners must inflict 5 casualties on the Boro as they venture-in to the Emirates stadium pitch. Ozil, Walcott, Giroud, Welbeck and any one of the yet to score trio of Flamini, Coquelin and Monreal are to architect and execute the 5 casualties on the Boro. No any excuses of injuries and tiredness will be accepted from the Gunners as any reason for their not beating the Boro by 5 goals to nil. AFC 5-0 MBFC FT 90” +. I think the boss should rest hamstringed Sanchez for the Crystal Palace and the Monaco games.

  • colario

    “Only three English players In the Arsenal line up” Screamed the guradian headline in the online edition on the day of the Community Shield.

    Down in the small print the Gurardain had the honesty to inform us that “there are no English players in the Man City line up.”

  • finsbury

    They don’t call it the Manchester Grunt for nuffink!

  • Oliver

    hmm the way facebook groups works now mean that people can just put you in groups. you don’t get invited anymore. You get invited to “like” pages.

  • reargunner

    I quite enjoy Said & Done., so much so that I have it booked marked.

  • Reargunner – I agree, Said and Done is enjoyable, but it is incidious at the same time

  • Rich

    Well, I need no convincing that things aren’t what they ought to be in the football section as in other sections of the media.

    I’d say the football section is, if anything, even worse in one key respect : football, though we love it in massive numbers, watch a lot of it and think about it much more, isn’t life-or-death stuff. As a result of this, the small percentage of truly good journalists…won’t be dedicating their lives to football.

    That’s why it hurts me in particular whenever I see the Guardian’s football writers behaving poorly and, in reality, not being much different than their obviously terrible colleagues at other organisations. They are the one media outlet I feel some level of trust in.

    There’s the tease of David Conn’s work for that paper but ,as I was adamant would happen, that interest in third-party murkiness appears to have been killed stone dead by Sepp Blatter’s transparent action of saying it will definitely be ended at some unspecified point in the future. Fifa, quite obviously, needs to be attacked by someone of Nick Davies’, of hacking fame, calibre, and backed full tilt by a large enough organisation, as he was.And it surely isn’t only Fifa who needs to be gone after in that manner

    But it isn’t going to happen. The new tv deal, as with the last one, and the one before that, only makes a clean-up that much less likely. I still think the only way anything major can happen is by pure accident- i.e a proper journalist is pursuing another large investigation, and stumbles upon something.

    I’m disappointed this didn’t happen with the Hacking investigation. The head of the PFA was heavily involved in all that, and there are mentions of players also, so referees and other football figures seem very natural, even inevitable, targets

  • porter

    There is too much money sloshing around in football for there not to be an interest from the bookmaking fraternity .We all know how they have affected the dogs and horses and spread betting is rife in India and cricket has had it’s scandals. It’s happening here because of the T.V coverage beamed worldwide ,it’s foolish to think otherwise.

  • finsbury

    Porter
    The ECB give advice with the aid of security consultants on how to try and cope with approaches from groomers and fixers operating out of regions where the betting industry is illegal (& therefore dwarfs the industry where it is legal…).

    http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/cricket/englands-ian-bell-demands-match-fixing-3553156

    “England players and their international counterparts must hand their mobile phones in to their security officer at the start of the day and get them back after play is over, but even for televised county matches there is no such requirement.
    Bell said: “I’ve never seen it (fixing) at domestic level but then you hear what has been going on, not just in England but all around the world…there probably has to be a bit more done I suppose domestically as well.
    “The education, internationally and generally being in the England team, we are told a lot and have a lot of meetings about issues and things that are going on.
    “But…I haven’t seen anything at Warwickshire that helps the guys or helps them understand or gives them any more advice. Maybe there is more that can be done at domestic level. We certainly can’t be complacent. The Mervyn Westfield affair showed that some players – and particularly young players – can be vulnerable.””

    Fair to say that at the very least they acknowledge the threat in cricket. A less rich sport then Football.

  • porter

    Less rich but fanatically followed in eastern communities where betting is rife . Two flies on a window they used to say was a common bet so televised sport is wide open for a little adjustment.

  • Nekuhan

    @ porter & all readers. Good post, but MUST read Tony’s link:
    1) http://footballisfixed.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/once-dead-good-and-bad-are-covered-by.html?m=1
    and especially
    2) http://footballisfixed.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/the-impact-of-extreme-financial.html?m=1
    to see the enormous amounts of money and disproportion what referees are getting per year. The situation in football today is very similar with boxing 50-60 years ago = can not believe in any result any more. Unfortunately, football is much more popular + today the money is not the same + Internet multiplayer by … well, read the second article. Note: the numbers are the responsibility of the original author.
    All the best to Untold and its team. COYG!