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Football for the fans: now the Guardian strikes back

By Tony Attwood

Earlier this week we published a two part series called “Football for the fans”.  (The second article follows on directly from the link above).

Just days later the Guardian has rushed out (on its website this Sunday)

Reclaiming football for all: presenting the manifesto for a better game by David Goldblatt

Sometimes one wonders what the papers would do if we stopped publishing.

Quite extraordinarily we ended up with 11 points (published as 10 and a bonus), and so do they.  Here is there list, with a brief comparison with ours at the end…

1. TIME TO LEGISLATE: PASS A FOOTBALL REFORM BILL

This moves on from what one of the many totally ineffective ministers for sport said in 2011: “If football proves unable to sort this out itself then the government may have to legislate.”  It all depends if you think the government of the UK can or will do anything about sport.

2. DO THE UNTHINKABLE: PAY THE LIVING WAGE

It’s an obvious point to debate.  We didn’t include it because everyone talks about it and we’ve covered it before.

3. STOP FLEECING FANS: SET FAIR TICKET PRICES

We looked at this with our suggesting of introducing a maximum salary spend per club so that some of the TV money can be used to keep prices down.

4. STOP DITHERING: INTRODUCE SAFE STANDING

We included that, and it came from the one of the three of us who “sits” in a part of the Emirates where people stand.

5. MODERNISE, AT LAST: TIME FOR A FIT AND PROPER FA

Well, we’ve been banging on about this for so long, maybe we could take out copyright on the notion.  No mention of the withdrawal of funding by Sport England from the FA though – that seems to be an absolute no-go area for the press, after they swallowed the FA’s press release on the subject wholesale.

But they do say, “The Freedom of Information Act should be applicable to the FA.”    I didn’t know it wasn’t – but good on them for spotting it.

6 TAKE BACK POWER: WITH TRANSPARENT CLUB OWNERSHIP

I guess because the ownership of Arsenal is transparent and obvious for all to see, and because we have traced the way Arsenal’s ownership has changed since the founding of the club in 1886, we don’t really have a worry about this.  Also because Arsenal as a club went bust under the stewardship of the supporters we’ve tended to see corporate ownership as a better idea.

But the fact that Mike Ashley (of Newcastle, and with a shareholding in Rangers) is now taking legal action to prohibit a Rangers supporter from accessing the list of Rangers shareholders to write to them on a matter to do with Rangers, is an outrage.

However clubs are controlled by company law, just like the companies I am a director of are, and this requirement wants a change in company law in the UK.  We thought we were ambitious in our requirements, but this is just so unachievable – at least as long as we have a Conservative Party lurking that it seems pointless to put it in.

Surely proposed reforms of this nature have to be achievable not pie in the sky.

Oh and they want a change to the tax regime too.

7. REAL REDISTRIBUTION: A WINDFALL TAX ON THE PREMIER LEAGUE

They want the Premier League to raise its contribution to beyond the Premier League to 15% of income. “Half of this should be spent on grassroots, non-league football and social projects and half allocated to a supporters’ ownership fund that will underwrite supporter trust buy-outs and rescues.”

It’s a lovely thing to ask, and all three of us who prepared the Untold list go to games in leagues beyond the Premier League and yes we know.

But this power to supporters ownership… it is not a magic formula, and clubs run by supporters can go bust as easily as any other.  If you want to see the stupidity of fan ownership read this history of Notts County where the fans who owned the club gave it away to a crook.

8. CLAIM CASHBACK: BOOKIES TO PAY THEIR SHARE

As they say we now have “offshore gambling sites”.

But then in a disconnect, “the gambling industry already pays a levy to the horse racing industry; it would be administratively very simple to impose a small percentage turnover tax on every football bet”.

No it wouldn’t – not when the money is bet overseas – which is where most of the gambling on football takes place.   The Football Pools were a rich source of revenue for the league, but now they are not, after the heavy handed League fought them and extracted every penny they could in fees for the copyright of the fixtures.

9. SHIFT THE FOCUS: TO GRASSROOTS AND NON-LEAGUE

If the grassroots of football received one pound every time the professional game praised it, it would be rich beyond all imagination. 

True, and it would be wonderful to see.

10. SWEEP AWAY FIFA: CLEAN UP THE GLOBAL GAME

The FA has been a hapless operator within Fifa…

It goes without saying that both the FA and government must actively support international efforts to see the complete reconstitution of Fifa, and to insist on models of tournament hosting that are sustainable and carnivalesque.

Well, if you read Untold, you’ll know what we think about Fifa.

11. A NEW CULTURE: A REAL FIGHT FOR EQUALITY

…as recent accounts of racist fans on the Paris metro and sexist chants in stadiums remind us, there remains much to be done.

We didn’t do this one, because the amount of racism, bigotry and sexism at the Emirates is small.  Indeed Arsene Wenger stands out as the manager who says, “when I look at a player I look at a player – I don’t see where he comes from”.  There is a problem, but it is linked to rabid nationalism which international football encourages.

So what did they miss which we got?

Their approach is totally about supporters who go to matches – it does nothing to supporters who want to watch football on TV.  We started with

1.  Don’t change match days for TV

And of course they say not a word about the biggest scandal in football; the element that threatens to bring all of football in England crumbling to the floor.

2.  The referees’ association, PGMO, should make its data public.

As part of the improvement in refereeing, which is after all what people talk about the most now (maybe thanks to us)…

3.  Mic up the referees, as in rugby, so that we can hear what their decisions are.

But we did deal with finance – and instead of just appeals for change or the demands of the government to do something, we had a specific project in mind, which almost happened…

4.  Bring in a proper FFP for the Premier League to help reduce the influence of oil billionaires

(Indeed what becomes clear is that we were dealing with achievable mechanisms, not a wish list).  We also wanted the football we see to be better, which their report didn’t think about …

5.  Give a proper summer break for players – so players don’t come back to their clubs in dribs and drabs 

6.  Reducing the number of internationals.

But we did think about the cost of the games

7.  Introduce a maximum salary spend per club so that some of the TV money can be used to keep prices down.

Again we were keen to come up with ways to make that happen.  Then we were back to the refs…

8. Introduce a video referee system to check the important decisions like goals and penalties.

And we thought about those who could not get to the games which the report publicised in the Guardian doesn’t think about at all…

9. Introduce a low cost system for all supporters to view each match in a legal way on the internet by using a pay per view system

Finally, we went further.  We didn’t want Fifa reformed…

10.  The overthrow of Fifa.

And as a bonus… we had safe standing areas in stadia with costs met from TV money.

So, you take your choice.  Interesting that Untold got there first though.

Again.

—————————–

The books

10 comments to Football for the fans: now the Guardian strikes back

  • samrat

    starsports dot com shows premier league games for £5 a year

  • nicky

    First the Daily Telegraph and now the Guardian.
    The Tories and Labour are quite rightly re

    First the Telegraph and now the Guardian.
    Fair does, bearing in mind the forthcoming General Election. But Tony and Walter should now beware of the Sun. A bare-chested photo of either of them on Page Three will not be a pretty sight. 😉

  • Mandy Dodd

    Cannot argue with any of that no matter what the source. Really is time we bought in safe standing, just down to the modern breed of politicians who are scared to actually make difficult decisions on anything meaningful, unless of course it involved dismantling the NHS or putting in place silly bedroom taxes.There is no good reason not to allow safe standing now, guilt over an establishment cover up over the most tragic event is no longer sufficient reason.
    But it does appear Untold is ahead of the game here.
    The PGMOL need as much reform as FIFA, or I fear what may possibly soon be discovered could ruin football in this country for a long time.
    Riley needs replacing with perhaps a strong even handed , maybe foreign head, who knows about how to referee a game and is not tainted by an acquiescent relationship with one club above all others. Collina perhaps, but having said that, even Jeremy Clarkson would do a better job than Riley.

  • Rich

    I’m guessing someone at untold is chewing over the two or three separate pieces the Guardian/Observer put up about referees last night

    Chock full of info about how refs are assessed,etc, with word from the man himself. Somewhat surprisingly, I couldn’t make myself read most of it. An Arsenal fan, Amy Lawrence, approaching the subject of refs ,and especially Riley, as though all’s well and good is just too strange for me. Can’t even get angry about it. Would be like arguing with someone who won’t budge in their insistence the earth is flat.

  • jambug

    Rich

    And this is the thing about the Media.

    It’s obvious from the many examples of the Media referencing Untold articles, sometimes to the point of plagiarism, that this site is a respected source of reference.

    It seems that a fairly broad spectrum of media outlets give great credibility to what Tony, and the rest, investigate, assess, and publish.

    Everything it seems except the foundation on which Untold Arsenal was built, the exposure of Refereeing BIAS, particularly against us.

    There are dozens, if not hundreds of Refereeing revues carried out over many seasons, by both Arsenal affiliated and non Arsenal affiliated experts, that show a constant and distinct bias against Arsenal.

    Yes other teams suffer at times, and we benefit at times, but statistics taken over an extended period of time show clear, undeniable trends that prove we are harshly treated.

    -Taken over a long period, penalty stats both for and against us are very unfavourable when compared to other teams with similar possession and territorial profiles.

    -Our bookings ratio per foul is nearly always the highest in the PL.

    -Important decision statistics show a massive bias in our opponents favour.

    And yet it’s funny how THESE statistics never seem to make it into the media.

    It’s obvious from how often this sites articles are referenced that Untold’s chief writers are held in very high regard.

    It’s obvious that so much of there research, analysis and opinion is respected and thought worthy of being brought to the wider public……..

    ……except it seems there exposure of refereeing bias.

    That, strangely enough, always seems to find it’s way under the radar.

    Perhaps there like our little Troll Tom and think the revues are all just ‘made up’ ?

    I suppose we’ll never know why they are ignored, all I know is they are.

  • jambug

    And lets not forget it took just a couple of weeks of Jose throwing his toys out of his pram about a conspiracy against Chelsea for Martin Samuel to muster a few weeks of statistics to prove Jose was right.

    Now we KNOW from other ‘lifted’ Untold Articles that Samuel MUST visit this site on a regular basis. He therefore must of seen the reams of data that show just how favourable Chelsea have been treated in the Penalty Stakes (and how badly Arsenal have been treated). Yet, and yet he choses to totally ignore that in favour of a very select, miniscule, segment of data just to back up Jose.

    Now if that doesn’t show an agenda I don’t know what does.

  • para

    This really proves that they are incapable of producing their own opinion, and they wait for their masters to give them one, or steal from publications like Untold when the masters are silent. Ha.

  • jambug

    jambug

    March 29, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    And lets not forget it took just a couple of weeks of Jose throwing his toys out of his pram about a conspiracy against Chelsea for Martin Samuel to muster a few weeks of statistics to prove Jose was right.

    Now we KNOW from other ‘lifted’ Untold Articles that Samuel MUST visit this site on a regular basis. He therefore must of seen the reams of data that show just how favourable Chelsea have been treated in the Penalty Stakes (and how badly Arsenal have been treated). Yet, and yet he choses to totally ignore that in favour of a very select, miniscule, segment of data just to back up Jose.

    Now if that doesn’t show an agenda I don’t know what does.

  • nicky

    @Rich,
    Your 11.46 of yesterday was a di8sgraceful, though veiled, attack on the Flat Earth Society.
    Serves you right if you ever decide to visit Australia by ship and you fall over the edge.

  • Gord

    Unusual management – vis a vis Newcastle

    The medja are reporting another profitable year for Newcastle.

    Any feelings for the idea that the owner is purposely pissing off fans, so that (ideally) nobody comes to a game? He then needs fewer employees at the grounds, which lowers costs, ….