Welcome to the new age of football: cunning, manipulation and a simple desire for power



by Tony Attwoood

There is a new vision of football slowly emerging in the media, to replace the old image that we have been asked to believe, which said managers don’t know what they are doing but journalists and commentators can always see what’s wrong and would put it right in a trice, if they were in charge.

And while the old storyline was just plain daft, this new storyline is frightening as it reveals football club owners engaging in Machiavellianism, showing cunningness, the ability to manipulate, and a willingness to do anything that is necessary to gain power and retain control.   In short, in order to fight the insanities of Fifa and Uefa, club owners are now adopting behaviour strategies that are more befitting of politicians than those involved in a sport.

The reason is simple – when football is run by incompetent bunglers like the FA on one hand, and self-important manipulators as we see within Fifa and Uefa on the other, the story that football is run by nice guys with the best interest of football at heart, simply vanishes.

To give an example of how things are going you might care to glance at  “Erling Haaland’s Manchester City Release Clause Changes To Put FC Barcelona, Real Madrid On Alert – Reports” an outrageous report of clubs mucking about without any regard for anyone else.  

Or if you fancy something nearer to home try “Arsenal accused of using £100m Declan Rice transfer as ‘smokescreen’ to sign Premier League star” in which it is said “Arsenal are set to bolster Mikel Arteta’s midfield options in the summer transfer window as Edu weighs up a move for West Ham captain Declan Rice” within which Football.London admits that in essence, there are so many manipulations no one is quite sure what’s happening.

Summarised, the story is that “Lee Dixon believes the north Londoners’ interest in Rice is not genuine and instead they are secretly targeting moves for other players like Caicedo. The ex-Arsenal star told BettingSites.co.uk: “I don’t think Arsenal will pay £100million.   I don’t think Rice is worth £100million to be honest. I think West Ham are going to want even more than that. I don’t know who Arsenal are looking at.”

At least the last sentence made sense, and is followed with the conclusion that “It might be that Rice is a bit of a smoke screen, and they’re not really that interested.”

Now my point is that we have known about this sort of behaviour for a long time but the media has not admitted to it, because if they did that would destroy their summer coverage of transfer rumours, in which 97% of the stories printed are false, but treated as if true.  But now even they are admitting the tales are fantasies.

To show how far and fast this new trend of disbelief is spreading, the Independent tells us something else that we have not heard before beyond Untold: “belief in referees is falling”.

This story tells us that “Wolves have already received three apologies in two months for refereeing mistakes.”   Apologies are nice, but they don’t really replace the need for balanced refereeing – which we don’t have when some referees invariably oversee home wins, and others oversee away wins.  We published the figures on this recently, you may recall.  Maybe someone in the clubs has seen our report.

So what has caused this shift from biased and ill-informed reporting to suggesting there are conspiracies afoot?  Partly I suspect, the insanity of the Qatar world cup, and the notion of countries buying English football teams are to blame.

But sadly, an awareness of just how seriously screwed the refereeing is in the Premier League, has not yet reached Fleet Street.  Instead we are getting more of the traditional British media distrust of “Johnny Foreigner”.  And maybe this time – for the first time – they have a point, especially with headlines like Premier League will never be stable while Gulf states own clubs.

That report starts, “The human rights group says nations’ involvement in football ‘leaves the Premier League inextricably entwined with, and exposed to, developments in the UK’s foreign policy.”

Meanwhile when we are seeing headlines elsewhere such as The same faces, which tells us that the “Repetitive Champions League is past the point of saving” we know something is happening, even if the journalists still don’t quite know what it is.

Change everywhere is afoot, as “UEFA president hints at softening multi-club ownership rule, amid Man United bids” (according to ESPN“)

But there’s a problem here: for although change is desperately needed to save football from total collapse.  Premier League Financial Forecast 2022 revealed that the Premier-League clubs lost £590 million in 2021/22.  The collapse is already here.

This is not sustainable unless there is either something very fishy going on, which would seem quite likely.

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