The sin of omission: the bits of the football story that are missing


By Tony Attwood

In the Guardian there was recently a piece, “Football fans, the national anthem and a battle for who controls the public space,” which started from the point that before last weekend “the Premier League contacted its clubs to ‘strongly suggest’ they commemorated the royal moment in some way.”  And it asked the question, “why? It is barely relevant to point out here that the republican segment of the British public stands at 25% and rising. That number could be 100% or 1% and the principle would remain unchanged: celebrating a monarch is an overtly ideological act.”

It is an interesting debate, but not so much for the issue of overtly ideological acts, but because it brings me back to the issue of why there is so much dispute over what is news and what is not news, in football.

And it brings in the point that Nitram has so well explored recently, about the fact that Newcastle supporters felt that Arsenal were cheating in every way during the recent game when such stats as we have, suggest otherwise.

There is an importance here in the sense of asking how can we ever have a debate if we can’t agree the facts?   Or put it another way, how do we reach conclusions if we can’t even agree what issues are worth discussing? 

In a way we have tried to get inside this debate by looking at the link between tackles, fouls and yellow cards, and finding some strange stats along the way.  Such as the fact that clubs that tackle more get fewer fouls against them at first, but then later referees make up for their apparent largesse by laying on the yellow cards to a greater degree.   That has nothing to do with the rules of the game, but a lot to do with the psychology of the referees in doing it, PGMO in not stopping it, and the media in not reporting it.

There are of course people who will argue with an entirely straight face that the state itself is actually entirely apolitical, and why can’t we all just eat some cake and stand respectfully in agreement?

But none of this is really about tradition or respect or even national unity, a concept that for some reason is never applied to striking nurses. It is a struggle for power, and has always been such, and those who hand out the free match day premium tickets to journalists can let it be known what they would prefer not to have covered.

Now you will find many journalists who deny that any club has ever even suggested something like that, and of course that will be true because they don’t have to any more.  The media generally copies the media and if someone else is not running a particular issue, the rest of the media usually accept it is not an issue and also leave it alone.  Just consider the issues of referee bias: no one ever mentions that as an issue it exists.

And here’s the point: the Premier League is run by billionaires, by and large, and if they say to the media – “I’d rather you left this story alone”, it tends to be left alone – not just because the billionaire suggested it, but because no other media outlet is covering it.

The fact is that we live in times in which truth and statistical and scientific evidence can be doubted by people simply saying, “I don’t believe it,” suggesting that all evidence can be faked.  Thus the world around us is interpreted as if our view of it is like a religion – there does not have to be proof for us to believe.

The media is guilty on a mass scale of the sin of omission whether it is in discussing why some referees oversee so many more home wins than away (and vice versa) or discussing the way league clubs are potentially mistreating young players by overtraining and over playing them and then leaving them with injuries for life, and then why, alone among the major activities in England, football has no independent body to which players and fans can take a complaint.

There’s a lot more that is wrong – for an example see “Why is the English football media so in favour of corruption?”  or our expose of Leicester City’s curious tackle / foul / yellow figures, or Leicester heading for an all-time record number of penalties.

Of course it may be coincidence that  Leicester’s collapse has come about since we started investigating that club in detail.  But it gives Untold, a tiny, tiny organisation, the thought that maybe there are one or two other strange things we ought to be calling into question.  Not because we are special, but simply because no one else is doing it.  The failure of clubs to keep proper records of injuries to young players for example…

2 Replies to “The sin of omission: the bits of the football story that are missing”

  1. Talking of fake news (and one of its most vociferous advocates) I noted with incredulity what Trump said in respect of the woman he’s been found guilty of sexually assaulting and whom he mistook for his wife when shown a photo of them together.

    After the verdict, Trump posted on his social media platform Truth Social in all capital letters: “I have absolutely no idea who this woman is.” This is what the world has come to. People simply lie blatantly in the face of overwhelming evidence, as did Johnson who acquired a criminal record for something he denied ever happened. Subsequently, some people still actually believe these denials.

    Anyway, I know politics isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, I merely give these two examples as they differ only in subject matter from what we see happening in football, the PGMO and sports “journalism” every day. Honesty and integrity seem to have become very rare commodities in the last few years. Call me old-fashioned (I am, so it would be quite a reasonable claim!) but I’m quite a fan of morals and principles.

  2. It’s not new…Joseph Goebbels said something along the lines of “ if you tell a lie a thousand times, it becomes the truth”. Equally, if you refute a fact a thousand times, it becomes a lie.

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