Farewell hooligans, farewell facts, hello anger. Why the football debate is now so unhealthy.




There is an interview with comedian Andy Hamilton in the Telegraph in which he seeks to explain how he came to give up his season ticket at Stamford Bridge.   If you’ve got a subscription to the paper it is worth a read, but in case not, here’s a key paragraph:

“The game is a reflection of how we have become less communal, and it’s doused in this extraordinary vitriol. People get inordinately angry. Sure, I grew up in a time of hooliganism, which was a manifestation of tribalism. What football is now is a 24/7 angry tirade. Now everyone has an opinion about everything, but it’s a destructive relationship.”

And that resonated with me because (as I have previously mentioned in passing) of the anger I felt all around me during the first half of Arsenal v Manchester City.

Arsenal adopted a held-back tactic, deliberately refusing to push forward and thus leave space for Manchester City to move into.  It was not pretty, it was not gung-ho, it was not likely to get a goal for Arsenal, but it was stunningly effective in making Man C frustrated.   But the crowd all around me hated it and judging by the sounds coming from the rest of the stadium, so did a lot of other people.

In simple terms, a lot of people there thought they knew exactly how Arsenal should play that game, and Arsenal were not doing it, so they vented their anger on the players and the manager.

We were in fact back to the early days of the Arteta regime wherein his prime concern was to stop Arsenal from running away with the wrong title – the title of being the most yellow carded club in the Premier League for the second season running.  

In my view, everything flowed from that desire and the process of taking on PGMO’s referees, and the rise of the New Arsenal has come from that.  But even if you think that’s a load of baloney what on earth was the benefit of all the booing and shouting at Arsenal players during the first half against Manchester City?   None that I can think of.   All it did was alienate the players from the fanbase.

Fortunately, all was set aside thanks to a wonderful strike and deflection but really it shouldn’t be like this.

Chelsea’s problem, as Andy Hamilton points out, was and is the disconnect between the owners and the fans.  As he says, “New investors are looking to make it a global business, mediated through television. And Chelsea are the poster boys for where it’s gone wrong. The club is subject to a ridiculous business experiment with no understanding of what the sport is meant to be.”

Arsenal are not in that position of course, but the view that the season ticket holders know best is a dangerous one, because it is built on the vision that the people who write for the newspapers or appear on radio and TV should determine the agenda,deciding what is, and what isn’t news.

And remember those people are the ones who last year were forecasting that Arsenal wouldn’t even make the top four in 2022/23, let alone give Manchester City a good run for their £billions.  People who have since utterly refused to explain their errors or apologise for propagating them all day and night for half a season.

But worse than that, these are the people who set the agenda.  An agenda that refuses to look at any issue involving the question of referees – such as why PGMO allows Anthony Taylor to oversee 30 Premier League games last season of which just one third were home wins, while Stuart Attwell oversaw 25 PL games of which almost three quarters were home wins.  There’s something odd there, surely.

I don’t expect the numbers to be equal between refs, but such huge and persistent differences, which appear through the referee statistics, suggest each ref has a totally different way of reacting to the crowd.  And that is not what it is about.

This channeling of football commentary into the hands of a tiny number of companies, who have their own view of what is, and what is not, a subject for debate, is completely wrong.   But that issue is hidden, through one simple factor.  No one, apart from a few bloggers, is willing to step outside the box and raise issues that the media won’t touch.  Instead, as Andy Hamilton says, “What football is now is a 24/7 angry tirade.”   And when everyone is angry, facts and analyses go out the window.  All we have left is opinion.

One Reply to “Farewell hooligans, farewell facts, hello anger. Why the football debate is now so unhealthy.”

  1. Long gone are the days of football correspondents reporting on matches. Today all legacy media have an “agenda”, especially our supposed “national” broadcaster the BBC. Their football website has become so peppered with their agenda to the point I have given up reading it, just as I’ve given up my TV licence for the same reason.
    The problem with football in the 21st century is because it has become so popular everyone from FIFA, UEFA, FA, footballers, the media & politicians are using football to advance their own agendas. I get the impression football clubs today have gone from the local butcher owning the club to state investment funds & global fund managers buying up clubs and using football as a drug to keep the masses docile while they go on amassing greater fortunes. So further separating them, the elite, from the average fan.

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