Untold Media Watch: how one paper has read Untold and changed its mind about Cesc

Untold Arsenal on Twitter @UntoldArsenal

By Tony Attwood

In the novel “1984” by George Orwell (the book that gave us such phrases as “Big Brother” and “Room 101” and the notion that newspapers exist to make up news that fits a particular political viewpoint), one of the features of the regime that runs the UK (or Airstrip One as it is known in the story) is that the leadership of Oceania (which incorporates the UK) regularly changes its mind.

Oceania is at war with Eurasia, and then suddenly it is not.  Half way through a speech by a political leader Eurasia is our ally and we are at war with Eastasia.  So it goes.

That’s rather how it feels reading the press in relation to Barcelona.  As Anne revealed in her  “Cesc the hidden truth” articles on Cesc going to Spain, stories about Cesc come and go quite a lot and (shock horror) not everything in the papers is true.

Now we find the Guardian (my own paper of choice, but not always a paper I admire) doing a “1984”.  Having run endless “Cesc is on the way out” type stories, with the latest supposedly being a set of direct quotes from the official Barca web site, suddenly they have changed their tune.

I would never say it is because they have read Untold, but such a sudden turn around in editorial style and policy is odd – although maybe it is just one rogue reporter not reading the script.

Look at some of their recent headlines

Arsenal want to keep Cesc Fábregas and Samir Nasri – Arsène Wenger

8 Jul 2011

Dani Alves urges Cesc Fábregas to ‘join business class’ at Barcelona

7 Jul 2011

Barcelona play hardball with Arsenal over Cesc Fábregas deal

6 Jul 2011

Cesc Fábregas frustrated as Barcelona and Arsenal haggle over price

5 Jul 2011

Cesc Fábregas to meet Arsène Wenger as Barcelona transfer nears

5 Jul 2011

A bad case of deja vu for Arsenal as the latest round of stars depart

4 July 2011

“Daily” is what you might call this onslaught, although “fixated” is another word.  It has gone on like this day after day after day after… well you get the idea.

Now look at what is in the paper on 15 July

“Arsène Wenger failed to conceal his contempt for what he considers to be Barcelona’s underhand tactics in attempting to prise Cesc Fábregas away from Arsenal. This is hardly surprising. For a look at Barcelona’s finances suggests Los Blaugranes can hardly afford the Spain international. A report last month by the University of Barcelona’s football-finance expert, José María Gay de Liébana, entitled Spanish Football in the Throes of Crisis, lays bare Barcelona’s embattled balance sheet.”

Well yes, indeed.  Just like the report that José María Gay de Liébana last year which we covered on Untold in a number of separate articles.

The story is this…

Barca 2009-10 turnover of €398.1m with a huge amount (€157.6m) coming from TV.  If TV interest ever declines the club is in trouble.  Or put another way, there’s not much chance of getting that figure up.

Net debt of €59.1m balanced against a book value of the playing squad at  €213.2m.  (As with most teams this is an under-estimate and is not a statement of how much the club thinks they might get – it is more a case of the value on the books as players’ values are written down during each year of a contract).

Operating costs – utterly out of control.  Player-wages bill €234.8m – the  highest in the world (as the Guardian says).  Wages as a proportion of turnover is 76.8%.   Not as bad as Manchester C where wages are much greater than turnover, but still frightening in the extreme.  (Remember our stories on this site about Barca cutting costs by forbidding the use of colour in the photocopier?  You thought that a joke maybe.  Actually it was quite true).

Other running costs €145.3m.

As the Guardian has finally realised, “with a debt burden of €548.6m weighing heavily, there was negative interest cover, according to Gay de Liébana. For a fan-owned club, this is not a pretty picture.”

“[That] Barcelona, the Liga champions and Champions League semi-finalists in 2009-10 and winners in 2010-11, are technically in a state of bankruptcy is alarming for the entire football sector,” Professor Gay de Liébana said.

And thus finally, after all those silly headlines  day after day after day, we get the Guardian’s 1984 moment.  “Can Barcelona afford a £40m transfer outlay and minimum £25m future commitment in wages for Fábregas? Go figure.”

However having gone and having figured, the Guardian also has a nice little final line, a little attempt to say “It wasn’t us, guv, we didn’t do it.  Blame Big Brother”  It reads thus…

“By putting Xavi’s unsettling comments about the Catalan on Barça’s official website, perhaps they think they can get him on the cheap.”

Oh come on!

The Guardian has been dragged along by a story that others have run, by sloppy writing with no research, and by the view that readers will only want to read Arsenal horror stories and nothing else.  Of course that is right for the under 10s who write Arsenal blogs saying Wenger must go, but I have news for the Guardian.  You can’t really feed stories to the under 10s if you use the Guardian’s literary style.  All those foreign words like Primera División are a bit beyond their grasp.

Anyway, at last Untold has an ally in the view that Barca can’t actually afford Cesc but are doing all this stuff each year just to keep the Real Mad supporting papers quiet as they do their regular “you can’t look after your children” pieces about the various players who give up on the bankrupt club and look for financial solidity with Arsenal.  Three of them are at the club, at the last count.   And I wouldn’t be surprised if more turn up soon.

Untold Media Watch is about to become a regular column on Untold under the guidance of Anne, who recently contributed a piece about the reporting of Arsenal by the Sun – as well as the earlier Barca columns.   More info on this new element in our coverage of 2011/12 will appear shortly.  (I’d do it now but I need to pop down the pub to get the latest football news from a bunch of reporters.)

Untold Arsenal

Making the Arsenal

Arsenal History

64 Replies to “Untold Media Watch: how one paper has read Untold and changed its mind about Cesc”

  1. It’s funny as I’ve noticed a definite turn in attitude towards Arsenal in the past few days. It’s as if AW’s first press conference in Asia has given the reporters a good kick up the arse(nal). Today we see lots of love to Vieira and positive headlines about how we’re strong enough to win, RVP targeting a strong start, even a story about how we were lucky not to pay £20m for Downing (though luck didn’t really come into it, more common sense). I don’t know what’s happened, I can only pray the tide has turned, but it has to have had something to do with Untold. Untold Media has ’em running scared 🙂

  2. @Tony:

    My name is actually Anne with an “e” 🙂

    And I do have to clarify that, with regard to these particular comments by Xavi that you mentioned in your interview, they are actually 100% authentic. Believe it or not 🙂 They were published on Barcelona’s official website. Go here:


    So, it’s sort of a rare event…kind of like lightning striking twice…but here we do have verifiably authentic comments by a Barcelona player that Arsenal fans have every right to take issue with.

    And this is something that highlights even more why it would be of great value to have a regular media watch. Because it shows that it’s never safe to make assumptions about the media, one way or the other. You should definitely never assume that what they say is true, without further investigation. However, it’s also not safe to just assume that everything they say is false (although if I was a betting person, that’s usually where I would put my money 🙂 )

    In any case, these comments by Xavi are one of the rare cases where they got it right. It will be interesting to take a further look at these issues in the upcoming season, and I hope that the experience will prove to be educational for all of us. Cheers 🙂

  3. When I said “interview” above, I meant “article”. Don’t know why I typed that 🙂

  4. Hi Anne
    How do you forsee untold media working? Would you like reports etc submitted to you on a daily/weekly basis fromn myself/Bob etc? Would you like this info sent to your personal email, or do you want to set up a new gmail account? You’re the boss, hopefully not a red head 😉

  5. I have just read a rumour on some probably crap site that says that Kyle Bratley is beiing sold off. My blood is boiling and someone needs to te it to stop. But I was really concerend that he didn’t go on this trip.
    Any credible word on this?

  6. @Stevie E:

    Funny that you mention it, because I actually AM a red head 🙂 Fot the time being, at least. I’m a natural blonde, and I fully expect that hair color to be restored before you ever have the chance to submit anything to me (honestly, the red hair dye was kind of a disaster 🙂 )

    Anyway, I believe that Tony is planning to publicly provide contact information for me in the near future. And I’ve already given him permission to provide you with my email address. So, look forward to hearing from you soon.

  7. @Stevie E

    What’s wrong with a redhead? Just curious? 🙂 Unless the redhead in question is Paul Scholes of course.

  8. @Anne
    Cool, I’ll start reading the Evening Standard & Metro a bit more thoroughly…
    I guess the redhead joke doesn’t work across the pond. The right hand lady of Rupert Murdoch and News of the World boss is Rebekah Brooks, who’s a red head… Jokes just aren’t funny when they need to be explained 🙂

  9. @Stevie E

    Sorry. I didn’t mean to ruin that for you.. I wasn’t aware of that, and perhaps I may not have understood even if I did know she’s a redhead.. Sorry 🙂

  10. I liked the article today…one little point though…

    “All those foreign words like Primera División are a bit beyond their grasp.” – comment such as this will not endear you to the arsenal faithful, you should remember Arsenal at its original roots is a “working class man’s team” and comment such as the above will only alienate this blog from a wider audience…and at the same time make you sound like a pompous toff, no offense.

  11. Amr

    I quite like the thought of being called a pompous toff. I must change the picture at the top of the site again, to go back to one with my hat on.

  12. “Blondes may have more fun, but redheads are more fun.” heh

    Had to be said… anyways, back to regularly scheduled posting.

  13. To be fair I’ve read a similar point of view on Arseblog. Does sound slightly arrogant to claim you are the only blog who realises Barca cannot afford Cesc. Untold is far and away the most detailed in it’s research to back this point of view and I take my hat off to you for it, but I would recommend avoiding blanket statements as a rule, no?

  14. Dear Ann (and E):
    I look forward to your posts but fear for your safety in Untold towers. Beware of Billy the Dog and such strange denizens lurking in the corridors of the Towers with strange lingos and even strangers habits. Otherwise, you mom may be forced to ask what a good red-head-about-to-turn-blonde like you doing in such strange company…

    Anyhow, I wish to beg that you don’t intensify the concerns of some devoted Untold readers that the blog is eager to promote assorted conspiracy theories that nobody loves AFC…not FA, not other coaches in EPL, not the British press ad, certainly, since Walter debut, not the refs in EPL…

    The challenge, your challenge, is to keep it factual and balanced as Walter have been striving to do in his ref. watch.

    Tony congrats!
    Another first for Untold?

  15. Anne,

    If you need any help, I have already offered to contribute to this new project in a previous article when bob suggested the idea of a media watch. I actually wrote an article like 8 days ago just having a look on some newspapers and their gossip about Arsenal. I even forwarded it to Tony, but didn’t get any sort of reply, well don’t know what happened there, but it’s fine:) The thing about me is that I buy the Sun every day (don’t ask me why:) ), therefore I read everything what’s in there about Arsenal and I can honestly say I am not happy about it, therefore I could contribute if anything. Just let me know if you’re interested and we can take it from there. My e-mail is: pavelkoptev@yahoo.co.uk (hope I’m allowed to post e-mails here)

  16. That Guardian article is a laugh. The most noteworthy part is at the end “Barcelona failed in their attempt re-sign Fábregas in the summer of 2010, and look increasingly likely to do so again this year”.
    At some point reality will bite, whomever the England manager is at that time will be forced to pick Arsenal players if he wants to go toe-to-toe with the Spanish/Dutch/French etc. because Wenger is now feeling comfortable giving British players major roles in his team again. The football media can’t be seen to be attacking the English NT too much without losing circulation & credibility.

  17. Here’s the current Guardian story. and just when I thought they were coming in out of the cold…

    The Mayor of Barca is reported as having said.,,

    “We want him to come right away, he is experiencing a kidnapping,” Estanislau Fors i Garcia, the mayor of the Catalan town Arenys de Mar where Fábregas grew up, was quoted as saying in the Barcelona-based daily newspaper Sport.

    “If the English are so honourable they should behave properly,” he added. “He [the Arsenal coach Arsène Wenger] has to stop clowning around because it’s disorienting for all of us.”

  18. Guys, is it that Barca cannot afford Cesc or that he is not their priority? Remember how swiftly they went for Villa even before they sold Ibrahimovic? Now again Sanchez seems to be a greater interest!

  19. It may have escaped everyones notice that the author of the Guardian article is not only an Arsenal fan but also a member of the AST. But, then again, so is Swiss Rambler.

  20. Amr,

    You seem to have misinterpreted Tony’s comment regarding the illiteracy of a number of the U10s.Tony is surely having a dig at them for being uneducated, for spouting opinionated drivel and lacking the ability to understand well written articles (and please none of that everyone is entitled to an opinion rubbish etc, opinion is certainly not knowledge) as well as rational and reasoned argument. One can be a blue-blooded aristocrat or a shit-shoveller and still have a limited vocabulary, it’s irrelevant. I am glad you chose to point out (no doubt like Tony after years of time consuming research) to the man who wrote “Making the Arsenal”, that he should remember that The Arsenal’s roots are working class, thanks for that one!

    Before I am accused of not being one of the Arsenal faithful (whoever they are) and being a “hooray henry”, I’d like to state for the record that I am currently employed as a cleaner and a bin man, but do hold a degree in Philosophy, therefore I assume I am an educated member of the working class (I hope that makes me one of the Arsenal faithful).

    In the words of self-confessed gooner Roger Daltrey “I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth…”, as I am sure was Tony!

  21. @Shard and Stevie E:

    I didn’t get the joke either 🙂 But that’s ok. I still found it funny in light of my recent misadventures with red hair dye 🙂

  22. @paul
    I think I speak for all when I say welcome aboard, I think that’s called taking one for the team. The Sun? How you haven’t been driven mad yet only the big man upstairs knows 🙂

  23. @Tony:

    No problem about the name. You’re definitely not the first to make that same mistake 🙂

  24. @shakabulagooner:

    I will certainly do my best to keep it “factual and balanced.” However, if we turn up something that appears, based on research and evidence, to be deliberately intended to target Arenal, that WILL be pointed out. Thanks for you input 🙂

  25. @Anne & Shard
    That’s ok, no one except me ever finds my jokes funny 😀

  26. @Stevie E:

    Wait, a second, why am I waiting for Tony to give you my email address? If it’s about to be made public anyway, I might as well go ahead and post it here. 🙂 So, here you go.

    Anne.Thompson.79(AT)gmail.com [spam guard, replace (AT) with @]

    Anyone who might be interested in contributing to this project can feel free to go ahead and contact me.

  27. @Anne
    Sometimes the best ideas are the most obvious ones 😀 Looking forward to working with you!

  28. @Tony:

    It appears that this “tapping up” conspiracy is growing ever larger…At first it was just Barca and their players, but this summer it’s been expanded to include Arsenal players as well, and now apparently the local Catalan political establishment. I suppose that next summer we can expect to hear the King of Spain chiming in? 🙂

  29. Hypocrisy on part of the government/FBI – they welcome a full investigation into the phone hacking fiasco and probability 9/11 victims families may also had there lines tapped by some bullshit paper BUT condemned the wikileaks publisher for telling the truth to extent of a blowing up a fraudulent rape case against him.

    What a crap world we live in.

  30. jayj

    True, but it’s not quite the same thing. I am in favour of the wikileaks and all, but the Govt derives all powers from us. I actually think people don’t really want to know what all is done in their name.

  31. @shakabulagooner

    Point of order – DogFace does the RefWatch and Walter does the RefReview.

    Together we form a literary spit-roast upon the official… as opposed to a literal spit-roast which is quite another thing entirely.

    Which reminds me – lube up your brains for all new stats next season, stay tuned!

  32. Stevie E, Anne,
    As another redhead, I kid you not, I am all for one and one for all, but don’t want another boss. We are all capable, can and will learn from each other and from comments that come our way. I’ve been asking Tony/Walter for months to provide for a media watch, as you know. I would hope that we are transparent in how this happens, unlike the media which we critique so well. So, how do we proceed with the set up, if it’s on via UA?

  33. Tony,
    Guardian has mixed football coverage. It’s run 70/30 against. The Mayor of Cesc’s hometown story that the Guardian has run is a Reuters story that it has posted. It doesn’t mean that the Guardian is all one way or the other. It is not anywhere in the league of the others and, I’ll be you the farm, that as the newspaper that has led the way against NOTW and Ruppie’s empire, that the revelations of which footballers were amongst the 4000 mobiles and 5000 landlines that were hacked will be published first in the Guardian. So far there have been 3, including Wayne Rooney, and the Guardian just surfaced the ominous expose that football assn. chief Gordon Taylor, the highest paid union man in history, received a 750,000 pound payout from Ruppie-Dumb. So, while I do concur that Guardian football department has been mostly disgusting vis a vis Arsenal, they are hardly the enemy and have had a consistent minority presence among its football writers that have written fairly and sometimes appreciatively of Arsene/Arsenal.

  34. @bob
    Get in touch with Anne at her gmail and she can forward/cc me into your back & forth. Untold media is your idea, so without you it wouldn’t be. We’re all trying to get people on board, I think Jayj is up for it (Jayj?) and Paul has tonight put himself forward to dance with the Devil (not Dark Prince, The Sun). Lets focus on what we want to achieve and put ego aside, Anne’s articles have provoked an unbelievable response, lets use the best weapon in our Arsenal 😉 and try to achieve our objectives.

  35. Flashman71,
    Well put, mate! As a philosophy major now looking for bin work, or something thereabouts, I share your insights. My class dander does rise when someone hereabouts twice recently put ability to pay as the mark of someone who matters in the Arsenal universe, which has got me so pissed off that I won’t speak his pedigreed name. Beyond, that, I think that we – as degreed philosopher-garbage men – might agree, going foward, to label the new head of FIFA referees Don Basura. Then again, maybe that’s giving garbage a bad name. Cheers for your great posting, in any case.

  36. Paul,
    Why not post some points from your article in the Comments, so that the momentum hereabouts of media critique continues full steam ahead? Greatly looking forward to your wit and wisdom…

  37. Stevie E,

    Haha, well I try to keep my cool :)) But honestly, I started to buy the Sun like 5 years ago because it was cheaper and easier to get and I always liked to read the sports section. But nowadays I really start to hate them, but every newspaper is like that, it’s just media after all. Anyway thank you very much for the welcoming, I’ll make sure I contribute as much as I can! 🙂

  38. Tony,
    I’ve been finding that The Guardian football writer David Hytner has been mostly fair, sometimes appreciative in his Arsenal writing – he’s also on and reporting from the Asia tour; Dominic Fifield is on the Cesc beat and has been negative. There’s a senior writer whose name escapes me at the moment who is a Fergie ring-kisser (perhaps a writer from back in the day when it was the Manchester Guardian, but not sure).

  39. @shard

    Think about it when do these lies stop? When has the truth been told?

    No matter how small or large the story we as a society accept bullshit, even when we feed on this democratic world crap but expect lies in every way of our daily life!

    Sport is sport but politics have over taken our one escape why should we accept that.

  40. jayj,
    and economics have taken over politics… but the current NOTW Scandal offers a thin ray of something more hopeful and democratic. and why? because even bullshit, as you put it, can go too far and violate some core of decency in the public that is a line too far. for now, anyway….

  41. p.s. pressuring for fair football, then, becomes something a bit more than fighting for just the purity of our last escape from the shite. optimism of the heart does count, even when pessimism of the mind tells you otherwise, methinks.

  42. @bob

    Society couldn’t care less about the truth we are just zombies and the only thing we care about are the ones the effect us on a personal level.

    All around bullshit is strong just look @ the fuel prices and food but no one has a voice.

  43. c’mon, jayj, are people not finally pissed off, for example, about how NOTW/media have violated private grief, and hasn’t that become a public outcry for something better? I think you may be throwing in the towel a bit too fast, but that’s me. I can’t disagree with your observation, but it’s not over as they say until the fat lady sings…

  44. @bob:

    What…are you saying that you would rather be editor? Oh, no…please…no…don’t twist my arm 🙂 The reason I got put in charge of this was actually just because I submitted the first article and was then trying to figure out how to get everyone’s email addresses… 🙂

    But anyway, for now, I’m in charge. 🙂 What I’m trying to do is just find a way to get a list of everyone who wants to contribute. Then I’m planning to start a yahoo group (or something of the sort) where we can brainstorm and work out the details of exactly what we’re planning to do.

    So, email me at anne.thompson.79(AT)gmail.com [replace (AT) with @], and we’ll go from there.

    And bob, I know that Untold media is your pet project, so unless I get the idea that you’re somehow completely incompetent or something (which I don’t expect), I have every intention of letting you run the show as much as you want to. So please don’t worry about that 🙂 Just email me.

  45. @Jayj:

    If you’re interested in working on this, please email me. Cheers 🙂

  46. Anne,
    On Untold Media, I surely don’t want to be boss or to have a boss, not even Le Boss. I see it as a group of competent equals who love Arsenal, warts and all, who can learn from each other and we take it from there. More soon, and thanks.

  47. @bob:

    I certainly don’t have any intention of being the boss 🙂 But it’s looks like I AM going to be the editor, which means that I’m in charge of coordinating and marshaling the troops. So, hope to hear from you soon. 🙂

  48. @jayj

    About the politics and wikileaks stuff.. It may be the fact that I was out partying at a friends birthday bash, and had one too many, but I don’t really get your point. Are governments hypocrites? Of course they are.. But if you see it from their point of view, it is understandable as well, even if it isn’t ‘right’.. I just think people don’t actually want to know what goes on. What their governments do in their name. It takes them out of their comfort zone and it’s much easier to just talk about what directly affects you. It’s sort of the same thing when people so vehemently argue against the possibility of the refs being corrupt. The same people will, with much less, or even zero evidence accept that Qadhafi in Libya, or Assad in Syria, are corrupt and war criminals, but since the ref thing is closer to home and effects them directly, they will fight even the notion that it is possible and refuse to look at it objectively. It’s just the way it is.

    After all of that.. I need to eat something and have some water.. So be back soon 🙂

  49. @shard
    Point taken but my argument is that any which way you lose! from sports to politics, lies will replace the truth and then no one ever questions what is perceived to be the truth.

    Just listen to the radio after match day e.g. Carling Cup Final (everyone knows Birmingham was clinging on for dear life)

    As soon as the final whistle went “birmingham out classed the Arsenal”

  50. @jayj

    it’s not ‘no one’.. After all. We are all here aren’t we? It can feel that way, but it isn’t true that people don’t realise that they are fed a pack of lies. It’s an individual decision, and mostly subconscious, whether you choose to try and look at something more closely. Most can’t be bothered to it would appear, but many do. So cheer up. It can get frustrating but it’s not hopeless. 🙂

  51. Just read Tony’s article which exposes this piece of journalism so well. Pleased to hear about Untold media watch under Anne’s editorship. Look forward to enjoying another helpful addition to the Untold output.

  52. @Shard:

    As I said before, glad you had an enjoyable evening. Hope the hangover wasn’t too bad… 🙂

  53. @jayj:

    More Arsenal destabilization crap in the media…don’t pay attention to it. It’s not worth it 🙂

  54. @Anne

    Thanks.. No. As I said, I went to drink some water. Keep yourself hydrated and get no headache in the morning 🙂

  55. @Anne – Just read Tony’s article and the guys comments ,especially yours about the blonde to red head to blonde again ,and was reminded of an old joke.
    A redhead goes to a doctor and complains of pain all over the body .She touches her shoulder with her finger and screams in pain ,then presses her finger on her thigh and screams again and finally presses her tummy and winces in pain .
    The doctor observes all this and asks her ” Your’re not really a red head are you ?” ,to which she responds,”How did you know ?
    I’m really a blonde “.
    The doctor replies ,” You have a broken finger !”

  56. I dont doubt for one second that what the Guardian published is right. But does Cesc believe it?
    Is he not desperate to return to Barcelona? Is it not folly to try to keep a player as captain who is desperate to play for somebody else-even if they dont need him and cant afford him?

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