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May you live in interesting times

By Tony Attwood

It is amusing, at least when there is nothing else to do, to contemplate if a blog can have any effect on football.

By and large the answer is surely no.  No, because it is hard to imagine the manager or players bothering to read a football blog, no because it is hard to imagine journalists from the press and TV actually knowing that blogging exists, and no because it is hard to imagine that anyone at the FA is literate.

And yet, and yet, we do get tiny rays of light that suggest, maybe, just some blogs might have an effect.

Certainly the RangersTaxCase blog in Scotland did alert the English media to what was going on.  The Scottish press, you will remember, got confused and ran Rangers’ press releases as if they were investigative journalism, but eventually the blog was picked up in England, and the Scottish media had to take the plunge and start looking at what was really going on at Rangers.  They only got there just in time, as well!

We’ve had our own little signs at Untold.  Mr Wenger re-ran one of our jokes at a press conference just an hour or so after it had gone on line, and he later said that the club was up against “Rotational Fouling” – an Untold phrase which at the time was never seen anywhere else.

Then Amy Lawrence at the Guardian wrote a sturdy defence of her work after it was criticised on Untold, and off-line engaged in a very good exchange of views with Untold.   So maybe we are having a little effect.  Or at least being noticed.

And that is what struck me the moment I read this in the Guardian this morning:

“Arsenal have won just one of the past 14 league games they have played with Mike Dean as the referee”.

Now I can’t imagine reading that anywhere any time apart from Untold last season and Referees Reviews this season.  But there it is.  Straight from the mouth of the horse.

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These are indeed strange and interesting times.   The Premier League top dogs seem to be involved in eternal meetings with each other to talk about salary caps and a Premier League version of the “financial fair play”  rules – both points of discussion here for some time.

Among the concepts being recycled from three years of Untold debate is a limit on salaries for the club, a limit on salary increase, and a limit on the percentage of turnover that can be paid in salaries.   (You may recall the point made here on many occasions that it is not the transfer fee that matters it is the salary.  This was illustrated in the long line of articles on the Flamini Effect, which pointed out in particular just how much it cost Barcelona to have Henry on the pitch, game by game.  Around quarter of a million pounds an appearance in fact).

The idea is that instead of just the clubs going for Euro places having to break even, more or less, all clubs in the Premier League should have to do that.

The arch conservatives need only five votes to block any change in Premier League rules and  Chelsea, Fulham and Manchester City are already there.   What’s more there are dark rumours now circulating (and these are not in the press) that the big spenders are prepared to make donations through private accounts in the Virgin Islands to other clubs, to vote against all such radical rule changes.

There’s even a wind of change blowing through the way the press see Arsenal.  This appeared in the Independent today…

Mark Ogden’s prediction: Manchester City 1 Arsenal 2.

which is quite extraordinary for the media.  (Remembering that these predictions are made as part of an overall official approach to how a club may be viewed by the media.  For example, the official line is that the chants between Liverpool and Man U fans must stop.  This official line allows no discussion of the homophobic chanting of Tottenham fans for their away at Portsmouth, directed for 95 minutes against Sol Campbell.   The pictures of the culprits were revealed, Tottenham knew who they had sold tickets to, but nothing was done.  Indeed I think that just about the only publication to have attempted to keep this connivance between the clubs, the police and the homophobic public is Untold.)

But how easy it is for the press when everyone agrees on the story.  Forget that Fabregas has only played one full game this season, and that Song is mostly an unused sub on the Barca bench, the story is that Arsenal have a new Fabregas in Cazorla (not forgetting that gives a chance to re run the Arsenal can’t hold onto players, story) is the one to follow.  No one as far as I know has run a story in the press or on TV or on radio about how the careers of the majority of recent Arsenal transfers out have collapsed, nor how much money Arsenal has made in the transfer nor how much they have saved in salaries.

There is even a lot of “At around £15 million, Cazorla is proving to be one of the bargains of the summer.”  Quite why he was a bargain and what happened at Malaga is now ignored.
Besides, “One of the bargains?”  ONE of the bargains?
The press have even understood where Cazorla plays, and noted the extraordinary combination he has with Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby – although no one is yet saying what happens when Jack comes back.
So, do those in the game read us?   It is hard to say, but if I had to put one finger on something that some people in the game do read, it is the Ref Previews and Reviews.  There sheer depth of analysis for the last season, and the way the new Referee Decisions web site is taking off shows just how much demand there is for what we do.
According to Radio 5 and the rest, we still don’t exist.   But give it another season…

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34 comments to May you live in interesting times

  • DR

    I think there is an increasing interest in refereeing as the ability to watch matches and the speed of information exchange increases too. You can only watch so many United games at OT and not wonder if the obvious bias there can travel to other games with other teams. The sterling work done by this site and others, along with a more prevalent scepticism towards the integrity and/or expertise of journalists is starting to open a few eyes to what goes on, I think.

  • FunGunner

    Hi, Tony

    I think the work the site does on referee reviews is very good and more importantly unique, in the sense that you review the whole game, not just the decisions which the ref actually gave. So it wouldn’t surprise me if note is taken of it. It is also a good source of information about how the rules of the game are interpreted and the general situation with referees – organisation etc.

  • g clarke

    last season ther was certainlly an effort by the media to bring a w down and undermine the club,sky sports were right in there,to many examples to state,hate that chief dick, anyway to say they are mu bias is an understatment

  • 3 points will be great.but we are still short in quality of our squad . it is better than last season. lets hope for a win, but compare the 2 subs bench tomorrow

  • 3 points will be great.but we are still short in quality of our squad . it is better than last season. lets hope for a win, but compare the 2 subs bench on sunday

  • if our good players stay,and we sell the dead wood in jan or pay them to go. maybe buy 2 players we can really challange
    come on arsenal

  • With the laziness in journalism – football journalism – that exists today it is no surprise that others work would be used for headlines.

    I wish football fans would dump the football media and start doing some research. Nice thought, but of course Utopia doesn’t exist.

  • none

    Well Tony I would suggest that you watch todays Football Focus. We have an interview by Keown with Thomas Vermaelen and then Paul Ince and Mark Lawrenson completely disagreeing with what Arsenal will achieve.

    Mark Lawrenson – ‘good start, have a chance at title’
    Paul Ince – ‘worry about the full backs’

    Seems that the media isnt singing from the same hymn sheet anymore. Divide et impera!

  • The font

    Talk sport damaging our club is at the pinnacle Of media bias

  • Benglian

    “I wish football fans would dump the football media and start doing some research. Nice thought, but of course Utopia doesn’t exist.”

    Don’t buy newspapers(who does that anymore, anyway…?)
    Get all your info from newsnow linked stories. Block the ‘bad’ ones from appearing. Simples.

    I am ‘luckily’ in Malta and rarely get commentary of games in English, so I just put a podcast on the headphones, or listen to the Arsenal Player commentary if it’s in sync.

    Mainstream media is dying…

  • shotta

    Keep up the good work Tony. Brave is the blog that does not go down the well beaten track.

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    Untold isn’t playing fair with the traditional media, no wonder things are changing. By producing interesting content (referee analysis) and then giving it away, you basically force them to use it. Since the analysis only supports one conclusion and can’t be spun their narrative has to adapt. The only way for them to fight back is to do their own analysis to support their preferred conclusions BUT that would cost time/money whereas your data is free. And even then because your data appeared first, people would question other data that didn’t come to the same conclusions, even if it was ‘correct’ and Untold’s was ‘wrong’.

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    Untold isn’t playing fair with the traditional media, no wonder things are changing. By producing interesting content (referee analysis) and then giving it away, you basically force them to use it. Since the analysis only supports one conclusion and can’t be spun their narrative has to adapt. The only way for them to fight back is to do their own analysis to support their preferred conclusions BUT that would cost time/money whereas your data is free. And even then because your data appeared first, people would question other data that didn’t come to the same conclusions, even if it was ‘correct’ and Untold’s was ‘wrong’.

  • marcus

    Opinionated, informed, factual, honest, bold, noble in endeavour, “The Untold Times” is a great read; they probably said the same about the Manchester Guardian in 1907

  • DocBrody

    You should split the ref reviews off from the rest of the site to inoculate them from some of the other stories which are less than stellar. For example, the whole series on RVP’s transfer is magnificently absurd and calls into question this site as a whole. If that kind of convoluted logic is allowed in one place on the site, then how can we be sure that the Ref Reviews are guilty of the same?

  • Arvind

    How about you not reading any of those articles you call magnificently absurd, Docbrody? After all, surely after reading the first one and knowing there were two more, you’d know they all sucked. So probably don’t read the next 2. Just a thought.

    As for ‘convoluted logic’ if you’ve been here long enough there have been tons of articles that do not have a shred of ‘data’ in them. Doesn’t mean they are all worthless? Right?

    Here’s a start – RVP is disloyal or loyal. How do you measure this? It’d be super hard IMHO and I’m no statistician. So then since we can’t measure it, there’s no point even talking about it. Hence no point blogging at all. And while we’re at it we could all stop blogging on anything that isn’t ‘data’.

    This isn’t meant to be confrontational although it sounds that way. I am just trying to find out who decides ‘what is good’ and what is ‘worth posting’. On what basis do you feel that it is absurd? Can you prove it never happened? Can you prove that ‘someone did NOT write RVP’s letter? Works both ways you see.

    So in a nutshell, as Arseblog(and I say) says…if you don’t like it..don’t read it. You have a choice.

    If none of this makes sense to you, please go on entreating ‘non opinion’ pieces ONLY. Its a free world but I thought I’d show you another perspective.

  • Adam

    @Doc Brody, They have

    Lets hope with the new site not being total Arsenal that other fans participate more.

  • WalterBroeckx

    About the new site as we are working on a completely new way of reviewing the games and presenting it we can’t publish any reviews for the moment.

    this is needed to make another step forward. And we also are in talks with more referees who want to join us.

    so even if we look like standing still on the new site for the moment, the progress we are making will become visible in what we hope will be somewhere next week.

  • Ash

    Arvind, I think you miss DocBrody’s point. I thought the whole ‘if you don’t like it don’t read it’ thing of Andrew Mangan (arseblogger) was about emotive and abusive comments on twitter, rather than about serious investigative journalism, as is the focus of much of the work on this site.

    Just because the first article contained no evidence, this should not mean that I dismiss the other two before reading them, especially if I have faith in what the site is publishing overall. Unfortunately, the second and third RvP articles also contained no evidence – just the unsubstantiated opinions of the author and most importantly – *no* answer to the point repeatedly raised that Robin himself has never at any point disassociated himself from the article accredited to him.

    Having been reading (and appreciating) this site for a long time I actually considered deleting its bookmark in my browser after the last RvP article, as it badly discredits the site. Telling me not to read it does nothing to advance the aim of improving the quality of refereeing, as neutrals coming here to examine the source of the ref reviews will just laugh at the ‘human-trafficking’ comparisons and leave assuming that the ref reviews are nonsense as well.

    I’ve nothing against counter-mainstream views on things, but it should always be accompanied with evidence, rather than sheer disbelief. There was certainly a thing or two slightly odd about the appearance of Robin’s website, and the timing of the Usmanov comment, but nothing that implied some kind of bizarre abduction scenario. Really, the only thing missing from Anne’s articles were aliens.

    btw, just because this is my first post on the site doesn’t mean I’m part of a conspiracy, as I’ve seen suggested recently.

    And one more thing. I’m sure that ‘Rotational Fouling’ was a term used to describe Sam Allardyce’s Bolton many years ago.

  • DocBrody

    Wow. That is great! I had no idea about the new site. I hope they throw a big link to the new site up top.

    @Arvind, your absolutely right in the first paragraph. I should not have allowed myself to get sucked in further. As to the rest of your comment, that has been throuroughly discussed elsewhere.

  • Stuart

    DocBrody, the new ite can be found here

  • Stuart

    Scroll up Stuart, scroll up 😉

  • Arvind

    Forgive my ignorance DocBrody. But could you point me to a link where there is a discussion on how ‘Opinion posts are useless’. I’d like to re-read that and see why the people who have commented there say so.

  • bjtgooner


    It is a bit arrogant of you to try to tell Tony/Walter what to include in the site, also, it is apparent that you do not understand or choose not to understand Anne’s articles – but your response to them is again arrogant. You wish to deny others the chance to read and debate what Anne has written?

    Often in human character arrogance is the consequence of the desire to hide something or distract from something which causes fear or apprehension – discovery perhaps?

  • elkieno

    This site is still one of the best Arsenal Blogs around. I will never remove it from my favorites.
    I think people just like to debate or give their own opinion on anything and eveything they come across, just for arguments sake so that they can challenge the author and be correct in their minds. But really don’t care about the point.
    In the end were all Arsenal fans so we can all agree on something in the end.

  • DocBrody

    @ Arvind: I was refering to the discusion you can find on the series of articles about RVP written by Anne.

    @ bjtgooner: It turns out they have already set up a seperate site for the Ref Reviews… so while you may find my suggestion to be arrogant, it appears i’m not the only one who thinks it would be a good idea.

    Now woth respect to Anne’s series of articles, all I can say is that they are indeed absurd. Her claim that Robin van Persie’s statement this summer was part of a media conspiracy and that his website is not his but was set up by a mysterous third party are rediculous. Furthermore, there is no acknowledgement or response to that van Persie himself linked to that statement from his official twitter account and that he has never denied that the statement was his. But for more on that, go read those discusions. If you think its arrogant to call this sites credibility into question when they publish rubbish like that, then I’m guilty as charged. I for one think its more than fair to call Tony, Walter and anyone else out on it… especially when the theme is about the influence this blog is having on the media outside the hallowed halls of Untold – their influence and credibility won’t last long if this becomes the stomping ground of unfounded conspiracy theories.

  • DocBrody

    (pardon the typos in the previous post – its early and I’m using an iPhone)

  • Arvind

    @Ash: Okay, I’ll even agree that ‘dont read’ isn’t a solution, as it would be akin to shooting the messenger. But that’s from Untold’s perspective. From a personal perspective it’ll spare you some pain, if you do NOT do what you know you will hate. If you know you won’t like it, and don’t say you won’t until you read (because the writer clearly mentioned its a 3 part theory on the SAME subject), surely ignoring it is a better solution than reading it and then being disappointed.No? If not, lets move on.

    Since you and everyone hated all those articles though, and maybe justifiably, that’s your take, how about explaining the counter clause I mentioned. Do you have any proof it is NOT how Anne said? Y, maybe its all nonsense, but is there any way you can 100% say..’Here is the data – this is why she is wrong?’

    All I’m saying is, it could be either way. Until that its just a plausible opinion; nothing more or less.

    @Docbrody: I’ve read bits of the RVP discussions but please humor me again and answer – ‘Do you think ‘purely opinion’ blogs should be allowed on this site at all? If not, why? Since if it shouldn’t be allowed, we cannot discuss how managers think, how they make subs, which player should be sold or bought, tactics, formations, player body language as we do not have the data that managers (possibly) use to make all these decisions.

    Then .. if we can’t talk about any of that, then why would we be on here at all? Just for the ref reviews? Great work as it is, probably not. I do enjoy Walter and the other’s work, but just that on this site…I would eventually get bored. The ref work will certainly be more valuable to an external body and is a big big thing..but the blogs are the fun part for me.

    If you still do not agree, lets just move on.

    @robl: I have no intention of moving on over Ryan Shawcross and Stoke City. The day they change their thuggy style of play, I might. To each his own : )

  • bjtgooner


    Your arrogance still betrays you. There is a difference between Walter/Tony developing Untold into an additional site and you trying to dictate site content. You have the right to voice your disagreement with any article, although I note (re Anne’ RVP trilogy) you do so without any creditable counter argument, however, you do not have the right to demand that other readers should be prevented from viewing and debating the same argument, to do so begs the question – why?

  • DocBrody

    @ Arvind,
    Where did you get this notion that I don’t think purely opinion blogs should be allowed on this site?
    What I objected to was an unfounded conspiracy theory which ignores basic facts and refuses to acknowledge or respond to a couple “inconvenient truths” that completely undermine the entire argument Anne has set forth. My point was simply that Anne’s articles undermine the credibility of the site as a whole, not because they are opinion, but because they are absurd. This seemed like a relevant comment to make in responce to this article, which discusses Untold’s growing influence in the media. At no time did I make a general statement covering all opinion pieces.

  • DocBrody

    @ bjtgooner
    Can we just end this? I mean do you really believe Anne’s assertion that Robin van Persie had nothing to do with the statement on his website? Do you really believe that RVPs site was secretly set up by a third party?

    I keep refering you to the discusion section of Anne’s articles because I feel it is off topic here. But since you keep bringing it up, keep insulting me, and because you said that I voice my disagreement “without any creditable counter argument,” here is one of the comments I left over there. You may not agree with me, but I don’t think you can say this wasn’t a credible counter argument:

    It’s all pretty straight forward. RVP wanted to leave. His agent talked him into releasing a statement on his official website – yes his official website, which RVP linked to from his official Twitter account. Wenger tried to salvage the situation for a bit, then sold him for a decent sum to Manchester United. End of story.

    The conspiracy theory [Anne’s theory] requires that things become a jumbled jigsaw. It requires that we re-parse and reinterpret every line of RVPs statement, that we ignore that he linked to it himself from his official Twitter account, that we believe many bloggers and media pundits were in on it in some way, and that we believe the website was set up by some mysterious third party. It’s all so convoluted and bordering on absurdity. Actually it’s not bordering on absurdity, it is absurd.

    Let’s take the most compelling component of Anne’s argument. Robin van Persie’s website is down for maintenance. SO WHAT. You can see darker meaning in that if you want, but its far more reasonable to assume its being overhauled to remove Arsenal content. I’m sure RVP is plenty busy with his new club and his new life. I’m sure a rebranded website isn’t high on his list.

    At the end of the day, the conspiracy theorists have no answer to the fact that RVP has never once denied that the site was his. They have no answer to the fact that RVP has never denied the statement he made.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Nice work ,Tony ,Untold Arsenal is like a ray of light to those who are still in the dark .Now to educate those who speak thru from ‘where the sun doan shine ‘!
    Some posters seem to be like a broken record -going on and on and on and on and ….you get the point !Get a life guys !
    As someone once said ,” Lead ,follow or get the f*ck out of the way !”.
    Someone else said ,”Get them by their balls and soon their hearts and minds will follow !”.

  • bjtgooner


    I note you are now trying to argue against RVP Anne’s trilogy using opinion and conjecture; yet at the same time you criticise her detailed analysis of RVP’s statement and the other media statements released around that time. Sauce for the goose……….?

    As I stated earlier, you have the right to disagree with Anne or anyone else, but you do not have the right to decide what the rest of us should be allowed to comment on.

    Further, the manner in which you attacked Anne’s articles was pretty cretinous and objectionable – it did not add to the debate, rather it called your motives into question.

  • bjtgooner

    “argue against Anne’s RVP trilogy…”