Football betrayed: why journalists and broadcasters laugh at us.

By Tony Attwood

The notion that the size of Tottenham’s pitch might be the cause of their heartache might or might not be true – I really don’t know.   But I thought the importance that their manager gave to it and to the psychological fitness of their players was interesting, and something that I’d commend him for.  Much of our ability to perform at what ever task we take on is down to the way we think and the environment in which we work.

But of course for the sports journalists who daily betray the game we like to watch, it was a chance for more sniggering.   They are not interested in anything other than the rumours of transfers they create and relay day by day, so an explanation that moves away from that single issue is to be ignored.  Or if you can’t do that, it is to be laughed at.

The Telegraph, perhaps noting Untold’s interest, perhaps not, (and to understand what I mean by that you will have had to read the previous article on the coincidence of how it is that we publish something and they come along a few years, a few days or an hour or two later with their view), has taken up the issue of the pitch size.

But they’ve done it by suggesting the pitch size is a great excuse up there with the ball being too bouncy (Newcastle), the kit being too grey (Man U), the lasagne being off (Tottenham on losing the WHU), Liverpool losing the 1971 Cup Final to Arsenal because their shirts were too heavy, a lack of ball boys in the second half (Jose explaining that it is more than tactics), playing on a Friday night not being done on Merseyside (Liverpool losing the league to Arsenal with M Thomas scoring at the end), sexy cheerleaders distracting the players (Palace), various curses (gypsies at Birmingham, Lord Nelson at Blackpool), no birthday cake (Toure), the local press (as when Pardew said, “I don’t think the local press helped us” and the local paper went wild on the front page back page and almost every other page), and Mr Wenger saying “I didn’t see it.”

What of course the press never got was the fact that Mr Wenger was winding up the press day after day week after week by saying it over and over again, with a smile on his face.  It was part of his long running retaliation to the way the pressmen treated him on his first day at the office.

But what makes all this even more interesting is what it excludes.  We’ve shown for year after year that the quality of refereeing is nowhere near what it should be.  Indeed Radio Five Live and Sky regularly agree with this (I watched the evening show on Sky last night picking up the scores as they go along, and atrocious refereeing was a central theme), but they never ask why.

Why is refereeing so bad? Shhhhhh.  Don’t mention the word “why?”

We might ask why the Telegraph is presenting all these excuses but not mentioning the one that is talked about the most – which is clearly the quality and consistency of the refereeing.  Could it be those recent articles in relation to the PGMOL in the Telegraph that is affecting their eyesight?

In fact laughing at stupid footballers and their managers with their excuses seems to be the order of the day at the moment.  And in part that is undoubtedly because football fans are expressing their viewpoint as to just how bad some of the professional commentators are that the media is fighting a rearguard action.

We’ve talked before about the atrocious Adrian Chiles who utterly fails to understand the way fans see football, and who failed to understand why laughing at supporters did not endear himself to them.

The Independent got onto dodgy ground recently, by running a poll of who their readers disliked the most among broadcasting commentators.  Repeated attempts by some readers to extend the poll to print journalists were rejected furiously.

Andy Townsend, Michael Owen, and Mark Lawrenson all did badly.  One wonders why no one bothers to think, “hey shouldn’t we get in people who are more popular?”  But no, they don’t.  The only change we’ve seen of late is the dramatic turnaround at BT Sprout when we all got annoyed at the way their portrayed Arsenal.  Another coincidence?  Maybe.

Overall the problem with arguing about football and the way it is reported, be it excuses for failure, or anything else, is that the heart and soul of the problem are the journalists.

Take the Observer’s series each Sunday on Said and Done, in which various awful issues in football are highlighted.   Last week they had a go at Russia’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko who said in relation to racism, “Why should we be singled out? A lot of dark-skinned players play in Russia. I don’t really see any problems.”  He also said in relation to the Fifa watch scandal,  “absolute nonsense fanned by foreign journalists” which left Fifa executives feeling “very much insulted”. The big lesson: “All these technical issues should be kept within the [football] family and never leaked … Why did the British press start all that?”

They then quite reasonably reminded us of the 2010 Russian federal audit chamber report into the expenses claims of senior officials – including Mutko’s claim for 97 breakfasts eaten during a 20-day trip to Vancouver. Mutko called the audit “absolute nonsense and nit-picking”.

All good stuff – except it is a column that makes it look as if all the stupidity, bias, corruption and ineptness comes from politicians, managers, owners and Fifa men.  Forgetting how much incompetence and bending of reality comes from journalists.  To help us forget this, Said and Done is often given awards… by journalists and others in the media.

I don’t know if there is anything in the short pitch theory at Tottenham, but it is worth considering seriously, rather than lumping it with excuses like Lord Nelson putting a curse on Blackpool.

Just as all the reasons for Arsenal’s injuries are worth considering too.  Dodgy training ground?  Bad diet?  Refs failing to stop thugs like Shawcross?

They way these guys select the news, bend the stories, make fun of important points while beefing up trivia, ignoring the big issue of the day about the quality of refereeing… it almost makes you think they have an agenda of their own.

The books

Untold Arsenal is here


22 Replies to “Football betrayed: why journalists and broadcasters laugh at us.”

  1. This was the week I gave up for good on both refs and the media. The only logical thing for an Arsenal fan to do at this point is to try steel yourself to expect to be screwed over by the former and endlessly criticised in the latter.

    Nothing to complain about in our games for once, but I had the misfortune to see the video of Riley’s performance in game 50 for the first time and to watch a repeat of the cup final, featuring our dismissal of four very decent penalty claims and ,more importantly, the expert punditry of Neil Warnock.

    As far as Riley’s performance that day goes, it wasn’t poor, wasn’t inept, wasn’t even atrocious, it was inexplicably bad. It wasn’t a case of missing things, more that he was managing the game in one teams favour.That it happened was bad, that no one in the media made much of it was worse, that the refereeing community didn’t do anything against him was worse yet, though had to be expected. That he would eventually become head of PGMOL was not only something of an insult given that he’d put in arguably the worst single performance in the league’s history, it represented a hammer blow to our chances of being reffed normally for years to come.

    Put it this way, every season bar one since he took over we’ve finished with a negative for pens conceded against pens awarded (the other one was even). With the numbers being (09/10) 4:7; 7:9; 3:4; 6:6 and 3:6. 23 for, 32 against. That is some statistical anomaly given that in the long run you should expect to see attacking teams- specifically those who spend time in the opposition box- gaining more pens than they concede by a good margin. And though that period has not been our finest, nevertheless in the majority of matches we attack quite a bit more than the opposition. In the same period liverpool were 34:26; City 35:14; Utd 36:15; Chelsea 43:14. All bar Liverpool have gained more points than us in that period and no doubt scored more and conceded less, but still, those figures respresent a serious anomaly given how much time we spend in the opposition box. Over one season, weird things can happen with stats; for a second, maybe; but it is now seven seasons since we gained more pens than we conceded.

    And those are just the very visible ,and never discussed by a remarkably incurious media, side of it. How many of them were in critical moments in big games? In the same way, I can’t remember the opposition having any sent off against us in big games for a long while, ditto penalties for us in those games. I expect we’re defying the laws of averages in all sorts of ways

    The commentary on Riley’s special day also featured something all Arsenal fans should be ultra familiar with- the commentary team noting five or six times that ‘oh, they’ve been a bit unlucky there’, ‘the refs missed that one’, ‘that should have been a booking’, ‘that could have been a pen’, without ever saying ‘hang on, five or six in the same match all going against the same team- that’s some very bad luck there’, or ‘you know we’ve said a number of times they’ve been unlucky here… doesn’t that seem to happen to them a lot?’. They never ever do the adding up. 5 or ten times in a season we could get a decision as bad as the Flamini one the other day, or Cahill’s challenge the week before, but they’ll never make any connections

    As for Warnock, what a ****. The commentary team that day encouraged and laughed warmly as he constantly suggested Arsenal’s players were diving (‘they’re like dying swans these’, ‘you have to watch them, they’re trying to con’…blah, blah), dismissing our claims every single time in favour of the opposition. It savored of mental illness- watching someone lie about what you’d seen only moments before, and it gave a real insight into how the Warnock’s of the world operate and what lets them whip themselves into deceitful fury when in opposition to us. Palace away this year s going to be one of those where the risk of injury to the players is much higher than it should be, and we know who’ll be selecting the ref for the day, and reviewing him afterwards.

    Steel yourself, Gunners, it could be years after Wenger goes before the bile and animosity he has somehow generated against us ebbs away and we stop being ‘a bit uunlucky there’

  2. And why not, one for the road :

    “and former manager Steve Bruce claimed that some might question whether Taylor even deserved a booking.[25]

    At president Sepp Blatter’s personal request, FIFA’s disciplinary chairman reviewed the matter, suggesting that the Football Association increase Taylor’s punishment from the standard three-match ban; they refused to do so as there was no suggestion of intent.[32]”

    When even Fifa think somethings amiss!

  3. “What of course the press never got was the fact that Mr Wenger was winding up the press day after day week after week by saying it over and over again, with a smile on his face.  It was part of his long running retaliation to the way the pressmen treated him on his first day at the office.”

    For a press that never got the wind up they sure have had a habit of belittling him for a sustained period, and if this website is to be believed, his ‘long running retaliation’ with the media is influencing the referees and costing Arsenal FC very dearly indeed.

  4. What more is there to say? Great post.The nine-years-without-a-trophy mantra has its causative agent in the exploits of these ‘gentlemen’ holding the whistle.The media was (is) the mouth-piece of the unholy trinity, with the English FA completing the sickening alliance. The deafest person is one who doesn’t want to hear, the blindest is one who refuses to see. For anyone to deny the existence of a conspiration against Arsenal, over the years shows wilfull ignorance. This club has not been done in, inspite of the evil machinations of these adversaries. Apparently it will not be in the forseeable future. I think our worst days are over and we have a right to look forward to a future of glory.

  5. Haha. People are starting to see The Emperor has no clothes. More and more people are waking up to, at the very least, inept, if not corrupt, refereeing, and b.s. reporting from journalists. Thank God for independent blogs like Untold. I rarely bother with big media outlets like the BBC, newspapers, etc. Leave those to people who still want to be shouted at, harangued, told what to think, told what to feel, lied to, etc.

  6. Tony- you mention Mr Wengers “winding up the press day after day week after week” and “his long running retaliation” with the press, as if its something a clever manager would engage in. Can you please explain of what benefit this has been to Arsenal FC or anyone associated with the club? Perhaps “his long running retaliation” and “winding up” is a reasonable explanation for the the ultra negative media portrayal of the club.

    Correct me if I am wrong but is it not often claimed on this site that the media are complicit in the collusion against us and influence the way clubs are treated as well as decisions made in football including refereeing? I can link you to an article published on the site that claims so.

  7. Rich

    Telling stats.

    I did a table on another thread earlier this week showing another anomaly in statistics, this time regarding the issuing of Red and Yellow cards.

    I’d noticed that the ratio of fouls to cards for us had been far worse than any other team in the PL for years.

    I listed the figures for this season.

    Yep, you guessed it, we are bottom again with a card every 3.8 fouls

    The average is 5.9

    The best is Southampton with a card every 9.25 fouls.

    That disparity is simply unacceptable.

    If it was for one season that would be bad, but it isn’t, it’s almost every season, and that is quite simply a disgrace.

    The fact is we are royally screwed by referees week in week out, and the truth is nobody gives a fuck, save a few of us on here.

    I mean, we get taken to task by our own fans for pities sake, although that’s largely down to the fact it doesn’t suit there anti Wenger agenda at all to cite any other reason than his culpability.

  8. Somewhere about now is where we say again about the emails we have sent to AFC (to which no answers to date).

    Surely they have these statistics and data available to them.

  9. Sorry to go off topic but last night I posted the info on the points gained for every 1million pound nett spend for the period 2003-2013.
    Instead of excepting it for the astounding fact that it is they fixated on the time period as if it was a trick or lies.

  10. A small pitch will make it easier to be successful in a pressing game.

    A tactic which the Tottenham manager apparently is fond of using.

  11. Heard that questions being asked on a dodgy sports radio station over clattenberg… the tune of why is our best referee being undermined, relegated to less important, or assistant official roles, and a big deal made in the press over him going straight to a concert after a game….apparently breaking some protocol?
    Apparently an ex ref said there was a pgmol agenda against clattenberg, which keeps rearing its head. The pgmol have yet to comment on all this, but on the surface, mark clattenberg has been stood down for a week over breaking protocols over travelling from the game not accompanied by his assistants, talking to Neil Warnock on the phone while in his car, and attending a concert by the appalling ed sheeran, the latter alone should be a treasonable offence. But it seems he has been stitched up from within, yet they don’t stand Atkinson and others down despite some incredibly poor, bent and biased performances.
    Is something about to give in the pgmol? Is untold right, is there a power struggle going on?
    Can’t think what Mark C has done recently to deserve all this, apart from his role in Leicester City scoring five goals in beating the team his boss supports. Bet never mind phone calls to neil Warnock, bet Riley got a few calls from fergie after that game!

  12. Journalism is a lifelong career in PR. It is embarked upon by people who have been to university, worked for a degree, have gone to another establishment, gained a degree in journalism. Most of their daily work, once inside a post, is rewriting press releases.

    Public perception is something else. Journalists are still investigative people who might actually stand up to the powerful. Journalists are still people who start as cub reporters aged sixteen and get their stories by knocking on doors. Journalists might run into trouble with the powerful, might get busted.

    The failure to expose Saville for fifty years, the Milly Dowler phone hacking disgrace, should have exposed the reality of British journalism. Should we expect the British journalist to investigate the pgmol?

    Should we expect the British journalist to investigate what actually happens on a football pitch? The EPL has to be sold, the media sell it.

    If Wenger actually shows he is ”clever” he has to be destroyed. You cannot have, in England, a succesful Frenchman who knows the difference between a Fassbinder movie and a Fellini movie, who can speak a few languages, who can manage a football team in Japan. To be ‘French’ he has to obey all the myths we apply to the French.

    Wenger, every morning, is the meal ticket for any person travelling on a bus who has an opinion on the French. It’s rather like we are saying – you come into our country, we let you earn your living, in exchange we take the piss out of you.

  13. Some great points Zedsaunt. There always has been a bit of a silly thing going on between the English and French. Wonder if the press bias against the club will go away though if wengers successor is to eventually be, as is being reported, an Englishman from Wandsworth…..or maybe a Dutch guy?,a shame there are so many acceptable faces of racism that still prevail amongst our press….mind you, half of them seem to suck up to the media creation that is UKIP so perhaps not a surprise

  14. UKIP = racists with the bit between their teeth.

    UKIP = people who first came into public existence in England with the 1851 Census, currently led by a man named Farage, arguing about foreigners.

    A power struggle inside the pgmol? It beggers belief that the most important person on the pitch is the referee, and in the English Premier League the organisation responsible for those referees being on the pitch in each single game, who employ those referees, is not held accountable to any public scrutiny.

    The pgmol is toytown. It might well be the case that even inside Fergie’s Grotto, with Santa never coming back, even the slowest child can see some transparency is required in the 21st century.

  15. Jambug. Exactly, I have been going about the soft cards we get for years. The number of second yellows we used to get during our successful years was a joke and yet all the media fixated on was counting the number of sending off’s we had under Wenger. Yet Cahill can go through Alexis right in front of the 4th official and it’s a yellow.

  16. Rich I have tried pointing this statistical anomaly out to a couple af fellow goners but is dismissed out of hand, I also remember a few years ago now pointing out that in the big games not only do we not get penalties or opponents dismissed in big games, but we also don’t get free kicks in and around the box of our opponents, this was around the same time that Rio Ferdinand managed to go over a year of football without giving away a single free kick!

  17. Proudkev

    Do you know of any way we can get the ‘fouls to cards’ statistics for the last 10 years, or even the entire duration of the Premiership?

    I’m sure it’s another ‘anomaly’ we’ll be on the wrong end of.

    I did put the request to Walter once but he either missed it or didn’t know where to find it, or maybe even thought it of little importance.

    I think it’s very important and if anyone out there can point me in the right direction I’d be very grateful.

  18. Maybe the best way to get a breakdown of the fouls to cards stats, game after game, season by season, of the EPL, is to ask each link on the chain from the pgmol itself, to the newspaper offices, to OPTA and the stat providers, to Sky. Let each know the cage is being rattled.

    It might be possible to go into the libraries – ‘Discovery Centres’ – and see what the resources are. Someone will have them somewhere.

  19. Jambug- good work (I know I pretty much stated in my post I was swearing off any more analysis /discussion, but who was I kidding! Have spent the last few days reading Mourinho: anatomy of a winner (bleurgh!) and the Italian Job, the excellent book by Vialli)

    I’m guessing a few people have already mentioned it, but surely it’s interesting that in this time when the evidence of our eyes (something is rotten in referee Denmark) is backed up by key statistics (notably the ones that can’t be hidden), and no-one in the media has any interest in those statistics…Arsenal go and invest 2 million in their own stat company.

    It seems a near certainty that one of the things they do there is analyse the way we are reffed and refereeing stats in general, but the interesting part is… what could they ever do with that information? It feels like it could only serve to provide confirmation something’s up but, as far as I can tell, long ago the club decided it would be strategically wrong to make any complaints in the media other than stating ,relatively mutedly, disappointment with decisions after a match- in contrast to (yep, him) the time Mourinho * went into a press conference with a list of thirteen key decisions he said his analysts had found were incorrect in a particular match.

    * anyone who can stomach it needs to have a read of The Special One : The Secret World of Jose mourinho. The only fair way to treat the book is as one that might be true. But it sure does ring true and what’s more offers a phenomenally plausible explanation of the behavior of the arch cynics at the top of the game. A taster : to the media complain constantly about biases against the club, etc ; behind the scenes (to players for certain games/ refs) : push your luck with fouls, these guys are shit scared of sending off a Madrid player. Very enlightening, if only in a Schrodinger’s cat- maybe this is all true, maybe it aint- way.

    Imagine the hay the media would make if a book existed by a French journalist claiming to expose all sorts of darkness, dodginess and crummy behavior (and,as it happens, in the book, remarkably good insight into the manager’s legitimate strengths) from Wenger. Adrian Durham would cream himself and the mail would run excerpts for a month!

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