The question of evidence, Arsenal’s injury crisis and why Leicester City’s finances are a suitable case for investigation

By Tony Attwood

Well, I have tried, I have really tried, to explain what I mean by evidence.  And I have failed.

Yet I still think my point is simple: there are opinions and there are facts.   Opinions are interesting, although if one hears the same opinion over and over, that is a bit dull.  Facts are more interesting, but much harder to get to the bottom of.

Let’s take the issue of Arsenal never seeming to know when a player is coming back from injury.  It’s a week, two weeks, a month, a setback.   OK this might happen once or twice, but all the time???  That looks like incompetence to the nth degree.

But to be sure it is incompetence you need some information.  First, how many days lost to injury do Arsenal players in total suffer in a season compared to other clubs?  Second, how many times do other clubs face a situation in which “two to three weeks” turns into “the rest of the season.”

When we look, Arsenal are above midtable in terms of days lost to injuries (figures from the BBC), but the number of times in which a player is due back and then has a setback… I don’t know.  I see it happening in the statements of both Arsenal and of other clubs, so I think it is probably equal.  But if you want to make the point that the Arsenal medical staff are useless you have to do what people who write for Untold do – go searching for genuinely comparative data to show Arsenal are worse than everyone else.

Even then it is possible to get it wrong by misreading figures – but if you do you can be quite sure lots and lots of people will tell you.  Over and over and over again.  “You got it wrong” outweighs “thanks for putting those figures together” about 100 to one in correspondence on this site.

Which is why lots of people don’t do research.  It takes lots of time, and then if your calculator is on the blink or the cat sits on your keyboard, errors can occur and then you get abuse. (Actually you also get abuse when you are right, so you have to live with that – people hate details that question their beliefs).

I continue to argue, just as scientists do, that when absolute proof is not there, we can still make judgements based on what we know, how we might judge the actions of others, and what happens in the end.

So I am very, very suspicious about PGMO because of the unique way it runs itself and its utter secrecy etc etc.  And I keep looking for data that might suggest that linked to this is something very very odd happening in terms of Premier League results.  (And indeed I think have just received that, but I’m going to take my time on this one.  The maths is rather complicated.)

Suspicion determines what one researches.  I don’t research the notion that the sound of cuckoos in trees causes the sun to rise earlier each spring, but I do hope that if two men with skinny legs but huge broad chests, keep their cloaks wrapped around them very tightly, keep their heads down, looking neither left nor right, while walking through an international airport or railway station without checking departure boards, the security forces might think, “That don’t look right,” and ask them to lie face down on the ground while they clear the area.  Suspicion is good for security, and for investigating the world around us.

From suspicion one might make predictions.  And then try and see if they come to pass.

To refine one’s suspicions all one does is ask “why?” rather a lot.  Just as we did about Portsmouth during its demise at the hands of crooks, and about Barcelona’s child trafficking (when none of the press would touch it), about QPR finances, about Liverpool’s tales about Suarez’ contract which turned out to be total lies (just as we said), about West Ham’s state aid for their stadium, about the seeming misuse of public funds by the FA who then had money removed from it by Sport England, about players using illegal substances and Fifa/Uefa doing nothing about the clubs involved, about the way money was used by Peter Ridsdale (remember him?) within Cardiff City FC, about the money spent by the FA on bidding for a World Cup that was fixed, about the corruption and violence in Greek football and Fifa’s insane response, about why the FA charges so much for its coaching courses (and the effect this has on the well-being of the England squad) and more recently about Tottenham’s profit making on transfers and their deals with Real Madrid who have their own child trafficking  and of course endlessly about the structure and activities of the PGMO – to name but a few.

(Actually I want to throw in one more point here – when we first started on the Barcelona story Untold was the only place that called it child trafficking and others sneered at us.  But we stuck with that term because I really do believe the fate of children who didn’t make it at Barcelona deserved the use of that label against the club.  Now I see others are using that phrase too.  It’s a tiny point, but for me, words influence how we think – it’s important.  I’m glad we helped change thinking on this one).

So we come to Leicester.  When they were in the Championship and marching towards promotion I wrote about half a dozen articles questioning their finances.   No one took much notice except a few Leicester fans who just said I was wrong.  So fairly normal procedure.

Unfortunately the press, as so often, took it as a non-story and wouldn’t use their much greater resources to do some digging.   But David Conn in the Guardian has recently come to the subject.  It’s taken two years, but these things take time.

His headline is Leicester City and the strange finances behind their rise to the Premier League pinnacle.

My articles a couple of years back suggested that Leicester had most flagrantly broken Championship FFP rules.  They were never investigated because the Premier League refuses to co-operate on FFP with the Football League, and since the Premier League very publicly produced its own FFP rules and then utterly failed to implement them, they have been silent.

According to David Conn the Football League is still investigating the club’s 2013-14 promotion season amid strong concerns from other clubs Leicester may have broken FFP rules (the club spent over £5m more on salaries than it got in income).

Then without any new sponsorships arriving sponsorship income for Leicester immediately went up over 300%.

That might seem a trifle curious but it is nothing compared with what David Conn found when he went looking for the company that trebled the sponsorship income of the club.   “It was set up on a Sheffield trading estate by the son and daughter of Sir Dave Richards, a former Premier League chairman,” says Mr Conn.

“The firm has no website nor telephone number. At the registered address – 6 Shepcote Office Village, there is no Trestellar presence or sign.”

This is the home of what Leicester City call the “exciting international marketing and licensing partnership.”  Leicester won’t discuss the arrangements – or they wouldn’t with the Guardian, and no other newspaper seems to have the balls to ask any questions.  You don’t point a finger at Leicester at the moment – that’s the rule in the media.

Trestellar seems to be run by the son of Sir Dave Richards who resigned as chair of Sheffield Wednesday as they faced relegation and huge debts.  Then his company went into administrative receivership (meaning a creditor wanted their money back). He then became Premier League chairman.  The Guardian puts his opening salary as £176,667 per annum.

Now the amount Leicester City have got in sponsorship is completely out of context for what clubs without a worldwide fan base can get – even when they look likely to win the league (which they didn’t of course when the deals were struck).

Several chairmen of Championship clubs have, according to the Guardian, raised serious concerns about the whole Leicester financial model and Damian Collins, the Conservative MP on the House of Commons culture, media and sport committee, has said: “Leicester should answer the questions publicly, to explain this arrangement, which looks unusual to say the least, to reassure people it was not an attempt to evade the FFP rules.”

Of course there might be nothing wrong, and it might be that for reasons that are beyond the likes of me, everything is fine, but then one wonders why there isn’t more openness about it all.  Being secretive doesn’t mean you have something to hide of course, but being secretive with seemingly convoluted arrangements in place historically generally means something is wrong.

Certainly until this point, spending vast amounts of money on a club to get it into the Premier League has seemed to be a mugs game, because the club invariably comes back down with loads of debts.   QPR is a case in point, although with them incompetence by the Football League in the way they drew up their rules meant that the initial punishment for their overspending was greatly reduced.

But now Bournemouth, and much more effectively, Leicester have worked out a way of keeping going in the PL after spending vast amounts in the Championship, which starts to raise questions, for as long as these clubs stay in the top division there is no mechanism to investigate what they are up to financially.

This in turn raises the question of why the Premier League, as well as supporting PGMO with its unique approach to refereeing and its hyper-secrecy, also supported keeping out of financial fair play after promising to act upon it, and also refuses to co-operate with the Football League when a team seemingly buys its way out of the League with money donated by … well we never quite know.

These are of course speculations – I never claim them to be otherwise, and of course Leicester, just as QPR before them, could have good answers.  Also they could have made everything transparent.  But they choose not to, which is their right.

But with that silence also comes the likes of the Guardian (on occasion) Untold (on lots of occasions) asking questions.

We don’t have the resources to do investigative reporting, which ought to be the province of the mainstream media, but we do have brains enough to ask the questions that no one else seems to want to ask.  And, rather pleasingly, most of the time we seem to be on the right track.

So all we can do is ask the questions.  And be very wary of people who assert that we are wrong or tell us to keep our noses out of it.

What’s on the home page…

  • A selected annivesary from beyond football and a nice picture of the stadium and a train.
  • Today’s Arsenal anniversaries and the Insult of the Day
  • A list of the most recent posts from Untold and the Arsenal History Society
  • Details of all the the books Untold Arsenal has published

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26 Replies to “The question of evidence, Arsenal’s injury crisis and why Leicester City’s finances are a suitable case for investigation”

  1. So what do know and what do we find on other sites about this?
    A former PL top man seems to be heavily involved in Leicester.
    A former PL top referee who appoints refs for the PGMO seems to overlook a sudden change in “luck with referee decisions” in Leicester matches.
    From being unfit a team woke up one morning and suddenly became the fittest team in the PL. Just like that.

    Don’t tell my fairy tales don’t exist. They do. Look at Leicester 😉

  2. Great post Tony. Money is certainly changing hands somewhere, & your investigative intrusion will make a few uncomfortable.

    I find it amazing that the likes of Piers Morgan don’t get involved with this kind of investigation. I suppose it is outside his intelligence.

  3. Talking about Leicester… even this was one step too far it seems as Leicester fan and PGMO referee Kevin Friend has been taken off the Stoke – Tottenham match for next Monday.

    Nice to see the PGMO being alert to that.
    As we all know they weren’t really alert when we have local referees do their matches when Arsenal is involved…

  4. The scientific fact of research, is that it is benchmark until someone else produces evidence to prove otherwise.

    What is amazing, with all the evidence against PGMO, they have not come out all guns blazing to defend themselves by producing counter arguments.

    Unless, of course, in Riley’s mind, that counter evidence is revealed in the (unproven) conclusion that his referees get 95% of decisions right!

    The PGMO action on Friend is strange indeed, not least because he is actually, a Bristol City supporter.

  5. Menace

    The Italian judge who ordered the Caliciopoli investigations might be looked down upon by those who indulge in caricatures, lazy generalisations without any data and who put too much worth upon their own opinions did not have the experince, rigour, insight or knowledge of football when compared with someone like anti Arsenal pin-up voodoo doll Piers Morgan who used his amazing superpowers that no one knew about 🙂 to tap, the phone of someone on the x-factor (or something sensational like that?)

    Gary Neville and Peter not Risdale But Who? To invest in the Arsenal is the way forward. Just like we saw in Valencia. 😉

  6. At some point in the future the jury at the Hillsborough Inquest will deliver their verdict on the deaths of 96 people.

    The media coverage then will be massive and will concern the dead, what happened on the day, the families, the fans, South Yorkshire Police, the police attempt to blame the fans.

    People will be horrified and largely silent. Leicester City winning the EPL title will be a welcome diversion.

  7. The belief that the FA does not do corruption runs very deep. It could be central to the whole idea of themselves that journalists carry around of themselves, an automatic blank wall. ”The FA does not do corruption.”

    It took decades for the English to accept that foreigners had the right to play football better than the English. The English had invented the game. It was an English game. ”How dare they beat us?”

    For what the Hungarians did in 1953, 1954, read what Mr Wenger did in the EPL after 2001.

  8. Menace&Finsbury,
    Please do not involve Peers Morgan on this valued site.
    We retired folk already have to put up with his narcissistic smirk on GMB several mornings a week…which is quite enough thank you.

  9. Just released, new laws of the game, published by IFAB:

    “Players will still be sent-off for holding, pulling or pushing, not playing the ball or having no possibility to play the ball, serious foul play, violent conduct or deliberate handball.”

    STILL? You mean there is actually a punishable law for these offences?

    Or doesn’t IFAB apply to PGMO?

  10. @ norman14

    One can only assume you are a professional comedian……well the idea that players (other than ours) have been sent off for such offences certainly made me laugh 🙂

  11. Looks like the pgmob are trying to gain some credibility by removing Friend from a spurs fixture. The whole thing is laughable really; given that ref appointments for the week are usually made at the beginning of the week, why appoint Friend on Monday to a fixture you know there’s bound to be a conflict of interest only to remove him on Thursday because of…., a conflict of interest.

    What has changed between Monday and Thursday to make this change necessary? Did someone just wake up on Wednesday from a deep slumber and suddenly realised that Leicester and spurs are fighting for the title so they couldnt send a Leicester fan to do a spurs game? They really do think we must all be very stupid. A pathetic attempt at trying to show that nothing suspicious is afoot with refereeing in the PL, a complete charade, and we can see through it.

  12. Reassigning Friend may be a farce, as many have suggested, but there’s another way to look at it. If there is no referee bias, as the unPGMO claims, why would they need to replace an official? To my mind they have just admitted bias by their members. Let the floodgates open!

  13. Something being overlooked here is that if Spurs fans can force a change of referee via social media, then why was our online petition to have Dean removed from our matches completely ignored by PGMO.

  14. Be careful what you wish for: if Leicester suddenly are found to have broken the rules, perhaps they may have points docked – which would (most likely) leave Spurs as champions.

  15. On Talksport today, one of the ex-ref was critical about PGMO putting refs who support a team in matches where that person shouldn’t be refereeing due to perceive conflict of interest. Look like the criticism and scrutiny of PGMO is gaining traction.

    In my opinion on the reason why they don’t have more refs is because it’s a ‘boys club’ and they are looking after their members. It’s similar to those high class members club or associations where they decline applicants who they perceived not up to their standards.

  16. FIF claims The ubiquetious Peter Lim also has, what they term an illegal and secret twenty percent stake in Leicester.
    Starting to think Leicester this year are a trial/laboratory for future ventures…..let’s see what we can get away with in rich England , can we get around the PGMOL, EPL, FA, UKDA, and who knows who else…..and I think we know the answer to that……

  17. Goonersince72
    Exactly. It’s an admission of guilt on their part, albeit inadvertently. Why then was Anthony Taylor, a refree from Manchester, assigned to officiate the match between Arsenal and Utd in Oct 2015(a match which we won 3-0)? Wasn’t there a possible conflict of interest there? How many times have we had refs from Manchester or Merseyside when facing Utd, Liverpool, or Everton? Several times.

  18. Swiss Ramble has an article on Leicester where he claims there is nothing wrong. Now, I know he is usually a benchmark of competence, but even he doesn’t get deep into what the sponsorship deals’ content.

  19. Btw Tony, looks like I am only able to post comments from Internet Explorer. Comments posted from Microsoft Edge don’t appear, although duplicates are being detected. Sorry for the OT, hope someone can find the time to investigate.

  20. Al
    Interesting take on the ref replacement and comments on Michael Oliver and our friend Anthony Taylor from former ref Mark Halsey. In a Mirror online story he rightly points out that Taylor “lives 2 minutes from Man United, yet he still referees them.” Seems like there’s something in the air right now. The BBC, the Mirror and some other media outlets are reporting this story. Let’s hope this is the beginning of a real look into the unPGMO. It has to start somewhere in the mainstream. Tony Attwood and Untold Arsenal can’t do it alone.

  21. Goonersince72,
    Oh my word 🙂 looks like this could come back to bite the pgmob clowns. I wasn’t even aware of the Norwich controversy… thanks for the link.

    And Halsey says it looks like they “have made a rod for their own back”. Lets hope this is a start to bigger things, but unfortunately I suspect by the weekend this will have died down.

  22. Nicky

    For all I knew which wasn’t and isn’t very much I thought the AFTV Pin Up (their actions not mine!) was still trying to squirm his way out of the slammer but it seems like he has returned to these shores. Unfortunately.

  23. Mandy Dodd posts

    ”Starting to think Leicester this year are a trial/laboratory for future ventures…”

    Agreed. Against this timeline

    May 2015 – FBI raid FIFA, make arrests
    May 2016 – Hillsborough Inquiry verdicts

    We need some really good football news Mandy! You can supply it!!!

    Twelve months of people staring at criminal corruption in the people who run football opening into the deaths of 96 people at a football match. Just what the sport needs.

  24. Wish I could supply it Zedsaunt think there is good news out there, just maybe not in some aspects of this league.
    Sadly, I think our light touch regulation of sport is attracting the wrong types.

  25. That 20% stake bought so secretly will come back to hunt Leicester big time.
    I have said that things are bubbling just under that very very thin surface and it will break. Those people who have declared themselves higher that the football Gods and honestly think they are above reproach are heading for one of the biggest falls in football history, make no mistakes.
    You can run on for along time but sooner or later you will be cut down.

  26. Its a wonderful world. The wealthy use Panama to avoid tax. The posh use Panama hats to protect them from the sun. The corrupt are a news story & are protected by the media selling soft porn. Oh well, the latest is that state aid has been shown to be totally charitable to dealers in porn in a sporting way. The sum total is that the regular punter foots the bill.

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