As darkness descends on the football world what can the response be?

By Tony Attwood

There is a Marina Hyde article in the Guardian today about the sexual abuse of footballers.  It is an article which is so powerful, so insightful, and so very much getting to the key point, that if it would not be a breach of copyright I would reproduce it here.  Instead, here is the link.  I would urge you to read it.  If you don’t have time to do both, stop reading this and read that.

But if you do have a little more time, here’s the rest of my piece…

With the historic sex abuse case numbers rising daily in football, with stories now emerging about covering up the issue with at least in one case with a gagging agreement in return for money, with the police declining to investigate, and now the FA being in charge of an investigation, I’ve found this an issue I simply don’t know how to write about.

To suggest that of all organisations the FA is the least suitable to investigate anything, is surely obvious, but to raise the issue seems disrespectful to those who have suffered.  I don’t want to do any point scoring – there are enough people out there doing it already.

So for a moment I turn to matters Arsenal, and what did strike me this morning is that Mr Wenger was very critical of his team last night.  The last time I remember him being this critical was after the exit from the League Cup at Sheffield Wednesday 13 months ago, when he spoke about not one of the youngsters being ready for first team football.  This time he spoke about the lack of urgency in the team.

We can be reconciled that how the team does in the League Cup has little to do with how it does in the other competitions – but that still doesn’t satisfy some people who continue to take each defeat (well, perhaps I should say both defeats this season) as a personal insult and a sign that Arsenal are now in the terminal decline they have been predicting for the last 10 years.  Any minute now we’ll be told that this is going to be the season Arsenal will drop out of the top four.

But these two trains of thought – the awful revelations about abuse in football clubs and a poor performance by Arsenal last night – made me wonder why some people seem to be so miserable all the time.  I mean, as I try to suggest in my opening comments, there is a lot to be miserable about, in relation to British society and the way some people behave within it.  There is also a lot to be miserable about in terms of how some people have behaved during my lifetime, and how others have sought to cover it up or ignore it.  (See Marina Hyde’s comment on how Peter Rippon shelved the BBC programme on Jimmy Savile if you want evidence of the most awful everyday attitudes).

Yet does that mean we have to be miserable all the time?  Indeed I have wondered what on earth the evolutionary benefit could be that keeps people who are totally negative and miserable surviving and presumably breeding.

Of course you can take positivity to a ludicrous position (“there is no problem with my sticking my fingers in this electrical socket because nothing bad ever happens to me” isn’t really the best way to avoid getting a shock) but we all know that the more we smile the more fun we have and the more friends we get.   Being a miserable git tends to lead towards more illness (for there is a strong link between the physical and the psychological) and fewer friends.

So yes I am desperate about the unfolding young player abuse revelations, desperate that I have paid what by now must be a fairly large amount of money through my lifetime interest in football, in supporting an industry which has harboured and covered up such iniquity.

And yes I am very sad that we have been knocked out of the League Cup at home through a complete lack of urgency among the playing team.   And I’ve even thought that this was in part my fault having written what turned out to be a wholly inaccurate preview of the game which stressed how poor Southampton were away, and how good we are at home.  I can’t believe people at Arsenal read Untold’s previews, but that didn’t stop me thinking along these rather silly lines.

But still in the face of the most recent revelations and in the face of an unexpected home defeat, overall I try and maintain a fairly positive disposition, if for no other reason than that it makes me feel better and makes it easier for me to get through the day.

Of course I am depressed by such headlines as “Chelsea’s secret pay-off in child sex abuse claim may have broken Premier League rules” from the Telegraph today.  I really don’t give a toss about PL league rules at this point; it’s about being decent and moral and human and humane, not rule 93 (4) vii b or whatever it is.

However me getting miserable in the midst of all this doesn’t help anyone, and just makes me, sort of, miserable.  So somehow I still need to keep smiling, because smiling is better than being sour and downcast.

While I was in Spain I saw a large man shouting abuse at his partner because her phone had rung in the hotel lobby.  Along with the people around me I looked, and then did nothing.  I guess a thousand reasons for doing nothing flipped through my head: he was much bigger than me, I don’t speak Spanish, I am not sure that an intervention then would have made any positive difference in the longer run and could have angered the man even more… I’m quite good at excuses for inaction.

But I did nothing, which was not very good.  I can do nothing about the historic sex abuse cases either.  On an infinitely more trivial level I can do nothing to encourage Arsenal to put more energy into a game.   But there are a few things out there which I can try and do a little bit about, so that has to be it.

And smiling a bit along the way seems to help.  Sometimes.

Tales from Untold 

Wenger ponders whether Yaya Sanogo will ever really be good enough for Arsenal. 


League Cup Arsenal – Southampton 0-2

Arsenal v Southampton: you can prove anything with figures (or not)

Come on Germany, just say no

Arsenal v Southampton: the preview, plus Bellerin’s quick recovery

How a referee can bend a match to fix the result: the inside story

And then suddenly football is not that important anymore

Supporting is the name of the game





17 Replies to “As darkness descends on the football world what can the response be?”

  1. Tony

    I know that you’re not suggesting that the FA did nothing to deal with this issue of coaches sexually abusing young players, but former Chief Executive Mark Palios reported that the FA worked in partnership with The NSPCC to investigate the subject in 2000 and following a commission set up in 2001 up to 60 coaches were banned from the game.
    From what I’ve recently been reading it would appear that the claims made by ex players are sourced from before the original investigation and none since that time (this may change), but I’d be very surprised to hear of any current claims against coaches at football league level. Below that is another matter completely.

  2. Was anyone from here at the Emirates last night for the SOuthampton game?

    I wasn’t at the game and I couldn’t see the match on TV either as it wasn’t broadcast in the UK.

    The Guardian reports that the fans booed our team last night. Is this true?

    I am only asking because I remember attending a Premier league game last season (I think it was against Southampton as well), where the opposition kicked our players to shred but the referee kept on turning a blind eye. So the crowd started booing the referee everytime he made an unfair decision. To my surprise (or maybe not, by now you can expect this kind of thing from the English gutter press), the press reported that Arsenal fans booed their team because they didn’t get a win.

    Did the crowd really boo our players yesterday or did the Guardian once again just made it up?

    If the crowd really did, then it’s terrible shame. We were on an 19 game unbeaten run before this game. It’s not easy for players who have barely started to find the cohesion and “togetherness” (as Wenger calls it) in the first game they face against a determined opposition. If Wenger had started more regulars and if any of them got injured then they would’ve been soon to criticise him as well for prioritising the mickey mouse cup to the detriment of other competitions.

  3. Sam

    If you read that in The Guardian then I’m surprised you missed Wenger’s reaction to the booing which made it quite clear that he knew who it was directed at.
    Anyway the team reacted in the second half and put in a bit more of a performance (even though they still got booed off at the end).
    Still, that’s football, and it happens all over the country.
    And as for the referee: he wasn’t great to be honest, but not bad enough to boo.

  4. Not in the context to the points of this article….but in the spirit of general misery, I can add to it, Santi is to have surgery, and will be out for another 3 months….have to add a significant “at least” to that
    And the player who could most easily fill his boots , as was his right to at least ask, went to Bournemouth for game time

  5. Some light?

    While an EPL season is (usually) 38 games (except some pre-Wenger), a calendar year is not guaranteed to be 38 games long. With that as a preface, the number of points Arsenal have had on the last game day of a calendar year over the results that day and the previous 37 game (total 38) is:
    1997 362 65
    1998 362 79
    1999 362 82
    2000 365 72
    2001 362 71
    2002 363 90
    2003 363 84
    2004 364 88
    2005 365 75
    2006 364 66
    2007 363 79
    2008 363 71
    2009 364 81
    2010 363 70
    2011 365 68
    2012 364 67
    2013 363 82
    2014 362 70
    2015 362 81

    The 360 type number, is the day number of the last game. If it was ever 366, you would know that the last game in that calendar year was Dec 31 and that the year in question was a leap year.

  6. Mandy, can we send a bill to the referee and player responsible for Santi having such an extended rehab period? 🙂

  7. Have often thought that Gord….in some ideal parallel world, the likes of Danny Rose or his club would be paying Bellerins wages for a really spiteful tackle DR put in 10 secs from the end of the NLD. But, of course the media/pundits/ MOTD barely mentioned that tackle, it was left to Wenger.
    Think Santi has had underlying issues, but was taken off for his latest injury at home to Ludogrets

    As for last night, a poor performance, might not reflect well on some players in Wengers eyes…who knows, but I am very relaxed about it, as I suspect Wenger may well be.. Win last night, and we would have stood between the great north derby league cup final the media/ football league are desperate for, a two legged semi….can only guess the refereeing we would get in those games….lets leave this trophy to those without Champions League football, as a little consolation to them

  8. I haven’t finished altering my program to work with Wenger’s data. It now contains number of penalties in a game (successful and missed), 2nd yellow cards, straight red cards and (first) yellow cards. But, I have to stop work on the program for a few days, so it will be next week when I get to look at a couple of other ideas on the November slump (average position of opponents in league, number of possible games where a referee could influence by penalty or dismissal). The average position idea is a result of thinking about something Tony wrote. And the other I will blame Walter for. 🙂

    If you happen to know of someone who has a pacemaker, you might want to look at:

  9. Mandy Dodd
    ‘lets leave this trophy to those without Champions League football, as a little consolation to them’
    Why not indeed!
    After all if we had won the damn thing it would not have been counted as a ‘proper’ trophy anyway would it.
    Funny how the EFL trophy suddenly becomes so important when we are knocked out, and by the very same people who would mock the competition were we to win it.

  10. Dark days indeed. Obviously it will not stop at football. Other sports will have had their paedophiles. All the hours spent going to football matches, the days spent watching cricket at county grounds, summers in the swimming pool, months in gyms training, we have to thank the blessing of good fortune that our lives were not ruined.

    We are so easily diverted by the horrendous cases of Asian child grooming that we have put at the back of our minds the full horror of Savillle’s crimes. Or maybe the Saville abuse of children was on such a monumental scale that to look at it, to try and measure it, grasp it, destroys all faith we have that anything good walks on this island.

    We cannot go back to pretending it doesn’t exist. Nor can we pretend with the racists that only Asians do it. We have a huge problem. Something in our culture allows people to be manipulated easily, to be abused without protection, without other people shouting out in alarm. We appear to go down on our knees to any form of celebrity and allow them to do what they want. In our worship of their fame and status we give the criminal the cloak of acceptance. We make their crimes invisible. We need to know why.

  11. Well, the FA investigating itself for corruption is par for the course I’m afraid. According to their own CEO, he “doubts” there was a cover up. So their investigation into themselves is starting off with their desired position.

    How MPs have allowed the FA to be self regulatory is a joke.

  12. More light.

    If I look at all the sum of points over 38 contiguous EPL games, and sort them, I find the smallest sum of points we have over 38 games is 59. The largest sum is 93. Our median points sum over 38 games, is 75. The MAD (median absolute deviation) of the data is 5 (50% of the data is between 70 and 80).

  13. Leon, i didn’t here any boos on a spanish stream
    in fact i thought the support was more vocal and positive than in most PL games
    the crowd was very vocal about refs shenanigans too

  14. OlegYch

    I don’t wish to undermine this wonderful article by getting into a booing debate but take my word, there were boos at half & full time, and Wenger referenced them in his post match views.
    Perhaps your stream filtered them out, on mine they were loud a clear and if you go to the live thread you’ll see that they were mentioned there also, but attributed to fans booing the referee.
    That’s my final word on it.

  15. CONMEBOL still seems to have nothing on its website. But, looking a little closer, it is over a year since anything was changed. CBF now has things on its website. What, I don’t know.

    Chapecoense is being told it must field a team for its last game of the season. It no longer has 11 fit players, let alone 25 or so.

    Atletico Mineiro is their opponent, and they are saying they won’t travel to the game, in support of Chapecoense. Which would result in officially Athletico Mineiro losing the game 0-3. Mineiro finishes 4th no matter what happens in the game, Chapecoense has a difference of 3 places between a win and a loss in this game.

    But, what do you expect from an association (CBF) so filled with corruption? From what little reading I’ve done, they are probably worse than The (sweet) FA.

  16. @ Sam – The crowd were 100% booing the ref. The fans were actually fairly vocal in backing Arsenal all game, despite the poor performance. Just another disgusting example of how the media manipulates and distorts the way in which people view our club and fans.

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