By Tony Attwood
It is oh so easy to make a list of all the things wrong with football in England. But thinking that it was appropriate to write a piece about the major problems in English football for the end of the year, I started out considering a list of five problems. Quickly that became a list of ten major issues. That became 15….
Is it just me and a few readers of Untold who, in the face of all the happy chatty approach to football on TV, radio and in the newspapers, felt that we are being fed a diet, not just of gibberish but downright lies?
Well, even if there is only a few us, I remain utterly convinced that football it totally broken, and it has been primarily broken by the media which has conspired to give us a Post Truth version of football which has nothing to do with what is really happening. At the end of 2016 I reach the conclusion that football is utterly broken.
As I write this Sky are showing an interview with the appalling, manipulating, cheating goalkeeper Foster of West Bromwich (working under the lying Pulis), and in the piece there is not a single mention of the way in which WBA tried to manipulate the rules with the compliance of the referee and the media in their match against Arsenal. Nor even of Foster’s yellow card. Of course not, because that would be the media reporting on the perfidious nature of the media. It doesn’t happen, it won’t happen. Foster has been recreated as the hero of the hour.
But worse, what we have is a retaliation by Sky against our commentary that Foster was a conniving, cheating, cynical player who would do anything, legal or illegal – and here is Sky not just talking him up, but more than that denying the reality of the way the keeper ceaselessly cheated and finally got a card (even in an environment where the media is bound to manipulate the reality in order to make the game look more positive than it is) for his cheating behaviour.
Worse they are even talking up the offensive Pulis. No mention that the man has been found in court to be a liar and a cheat, no, this man is to be commended. A hero.
Which is why on my list of all that is wrong with football, as 2016 comes to an end, the media is top. Here’s the list. As I say it started at five, but grew, and grew…
1: The Media. They have been so used to creating their own reality that it just seems part of the scenery now. But it is insidious, it is happening more and more, and we need to keep up the fight. There are tiny signs that show that we are having a little success – as with this morning on Radio 5 on the BBC, there was an open admission that they are repeatedly guilty of taking the view of a handful of supporters and expressing this as the view of all supporters. They will continue to do it of course, but even the admission is a tiny step forwards.
2: PGMO. What more can I say? They control refereeing via a hyper-secretive organisation based on the style and approach of Italy during its most corrupt era in football. And no one in the media questions this. Why? I can think of a couple of answers, primarily the fact that the media are part of the corruption.
3: Child sex abuse. What is the biggest news? Who Arsenal will or won’t sign, or the fact that countless children have been abused by employees of football clubs, while the FA, Premier and Football Leagues who have had control over the issue have done nothing, and now are doing little more than wringing their hands.
The media of course could make this, the most disgraceful story in the history of football since the cover up of the Hillsborough tragedy and the behaviour of Liverpool fans at Heysel, their daily headline. But try finding it anywhere in the papers or on broadcast media today. Fifa have said they are “monitoring” the situation. All things considered I would prefer it if they said, “we are utterly incompetent and are not looking at it at all”.
4: FA. The UK government could bring the FA to an end tomorrow by removing their state subsidy, as each of the last sports ministers has threatened to do; but they do nothing. The money wasting, incompetence and ineptitude continues. The media could bring pressure, but no. Of course not. That would be… a challenge to the status quo.
5: Fifa. Do I have to say anything at all? Ever since Untold started we have been pointing out what is going on, and we were right. We even forecast how they would be brought to their knees by a change in the Swiss law, and the national newspapers failed to spot the event, or pick up on our predictions. You might think that Fifa could actually maintain decent standards but teams are not even punished for the failure to pay their players. FIFPro, the trade union, says over 40% of professional soccer players have experienced late payments in the past two seasons.
6: Tax evasion by senior players. We don’t have enough information to make accusations, but at least the Spanish authorities are following the issue up, and there are more court cases yet to come. Men who earn more in a week than any of us do in two years are then avoiding paying tax; and the UK media just reports it in passing and then lets it go. Thank goodness for Wikileaks and the European commentators.
7: Child trafficking in Spain. The cases roll on and on. The denial rolls on and on. At least Fifa got off its backside to ban Barcelona and Real Mad from making transfers for a while, but such a punishment is meaningless given that the clubs had enough warning that they were able to stock up their squads before hand.
8. Child trafficking in England. Manchester City have been reported to Fifa after being accused of the attempted “trafficking” of a schoolboy they beat Manchester United and Barcelona to sign.
Vélez Sarsfield of Argentina confirmed they had lodged a complaint over Man City’s recruitment of Benjamín Garré, in July. Vélez claim City tried to purchase Garré from them when he was still 15 saying, “They offered money to take a 15-year-old child who is in the middle of his stage of development. We don’t know what they offered the father and the child in order to convince them.
9: Kick offs moved around. When is the match on? What day is the match on? Who knows. We, the people who actually pay money to go to games, have got no chance of organising anything else in our lives when matches can be changed at a whim. #
It doesn’t have to be like this of course; the games could all kick off at 3pm on a Saturday and could all be on TV. Or they could be spread out, but all announced in advance before the start of season. Those of us who go to PL games to support our clubs are now being treated with utter contempt.
10: Transfer rumours. No one ever admits to being the source of the rumours any more – each rumour monger cites another rumour monger, and another and another. And none of them happen. So over 20 players were reported to be leaving Arsenal last summer and 110 were transfers in the making. 99% inaccuracy – and yet the idiots are back at it again.
11: Managerial transfers. Bring in a new manager and the chances are he will do worse than the last manager. That is how it goes. And the result is,…. managers get kicked out and replaced faster and faster and faster. It is like saying that “here is a system that doesn’t work. Let’s do more of it.”
12: “7 Things we learned this week”. Total bunkum. No one learned anything, because learning is normally defined as introduced knowledge that affects subsequent behaviour, but in football nothing but nothing ever changes.
13: Evidence is not needed. We actually had a person write in to Untold claiming that “if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…” should be the basis for making judgements in football. On which basis if the sun seems to move across the sky, and the earth beneath our feet appears to be stationary, the clearly the earth is not spinning and the sun does indeed revolve around the earth.
14: One defeat and it is all over. No matter how stupid this obviously is, it is the fundamental approach of a vast number of journalists and their camp followers.
And from the History Society
- October 1936: Arsenal in free fall.
- The founding of the referees association, and the ref who had his own team
- August / September 1936: 20 different players used in the first seven league games
- Ralph Birkett: part of the South West club that Chapman built within Arsenal
- Arsenal players 1934/5 and 1935/36 the fundamental problem with the team
- Are Arsenal really making progress, or are we starting to slip back?
- Luton 3 Arsenal 4: maybe it is time to say positive things
- Luton v Arsenal – the referee, the team, Saka and Cliff Bastin
- Luton Town – how do they play the game. The tackles, fouls and cards.
- Luton Town v Arsenal: Grim football, fewest goals, lowest possession rate