As long as we fail to ask “why?” in football, nothing will ever change

By Tony Attwood

The news that Sepp Blatter has been accused by Hope Solo, the USA women’s football team goalkeeper, of having sexually assaulted her at Fifa’s Ballon d’Or awards ceremony in January 2013 doesn’t really come as much of a surprise, simply because nothing comes as much of a surprise with Blatter.  Or come to that Fifa.

Ms Solo said, “For the past few days, I have been thinking about all the uncomfortable situations myself and/or my team-mates have experienced throughout the years with trainers, doctors, coaches, executives and even team-mates. From inappropriate comments, unwanted advances and grabs of the ass to coaches and even press officers speaking about players’ tits and physical appearance, sexual harassment is rampant in the sports world. I always felt I’d handled it and stood up for myself in those situations, but there were never any consequences for the perpetrators. That needs to change. Silence will not change the world!”

Absolutely true, silence never changes the world.  But that is what football mostly engages in – an eternal silence.

The number of stories about Fifa and its staff which suggest the organisation is bent from top to bottom is so enormous I could fill Untold three times a day every day writing about them, and yet mostly they get ignored by the wider media.

Let me offer you this from the Guardian – it is not a historic report from months or years ago – all I had to do was look at this morning’s newspaper.

“A 10-month effort to find out how a Briton was killed while building Qatar’s Khalifa stadium for the World Cup has been met with a wall of silence from the Qatari authorities and multinational building contractors, leaving his relatives distraught and angry.

“Zac Cox died in January after he fell 40 metres when his safety equipment failed. His family have been told that a report containing vital information about the circumstances of his death exists, but it has not been passed on to them or the British coroner investigating his death.

“This week, the coroner lambasted the family’s treatment, which raises questions about how much the Foreign Office has done to force Qatari authorities to explain the reasons for Cox’s death.”

Leaving aside the notion of whether it would be wise to get the Foreign Office under Boris Johnson given what he has just done in the Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe affair, it is clear that the British Foreign Office these days doesn’t want to do anything much.  Which is another story that could with being connected up.

And if that were not enough I ran another story about Fifa corruption on the first of this month, which I don’t think has been covered much, if at all, in the media.  Chair of PSG accused of wholesale corruption – but it is not reported in the British media

At least the death of Zac Cox gets a mention, and one can only feel for his family, and for the family of  Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – but no one seems to want to put these stories together to look for patterns and then start a push for action.  By which I mean if accusations of sexual harassment, wholesale financial corruption and the refusal to release information about a British citizen’s death working on a world cup stadium, all coming out within a couple of weeks of each other is not enough for people to ask “why are we part of this organisation?” then the message is clear.  We will never do anything about Fifa, ever.  No matter what.   We know huge swathes of their hierarchy have been charged or are under investigation by agencies in Switzerland and the USA, but still nothing is done about Britain’s daily engagement with the organisation.

And one reason big reason is that the essence of football is “now”, this moment.  There is an extension backwards to the last game, but not much more than that.  So issues rise and fall, but everything is temporary.  And in a world like that there is no concerted action.

To take this into another zone consider this headline:

Furious Corry Evans says penalty decision was ‘even worse than the Thierry Henry v Ireland handball’

In one sense you might say that this disproves my argument, because it takes in not only Ireland’s last game, but an earlier world cup match in which there was what many called another outrageous decision.

But the connection stops there, largely because when it comes to football, as increasingly in life I guess, people have an absolute horror of asking “is there some connection?” or “why are these referees so awful?”

Not too many publications put these questions up for discussion.  And indeed we get lots of people writing to Untold tell us to stop writing about referees.  I don’t publish them, by and large, but we do get a lot.  

Indeed a prime reason why I do keep publishing the headlines from newspapers and bloggettas is to highlight this lunatic short termism that now is what passes for discussion in football.  Just take a look at the headlines this morning.

  • Man United should swoop in January and end this Arsenal man’s misery at the Emirates 
  • This Crystal Palace star needs to jump ship and make a move to Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal 
  • Juventus linked with Bellerin transfer 
  • Arsenal keen on Bobby Duncan 
  • Are Arsenal keen on Bobby Duncan?

Actually I want to pause at that one because both of those Bobby Duncan stories came from the same source: ESPN which at least brings a little light relief to the point.

But really, in the end “Why?” is what forces us to look back into the past and find evidence and this is what increasingly people don’t seem to want to do.

I am reminded of the gent who wrote to this site recently demanding that I provide evidence to support my view that PGMO is alone in Europe’s in having such a small number of referees available.   There is a whole article on that very subject on Untold with a complete statistical analysis, which the correspondent could have looked up if he wanted, but he chose instead to berate me for not providing evidence.

Maybe that is why people don’t ask why any more.  It is just too much like hard work.

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19 Replies to “As long as we fail to ask “why?” in football, nothing will ever change”

  1. There’s been plenty of ‘why’ asking following the revelations of sex abuse of young players by club coaches and more recently the mark Sampson affair.
    Hope Solo is one of many women who’ve come forward with accusations and most media that I’ve read ask the ‘why’ question.
    Perhaps they’re not asking it of your favourite subjects, but there’s plenty of it going on.
    And that bent PSG chief was first reported on three weeks before you did it in early October in your favourite paper.

  2. Why is the Thierry incident mentioned? That happened in a game against the Republic not Northern Ireland. Is it possible that the author of the original piece was not aware of the fact that there are two Irish teams? Oh the joys of the so-called “information age” as it was once declared to be.

  3. I did not ask you to provide evidence that the ‘ PGMO is alone in Europe’s in having such a small number of referees available’. I asked you to provide evidence that PL referees take bribes.

    Also, on all the press speculation, yes, most of it is nonsense but who cares?

    What is fuelling a lot of it is:

    1) Arsenal fc’s decision to keep Alexis sanchez and Mezut Ozil at the club without being able to renew their contracts and their recent dip in form.

    2) The questions surrounding Arsene Wenger’s suitability for the arsenal job and the schism that has emerged around this. (WOBs vs AKBs)

    3) The questions around Stan Kroenke’s ownership of arsenal and the intentions of Alisher Usmanov.

    4) The bad press from the recent AGM where Sir ‘chips’ and the BOD clashed with members of the AST- (arsenal shareholders)

    5) The resurgence of Liverpool and especially Spurs, and the threat that poses to Arsenal’s ability to compete for the PL and qualify for the CL.

    That’s plenty for any journo to write about.

  4. @ Laos Gooner

    it is mentionned because it is what the Northern Ireland coach actually said. And he says ‘Ireland’ not ‘Northern Ireland’.

    The intersting thing is that these ref errors were widely criticized (maybe because the ref was from Romania…) and the Northern ireland coach not much criticized for accusing the ref.

    A few days ago, most media outlets were on AW’s back after his polite criticism that is nowhere as ‘violent’ as the one from the Northern Ireland coach and lambasting him.

    So, here it cimes again : WHY ?

  5. @ Alexanderhenry

    I just don’t get why and how some of the issues are ‘relevant’
    Stan kreoncke bought the majority of Arsenal shares legally, and is a majority shareholder.
    Thus he does what he wants and can care less about what people think.
    His decisions (keeping AW, investing or not, etc.) are his.
    And I just don not see how andwhy they are supposed to be a subject of constant criticism. I am not aware that on Sp*rs, Cit$, MU and Pool! side such constant attacks are being done.

    Arsenal supporters can have an influence – like in the hunting TV channel episode. If they were son massively ‘against’ the owner, we’d see the results. The fact that we don’t see anything means the vast majority stands behind him. If they were not, why do they not really boycott games ?

    as for Spurs resurgence, well they’ve got a good coach, they played the youth card brilliantly probably because the finances were not making possible buying like MU and I must say they do not play bad football. This is what sports is about. As for Pool! resurgence, I would not use that word. Pool! hype would be more in order. They’ve got a coach who is a media/PR darling and can escape issues Arsenal gets crucified on.

    As for Ozil and Sanchez, the owner decides and players all have dips in form. Why does no one asks the question : do these 2 players feel harassed and unjustly criticized, do the fans stand behind them, I mean, going back to basic human psychology ?

  6. Chris

    Kroenke is a terrible owner, not just of Arsenal but of all his other ‘franchises’ too. He has been involved since 2007 and in full control since 2011, a period which has seen arsenal stagnate at best. He has an apalling reputation and record as an owner of sports clubs. This is something that should concern arsenal fans.

    As you you put it ‘the fact that we don’t see anything’, has more to do with fan apathy and a lack of leadership amongst fans. The ‘vast majority’ most certainly do not stand behind stan kroenke.

    Spurs’ resurgence is a big worry for arsenal. When they move into their new stadium their match day receipts will match ours, therefore nullifying the main advantage we’ve had over them for years.

    Liverpool already finished above us last season and I’ll bet they do the same this season. ‘Hype’ or not, that’s a big improvement for them.

    On Ozil and Sanchez, the club should have sold them. To keep them on- especially sanchez- and to expect them to perform at 100% is plain nuts. Of course they’re not going to do that.
    Also, to expect fans to support a player who clearly is not committed to arsenal is wishful thinking.

    We all support Arsenal and the fans are the club. This does not mean that fans shouldn’t have an opinion and be able to express that opinion, nor does it mean that fans should blindly support everything that the management and the ownership of the club does. If arsenal fans who pay the highest ticket prices in football want to boo, boycott and protest, they should be allowed to.

  7. @alexanderhenry Your request for evidence whether PL referees takes bribes just showed that you didn’t really understand the main point of Tony’s article.

    He never said that EPL took bribes but rather that since there have been bribery scandals in almost all the other major European football leagues and the Premier League is richer and the refereeing organization more opaque, that it seems sheer lunacy and arrogance to assume that the same can’t be happening in England. And, given the evidence of our referee reviewers, at the minimum the organization is rife with incompetence, if perhaps not outright corruption. What the other end of the scale is is up to you.

  8. Since there is a divide in Arsenal manager support identified as the AKBs and the AOBs, I think this division in it’s self coupled with his long serving term at Arsenal has made Mr Arsene Wenger, the current Arsenal manager also called the ”Prof” a cult institution at Arsenal who has stood the test of time at the club by absolving anything thrown at him by the anti-Wenger/anti-Arsenal groups inside and outside the club without getting hurt as he seems to be a man of timber and caliber.

    Let there be no panic existing among the rank and file of the AOBs as to whether Arsenal will not win the Premier League Title this season. In this order, I have good news for them which I believe will turn their despairs to joy because Arsenal who are not out of the PL Title race this season but are still in it will against the bookmakers odd win the Title. In this wise, I implore all the folks in the Arsenal AOBs group to be calm down and remain calmed as the Gunners reignite their Title winning charge with a win in the PL at the Arsenal Stadium over Spurs next Saturday.

  9. With respect to Hope Solo and Sepp Blatter, I can easily see Sepp Blatter as being the type of person who could easily of been harassing people for 40 or more years, and then if accused come out and call the accusations ridiculous and/or absurd (I have seen articles using both terms attributed to the blatterbird (I’m clean, I’m clean)).

    On the flip side, I think Hope Solo is the kind of person who may have seen Sepp Blatter harass someone else and thought that in today’s #MeToo environment it would be good for this to come out.

    What I think really needs to happen, is that if someone has pictures of the blatterbird “in action”, they should publish them.

  10. The main problem with the clubs ownership at the moment is that we have our 2 largest shareholders that clearly detest each other, mainly due to Usmanovs carefully timed press releases slagging off the main shareholder.
    Kroenke clearly doesn’t want to make any major investments which would benefit Usmanov financially in any way, so he doesn’t.
    If the tables were reversed then I suspect the same would be true of Usmanov.

    Only when one of them actually leaves will we really learn if the other is a decent owner or not. At the moment they’re both rather 2nd rate.

  11. Asking why?

    Lots of people like things to be right or wrong. Unfortunately, too many things fall somewhere in between right and wrong. And any two different people can have different opinions on this.

    In many jurisdictions, the next step up is to ask if something is legal or criminal. If something is criminal, you could spend time in jail (or worse), all else is legal. There are activities which are legal in some jurisdictions, but not legal in others.

    Perhaps the next step up is whether something is moral and/or ethical. Ethics and morals can be a problem for all people. But predominantly for business people the distinction is that if something is “only” not moral or ethical, it is legal. Which means they will not be put in jail (or worse) if someone finds out that something they did is unethical or immoral. It may cost them money, but it doesn’t mean serious penalties.

    And much of the Panama papers and Paradise papers is concerned with exposing unethical and immoral activities. Some of it may be illegal, which means some people may say jail time. But the reason so many things are in these sets of papers, is because these business people thought that if they kept it secret, they would have more money at the end of the day. That some of these secrets have come to light, they expect at worst they will lose SOME of the money they now have.

  12. It is silly to expect moral or ethical issues to worry those who deal with very large sums of money. History shows that this never happens.

    If you build on nefarious practices, you have to continue using nefarious practices to maintain it, and this is mirrored in the modern business practices.

    Morals and ethics for such people are just TV and PR things, used to lull other people(those who understand morals and ethics) into false security.

    The world is corrupt and to succeed in it at those levels, one usually has to be on that corrupt path and shut consciences down.

    No wonder than, that football has increasingly become more corrupt, as usual, where the money is, then there is surely corruption too.

    Those football organisations are something else. Their practices remind me of the world leaders who use the same tactics and strategies to do their thing. Lies, lies and lies again, else silence and the occasional “apology” for PR purposes.


    I fear for (most of)the younger generations to come, indeed this very next generation, who will not have the chance to learn anything else but that thievery, corruption and deceit is normal and desirable if one wants to “succeed” in life.

    We generally teach our children morals and ethics, but they soon realise that this just does not cut it in the world and most discard them pretty soon, and the age of discarding them gets lower and lower with every year passed.

  13. Going going gooner

    The bribery theory is conjecture 100%. I was under the impression that untold didn’t like that sort of thing and insisted that football writers base their stories on facts.
    Let’s be honest, It’s the sort of thing you might read about in the metro.

  14. Face it, you’re guilty of hypocrisy. This blog is obsessed with speculating over a perceived conspiracy in the press and amongst referees. You can offer no hard evidence that these conspiracies exist. All this this while preaching the importance of ‘facts’.

    The sad thing is that while your attention is transfixed by these anti arsenal plots, the club is being mismanaged from top to bottom by an unscrupulous, greedy and incompetent owner, and by a manager who is past it and is becoming increasingly delusional the nearer he gets to his 70th birthday.

  15. If a system involving money is open to abuse, then eventually it will get abused.
    Sadly it happens everywhere whether there’s big money involved or not.

    The present system of refereeing is open to abuse (anyone that can’t see that is either ‘a sandwich short of a picnic’ or is lying about not being able to see it).

    I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an article on here saying it is being abused (but I could easily have missed it), but seen many asking why the present system is in place when it’s clearly so open to abuse.

  16. Andy Mack

    There might well be corruption and bribes amongst referees, but until Untold comes up with some hard evidence it remains speculation. What I object to is that speculation is the very thing this blog dislikes the most, as well as fans who dare to criticise the current regime.

    When things go wrong it’s never Wenger’s or the club’s fault. No, it’s the fault of bent referees, ungrateful fans and articles in the metro. I disagree.

    I should say at this point that I am not anti wenger. I believe he was a great manager but over the past two seasons he has lost his judgement. Also, his attitude towards fans has been disappointing.

    When someone is in an undisputed position of power for a very long time they are bound to lose perspective.

  17. Did I miss an article where they actually said someone in the PGMO was being bribed?
    Or is it just the voices in your head saying that?

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