Is the media catching up with the notion something is wrong in football?

by Tony Attwood

I have often made the point that there are two fundamental flaws with the mass media’s coverage of football in England: the first is that they choose what is news and what isn’t, and the second is that they then choose how to interpret that news.

Of course that is what newspapers and their websites always do, but in some areas of life it matters far less, because not all the media takes the same point of view.   True it is hard to find many parts of the mass media that actually support Jeremy Corbyn and his visions for the future, but in many issues that do make the press, the Guardian (for example) does a fair old job in opposing the position of the Mail, Sun, Express, Star, Telegraph and a few others.

With football, to me that doesn’t seem to happen.  We get a similar vision throughout the newspapers, their blogs, the TV stations that cover football, the radio stations, and (perhaps most sadly) most blogs (which in theory have a lot more freedom but which in practice are increasingly ow owned by the newspapers).

Which was why of course Untold was formed almost ten years ago.  To give the “untold” perspective.

And yet every now and then there does appear to be a little chink in the absolute armour of football which effectively prevents proper discussion of key points about the game in England.   Some of the latest excesses of Fifa, and the court cases now rolling along have gained a little publicity in England, although no one other than us has taken up the point that the British government, by funding the FA, is helping to fund Fifa.

Yet we did recently get

Manchester City’s plan for global domination

with the subheading

Football has already been transformed by big money – but the businessmen behind Man City are trying to build a global corporation that will change the game for ever.

That was an article by Giles Tremlett in the Guardian; a rare admission that the whole nature of football is being altered when countries start owning both the football team and the broadcasting system that carries the stories.

Another example also came from the Guardian with

Exclusive: Trabzonspor challenge puts Infantino’s stint at Uefa under scrutiny

Here they said,

“The Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, has been accused of permitting a lax approach towards match-fixing when he was Uefa general secretary during the 2010‑11 scandals within Turkish football

“Bribes for TV soccer rights allegedly paid with ‘agreement and support’ of Murdoch’s Fox executives.”

Radical stuff, although again the implications are, to my mind, not always followed through.

Of course this doesn’t mean that everything is ok with the way football is reported because even though several papers did get their teeth stuck into the appalling mess that the FA has made of enquiries into bias, sexism and racism of late, these are still treated as individual incidents which are then dropped, rather than as a failure of the entire system of governance of football in England.

Parliament too has had a look at the FA and indeed voted to the effect that Parliament had no confidence in the FA.  So for once I am on the same side as our legislators, but still nothing changes.

There is an underlying feeling within the reporting of all football matters that things are all right, and that the way it is, is the way it should be.  There is precious little debate such issues as salary caps, the dominance of leagues by individual teams, the wholesale corruption of the organising bodies.  Or even the point I’ve tried to raise a few times: what happened to the money that was generated by last summer’s Community Shield match and which should have gone to the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire?  Wayne Rooney’s drink driving offence still gets more coverage.

So we see that sometimes the press does cover important matters, as with the story today (yet again from the Guardian) that “Two people are beginning 12-month prison sentences after a fake Twitter account, purporting to be that of a paedophile, was set up to “troll” Andy Woodward after he became the first former footballer to waive his anonymity and leave the sport facing a sexual abuse scandal involving hundreds of other victims.”   It is important that the way those who were brave enough to talk about the abuse they suffered in football, can be treated, is exposed.  And the fact that as he left court, the young man guilty of setting up and writing the fake Twitter account shouted “When I get out, I will fucking kill you.”    I often think that prison is not a wholly helpful way of treating offenders, but in this case my liberal facade vanishes and I found myself wanting this young man locked up for far more than the year he got.

To my mind, the enquiry into the abuse of young people in football, should still be major news, particularly given the way the FA seems to want to cover up anything and everything that it thinks might be embarrassing.

And this is what I mean by choosing what is the news, and how that news is handled.  Far too often really important matters are simply not considered to be the news at all.

In a very real sense this is why I try and use Untold to poke a bit of fun at transfer rumours, and endlessly point out that only 3% of the stories are true, even though we are pounded by them day by day.  There is important news out there, but the media needs to decide to cover it, and investigate properly.

To answer my question in the headline – is the media catching up with reality.   Perhaps yes, but very, very, very slowly, and only in some cases.

Latest from the Arsenal History Society

Norris at the Arsenal. 1-10 December 1918; allegations of corruption heard in court.


10 Replies to “Is the media catching up with the notion something is wrong in football?”

  1. Off topic but am on my way to Borehamwood to watch our Women play Sunderland in the Wuarter final of the Continental Tyres Cup. First game for our new manager so am hoping for a good game – certainly one that is better than the men served up yesterday.

    I’ll put updates on here as the game progresses

  2. I personally tend to use foreign media for the latest on corruption in the sport. I find both Swiss and American reporting often ahead of the articles on untold and sometimes wonder whether you have the same sources. The lack of articles about these Fifa trials is damning. Across Europe and the States there is reporting. I even prefer Spanish commentary when watching at home. For completely bias free commentary Arabic is highly amusing as everything excites them no matter which team, player or area of the pitch. It sure beats the endless regurgitation of the same old media agenda here

  3. Laos, certainly we get stories from Swiss, German and French papers which are not covered at all in the British media. Likewise New York Times and Washington Post seem to find all sorts of things that remain an absolute mystery to broadcasters and journalists in England.

  4. 17 minutes at Borehamwood and Arsenal are one up. A wonderful long pass down the right channel. Good cross and the easiest of finishes for Jordan Nobbs

    We must have had 70% possession so far.

  5. 38 mins and two nil. Cross from Danny Carter on a plate for Miedena to head home

    We look threatening on both wings

  6. 60 minutes and Sunderland get one back through BridgetGalloway. We haven’t been as dominant so far in the second half. Sunderland having more of the ball.

    Carter just had a shot come back off the woodwork. Her last contribution as she makes way for Beth Mead.

  7. Ten minutes to go and Beth Mead restores our two goaladvantage.

    Jordan Nobbs nearly makes it four with a free kick that is tipped over.

  8. Arsenal were dominant in the first half against Sunderland Women and justifiably were two goals up at half time. The second half performance wasn’t as good – quite in keeping with the weather which became a very persistent fine drizzle. The sort of rain where you are soaked to the skin before you actually realise you are wet.

    The second half was quite even with both sided having spells when they were on top. This was reflected in the second half score of one all.

    Overall though a solid win against a team we would expect to beat and an opening win for our new manager, always a good thing. A nice break now for the Women. I’ll do a season update after Christmas

  9. It was very interesting watching Jon Moss “referee” the game between Everton and Swansea last night. It was obvious from the start that Moss was giving favourable decisions to Everton, but he was unable to do anything about the Swansea opener. The Welsh side, bereft of any goals so far this season, were heading into half time, no doubt boosted by their unexpected lead. But then, Moss decided to give Everton a non penalty, one which should have been taken as their players encroached in the area as Fabianski saved Rooney’s spot kick. Moss had absolutely no way of seeing the (non) challenge because he is so unfit, he is unable to keep up with play. But he gave it anyway, just as he did for an even more dubious decision to gift Everton their 3rd goal.

    Now, compare that with the FA’s decision to retrospectively charge Lanzini with “deceiving the official” because he fell over and won a penalty – a correct decision according to a few “experts”.

    So, why wasn’t Sterling charged with “deceiving the official” when he fell over at the side of a non challenge from Nacho Monreal? Why wasn’t Richarilson charged with “deceiving the official” when he dived over at the side of a non challenge from Hector Bellerin? Why the inconsistency?

    So, if a player who “dives” is guilty of “deceiving the official”, what is an official who gives a “non-penalty” guilty of? “Deceiving the players” “Unduly influencing a result” or something worse?

    Until we have VAR in this country, wrong decisions will continue to be made. Decisions that cost a team a player, cost them a game, and even cost a Manager his job!

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