by Tony Attwood
Rumours and fantasies about Arsenal and its players have undoubtedly reached a new low with the emergence of the story of Bellerin and the fake phone message.
I say it is fake with some force because the story is emerging in blogs that endlessly tell us that a deal is being done, or has been done and then refers us to a source – usually in Spain. And it is endlessly fake. There is every reason to think this is fake as well – but it descends to even greater depths than normal so needs to be mentioned.
Following Bellerin’s calm response to the issue of Arsenal Fan TV at the Oxford Union a story has emerged that, in the words of FootballFanCast, has led to a situation in which “the 22-year-old could be in even hotter water following the emergence of an audio recording.”
We do need to consider this carefully because of the point that while anyone can make up a transfer story, and can indeed actually invent a non-existent source for that story, to suggest there is a recording of a phone call goes further. For that suggests there is a permanent phone tap in place on a phone. This would be criminal, as is the reporting of a private conversation obtained in this way.
It would also raise the issue of why someone would go to the lengths of having a permanent phone tap on Bellerin’s phone – because if that is what the news industry is doing with footballers that is going to be just about as big as the scandal that brought down the News of the World.
Other people who have reported the tale have made it clear that the audio is a fake – which it has to be assumed to be until any evidence to the contrary emerges.
It seems so unlikely that a) Bellerin would have had the sort of conversation suggested and b) referred to it in a phone conversation suddenly out of the blue and c) have his phone permanently tapped (a difficult and expensive operation), that the most likely explanation by far is that the whole thing is made up in order to retaliate against Bellerin for his comment in the Oxford Union.
Any of these scenarios (the permanent phone tap or the invention of the story in order to retaliate) is utterly appalling and shows the level to which those involved in ceaselessly attacking Arsenal players have sunk. Indeed there is now nowhere lower to go than this.
It might well be enough to make Bellerin think that he needs to get away from these people – I very, very much hope not, but one could understand it if it happened.
And it raises the question what those of us who do believe in the traditional approach of supporting the players and the team (ie supporting the players and the team) can do. With this level of assault going on not just on Arsenal Fan TV but also in terms of circulating stories like this, how do those of us who are real supporters respond?
I know the argument, of course, that says that in mentioning all this I am making matters worse and the best thing to do is to ignore Arsenal Fan TV and the like – and indeed in relation to Arsenal Fan TV I have previously done that, save when one of the owners vanished for a while I did write to say that although I disagreed with his approach I hoped he was ok.
Now something must be done, but I am not sure what. These people (and I am not suggesting in this case Arsenal Fan TV is responsible for the story reported in FootballFanCast because I don’t have the evidence) are now going to any lengths to destabilise Arsenal either in terms of inventing and releasing a fake audio of Bellerin (the most likely) or in terms of actually tapping his phone line, or being associated with people who do, and not reporting them to the police, this is now utterly beyond anything that is reasonable.
For the moment I’m back to my default position: to call these people out and point out how negative the effects are of their attacks on the club and its players in this way.
Of course I take flack for this, and indeed just this week received a demand for a significant payment to a blackmailer for what he claims to be video evidence of me doing unspeakable things. He may well have a digitally engineered film of the acts (I know he can’t have an actual film, since I have never done such things), and all I can do (as I have done) is pass it all on to the police.
But if that is the price to pay of trying to expose these people for what they are – a mix of attention seekers and the anti-Arsenal-Arsenal then for the moment at least, I’ll pay it. It still seems right to confront these people rather than just led them spread their bile day after day. The alternative of ignoring them, seems to lead nowhere.
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