Next season’s league winners, the fall of BT, and the growth of seeing football journalism as oppressive

by Tony Attwood

Here is the list of next season’s league winners

  • England: Manchester City
  • Scotland: Celtic
  • France: PSG
  • Spain: Barcelona
  • Germany: Bayern Munich
  • Italy: Juventus

Won’t it all be astonishingly exciting to watch it happen, knowing in advance whose going to win!  Wow, won’t just everyone be glued to their TVs to see every kick of every ball leading to outcomes that can be predicted before this season has ended!

Except, maybe when everything is as pre-ordained as this maybe some people will simply give up watching football on very expensive TV channels.   Certainly it seems that way as BT, the telecoms company has announced it is making 13,000 redundancies.  Its share price has gone down by 30% this year.

The reason is that seeing itself under attack from all sides as a telecoms company it tried to reinvent itself as a sports media operation which took the Sky model and did it moreso.  The move has failed.

BT’s idea was simply to use all its masterful intelligence to understand the sports market – which primarily means the football market, and then domit exactly as it was being done already but maybe bit more of the same.  That was about the length and breadth of the plan – with an assumption of power and control at the end.

But in doing this they failed to realise one thing.  That Sky already had the look of a keen and desperate bunch of pundits anxious to build a belief that everything is ok, that football in which you know the outcome before you start is actually entertaining, and that football needs interpreters known as “experts” and “pundits”.

Except that a few of us have, one way or another, been asking simple questions such as “what is an ‘expert’ when it comes to football journalism”, and “why do we need experts?” and “why don’t they talk about very specific issues that are clearly a problem such as Uefa, Fifa, the FA, PGMO, the predictability of the leagues, and so on.

And “why do we need someone to write a column that tells us “Five things we learned” as if such an expert only has to look at a single match to be able to understand exactly what is what with a team, while the rest of us, including the club’s management, and all its fans, sit there waiting to be told what’s going on.  Are we not to be allowed to watch football without interpreters?

Or is such an expert someone who knows how to abuse footballers endlessly, as Martin Keown has done of Mesut Ozil, over and over again.  Is Martin now an “expert” or is he just a “footballer abuser.”  (An “FA” for short, perhaps).

The answer seems to me to be encapsualted in the word “bandwagon”.   The punditary pick an idea, whether it is true or false, and hammer it out again and again and again, clear in the knowledge that as the rest of the media quickly jump on the same idea they will carry their audience forward until everyone believes it.

This week’s idea has been that Mr Wenger was a good bloke who did a lot for the game.  They’re not very happy with the notion that in 22 years he won the League more times than Tottenham has done in the 110 years they have been in the Football League.  Or that he has won the FA Cup the same number of times as Tottenham has as a League club, so they switch away from that and say that he has transformed the game, and pretend that they have not spent the last 22 years abusing him.  22 years abuse and one week of “he was a good bloke really” and we are supposed to believe this?

In essence the media, instead of becoming a means of increasing knowledge, information and debate, as it proclaims, has become the opposite.  A way of closing debate down so that only certain topics are covered and only certain opinions, which are published over and over again, are allowed.

I know of course that there are many people who don’t like the opinions I espouse on Untold – indeed the current line I see over and over on messages at the moment (most of which are not published since they are just repeats of earlier themes) is that by writing what I do I am just “embarrasing myself”.

It’s an interesting notion, and one that seems to imply that these writers are concerned that I am making myself look foolish.  If that is the case, I thank them for their concern, but really I don’t feel I need their guidance.  I’m quite happy to go on and on pointing out that the model of organisation that the PL has chosen for its referees is one that leaves it open to allegations of corruption.  To point out that the rest of Europe has turned away from this model, and that their hyper-secrecy does not fit well with democracies that seek to be increasingly open.  To point out that Martin Keown’s abuse of Mesut Ozil is unnesseary and more to do with Martin resolving his own past demons, than anything to do with Mesut’s injury problems.

And the fact is that it is not those of us who raise such worries about referees, Fifa, Uefa, the FA, the lack of competitiveness in the major leagues and the way the media feel they can refuse to cover certain topics, and give out opinions as facts in other areas, who are the problem.  It is the media that fails to hold Fifa, Uefa, the FA, PGMO and themselves to account that is the heart and soul of what is wrong in football.

But, as this sesaon comes to an end, I get the feeling that there is a growing number of people who aren’t listening any more, and instead who are making up their own minds.  And that is rather a good feeling.

20 Replies to “Next season’s league winners, the fall of BT, and the growth of seeing football journalism as oppressive”

  1. I completely agree!

    These pundits or “experts” have spent goodness knows how long counting up the years AW and Arsenal have no recourse, and AT LEAST 10 years slating him and his team until he hangs his tie up (or gives it away). It’s the height of hypocrisy! It really winds me up and these people should be made to watch their commentary over the previous years to prove it to them.

  2. Great article Tony.

    In particular your reference to so-called pundits or experts and their contribution to the game. The original definition of a pundit (an Indian word) was ‘learned man’, master or teacher. Would one put Robbie Savage, Martin Keown or Steve Nichol et al in that category? A more modern definition is ‘a supposed expert who imparts deep knowledge to us more ignorant folk’.

    I would like to add to your paragraph about Arsene Wenger’s achievements by pointing out that Tottenham last won the title 57 years ago and Liverpool 28 years ago. Who ever mentions that, certainly not the ‘experts’?

  3. The piece on Martin Keown by Ozil’s agent is a classic! A keepsake and a guide to all other footballers that “pundits” who had very ordinary football careers and lack good manners and good grace towards currently active fellow professional footballers should adopt.

    Surely, the piece reminds me of the pathetic career Keown actually had in Arsenal. Obviously, it is now fair game to compare the careers of some of such pundits with the careers of the people that they rubbish.

  4. Something struck me the other day … one on my criticisms of AFTV is they have a platform to go at the FA, to go at the poor refereeing we see week after week, to go at the media sticking the knife into Arsenal …. but they don’t … and then it struck me … with their advertising, with their appearances on the BBC and Channel 4, they are just another manifestation of the media establishment … the illusion of them being fans having their say is just that …. they do just what the TV, radio and newspapers do, advance an agenda and don’t rock the cosy little boat the FA and PGMO has going …

    Isn’t it about time the rest of us did something to reflect our reality … maybe we could set up an YouTube channel for Arsenal fans and … oh …. 😉

  5. Dr Erkut Sogut – wow, that was a retort and some. Pipe down, Keown (not the only one though) or ship out of tv football. Ozil is a wonderful player and I am so pleased he is ours.

  6. The only thing I find embarrasing is that we find so many transfer rumours repeated here on Untold. The rest I find very readable and also much fuller of content than many other sources of information. The last thing we need is another person feeding the same agenda. May be we should strive for football journalism to become an art.

  7. Shabukabaka and gnome.
    KEown is an Arsenal legend and isnt afraid to speak the truth even if it upsets poor mesut.I wish we had some of his fight and desire in this team we wouldnt be languishing in 6th place if we did.Wenger constantly goes on about mental strength and desire but frankly this team has none of those qualities.Something we had in abundance in the teams in the 90s and early 00s.Too many of our past players have made such comments for those to be media led and i honestly thinkthat they see things as they are at the moment…A club thats in a mess.

  8. I do not believe that Dr. Sogut would have responded without the consent of Mesut Oezil and that saddens me somewhat. I am not upset with what was said but rather that it confirms what has been said on this website.

    The unending vitriol and over the top criticism affects players negatively. The players react like most humans do – by defending themselves…not by smiling more, cutting their wages, and somehow playing harder and scoring more goals. How do we react when our bosses or customers attack us personally and unceasingly for perceived weaknesses in our job performance?

  9. The medja model requires the presence of idjuts labelled as pudnits/ex-spurts. If ex-Arsenal players really appreciate the club, they should try very hard to never say anything about Arsenal. If they have to say something, say as little as possible and make it ambiguous.

    Anything else, will be twisted into something not intended.

  10. One of my earlier memories of Martin Keown was disappointment at him leaving for Aston Villa. But this disappointment was soon assuaged by the promotion of another of our youth players , Tony Adams , who took his chance and went to be a regular at Arsenal and England.

    Resigning Keown by Graham from Everton was again an happy event for me .That RVN incident will be the most memorable and endearing memory of him . While he did go on to play well for us , it seems that he is now quite happy to be kicking us all over the place .

    Why our other ex-players get joy in doing this , escapes me.

  11. Just as there are various coaching classes conducted to get your badges , shouldn’t there be a school , or night classes , or online education on how to be a fully qualified expert ?

    Am not sure what would be thought there , but at least sneering, leering, snorting, repeating cliches , lies and half truths will probably be not on the curriculum. Not at least in a very school !

  12. I get sick when I see all those reporters now suddenly finding Wenger great. Or some of our ex players suddenly only saying nice things about Wenger.
    I now know those who have class and those who are nothing but windbags. Hail the first ones, shame on the second ones.
    I know we at Untold have never been the windbags.

  13. Jim,
    You miss the point a bit. Nothing wrong with the critism of a player who played poorly but to turn the critism to personal abuse and to impugn on the character and professionalism of such a player without proof,is denying professional courtesies towards a fellow professional in the same field of endeavour.

    Too often,these critics go too far and, painfully many of them are ex-Arsenal players, misbehaving towards current Arsenal players! Definitely, hardly will you find an ex-Liverpool playet doing so against a current Liverpool player, from his pundit’s chair.

    I lived in the US for a few years. You will never, never find a pundit running down ANY sportsman (be it basketball, ice hockey, football or baseball) on a sports TV coverage.

    It seems to me that there, they subscribe to another model that says: running down the professionals in the game hurt the entire sports franchise.

  14. I ran across an article, but probably not worth pointing at it. It proposes that the mechanism to save football, is to “wrap it in blockchain”. While there might be a few technologically advanced players, management and supporters, it is probably not prevalent.

    While people promise that this distributed ledger that results _can_ be secure, I would think that in football that the family of calculations involved would be fudged so that the resulting block chain could be altered after the fact.

    I think that the computational power required to run blockchains is largely a waste. There are better purposes to put that power towards.

  15. I hope there is something besides the player/manager transfer parodies today.

  16. A couple of stories about a supposed European superleague.

    This blog revolves around England, so the England context will be used. If you remove the best teams the the EPL for a European Superleague, I think the most likely thing is that the EPL collapses and everything falls back into The Football League.

    I suspect there will be something to replace relegation, in that each team pays a fee to the league to participate, and if a team outside of the Superleague places in escrow a fee larger than the lowest fee paid by English teams in this superleague, you would see a “relegation” happen. And the likely outcome of such an event, is that the relegated team would have no place to play, and would have to be wound up.

    I think this new league would have to go about getting its own set of officials, and could use all the fancy computer and electronic means available to allow the officials to do their job properly.

    Would they stick with the existing crap medja, or do something else? They could go it alone, or some entity like netflix, faceplant, twitsRus or google could run the presentation.

    Part of the reason why I think that the EPL would fail, is that this superleague would likely run on weekends. So the fan has the option of watching Arsenal vs Bayern Munich in the superleague, or West Ham vs Crystal Palace in the EPL. I suspect the EPL would declare bankruptcy.

  17. Slowly they develop the will to see change, born of selfish preservation.

    Sick is an understatement, I do want to vomit occasionally at what I see day to day, football is actually making me unhappy, not simply because we are winning less, surely the manner of defeat. But more so what the game mirrors of our societies.

    What No Salah does is what Fatah did, and that’s just highlighted to promote the; see we don’t have Muslims theme.

    It was Ryad before that, the joke is Liverpool is by and large secular, insular and full of racism. Similarly Leicester.

    But Allah himself must have touched his boots. For unlike Vardy he isn’t diving; imagine they kept Sterling.

    He’ll be after a left winger with a right foot next. A left back, right back and reserve striker. I give Fiminio 1 year max. First increase your wages, then move.

    He has to do it again. Athletico would be ideal. First the long drawn out GK debacle, Hazard and Griezman.

    Toby is gone, OH please let William and Azpilicueta see the light. Come has warned you.

    Chelsea will be weaker next season, United will lose depth, they will say sell and get most of your own cash. City and Liverpool peaked too early, everyone will park, welcome to our world.


    Nice Tony.

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