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.
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