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Is everything really ok with football or are we just following a blind faith?

By Tony Attwood

Given that every day football is in the news, and given that this daily feed of news does not generally include any questioning of the actions of referees, the way journalists report the sport, the coverage of matches by TV, the behaviour of Fifa officials, the allegations that one club threatened to sue Uefa out of existence if it continued with its enquiries, the fact that English football appears to be awash with child abuse cases, the secrecy of the referees’ association or the continuing wholesale decline of facilities for young people to play football, one might be forgiven for thinking everything is fine.

Yes, racial abuse, child sex abuse, the decline in facilities and the corruption of officials within football’s most senior body all pop up into the news from time to time, but then they quickly fade away.  Which suggests there’s nothing to see. It was all a bit of media hooha.

And it is because these stories do “fade away” such issues then become felt as a sort of low level background noise that means nothing much.  Fantasy stories about transfers replace the news of Fifa corruption, child sex abuse, referee secrecy etc.

Indeed it is this simple observation, that issues that are inherently big news are constantly replaced by fantasy tales, that tells us that something in football is terribly wrong.  

Why, when 97% of transfer rumours turn out to be untrue do publishers large and small, professional and amature, continue to focus on these fantasies rather than the fact that football is immersed in a set of issues which are horribly real, horribly serious, and utterly horrible?

This is the question that bothers me and a prime reason why I keep Untold Arsenal running   I don’t see how anyone can seriously deny that there appear to be some things that are terribly wrong with football both in terms of England, where I live, and on the international level.  (And to be clear I am not saying these things ARE wrong, rather than they appear to be wrong and appear to need investigating). Yet day after day they are ignored and replaced by trivia in the media large and small.

To give two examples…  First Fifa continues to be mired in financial scandals and yet the English FA is seriously considering spending millions of pounds on another bid to host the world cup, after getting just two votes last time.   Second evidence of large scale child sex abuse scandals have emerged within football, but criticism of the delays in the enquiries into these scandals has been virtually non-existent.

Meanwhile discussion of other matters goes on as if everything is fine, with the notion that any suggestion of something being terribly amiss is the result of the delusions of a conspiracy theorist who probably also believes the earth is flat and that a secret cabal of financiers is running the world.

The more I ponder this, the more it seems to me that the organisation of football has become rather like a religion: something that one is not only called upon to believe in and not question but also an activity where any wrongdoing by practitioners is instantly set aside as irrelevant to the overall truth of the faith, no matter how huge the wrongdoing, no matter how many are involved.   And so strong has this belief become that anyone who questions it is seen as an idiot and portrayed as a freak, an outsider, a weirdo, or worse as a dangerous spreader of ideas the sole purpose of which is to harm the game or harm the religion.

Thus as with most religions, although one can question some technical aspects of the detail of the belief, the fundamentals are given and not open to debate.  God, for example, exists, the holy books contain truth, and His church shows us the way to live. With football, Fifa is almighty, any misdemeanor by that organisation is mere detail, and anyone protesting is merely a killjoy.

Of course there are occasional priests and occasional Fifa officials who fall from grace and do come to court but that does not undermine the truth of the teachings of the church and the worthiness of Fifa as an organiser; merely they point to the fallibility of individuals.

So strong can this viewpoint be, that people do believe, no matter what evidence there is to the contrary.  In football the situation is that there is racism, there are multiple child sex abuse cases surrounding many football clubs, there is wholesale corruption in Fifa, and yet these fundamental, incredibly important issues are reduced by the media to mere background.  The tale of a transfer that will never happen is more important.

And thus my question is why?  Why do so many people fall for this notion that everything is ok within football?  Why do people believe the stories about football that journalists, professional and amateur, provide every day when so many of the tales are palpably untrue?  Why are the really big stories just shunted aside as inconvenient bits of background?

In short, where is the critical examination of football?  And come to that, why is it, when those of us who write for Untold do our own examination of an issue within football, conducted with our limited resources, are we dismissed?

In asking that question I am not suggesting that just because we suggest that (for example) something is wrong with the refereeing of professional matches in this country, or the way in which football is being reported in the media, everyone should immediately say, yes of course Untold is right and everyone else is wrong.  Of course not. But I am suggesting there are serious questions out there which are not being considered.

Of course some consider there are not such issues – but the trouble is they never tell us why.  Which is a bit odd.

 

7 comments to Is everything really ok with football or are we just following a blind faith?

  • Mandy Dodd

    I would say very little is ok with football, but suits the agenda of some and the perceived bragging rights of others to pretend it is.
    And for whatever reason, contractual, legal, or something else the media stay quiet about most of it.
    Never ceases to amaze me how those with less than good intentions can manipulate people into believing these powerful people are acting in their interests. But if people want to bury heads in the sand, that’s their prerogative I guess.

  • AKH

    “Where is the critical examination of football?” A very interesting question posed in the above article that both Mikey and Mandy Dodd suggest possible reasons for.

    Outside of the UK media, a host of investigative journalists have indeed been examining questions related to football. I refer to the contributors of Der Spiegel Online. with the Football Leaks series of articles

    Unfortunately, for a number of reasons perhaps, the UK media find it difficult to comment on the published results of such investigations and from which UK football followers find it difficult to read and understand.

    At least Untold Arsenal continues to pose questions concerning the deeper issues involved in football, as well as more localised issues involving Arsenal Football Club. Something very few football blogettas, Arsenal or otherwise, seem capable of doing.

  • Ben

    I’m sure it is about the money. I remember when Tony Adams and a number of former players talked openly about gambling addictions. There was an acknowledgment by the premier league i think it was at the time that there was an issue then they go and get sponsored by betting companies…..

  • Preetam

    Newspapers have been peddling fake news for a longtime. They alwaz go to the highest bidder. If the sun newspaper could say lies abot the fans stealing from the victims during the tragedy at the liverpool fc match, don’t expect them to change their spots now.

  • Daud

    @Tony, with due respect I believe the issue is a matter of perspective. I’ll give an example of what I’m talking about. There was a match at the Emirates some years ago, where a coin was thrown at the opposition bench, I believe it hit someone. Of course the incident was well reported. When you(Tony) wrote your match report (or report of your match day experience), you were very scathing of the media coverage of the coin incident, saying that at the time of the incident there was some heated verbal exchange in the away section (note: it was purely verbal). You argued that the verbal altercation in the stands was much more worthy of attention than the coin incident. Now here’s where perspective/opinion comes in. For me, I believe a verbal exchange in the stands is of no importance and doesn’t merit much scrutiny, certainly not at the expense of the coin incident. It is very likely that some of the issues you consider as important and needing press coverage may not be to many other persons. For instance, I don’t give a damn if man city sues Uefa,FIFA, conmebol &CAF put together. I discuss football with the boys always, we’ve never thought to discus the issue, not because we aren’t aware(at least I read untold enough and the issue is over flogged on here). So maybe a good chunk of those issues you mention may just not be what we’re interested in, especially when they are unfounded assumptions. And to be fair to the media, they do cover those issues when there is something concrete to report

  • Finsbury

    Thank you for this article Tony.

    I think most match going punters worry about such things. Alongside the usual.

    For example:
    The arguments put forward by the 2012 Olympic stadium planners against handing over the stadium to a football club, which was always the right and necessary decision, is that football is full of odious owners and worse such as the two clowns currently in possession of the Olympic Stadium thanks to their deal with their chum Boris, a private property development at the expense of the UK taxpayer/Serfs. Joe Lewis was very jealous of that deal.

    The arguments surrounding the Olympic Stadium, the considerations and thoughts against a Football Club taking it over are all published and on the record. Although it was of course a stupid wrong decision not to plan for a dual use Stadium after 2012 we should not ignore the reasoning put forward to explain the decisions that were made.

    Yet although the Lords are allowed to be critical there is no space for critical discussion on the structure behind the sport particularlyfrom football fans!

    It is not allowed.

    And that is why those who object to such critique of the pgMOB resort to writing nonsensical gibberish and boomerang heckles which rebound from lack of substance, and this is a very odd response to someone simply pointing out that there are not enough top level refs getting enough games in the league – which is not an opinion but is in fact a simple statistical calculation! Never mind the consistent absence of any serious refs from the most populated part of the nation these past twenty years, the part of the nation which produces the most players, houses the most clubs and amateur leagues and refs, which is just blinking weird demographic in the context of the Rugby League and Union divide. But there it is.

    Omertà.

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