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The myth of media neutrality over Xhaka and match fixing can’t be maintained

By Tony Attwood

What role does the media, from TV soap operas like Match of the Day and Gillette Soccer Saturday, to the tiniest bloggetta, play in how we understand football?

None whatsoever, according to the media operators who endlessly pedal the myth that they just report the news, they don’t create it.

But their uniform decision to make a mountain out of the crowd’s reaction to Xhaka being substituted on Sunday, alongside their abject failure to note that Uefa has admitted that it is totally unable to cope with match fixing which has now reached previously unimagined levels, reveals exactly what is going on.

Working as a unit the big time mass media decide Xhaka walking off the pitch is the main story, but the fact that so many matches are being fixed week by week Uefa can’t even give us an estimate of how many, is just not news.

Just step back from this for a moment, if you can, and consider the impact of each.

Xhaka is substituted and makes a gesture.  One guy in one match.   

Hundreds, perhaps thousands of matches across Europe each weekend are being fixed either by gamblers or by club owners.   Tens of thousands of players and millions of fans are affected. 

Quite clearly the match fixing situation described by Uefa in its appeal for help in trying to arrest the growth of phenomenon is much more important because it affects the very fabric of the game in Europe.    And yet not a word is said about this in the media.  It’s all been Xhaka, Xhaka, Xhaka.

Of course we can only guess why, but the guesses are probably quite accurate.   The Xhaka story is a great way of knocking Arsenal (which is one of the football media’s main preoccupations – and do remember that we did run an analysis of media reports about the big clubs and found twice as many negative tales of Arsenal as any other club).

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The match fixing report on the other hand gets at the very heart of football.   One is in the broader context trivial, one is fundamental to the entire game of football across Europe.

Yes of course there is a major impact for Arsenal in the Xhaka situation which shows just how fractured the club has become under the dominant influence of the sort of people who signed the “We care do you” manifesto.  But as Héctor Bellerín tweeted, “We are all humans, we all have emotions, and sometimes it’s not easy dealing with them.  It’s time to lift each other up, not to push each other away. We only win when we are together.”

As supporters we might remember that.   “We only win when we are together.”   It is a self-evident truth, although clearly not self-evident to the Anti-Arsenal Arsenal movement, which rose up during Wenger’s tenure and is now in full flow once again, working with the mass media to maintain the agenda that ignores Uefa’s statements about wholesale match fixing and instead focus on knocking Arsenal at every opportunity.

From what we hear in terms of the actual words written and spoken by Arsenal players, Xhaka is held in high regard by the team, and was indeed made captain on the vote of the squad.   The booing of Xhaka is a booing of the entire Arsenal squad.

Meanwhile, given Uefa’s commentary about how far and how fast match fixing has grown we have no idea if the Arsenal game against Palace was fixed.  I am not suggesting it was, but equally we can’t suggest it wasn’t.  Uefa hasn’t said which games are being fixed, just that the problem is now so huge, and so widespread, it cannot cope with it.

If one was of that frame of mind one could certainly say the Palace game looked like it was one of the fixed matches to which Uefa refers, given the way VAR was used and the lack of certainty that Arsenal did not score at least one more goal to give the club the win.   But not a word is written about this, not a word said about it.  Uefa?  What do they know about football?

Tragically, the Arsenal supporters who booed Xhaka, rather like the Arsenal supporters who booed Eboué some years back, don’t care about the broader issues in the club, no more than they consider whether the match was one of those that Uefa is talking about in terms of the spread of match fixing.

In the face of the Uefa statement, the refusal of PGMO to allow referees and VAR operatives to answer media questions can only make suspicious that the media is more interested in protecting the news value of football, rather than getting at the truth.

The media, because they control the agenda, will never point the finger at themselves as the party guilty of manipulating the news to their own ends, which is to keep interest in football by suggesting it is beyond suspicion and that any oddness is due to errant players, dopey managers, angry fans, and the over-active imagination of bloggers like me.

Except that I’m just reporting what Uefa has said.   Match fixing is now totally out of control, and getting worse, and Uefa can’t cope

Arsenal fans who booed Xhaka share some of the blame in Arsenal’s apparent recent decline, at the very least for failing to ask themselves one simple question, namely, “if I boo and jeer, what good will it do?”   And perhaps more deeply, “What good has booing and jeering ever done for Arsenal?”

I’ve no idea if Arsenal v Palace was one of the thousands of matches which Uefa suggests has been fixed this season, and there is no way of telling.  Maybe the VAR operators and ref were just incompetent; who knows.   But I am as sure as I have been of anything this season, that booing Xhaka has not actually made Arsenal more likely to win the next Premier League game.  Nor has it made it any more likely that the media will recognise what Uefa is saying: vast numbers of matches each weekend are fixed.

31 comments to The myth of media neutrality over Xhaka and match fixing can’t be maintained

  • Mandy Dodd

    Excellent article, completely agree. Xhaka was not the true story this weekend.
    On VAR, it seems Riley, perhaps under pressure from IFAB lowered the bar for VAR intervention, and in true Riley style, didn’t bother to communicate it, with us, and I believe Everton being the main victims of this change.
    But in the context of Palace, and the two games before it, we certainly aren’t getting the decisions, are we.
    It seems we had an Aussie ref who did us Sunday, a guy who has never reffed a PL game, but presumably was able to pass Mike Riley’s entrance exam, perhaps successfully answering questions on where Best Law and Charlton once played, knowing the name of Roy Keanes dog, and able to answer who will win the Prem League title 2019/2020, this final question of course has nothing to do with the city of Manchester.
    As for Xhaka, a human being under pressure, not really of his own making. I was at the Vitória game, have to report I sensed resentment in the stands towards Emery, at least until Pepe did his magic .Xhaka didn’t play in that game but suspect SOME of the grief he is getting is aimed at the manager, those above and frustration over Ozil

  • Bernard

    It’s the commentators and bloggetas who have orchestrated the anti Emery feeling and abusing Xhaka seems simply a way of attacking our manager. There were a lot of people singing we’ve got Mesut Ozil and where I was watching, in the Clock End, it seemed that well more than half the crowd applauded Xhaka’s departure. The atmosphere is now horrible and, I find, off putting.

    What’s really bad about it is that the standard of refereeing and the use of VAR has simply been ignored. We failed to win due to a penalty that should not have been awarded, a goal scored from a blatant foul against the Arsenal defender on the half way line and a perfectly good goal disallowed.

    Coming to corruption, was the VAR assistant bribed by offer of PGMOL’s favour either to show muscle by awarding penalties or simmply to deny Arsenal points? The bribe need not be money, it could be him being given more live games to referee. Until someone looks into the murky situation governing premiership referees in England, Until PGMOL is properly investigated, and its problems rectified, my suspicions will continue.

  • Apangu Iddi Amin

    In my opinion the way this betting thing is taking every stage in every corner of the world where

    by most young ones have taken it as a means of aining a living has made it difficult to understand

    and judge the game of football, So one could hardly understand the way some of the reefs like M

    Riley and the co i mean VAR deal in there management of matches.

  • I agree with your article up to a point and found it very informative. But I am disappointed in your take on booing Xhaka. Booing and jeering is the legitimate way to show disapproval as in the same fashion clapping and cheering is to indicate approval and delight. Football is a spectator sport and as such we go to be entertained. If fact we pay to be entertained by the players we are going to Watch/support. In many cases the players being paid salaries that we can only dream of. With that in mind there is an expectation that a certain standard of service should be delivered by those players. As a player who is being paid well for his/her service. You will be applauded for good play as it is positive and its reminding you that you are doing well and all is good. But fail in your duties and you will be booed. This being the legitimate way of your supporters telling you vocally that we disapprove of your actions and feel a need for you to improve.
    What matters to the fan is the performance that we see on the pitch. So regardless of what the manager is seeing in training, its what they do on the pitch that we comment about vocally. This will be either in a positive or negative fashion. All good, all real to life.
    Call me old fashion but I thought a captain should lead by example. A job that not all people are capable of doing. A role that Xhaka by example has shown that he is incapable of reaching that high standard.

  • Mikey

    I think the approach by the media to Xhaka after Sunday’s game was a convenient opportunity for them to ignore the refereeing. They needed something else to try and draw the onlookers attention away from the abysmal officiating and Xhaka has been quite useful in that regard.

    As you say we don’t know if the match was fixed, and if it was, by whom and for what reason. What I would say is that are clear that there is a lot of match fixing going on. Suffice to say, if I were to win the tender from UEFA to carry out an investigation, I would certainly identify our game on Sunday as having involved officiating significantly enough removed from normality and reasonableness for it to be a good place to start my search. I would also be looking at the role the media plays in the whole sorry charade given their complete unwillingness to acknowledge the problem even exists, let alone point it out when it stares them in the face.

  • Mikey

    UEFA are clear!

  • Mikey

    Well the good news is that for the next game we’ve got a referee we haven’t had yet this season. The bad news is, it’s Michael Oliver……….

  • Rach

    No one will talk about match fixing at the moment and coming out from camp where the way we play is abject and pathetic is even more silly.

    This is not what we appointed Emery for. Sometimes you get a decision wrong, many football clubs have to try again and again to find the right man, but don’t exacerbate a wrong decision by prolonging the obvious when you know it’s not working. Some might think it’s harsh, but we’re barely three months into the new season and the mood is so poisonous it’s hard to marry that with the goodwill generated by the summer and what we did in the transfer market. To have got here from there that quickly tells you the end is nigh.

    Arsenal need someone to put out the flames, and Emery is no fireman.

  • Ben

    Then there was the story from a few days ago where a football agent gave a gold rolex to Fergie to fix a match.

  • Rach: after the way Wenger was hounded out of the club, and now Emery is being hounded out, what on earth gives you the idea that top managers might want to come here?

  • Emiel – the problem is that cheering encourages players, booing merely makes them want to get out and go somewhere where they are more appreciated. And other players, both senior pros and youngsters, look at this situation with two successive managers being hounded out and think, this is a club in permanent turmoil. Do I really want to go there?

  • Les Williams

    One of the things that is very worrying is that UEFA have now admitted the problem of match fixing is very significant.

    Even though UK media sweep it under the carpet this has some very serious consequences. Football really has to clean up its act or face a major fall off in attendances and media coverage leading to financial implosion. Please dont let anyone believe otherwise. UEFA would not have asked for help if it was a small problem.

    I have noticed that more and more people are questioning the integrity of the game – especially the officiating which they deem to be incompetent at best and downright fixed at worst.

    I really hope that we may see change soon but I am not holding my breath.

    On a side note I amazed that “fans” of a club can behave the way they have towards Xhaka and previously Arsene Wenger, somebody having seen corruption first hand at Marseille wanted “fair play” and was willing to stand up for it. As Tony said above players looking on must be thinking – “why would I want to go there to be abused”

    The problems with these fans stem from a media that really doesn’t care about sport but is more interested in personal abuse and trivia. I do not read or view any of the crap they spout.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Quite impressed with Emerys quotes on Xhaka on the official site, he recognises he is dealing with a human being

  • Rach

    @Tony, It doesn’t work that way any more. United and Liverpool had no problems doing it and still attracting top managers. Yes for united it didn’t work but we see Liverpool and the way they are playing.

    I think managers know what to expect and that is part and parcel of the game. Can’t keep a hang of people who are not going to get you results.

    This situation we’re in is going to get worse. We haven’t hit the bottom yet, but believe me, we’re going to find it. Our plan is Champions League football. We seem to be betting on a manager with no vision to deliver that. We’re in ‘get it over the line’ mode. That’s not a real plan. We should be investing in a footballing philosophy we can build around. Emeryball is not that. His style of football a dog with wheels for back legs trying to climb the stairs. One step forward, 3 back.

    The club needed to invest in a vision. We should have done that when we replaced Arsene Wenger. Find a young coach with an attachment to the fans. Map the coach to the vision of football you want to see. Build the backroom team around that. Sign players that fit the mold for the style you want. That coach could have been Freddie, Paddy, or Arteta. The plan Chelsea are activating is what a lot of us wanted when we replaced Wenger. They’ve set the bar low, told the fans this season is about the kids, and they’ve hired someone exicting they already love. Chelsea might not make the top 4 this season, but Frank Lampard is a young coach with an attachment to locals, one they’ll give time to, and one that believes in good football. He already has his kids playing better than Arsenal.

    If we’d take that approach, could it really have been any worse than a sauceless manager that shipped out Ramsey, binned Mesut Ozil after making him captain, made Granit Xhaka captain, and gave us anti-football? It’s so sad, fans are clamouring for Jose Mourinho. Think about that.

    So a point against Palace. We’re tanking our easy games. If you’re honest, we were lucky against Burnley and Villa. Not a single good performance this season. It’s bad. It’s only the beginning. Wait until December. Emery is an out and out disaster.

  • John L

    Despite all the negative and malign influences, harmful to Arsenal, which have been reported and evidenced through this site over a number of years, my support has never wavered, regardless of the relative lack of success and some disappointing performances.

    I have always supported the team and cannot imagine ever giving up. Nothing would ever change this. However, if those who wish to see Mourinho appointed were to ever get their way, (God forbid), I would sadly say goodbye.

  • Menace

    When a supporter boos an Arsenal player they are booing me as a season ticket holder & supporter. Booing our captain is asking permission to leave the club. As far as I’m concerned any so called supporter who boos our badge or armband can go.

    Xhaka played well within the constraints that PGMOL have set, yet there are media pundits that influence the idiot supporters that end up booing. The VAR abuse of the game will start a riot, just as the poor officiating that was so damned pathetic. The Laws do not safeguard players from corrupt officials but if our coach called the players off the field because of obvious bias and probability of riot, it would cause chaos and some huge fines.

  • Gord

    Why did this problem come to light when the only “foreigner” eligible to do VAR (Gillett) popup? It is possible that Gillet was amenable to bending the rules to suit 😈 Mike Riley; but I think 😈 Mike Riley is so xenophobix that he seen this as an opportunity to get rid of one of those damned foreigners. Maybe 😈 Mike Riley has a probelm with Cerebral Palsy (what Gillet is studying in Liverpool)?

  • Gord

    OT: Lampard and Diving

    Lampard apparently is not going to talk to his player about diving.

    Lampard has been known to dive when he was playing. An dhe probably feels that diving is a necessary part of the game; and possibly that the player in question (this time) is probably better at diving than he was.

    And if nothing else, Lampard knows that Arsenal are always running uphill with PGMO in charge, and a dive against Arsenal will get him extra wins.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I had wanted to post a rambling response to certain comments above , but having watched this clip sent to me today , I feel that the speaker below has better encapsulated what I had wanted to say.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noSz_tbwfnA

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Worth reading …

    1. Intelligence leads to arguments.
    Wisdom leads to settlements.

    2. Intelligence is power of will.
    Wisdom is power OVER will.

    3. Intelligence is heat, it burns.
    Wisdom is warmth, it comforts.

    4. Intelligence is pursuit of knowledge, it tires the seeker.
    Wisdom is pursuit of truth, it inspires the seeker.

    5. Intelligence is holding on.
    Wisdom is letting go.

    6. Intelligence leads you.
    Wisdom guides you.

    7. An intelligent man thinks he knows everything.
    A wise man knows that there is still something to learn.

    8. An intelligent man always tries to prove his point.
    A wise man knows there really is no point.

    9. An intelligent man freely gives unsolicited advice.
    A wise man keeps his counsel until all options are considered.

    10. An intelligent man understands what is being said.
    A wise man understands what is left unsaid.

    11. An intelligent man speaks when he has to say something.
    A wise man speaks when he has something to say.

    12. An intelligent man sees everything as relative.
    A wise man sees everything as related.

    13. An intelligent man tries to control the mass flow.
    A wise man navigates the mass flow.

    14. An intelligent man preaches.
    A wise man reaches.

    Intelligence is good
    but wisdom achieves better results.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Try this simple very YES/NO test to see if you are intelligent or wise .

    a) Did you truly believe that anyone was better than Arsene Wenger , and things would exponentially improve ?

    b) Did you really think that Arsenal’s game would be more attractive and frutiful than AW’s teams ?

    c) Were you confident that Arsenal would be better off , and be an improvement without AW ?

    d) Do you know for a fact that the EPL is NOT fixed ?

    e) Are you confident THAT the PIGMOB is fair, competent and just ?

    f) Do you feel that the English referees are arguably the best in the world ?

    g) Do you think that the pundits , journos and the media in general understand Arsenal’s failing better than the club themselves ?

    h) Do you feel that Unai Emery is totally out of his depth in the EPL ?

    I) Are you of the belief that our players are generally crap or total misfits in this team ?

    j) Should Arsenal have a mass clearout and buy new players in the next transfer window to save this season ?

    k) Should we get a new manager in now so that he has the time to do the above ?

    l) Do you know who we have to buy ?

    Best of luck with this !

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Getting the measure of the problem….

    Two engineers were standing at the base of a flagpole, looking at its top.

    A woman walked by and asked what they were doing.

    “We’re supposed to find the height of this flagpole,” said Sven, “but we don’t have a ladder.”

    The woman took a wrench from her purse, loosened a couple of bolts, and laid the pole down on the ground. Then she took a tape measure from her pocketbook, took a measurement, announced, “Twenty one feet, six inches,” and walked away.

    One engineer shook his head and laughed, “A lot of good that does us. We ask for the height and she gives us the length!”

  • MickHazel

    It is now Wednesday and the Xhaka saga rumbles on and on, at least it is on Talk sport this morning.
    They are like starving dogs with a juicy, succulent lamb bone, ripping pieces of meat off and savouring every bite.
    Anyone would think Xhaka was the first to react and show his feelings as he did, (understandably in my opinion) in the face of supporter mistreatment. I have seen other players at other clubs do similar without the ensuing full blow, protracted media outcry. But we are Arsenal so the mountain has to be made out of the molehill in a way no other club has to suffer.
    Hypocrites the lot of them, and I include the baying, booing so called supporter mob, dishing it out on a daily basis and then crucifying Xhaka for showing a reaction and giving some back
    It makes me sick..

  • Mikey

    @ Brickfields

    Loved the video. Everybody should be made to listen to it………….but sadly, the message would still be lost on many

  • markyb

    The other thing is it deflects from what should have been the main talking point being the VAR crookery by PIGMOB

  • Les Williams

    @Brickfields Gunners 30/10/2019 at 4:46 am

    I also loved the video. It should be compulsory viewing – although like Mikey I feel a lot of people wouldn’t comprehend

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Guys, like the man said , there are 3 types of people . We cannot make this choice for others.
    Let he who is wise,just and fair, reap its benefits and wisdom.

  • Menace

    I’m not convinced the boo boys fit into the types but somewhere there’s a place for them. The tribes would probably be heards and more likely goats. Each bleating because they heard another goat. Idiot would be assigning them some form of intelligence.

    Sean Dyche complained about diving but what really needs addressing is using contact as an excuse for a penalty. There are obvious holding and obstruction that seem to be accepted as part of the game by PGMOL (when it suits) while the going to ground is treated like a bullet wound only when fired by a gunner.

    Even the Liverpool penalty was dubious.

  • Gord

    The Sports Integrity Hotline reports that 87% of problems reported come from football. But, the article I seen doesn’t actually define what football is. The “global” nature of the article, would lead one to aassume it is Association Football.

    https://insidersport.com/2019/10/31/the-si-hotline-reports-that-87-of-allegations-come-from-football/

    Perhaps a better link is
    https://www.sportsintegrityinitiative.com/independent-sport-integrity-hotline-first-report-gives-snapshot-of-integrity-breaches-allegations-of-corruption-and-abuse/

  • Gord

    HeraldScotland has a critical view on things:

    Displaying all the feel for the game and nuance which made Riley one of the worst referees of his generation,

    https://www.heraldscotland.com/sport/18005392.stewart-fisher-mike-riley-stockley-park-spooks-plunged-premier-league-existential-crisis/

  • Gord thank you very much for this, I missed it, but it clearly links into the Uefa comment about match fixing getting totally out of control

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