By Tony Attwood
Having been hyper active in knocking Arsenal morning noon and night, the mainstream media with their chums in the AAA writing the anti-Arsenal blogs under the guise of being Arsenal supporting blogs, there is a sense of arrogance growing in the anti-Arsenal.
And this is growing to such a sense that the mainstream media have taken to writing negative or threatening headlines (or indeed headlines that are both negative and threatening at the same time) which are followed by articles that have absolutely nothing to do with explaining or enlarging on the headline itself.
A typical example appeared on the website of the Daily and Sunday Express newspaper group in which they ran the headline.
Arsenal players have a problem ahead of Norwich City Premier League clash
The headline was interesting enough to take the article into the most read category ahead of the game with its implication that there is a particular issue that perhaps has not been covered in detail by other articles. And indeed the suggestion is that this is a new issue.
But anyone going to this article would find that there was nothing in the article that is new nor anything that either explains or indeed even enlarges upon the problem that Arsenal are supposed to have.
In fact scouring the article several times over, the only sentence anywhere within the piece that might have anything to do with the headline (and then only at a pinch) is the highly generalised comment that “Interim appointments rarely work out. Usually, there’s a short-term boost before things go back to being rocky.”
And that’s it. No analysis, no statistics or summary of recent examples, but just that one general comment.
This is the new approach; the general statement written as a headline which implies there is some new specific issue that is affecting Arsenal. Of course if one ploughs through such articles over and over again finding then clearly nothing that reveals a new situation one gets the understanding that this newspaper’s reports are simply random headlines with no substance.
But most readers of these reports are not sticking with the Express or any other single source. They are using the news accumulator services to find headlines. So readers wander from newspaper to newspaper, blog to blog rather than wiping one blog out of one’s reading list or indeed one’s consciousness.
It is a clever trick for getting readers, but it also undermines the whole integrity of newspaper reporting of football matters: the headline is a trick; there is no story. This in turn increases cynicism, and leads readers just to look at headlines and not bother with the stories. If there are hundreds of them a day with negative connotations against one team, then that is the reality that supporters pick up.
Now as we have shown from an in-depth study, Arsenal get a lot more negative stories published about them, than anyone else.
This is particularly interesting at the present moment in England, because we are just a short time away from a general election at which a new collection of MPs will be elected, some of whom may thereafter endeavour to rule the country. Although the coverage of the election is far from evenly balanced, the main TV channels do have a duty in law to offer a balanced approach in terms of covering the parties.
The newspapers of course don’t have such a duty, and some do put out a daily diet of propaganda in favour of one party. However there is at least one newspaper supporting each of the main parties, and since it is obvious what party each paper supports, those who buy newspapers or read their websites, know what they are going to get each day.
Football however is considered to be far too trivial in this regard to require any sort of balance – although up to the late 1970s there was by chance some sort of balance with the newspapers sometimes criticising the way TV stations reported football.
Subsequently this balance has broken down as the Premier League has introduced rules as to what can and can’t be reported by any media organisation that wishes to have access to club media areas or a monopoly position of broadcasting live matches or extended highlights. What is deemed to be “excessive” criticism of referees cannot be broadcast, nor can any suggestion of cheating or match fixing, nor scenes of crowd ill-behaviour within a ground.
This unanimity has then expanded outwards, as a unity of views about clubs, how they are doing, and issues within them, has become established.
As a result there is a generally unified approach to reporting Arsenal which is negative. To give one recent example, multiple media outlets reported that Arsenal suffered a very poor turnout in the most recent Europa game because of a boycott by fans. What most of the media did not report was that the low turnout was caused by Arsenal not selling tickets to red members or non-members – people who make up a substantial proportion of the crowd at Europa group stage games. Everyone in the business knew this was the case – they just ignored it and ran a different reason.
Thus a general anti-Arsenal consensus has been formed which a combination of lazy journalism and Premier League diktat results in the same negativity about Arsenal flowing through most media commentary, be it about the game, the crowd, the manager, the facilities or anything else.
Of course there is no official line from the Premier League saying that articles as nonsensical as the Express piece above should appear, but the publication of such pieces is a natural consequence of the rules restricting commentary. It is the restriction of what journalists are allowed to say and write, if they want to keep their accreditation, that is taking us down this route in which some views are permitted and others are either frowned upon or outright banned by those wanting to retain accreditation. And so the virus spreads.
- The home and away scandal: ignorance, or cover up?
- The reason why Liverpool and Man C are ahead of Arsenal.
- How which referee a club gets has a major impact on the result of each game
- The statistical evidence that shows PGMO are biased against Arsenal
- How European football has taken up the fight against clubs breaking FFP