by Tony Attwood
If there have been any central themes on Untold during the corona virus outbreak they could probably be best summarised as
a) Football in England could well be in a dire mess because many clubs have no reserves to allow them to survive a crisis. Indeed it seems unlikely that when the crisis ends football will be able to carry on as before.
b) Much of the media has not covered the main event at all, but carried on talking about transfers which any reasonable analysis of the current situation suggests are extremely unlikely to happen.
c) The response in Europe has been utterly different from that in England, but our media refuses to cover it, or when it does, refuses to treat it as a model that England might follow
d) Despite the growing unease in the UK with the huge level of damaging fake news circulating concerning the coronavirus outbreak, many blogs and newspapers continue to run daily fake news stories surrounding transfers that simply will never happen. The title of our recent article: Despite financial fears, Arsenal to sign 42 players shows how utterly insane this approach is.
Overall my personal feeling is that this is very damaging. The ceaseless transfer stories concerning Arsenal, accompanied as they are by a remorseless knocking of the club and its management, allows the blogs and newspapers to cite the failure of Arsenal to sign the 100+ players they highlight each summer as weak management, which is ludicrous.
Fake news is always damaging, but now that it has led people to start damaging mobile phone masts we really do have a social problem. At the same time, the assault on Arsenal seems to have grown with even greater vengeance. To be tipped to sign 42 players two months before the window opens is crazy enough, but at a time when no one has any idea when or how football will restart last season, it shows a total and utter contempt for the football going public.
It was against this background that we have been considering the media in other countries to see how they see English football and perhaps the most interesting thus far has been that of American broadcaster CNN.
They opened an article this week with the comment that “The Premier League may be the wealthiest and most popular football league in the world, but the way its clubs have handled the coronavirus pandemic lags well behind their European rivals.
“Despite clubs — many of which are owned by multi-billionaire businessmen — earning billions of dollars from the current television rights deal, several have already taken the decision to place non-playing staff on temporary leave, while continuing to pay their players vast sums.”
CNN then goes on to note the comment by Premier League chief executive Richard Masters made to Julian Knight, the chair of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport committee, defending the decision of Liverpool, Tottenham and Newcastle to furlough non-playing staff, on the grounds of “unprecedented levels” of losses, which could total more than £1 billion.
There are several arguments against that excuse. One is that although no one could foresee the coronavirus, disasters can and should be foreseen because they happen all the time. Floods, lightning strikes, flu outbreaks, food shortages due to severe weather… The fact is we never know what’s coming, but we always know something is coming. Indeed pandemics themselves are not unknown. The last gigantic one was 101 years ago in which something around 50 million people died. Did we really think there would never be another?
CNN has already slated Liverpool for its response to the crisis and thinks that the backtracking by the club has not repaired the damage. It notes how Tottenham have done the same, and not backtracked, and then added insult to injury by flouting social distancing rules.
Back with Liverpool much is made of its £42 million profit last year, its “super-rich owner” and comparing it to how the club has remorselessly used the image of Bill Shankly to market itself as something it is not.
And to be clear CNN is not on a morally righteous platform, for it notes that “to unanimous praise, Manchester City became the first Premier League club to announce it would not be placing staff on furlough,” without noting its deviance from FFP rules or what was shown in the hacked emails.
The point they make is that Liverpool spends a lot of time telling the world that it is a special club, and indeed the media in Britain has been suckered into this, remorselessly refusing (until this moment) to question or even examine anything that Liverpool does. If you are a long term reader of Untold you might recall that for many years we symbolised this arse licking mentality in the media by calling the club “Liverpool!”
But there is a sense that the current owner of the club is getting it wrong repeatedly. John Henry boasting to the media, that it’s a special club, that it’s different, that the fans are special, the community feel is special…
Indeed Henry has a history of being silly. In 2016, Liverpool was forced to scrap a ticket price increase after some fans staged a walkout during a match. Before that we had the 24 July 2013 episode when Henry got the media to laugh when he said, “What are they smoking at Arsenal?”
That was when Arsenal suggested that Suarez had a buy out clause of £40m, which made them offer £40,000,001 for the player. Stupid idiot Arsenal. Ha had.
Even when the following March Henry admitted in a speech at a sports conference that he lied repeatedly and that there was indeed a buy out clause of £40m in the Suarez contract the media took Liverpool’s side. Their attitude was that lying like that was funny. Part of the game, nothing to worry about.
Even when on 14 July 2017 the Daily Telegraph ran the headline “Exclusive: ‘Appalling’ Liverpool tapping-up scandal should be investigated” relating to the tapping up scandal the media took very limited notice. Liverpool were accused of ‘submitting a “falsified” document to the Premier League when trying to lure a 12-year-old schoolboy from Stoke City.’ They were later found guilty, and it was revealed that the parents of the tapped up boy had been left with massive debts as a result of Liverpool’s actions.
The fact is, all this is Liverpool. And maybe Liverpool is just like any other club. Maybe Arsenal do the most awful things and because I am an Arsenal supporter I am too blind to see them.
But then last week we had the Sunday Mirror accusing Arsenal of being corrupt in the early 20th century. Yet the story they pointed to was as fake as the story about corona virus being linked to 5G networks.
That hatred of Arsenal, even to the extent of making up lunatic tales about Arsenal’s history, is there all the time. But Liverpool, no, they can always be forgiven.
- 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