No turning back: why no one dares let the image of football slip

By Tony Attwood

As you might know, I have a fascination with the way in which football, and its many aspects are presented on the media.  How the integrity of referees is never questioned, how the notion that transfer rumours (which are 97% wrong) come to be considered news, how the key issues of  the day are actively ignored.  How no one in the media ever criticises other aspects the media.

In short the media presents a single vision of football, a vision in which football is ok, it’s doing fine – there might be details that need sorting out, but they are details.  Basically it is all right, and anyone who says otherwise is just whinging as their club is not doing well.

It wasn’t always like this.  Back in April 1974 the Observer newspaper suggested that evening TV was turning humdrum games (such as Chelsea 1 Arsenal 3 the day before) into exciting affairs through skilful editing and hyped commentary in order to keep the TV audiences up.  It was quite probably the first time such an accusation was made – and it was undoubtedly true.

Negative comments about TV and radio presentations are not heard today.  Nor are criticisms of referees; criticisms of the type Alan Green used to make routinely as part of his radio commentaries of Five Live.   Nor do we hear criticism of PGMO for their utter secrecy – something not reflected in many other countries in Europe.   Nor do we hear criticism of the fact that Liverpool seemed to get the same referee over and over again during the 2019/20 season.

Nor do we hear anything negative about the 2022 world cup, with its stadia built by slave labour.  Nor about the incompetence of the FA who spent millions of pounds bidding for the right to host that world cup, only to get two votes.  Nor do we hear about the way in which paedophiles were able to infiltrate certain clubs and get away with it for years.

If some publications and blogs didn’t cover these issues, then fine – that would be a mix.  But for virtually no one to touch on them?  What is going on?

And I thought of this yesterday while I was watching Episode 12 of the “No turning back” series of videos, which involved an interview with Richard Bevan, CEO of the League Managers’ Association.

In the course of the interview Mr Bevan posed three questions which he said were asked over and over again:

a) In three years will football be in 360 million households around the world?

b) Will it still be sought after by every commercial broadcaster?

c) Will the best and biggest brands in the world want to associate themselves with football?

The answer to each question at the moment is clearly a resounding yes.   And it struck me there and then why PGMO is never questioned about its secrecy, and why no one has ever taken up and made use of the incredible level of research in our 160 games series.  Because the footballing world is investing billions in maintaining its image.

That investment in image is now so enormous that nothing is allowed to get in its way.  The image makers promote football in a certain way and if anything comes along to tarnish that image it is either ignored, or played down and shuffled out of the way.

Think of three nights of celebration in Liverpool where thousands ignored the lock down regulations.  It wasn’t ignored, but it was reported and then set aside quickly.  It’s done, it was understandable, let’s move on, nothing to talk about.

Or to jump forward, why is what is currently happening in Switzerland as the legal authorities start to tear Fifa apart, not being reported in the British media.  Or why did the media fail to report the story which we ran as Switzerland take a greater interest in Fifa – at last, ahead of the last time the Swiss decided to turn on Fifa.  As we then pointed out a little later had they done so they could have saved themselves a lot of anguish.

Or why the UK media has not reported the mega fine heaped upon an Israeli bank for allowing money laundering of funds from Fifa to pass through their offices.

Meanwhile they criticise do go for the fact that Saudi Arabia was running a TV station that was set up to harm BeIN Sports but ignore that country’s awful human rights record.  Likewise Qatar – stadia built by slave labour, but not reported because nothing must tarnish the image of football.

So as the FA is looking to use Brexit to restrict the number of foreign players in the Premier League still further on the grounds that the foreigners affect England’s chances of winning things on the international stage no one asks for evidence to see if that is true or not.   The fairly simple research on that was first published in Untold in 2010 and has since been republished (without acknowledgement) in the Daily Telegraph in August 2013 – but now the subject is dropped.

And then back to referees.  PGMO claimed 98.4% of all referee decisions were correct and how, amazingly, the media believed them, even when they said VAR would take that up another 2%.

The media is not slow to criticise the government, celebrities, the man in the street… but not football, because football has now become a PR machine to promote football.  And they’ve done this by making football so central to the economies of so many countries, and so central to the financing of so many enterprises, that it doesn’t matter how corrupt it becomes, it must never be allowed to attract negative publicity.

So when we discover that the noise of the crowd dramatically influences referee decisions, how corrupt Fifa has been and is, how slave labour built the stadia in Qatar, how Qatar got the 2022 world cup through bribery and corruption, how 97% of all transfer stories are false… it won’t get much publicity.

The truth has become irrelevant.  Only the image of the game is important, and everything else is sacrificed to that end.

Football is not a game or a competition.  It is now an image control business.


10 Replies to “No turning back: why no one dares let the image of football slip”

  1. I think football like the rest of the world, politicians and the rest of the media has reached 31/12/1983. One day away from 1984. Not a pleasant thought….

  2. Football is not a game anymore for these “…”, it is a money pumping machine! We have been robbed of a great part of one our best pleasures and I feel really sad about it. That is the way almost all the world is going on and I ask myself wether anybody will find a way stop this inferno machine !!!

  3. You asked the question the other day ‘why are the media not talking about this’ meaning the corruption within Fifa etc and I said “why are you even asking” because it’s so bleeding obvious, and said with about hundred words what you’ve just said with a thousand.

    But just to reiterate, as I said, there are so many snouts in the trough, did you ever think for one second they were going to jeopardise the flow of money by questioning its source, ligitimasy or anything else that may stem its flow? Not bloody likely.

    Anyway I’m glad I pointed you in the right direction Tony.

  4. The reality of this pandemic.

    This is part of a statement from Arsenal Football Club:

    “Our main sources of income have all reduced significantly. Revenue from broadcasters, matchday and commercial activities have all been hit severely and these impacts will continue into at least the forthcoming 2020/21 season.

    The pandemic represents one of the most challenging periods in our 134-year history and we have responded promptly by implementing wide-ranging measures to reduce our costs. Our players, senior football staff and executive team have volunteered pay cuts, we have stopped pretty much all of our capital spending, and our discretionary operating expenditure has been strictly controlled.

    And even with….

    “We have also received significant financial support from our owners, Kroenke, Sports & Entertainment in terms of refinancing our stadium debt.”

    This is still the reality:

    “Our aim has been to protect the jobs and base salaries of our people for as long as we possibly can. Unfortunately, we have now come to the point where we are proposing 55 redundancies.”

    This is the reality of this pandemic, even for a Club as well run and as successful as Arsenal. Just imagine what this will be like for most clubs.

    To all those City fans who keep coming on here telling us how well they run their club, THIS is the reality of running a club.

    Living in your isolated little bubble of endless investment from people who have no interest in human rights is NOT running a football club.

    People are losing their jobs, Clubs are going under and more will follow and all we get from City fans is “look at us, look how wonderful we are. we don’t break the rules, you should all be able to do this” .

    Well I’ve got a message for those City fans. Shove your indignant “We’ve done nothing wrong, we’re alright jack’ attitude up your ****, because some poor sods out there in the football World and beyond DON’T live in your clubs fantasy football World, and have to live with the realities of this pandemic.

    They haven’t got a money tree at the end of the garden.

    Honestly, the more I see people struggle with this pandemic the more I detest every penny you spend, every rule you bend, every threat you make, and worse, every excuse you come up with.

  5. How many associations are attached to football ? You have the head of the PFA allegedly earning over a million pounds a year , a top union executive earns nowhere near this amount .
    Even agents have to pay a fee to become registered and if approved they are on the gravy train called football .
    Everyone on the gravy train is trying to protect themselves in this business disguised as football

  6. I have thought for many years now that football is used as a drug to keep the masses docile while the elite carry on without interruption.

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