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September 2020
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It is time for us to throw out the journalists so football can start making sense

by Tony Attwood

In a recent article I asked a question about “why does no one dare let the image of football slip?”

The point was that football is not about the game of football and the support of the club anymore.  It is about selling products to people.  Football, in fact, is only about economics, marketing and advertising.  Nothing else.

En route players get richer, fans get poorer.  But that’s not the main thing.  It is the fixers who get the most out of this.  Players play til they are about 35, and then many can look forward to going bankrupt at 40.  Us fans just get double-crossed each season by being told we are supporting our club, when in fact we are just bit-part players in a marketing arrangement.

Indeed those of us who care about football are just little pawns in the game of the marketing men and the billionaires who own the clubs.  Football is merely the mechanism used by the owners of clubs and those who work for them, for generating more and more money.   We’re just part of the financial process.  Nothing else.

It was Richard Bevan, CEO of the League Managers’ Association, who let this slip, perhaps thinking that in his online interview he was just talking to those who are engaged in marketing, not realising that his interview might be seen by your actual fans.  And you may recall from the earlier article, he said that concerning football there were three questions that he put above all others:

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?

It was so stark; there was nothing about issues such as how are the clubs looking after the fans – the people who actually make football what it is.  In fact, I am starting to get the impression that if only the clubs can do a deal with TV to compensate for the lack of fans, they will simply drop the notion of the fans, and just turn the stadia into giant executive restaurants with a football pitch in the middle.

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I also got the feeling that there was an air of disbelief about these crazy economics of football, in that no one cares what happens next.  I mean, if Real Mad or Barcelona declared themselves bankrupt would they actually be wound up, or would some economic sleight of hand come along to make it all ok again?

Certainly, there is no thought that us fans might wake up one day and say, “actually we are fed up with being taken for mugs.”   Clearly the media think that way with their refusal, in England at least, to deal with the real issues like match-fixing, Fifa corruption, Qatar and Saudi Arabia human rights abuses, and PGMO’s unique approach to refereeing – preferring instead to mutter a lot about copyright and marketing deals.  They set the agenda to match the marketing demands of Richard Bevan etc.

Would football be sustainable in a world in which a fair number of people think something is seriously wrong with refereeing?  Not with the present model, no.

So no newspaper or broadcast company dares take up the issue of PGMO and its strange practices, because…well because it might damage the brand.  It is about marketing and treating supporters as mindless twirps who will buy anything if it is associated with their clubs.

Hence when Uefa announced that it could no longer keep up with the match fixers and needed help from independent companies, the English press never even reported it.

So we can approach a world cup in Qatar, while knowing that the men who fixed the vote to give the finals to that country have been found guilty of corruption or are heading for trials, and that the stadia have been built using slave labour.  And we can say “not our business” because it is not in the media.

Football is now such a fantasy land, where we find all the senior people in Fifa and the Swiss judiciary come from one canton, and are now, at last, being put on trial (although there is precious little about it in the English media about this either).  And when we see the head of Fifa fiddling his expenses – again no one bothers.

And this is because football is now just about selling advertising around an image, which means the image must be kept pure.  So if that means not reporting any of the corruption in Fifa, or the strange doings by PGMO, so be it.

In fact, football is not a game or competition any more.  It is now simply an image control business in which the media and the footballing authorities work as one to take our money and pretend everything is fine.

If there is ever to be a change then journalists need to start doing their job and demanding that football Starts Making Sense.  Because it sure doesn’t at the moment except to say that it is about taking money from the fans while using journalists as the advertising middlemen who conveniently put the owners’ story across.

5 comments to It is time for us to throw out the journalists so football can start making sense

  • RicSAAlao

    I wonder if that day would come again, where football loving fans could passionately look forward to pure games of soccer. The financial doping has changed how people become fans today, and actually, many fans are bought into clubs supporting nowadays for the business side of it.

  • porter

    So sad but the door is wide open and the horse bolted a few years back. I doubt that he will ever be caught again , Americanism has taken over . It’s no longer a game it’s a product. We as supporters are no longer just consumers. I was bought into football like so many of my peers playing with a tennis ball in the street and when on someone’s birthday he got a Frido it was off to the park . That’s gone now , grandkids want a full kit with designer boots . Football has lost it’s soul.

  • nicky

    @Porter,
    What a sad comment but unfortunately a true state of affairs.
    The most we who were born in the 20s and 30s could do,
    was to ask the barber for a central parting in order to look like our heroes (Hapgood, Bastin and Drake).
    I liked the shirts in those days though……entirely devoid of advertising.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    As the money gets tighter , I do hope some semblence of the beautiful game returs. Up to the last few years Arsenal under were playing the game as it ought to have been. We have seen some great and breathtaking play from our team.

    Others admired our game , but along the way cynicsm and the need to win tarnished the EPL. Not to mention the crooked refereeing of the PIGMOB . Or the managers who esposed the ‘in your face ‘ , win at all cost game ; time wasting and rotational fouling , as well as the general plan to stop the other team from playing smooth , flowing football.

    I’m just glad that I had the pleasure and oppertunity to watch some of the beautiful and heart stopping Arsenal games in my life. The 22 years under AW , will always stand out as some of the greatest moments in my life as a fan.

    So far was I spoiled , that I never ever watch any other club playing . In any league , or in tournments . The best that I can do , is to watch the highlights that are less than 5 minutes.

    I do hope that the Arsenal aspire to play great football once again. Am already looking forward to the new season.

    Up the Gunners !

  • Menace

    The football played by Arsenal had beauty in many different flavours. The 1970/71 team had a beauty of raw simplicity pass the ball to the winger who would dribble past anyone and cross to the middle. There in the middle were Kennedy & Radford an awesome duo who headed more goals than most. They were also very capable football players and passed to each other and scored. The midfield were stong and capable of dealing with some of the worst physical abuse ever allowed in the game. The officiating was even across all the teams but allowed physical abuse as part of the game.

    That didn’t last long and only when George Graham took over the management did our game change to a defensive speciality with a simple attack that only had to score to win matches as the defence was inpregnable. The backline was exemplary in its co-ordination of playing a high line always in synch to get the opponent off side. It led to a different kind of game that got victories without overworking the ball.

    The Wenger years saw the most beautiful football using the Graham defence with a midfield that protected them whilst creating attacks like no other. The players shone in their skills and passing, keeping the ball for most of the game and scoring by opening up the opponents with pace and accuracy. It was the beautiful game in every way until the PGMOL got implemented and took the game into the disreputable state it is in today. This group of select officials based on geographical location, accent and colour. A group that is appointed rather than elected and without any level of sporting integrity, reporting to no one with no shame or humility.

    We are now in a different scenario under a new manager living in hope that the officiating may change to a more open transparent honourable system. We are in transition but are already playing beautiful winning football.

    There’s only one Arsenal forever forwards.

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