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January 2021
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At last some clubs and fans are taking on football’s “thought police”

By Tony Attwood

There is a bit of a furore going on at the moment because the Leeds United twitter account has attacked a female football journalist, and seemingly used sexist language.  The Guardian in a long piece has come to her defence, via an article, “How did Leeds United not realise what would happen when they targeted a woman?”

Hopefully, if you are at least an occasional reader of Untold you’ll know that articles here do not include sexist commentaries, any more than they include racist commentaries.  Indeed we also never engage in the ludicrous journalist lingo of calling a player “The Frenchman” or “The Swiss” rather than using her or his name.  Our style is that if we are criticising a journalist in relation to his or her work, that’s what we stick to, without reference to that person’s nationality, race, sex, sexuality or anything else irrelevant to the issue.

But what is causing the current furore is that the issue we have been pounding away at for years – the ineptitude and general inaccuracy of football journalists and bloggers – is one that has been picked up elsewhere.   Which is not to say that we invented the fightback against biased and inaccurate reporting by journalists and bloggers, and nor are we the only people fighting back.   But we have been fighting the dominant style of football journalism for over 12 years now, and slowly it has been having an effect.

The fact is simple: as we pointed out a few articles ago, football journalists and bloggers by and large copy football journalists and bloggers, endlessly repeating not just the same themes but even the same phrases.  As a result certain issues are ignored, many opinions are never heard, and a false sense of unity of the issues of importance is developed.  If every “outlet” is saying pretty much the same thing, choosing the same topics as being “important” and focusing on the same themes, such as transfers.

We can also see this in terms of what is not reported.  The football reporting media will not, for example, explore the notion that the level of errors committed by professional referees is much higher than the referees have claimed.  Indeed nothing said by PGMO, the referees’ organisation is ever challenged, nor the recent exposure of their extreme error rates.

Likewise the FA’s notion that England does poorly in international competitions because we have too many foreigners playing in England is rarely challenged, even though there is no evidence to support the claim.  (I’ve only seen it seriously debated a couple of times in the past 12 years, and each time the newspaper in question used our analysis – which was rather nice for us, but not the point).

Football journalism is circular, each writer copying the general approach of the rest – as we can see at the moment with the question of what Arsenal need to do next to rise up the table.  The answer is the same throughout – buy more players, with no thought given to how we get rid of the surplus (we already have two first teamers not registered), and no attempt to consider an alternative approach, given that the transfer method has failed.

Indeed the prime reason Mr Wenger was so heavily criticised in the media, why he was subject to vile rumours circulated by the media, why he was the subject of such vile abuse from Manchester United supporters, was because he did things in a way that were different from the norm, leaving football journalists looking like idiots.

Professional football journalism is packed solid with careless errors (which are rarely corrected) and ludicrous assumptions.  Worse, at the same time football journalism has created an agenda which deliberately excludes topics and issues that doesn’t suit the dominant debate.

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Thus for decades football fans have accepted the media’s setting of the agenda because it has been the only source of information available.  Worse again, when alternative visions became available through blogging, most bloggers looked at football journalism and instead of seeing it as a seriously lopsided and questionable approach to which they could be an alternative, they took it as a model, and copied it.

Only now and only slowly are a few clubs and a few bloggers fighting back, setting their own agendas and examining football in new ways.

Of course en route they make some mistakes.  And of course the media, used to dominating the agenda for years, immediately leaps upon these mistakes and highlights them.

But I find that evolution encouraging.  Changing the entire agenda is incredibly hard, especially when so few people are doing it.  But now more bloggers and clubs are taking up the challenge, it is excellent news that journalists and their employers are getting rattled – as witness today’s Guardian article.

For years they have simply ignored those bloggers like Untold with their alternative agenda.  Now, they are slowly starting to wake up to the fact we are here, and their simplistic analyses have been shown to be codswallop.

Of course most bloggers do still follow the journalist-set mainstream visions of sack the manager and buy new players (a vision that Arsenal has been following in recent years, and which has resulted in record expenditure and a remarkable decline in league position).  But slowly alternative views are being heard.

And that is the key point.  It is not that the arguments put here are right, although obviously, I tend to think they are.  It is that slowly, very slowly, alternative viewpoints are being heard, and the dominance of the media in setting the vision of what is right and what is possible in football is at last being challenged.  And it is starting to make the media and its allies such as the appallingly inept Football Association, and ultra-secretive PGMO, go on the defensive.  Not much, as yet, but it is a start.

In the novel “1984” the thought police determine not just what is right and wrong, but also what people should think about.  The football media has been incredibly successful in doing the same thing for maybe 100 years.  And now we are fighting back it is easy to see they really don’t like it.

In fact most football journalists and many football bloggers are indeed just like the thought police.  It’s worth remembering.

9 comments to At last some clubs and fans are taking on football’s “thought police”

  • WHAT UTTER CRAP ALL THEY DID WAS INFORM HER OF STATS SHE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BEFORE COMING OUT WITH SUCH A STUPID STATEMENT – WHAT WAS WRONG OR INSULTING IN THAT YOU IDIOT

  • James
    Not quite sure what on earth you are talking about, or indeed if you have read the article, but we always enjoy stuff that doesn’t make any sense.

  • Earbashed

    So pundits can roll out the same old tired cliches with no evidence and not much thought but the club respond in a moderate way with a large hint of fun and that somehow is construed as sexist what nonsense. when i was a lad there was a phrase ‘if you can’t stand the heat stay out of the kitchen ‘which translates as ‘if you get paid to make comments on football do not be surprised if sometimes! people disagree it’s called having an opinion.

  • John Hayton

    An excellent article. Sloppy football journalism is often left unchallenged, in part because of the frenetic way in which games are reported upon, with the media quick to jump on the bandwagon of others’ comments rather than conducting careful analysis, then moving on to the following fixtures which are only hours away. Reporting deadlines must affect the less responsibly minded journalists. That excuse cannot be used for the PGMO or the FA, whose secretive approach is stifling any chance of improvements in their areas of responsibility. They have the time and resources to be much more analytical and their laziness is less excusable.

  • Earbashed, I completely agree. And there is nothing so funny as a journalist getting outraged when someone does to her/him what that person does daily to everyone else.

  • LUFC69

    What Karen Carney did was lazy punditry at its finest. She even admitted that she had never even seen Leeds play before that night. She had heard of Bielsa burn out and decided to spout utter nonsense based on what she had heard and parrot that. So Lockdown helped Leeds? A quick bit of fact checking by her would have shown prior to that, Leeds had won 5 on the bounce without conceding and were flying. Now this is the truly lazy part. Leeds have never physically burned out under Bielsa. What pundits who fail to look below the premier league don’t understand is that Bielsa worked miracles with a bang average mid table squad and we never expected to be challenging for automatic promotion in his first season. The physical effort was there from the first game to the last and it was the lack of quality that finally told. It isn’t hard to dig up the stats from flashscore to see that the run in, Leeds were still dominating games, getting 20-30 shots off, but failing to score and conceding silly goals. Karen Carney showed a complete lack of respect to a football club and belittled their achievements and was rightly outed for it, but since she is a woman, she is the victim by default to the woke brigade in the guardian and twitter and where is this seemingly sexist tweet?

  • Ben

    I read the guardian article on the Leeds tweet. My understanding is that they didnt want Leeds to have tweeted such a response as previously Alex Scott and Eni Aluko have suffered abuse for being a woman. Sorry if someone says something unfounded which the article admitted was clumsy i feel Leeds were right in calling that out and challenging it. The tweet was not offensive, but if the people retweeting it say silly things thats a different matter.

  • Mikey

    @ LUFC69

    “Karen Carney showed a complete lack of respect to a football club and belittled their achievements and was rightly outed for it.”

    I haven’t seen many people leaping to Arsenal’s defence and “rightly outing” the media for the constant belittling of all our achievements over many years. Or “rightly outing” the media for their sycophantic and unerring support of certain clubs or players. And what about “rightly outing” referees for their blatant inconsistencies. Or “rightly outing” the football authorities for corruption and/or criminal activity.

    You may be right about this one particular instance but in the grand scale of all things, I think you’ve well and truly missed the far bigger point.

  • Rosicky@Arsenal

    Wenger has to go someday but he still had a couple of years to give to Arsenal.
    I blame the idiot fans and the biased media accounts for forcing our greatest manager out a bit too early.
    Now these fans and idiot bloggers cannot hide after their hatred agenda has failed miserably.

    Atleast we at Postively Uncensored Untold Arsenal can say that we were on the correct side of things.

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