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How QAnon has taken over football reporting in England

By Tony Attwood

QAnon and football?  Surely not!

Certainly bloggers and journalists would hope you don’t see a connection, and yet…

QAnon uses multiple sites to tell us how to see the political world – in their case to see it as a world run by conspirators.  It suggests that by following its view we can understand the world far better.

But at the same time it endlessly makes predictions that don’t come true, but then comes up with more predictions and more and more, which don’t come true, but which are explained away by ideas which themselves defy reality and can’t be proven.

Football journalism and blogging uses multiple sites which make predictions that don’t come true.   Additionally they tell us that although our club’s owners, directors, and manager pretend they know what they are doing, they don’t.  And indeed our club will never succeed unless x y and z players are sacked and others are brought in.  In short these people with no football experience tell us how those with experience and screwing up our club.   

Consider the “fourth is not a trophy” gangs who have inhabited AFTV, BlackScarf and similar movements.  They told us that if Wenger stayed we would be relegated, or at the very least drop out of European football, and only if we got rid of him Arsenal would rise up.  Not just to fourth (because fourth was not a trophy) but beyond.  Failure was entirely the doing of Wenger.

And yet since taking their advice we have tried two managers and we currently reside in a place worse than Wenger ever took us too.

So what is the difference between QAnon and the anti-Arsenal mobs that inhabit the internet?

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Consider this.  In October 2017 4chan posted that Hillary Clinton was going to be arrested and there was the expectation of rioting in the streets.   Didn’t happen, but that didn’t affect the popularity of “Q”.

In football we are told every summer of the 100+ players who are ready to come to Arsenal.  Eventually we might get two or three whose names generally only appear in the last couple of days before the actual transfer.   A 97% failure rate.

Worse, the QAnon of football endlessly post transfer rumours which not only don’t happen but actually can’t happen because of Uefa regulations and FA regulations.  Arsenal have been playing with a squad which had two senior players too many who were put out to grass, and yet still we are told of all the transfers we are getting.

QAnon in politics tried to take over the Republican Party and indeed got a believer to be voted in as President.  They ran their own insurrection on 6 January.

But the QAnon in football has gone much further – they have taken over football journalism totally, so that now almost every story is untrue – even when talking history.

Take one example: The Mirror told us that Arsenal were involved in match fixing scandals – utterly untrue, it was Liverpool and Manchester United.  The reality was it was Arsenal’s chairman who exposed the match fixing in a newspaper article.

This month we have been told Arsenal have a bloated squad, when in fact our “25” actually consisted of 21 players.  It is all laughable nonsense, as QAnon is, and just like QAnon, it grows and grows.  And no one laughs.

But while QAnon tried to take over the Republican Party in the USA and failed, no one in football fights back against football’s QAnon.  It is now mainstream.   Despite the failure of all the transfers and other activities that the football bloggers and journalists have predicted, they flourish.

Thus now in the world of football journalism and some blogging, football events are understood by grasping the underlying reality.  Arsenal is totally mismanaged, transfer opportunities which are there to be grasped are ignored.  Tactics which everyone knows should be used (because journalists and bloggers are talking about them all day long) are ignored.  The club is run by failing idiots.

So when transfers don’t happen (as with all the players we need to sign now, despite having an almost full squad, and a wonderful collection of young players who need games before they are tempted away) it is described as the poor grasp of Edu and co, the slowness of the board… 

Interestingly, at the same time, there are interesting stories to be investigated – such as why the PL has far fewer referees than other leagues, the serious academic research which shows just how much refs are influenced by crowds, the regional bias of referees in the PL, the utter secrecy of PGMO, why the tackles, fouls and yellow card stats vary so much from club to club…

These are not QAnon type conspiracies but simple statistics, and yet the media won’t touch them.  Indeed the Guardian, of all places, told us that the change from a dominance of home wins to away wins, was over, and we were all back to normal (thus dismissing referee bias as an explanation) when the away win bias was still there.

Football’s QAnon has always often been non-statistical, non-evidential, and endlessly repetitious.  Of course we do see statistics such as “The sequence of no league goal in the past three matches is Liverpool’s longest since 2005,” (the Guardian) but these are meaningless.   For even if every result was randomised, there would still be sequences.  Random sequences are fun to point out, but they are only part of explanations of reality when there is a lot of other data.

The massive increase in away wins when there is no crowd present can be explained, because it coincided with the absence of fans, and then academics at LSE started giving professional referees matches to watch with and without sound, stopping the action at possible fouls, and asking the ref to make a judgement.  The decisions of referees who had the crowd noise were quite different from those who watched without crowd noise.

The fact that this insightful academic study is never mentioned by journalists is on its own enough to show that the spirit of QAnon lives on in football.  We are all being conned.

And unlike in American politics, we have no alternative source of news.

7 comments to How QAnon has taken over football reporting in England

  • Steve Vallins

    Tony I have posted this before , back in 1988 I was taking my Preliminary FA Coaching badge . Part of the course was a lecture from a top qualified referee and in his talk he mentioned exactly the same experiment so this is nothing new , the FA put a group of referees together watching the same match , half with crowd noise and the other half no noise .They looked at the results at the end and there was a significant difference in the amount of fouls given , the crowd noise did influence decisions , the referees with crowd noise made more mistakes , so this bias due to crowd noise has been known for a long time.
    Just recently we’ve seen noise influence a referees decision , FA Cup versus Newcastle ERS went for a challenge the Newcastle player screamed , instant red card , only the intervention of VAR reduced this to a yellow , no scream this wouldn’t have been a yellow card .

  • Nitram

    What’s so worrying about all this is just how accepting of this type of journalism, and I of course mean journalism in the loosest possible sense, people are.

    Obviously this is one of many articles you have written on the subject and it always seems to invoke some of the most ridiculous and worrying comments Untold ever gets.

    “Grow up” is one, which suggests that somehow acceptance of these lies or this ‘fake news’ is in some way the ‘adult’ thing to do, where as seeing it as unacceptable is somehow ‘childish’.

    Or “Get over it” and “everybody knows it’s Fake news” as if this somehow makes it a legitimate and acceptable form of journalism.

    And that’s assuming of course that nobody actually does believe it, which given the way so many people fall for these lies is palpably untrue.

    Take this as an example of how people do fall for this rubbish. You said:

    “Thus now in the world of football journalism and some blogging, football events are understood by grasping the underlying reality. Arsenal is totally mismanaged, transfer opportunities which are there to be grasped are ignored. Tactics which everyone knows should be used (because journalists and bloggers are talking about them all day long) are ignored. The club is run by failing idiots”.

    Lets take just one aspect of that, transfers. The other day we had a regular and usually very level headed posters revealing how Arsenals transfer dealings give him “The Willies” and “always” have done. Now why would that reasonable, intelligent guy feel like that ? What exactly is so bad about our transfer dealings that it has given someone reason for concern for their entire life ? Are we really that bad at transfers? Surely not.

    As I pointed out the other day, the truth is, despite all the abuse we receive, we are actually usually very good in the transfer market. Wenger maintaining a top 4 finish for 10 years on a zero Nett spend is just one prime example of ridiculously clever transfer dealings, but even that was ridiculed.

    I ask, if our transfer dealings are so bad, and always have been, how comes we are the third most successful club in the history of English football ?

    Yes we make mistakes and we have have dips, but even when we have dips we win far more than other clubs that are constantly lorded as geniuses in the transfer market.

    And just to be clear, despite being accused of thinking we are perfect I don’t think that at all. Of course we make, and have made, many mistakes, but so have every single club.

    But at the end of the day, surely the proof of the pudding is in the eating ? If our club was anything like as incompetent in the transfer market as the drainpipes would have you believe we would never of been as successful as we have been.

    Being as successful as we are as a club, and have been for over a century, quite obviously depends on us knowing what we are doing in the transfer market, so why anybody would buy into this bull**** I don’t know, but sadly people do.

    And that is what is so worrying about all this. People do buy into it.

  • Ando

    Hi Nitram,
    OK – ya got me hooked, with this lure (& I quote):
    “Lets take just one aspect of that, transfers. The other day we had a regular and usually very level headed posters revealing how Arsenals transfer dealings give him “The Willies” and “always” have done. Now why would that reasonable, intelligent guy feel like that ? What exactly is so bad about our transfer dealings that it has given someone reason for concern for their entire life ? Are we really that bad at transfers? Surely not.”

    First of all, let me say that I appreciate your complimentary assessment of my qualities; in turn, let me offer my ongoing admiration for your dogged and factually-based reasonings on behalf of our team, on these pages..for which I am indebted to Tony – thank you.

    I freely admit that I do not have the football acuity of anyone at Arsenal, past or present. I have never played the game and do not pretend that I can ever know what actually goes on in the various dressing rooms, boardrooms & offices. Through media (Internet & Freeview only) I have whatever version suits the teller …and my own reading of what I see & feel.

    Back in the ’60s, I soon recognised that what was offered on televison – MoTD, Star Soccer & then, The Big Match – bore little or no resemblance to the game that I had stood & watched that very weekend; and that editing, in both omission & by commentary, was firmly in the hands of whatever interests were at stake – time limits, goals, exciting incidents, sendings off etc…PLUS the tone of the after match dissection and comment by the pundits, which framed the picture presented. The Sunday newspapers offered what the journalists chose to mention. Nothing changes.

    However, supporting a team is a total experience, more than just information, statistics & results. It is an emotional response and also, a feeling one. To have stood among thousands and felt the mood of the moment throughout, is to develop a instinct which cannot be measured in external terms. It is not 100% fallible – nothing is except, presumably, God – but it has proved over the years to be a pretty good judge. In terms of transfers, I have generally waited until on-pitch performances have proved their worth, but there have been some amazingly YES!!! moments – Dennis Bergkamp for one – and also, some real jewels honed from rough diamonds in the time of m.Wenger..a genius.

    But- for me -there also been a few Wtf? moments and the recently departed Mesut Ozil is a prime example. If ever there was a player who would NOT thrive in the EPL it was he, in any side. Wet Tuesday nights in Stoke, mysterious Calciopoli-style refereeing, not to mention opposition put out by Sam Allardyce. From a newspaper article, one possible explanation is that Arsenal thought they were signing Benzema and got the old switcheroo done on them.

    Ozil was by then already a star in Germany, a multicultural pin-up boy ; brilliant when surrounded by fellow world champions who could carry his languid & very perceptive style with their more robust physicality and ‘running about’. The same at RM – with Ramos behind you, you are never going to get roughed up – and playing alongside payers such as Ronaldo make it a very different experience from trying to cope with the Shawcrosses of this world when you’ve got the likes of Shkodran Mustafi backing you up and the Ox alongside.

    My sister, who until recently has been visiting Turkey every year for the last 35 and who is a died-in-the-wool Gooner, told me that there was shock and disapproval among just about everyone in that country when he joined Arsenal, because Chelsea is the preferred EPL team there, just as Arsenal is the automatic choice in Cyprus. My friends in Paphos tell me that Ozil’s signing didn’t go down a bomb there either, for similar reasons.

    Here, I knew instinctively that on this occasion, the admirable Arsène had got a great prize but – as it has turned out – it was the booby prize. I mentioned Mel Charles previously..he was signed soon after his brother John went to Juventus and it was palpable from his very first match (which I attended) that he was a pale shadow of the great John Charles and just a lower divisions bully. He also missed a penalty.

    As I’ve said, I felt from the off that Ozil was wrong for any EPL club and THAT was the mistake. A brilliant playmaker but the modern EPL game is too rough, corrupt and energetic for teams to be able to give a member a free pass when it comes to forcing play and shutting down. The fact that his contract was expensively renewed beyond any reasonable expectation that he would be able to up his game to the level being played, was throwing bad money after even worse,as has been amply demonstrated by his sitting on his arse for the last year or so.

    Finally, my original statement about having the willies was that it was only sometimes*, but it had been there since the very beginning. I do not predict what any particular signing may bring to the team but I can occasionally* feel whether someone is a good ‘fit’ in the side.

    Cheers
    Ando

  • Steve: Forgive me I had forgotten your earlier remarks on this subject – had I remembered them I would have cited you. Failure at citation on my part is invariably down to a failing memory, not an attempt at gaining kudos. My apoologies, and thanks for reminding me.

  • Nitram, I guess the key factor is the only transfers supporters of Arsenal see all the way through are the transfers to Arsenal.

    And if my thesis, that most transfers do not bring about an improvement, then the correspondent who says Arsenal transfers always give him the willies, is right – so they should.

    The fact is that for most fans, the way forward is to buy players (along with occasionally sacking the manager). If that fails, do it again. And again. But the only club they ever see this happen, in detail, is their own. They might see some new kid become a super star at Liverpool or Man U, but they don’t remember the five who failed and were ditched. Except at Arsenal, because they watch every arsenal game.

    In fact, if no one else is doing this, I’ll write a piece about it. Thanks guys.

  • Nitram

    Hi Tony

    You are probably right in so much as being an Arsenal fan means their focus is on Arsenal but I do not see this as excuse to not see the bigger picture or to un fairly say, or least infer that we are somehow worse than any of our peers, when we have been at times miracle workers in the transfer market, and are generally no better or worse than anybody else.

    It’s like picking out individual deals over the years. Yes of course as an Arsenal fan the bad deals are imprinted on the brain as are the good, but that will be the same for Spurs fans for their club and so on.

    The broadest indicator by which you can judge the transfer dealings of your club is by the success it brings or otherwise, which suggests we do pretty well at it in the main.

    The reason I used Spurs as a comparison is simply because they, or at least Levy, is constantly praised for his nous in the transfer market yet they have won nothing for…….well every one knows, which suggests perhaps their transfer dealings aren’t what they’re cracked up to be.

    Maybe our dealings haven’t been the best of late, but that isn’t to say it has ‘always’ been thus or that it should give our fans any more concern than it does any others, but it does, and I believe it does because of the endless barrage of abuse we get in the media that distorts the facts.

  • John L

    You realise how very old you
    are if you can remember Spurs winning THE league.