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May 2021
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It is from this moment that football’s future will be decided

By Tony Attwood

It has been my view, since my student days, that commercial organisations, the media and politicians should all be responsible for the consequences of their actions.  Of course commercial organisations, the media and politicians deny this, so they can carry on saying and doing what they like, and then shaking their heads in dismay when others outside their elite react.

So of course the media, the football clubs and politicians will all condemn what happened at the Man U ground yesterday.  Quite possibly the club might be fined an amount which in the context of its wealth is insignificant.   But no action will be taken against the club for failing to provide a secure environment to play the game.

Nor will anyone in the media blame the media for ignoring the absolute and total disconnect that there has been between some clubs and their fans.  Ultimately uprisings, be they of a handful of people or hundreds of thousands, happen because of disconnect.  Ultimately, the clubs and the compliant media are to blame.

The media of course is part of this disconnect.  They not only have privileged access to football, because of the way the media works, they have access to the formation of opinion through the vast amount of chit chat that goes on before and after the game, telling us how we have to see the situation, how we have to see the game.

And indeed it is interesting that when social media gets out of control, we then have the situation in which the clubs etc shut down their accounts for a few days – as if that will make any difference either to the people who use social media for illegal means or to the companies that run social media and allow their users free reign, or the governing bodies of football, themselves among the most corrupt organisations on the planet.

Throughout all this chaos, the fans are left disenfranchised – and then of course when they rise up, as at Old Trafford the media condemn them, of course never for once considering that they are largely to blame.

Nothing that the media has done, nothing that the clubs have done, will ever be considered to be part of the problem.  And of course in response to my view that the media is to blame there will be the comments saying, “You think it is all right for people to run on the pitch and disrupt a match…” which just shows how far the disconnect goes.

If you treat people like a necessary but ultimately low-level part of the process of making money, eventually they will turn.   And maybe, just maybe, we have come to this moment, where the owners of clubs will realise that the way fans have been treated since football became popular in the late 19th century, is not acceptable.   Treated like cattle, treated as irrelevant…. while the media commentators, the club owners and yes the top players too, are treated as the people who matter.

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Basically we all matter – but one group of us never get the respect or engagement we deserve.

The Guardian newspaper, which I have often criticised because its approach to football seems so out of touch with its approach to the rest of reality, does seem to me to have got it right this time in writing…

Who said wrestling back our national game from the oligarchs and 
private equity funds couldn’t also be a top day out with the lads? 
In the coming days there will doubtless be a good deal of focus on 
the tangible grievances that have brought football fans on to the 
streets: malignant owners, inequitable power structures, unfit 
governance. But underpinning it all is something far less tangible: 
a deep yearning among disconnected, locked-out supporters simply to 
feel something again.

The only thing missing in that list, after “unfit governance” is “and a mass media that treats the fans as an irrelevance”.

We have heard a lot about the importance of fans this season, but we are still treated as idiots and dolts by most of the media who make up fantasy tales and tell us what they think we ought to believe.

It is because, when roused, fans still have power to overthrow the tight control of owners and the arse-licking media that we are going to see more and more matches moved away and played overseas.  The days when I could go with my friends for a pre-season friendly to watch Arsenal at Peterborough United or Barnet are now unimaginable.  The games are played in Arabia or America, not just for the money, but because there is a total and utter disconnect with those who us who remain fans and maybe can count our family’s support back through the generations.  SuperLeague is just the latest development.

For Arsenal, the grand disconnect between fans and club came in 1927 with a revolution in the board room and the installation of the Hill-Wood family who ultimately sold to the present owner.  From there on it has been downhill all the way – and what we see now is just the inevitable outcome of that power grab in 1927.

One of a number of people who was kicked out of the club on that day without a word of thanks for all he had done was Jack Humble, a man who worked in the Royal Arsenal factories, who helped form the club, who played for Arsenal, who defended the club against the first attempted power-grab in 1893 and who became the first chairman of the professional club.   He was the key link between the fans and the men who came in to rescue Arsenal financially in 1910, and his dismissal from the board in 1927 was the sign that the fans no longer had a place in the club except to provide finance by attending matches.

From there to a situation today where the Glazer family bought their club, and then took out a loan from the club to pay for their own purchase of the club – that’s been the journey.  And if that last sentence looks weird (meaning as it does that the club paid for the new owners to buy the club) it is weird.  It is a weird world we are in – and the media has encouraged us to stop thinking about it.

There are only two options from now on.  Club owners can seriously discuss what happens now with fans and take actions accordingly, or they dismiss those who invaded Old Trafford as “not real fans” which is what the media normally does.  In the former case we might, maybe, perhaps, amazingly, somehow get progress.  Otherwise, no it just runs on downhill and downhill, destroyed by the owners and the media who determine what is, and what is not important.

If you have been, thank you for reading.

Football: the great reform bill and the breakaway

7 comments to It is from this moment that football’s future will be decided

  • John L

    Tony, I agree with your views on the media’s complicity. Whilst the fans objections to the Glazer ownership model are justified, I feel that the Sky-sponsored Gary Neville’s outrage is rather hypocritical.

  • Menace

    Gary Neville’s rant was hypocrasy at its worst. This uncouth cheat who colluded with Riley to foul Reyes into leaving the UK has no place in honesty of the game.

    The heart of the issue is Football Clubs v Football Teams. The Teams can be sponsored by business but the clubs must belong to the membership. It is the Government that has lost sight of tradition and allowed foreign ownership of football clubs while safeguarding some businesses by limiting ownership to domiciled UK Nationals. It is surprising that the Crown has not been sold to the highest foreign bidder.

    Sporting clubs must belong to domiciled UK Nationals and the imbalance is shown with Tennis and Cricket clubs being protected while the commoners game is abused. So before we point to media let us just look at the governments part (started with the sale of other National assets by Thatcher) in the sale of our prized national asset.

  • Dublin Gooner

    The biggest obvious non football financial loser from ESL is Sky, aka the murdoch media empire. So while Gary Neville may believe what he says, the only reason he has the platform he has is that it suits Sky.
    As I remember it Sky was the major mover behind the Premier League (a breakaway league that negotiates its own media deals) who initially wanted an 18 tier top division with no automatic relegation. Sounds familiar to me.

  • Nitram

    Listening to Neville and others get all high and mighty about this makes me sick.

    All this guff about looking after the smaller clubs, the fans and providing a leveller playing field is utter hypocrisy. There was a perfect opportunity for a leveller playing field through FFP, and as far as I could see that got absolutely zero support from anyone at SKY, BTS, or any other section of the media for that matter.

    I believe the only reason we (and possibly others) decided to join this Super League in the first place was because it looked like it would provide a leveller playing filed, at least within the ‘elite’ clubs, and nullified, at least to a degree, the financial advantage currently enjoyed by the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea.

    I honestly believe our owners, (again possibly others as well) see challenging for the title or the champions league as nigh on impossible given the current financial might of the likes of Man City and Chelsea, and whilst things remain as they are, with absolutely no control over the amount of financial doping that is allowed, I don’t see them changing their view any time soon.

    It was no surprise to me at all that Man City and Chelsea were the first 2 clubs to withdraw as I failed to understand why they even joined in the first place. They didn’t need it. They, or Man City at least, run the Premier League, EUFA and FIFA already. Those bodies are utterly petrified of their financial might. Ironically I believe it’s those 2, along with the other financially doped teams and their bottomless pits of money, that instigated the formation of the Super League in the first place.

    So what did SKY Sports, BT Sports and the likes of Neville have to say when those 2 clubs started buying their way to success? Nothing. Where was their outrage about level playing fields when RA and the Mansours pitched up in the Premier League with their Billions ? There wasn’t any. They loved it because the money helped fill the SKY coffers and all who sailed in her.

    They’re not bothered about the fans or level playing fields, they’re just bothered about getting their slice of the pie, a pie they saw disappearing over the hill. If they cared about the fans they wouldn’t re schedule games at the drop of a hat. If they cared about fans they’d challenge the flawed PGMO format and the dreadful standard of refereeing in the Premier league. If they cared about fans they’d expose the FA for it’s gross mis management of funds. Care about the fans? Don’t make me laugh.

    As for our own Club and the owners. Now I’m not saying they are perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Untold has pointed out many a fault in the way they have dealt with certain situations at the club, so I get how they have upset fans at times. But regarding the self financing model they operate, it is exactly what they said would be in place way back when the Emirates was first built. They have never changed their position on this since day one.

    It is a model I agreed with then. It is a model I agree with now. I absolutely understand and accept the restraints it puts on us as a team when it comes to competing for titles, and I accept it without hesitation. For years I have said I give zero credibility to anything achieved by Chelsea or Man City because if the money pumped into those clubs had been pumped into say Everton and Aston Villa instead, it would be those 2 clubs, along with Man Utd, that would of been winning around 75% of all the domestic trophies over the last 15 years, and not them.

    But alas, that is not how many feel, it’s just they don’t want to admit it. As far as I can see all this whinging about the Kronkes not understanding the game. Not communicating with the fans. Is just a smoke screen. What they are really moaning about is the fact the Kronkes aren’t pumping Billions of their own money into the club, a la Man City’s and Chelsea’s owners. These fans are not interested in this ‘self sustaining’ model nonsense. They want to see the Kronkes money. Well I’ve got news for them, it ain’t going to happen, and this Super League fiasco was proof of that. Okay the format they came up with was ill conceived and was always destined to fail, and it was a mistake to join, but I’m telling you it hasn’t gone away. If certain clubs continue to be financially doped to the extent they are currently, then this situation will return, one way or another.

    FFP, though not perfect, at least tried to address some of the issues regarding the financial imbalances within football, but it’s implementation was thwarted at every turn by the existing financial power houses, and it is at their doors the blame for this Super league fiasco should be laid.

  • John L

    Nitram,

    Thank you for this contribution. It articulates my own views fully.

  • Zedsaunt

    Ever since the First World War the football fan has been targeted, spoken about, objectified, labelled, corralled. Some have been trampled to death. Some have been burnt to death. The football fan has never been a ”free man.” Always lived at the end of a pointed finger.
    Hence the response to the super league.
    The only place of freedom is football.With the super league even that flame of freedom – the game of football, the dream of football, win or lose – was threatened with extinction.

    In that moment where the Kroenke’s gave their assent to the super league they chose to deny that place of freedom for the football fan. I can’t see how they can expect to be treated with respect as owners.

  • Nitram

    Because basically they are decent, not perfect, but decent owners that made a mistake, possibly even with good intentions, for which they apologised.

    As for your speech. Very Orwellian I was nearly in tears. I’ve been a fan since the late 60’s and given the state of the stadiums and their facilities back then I think the fans have it pretty good today.

    As for how we were treated. Well unfortunately because of a rather large minority that was hell bent on violence every week, and take it from me it was bad, I was there, everyone got tarred with the same brush. But honestly it was disgraceful. Pointed finger. Given the extremes of violence I witnessed it could of been worse.

    As for today. Yes prices are high but it’s a business. A very expensive business. You have seen how much these players cost and get paid haven’t you ? Either way you don’t have to go, buy a shirt or eat one of their pies, not yet anyway, but that’s another story.

    But that’s the point isn’t it. Fans want all that. They want the best players. They want to win trophies. But they don’t like paying for it. No, they don’t want the owners to just be that, owners. Not even a good ones. No they want THEM to pay for everything as well.

    As I say, it ain’t going to happen, and thank god for that.

    As far as I can see it’s the tv companies, the PGMO, the FA and the lying, complicit media that are taking the p***, not our owners.

    No they’re not perfect but personally I think they do okay.

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