By Tony Attwood
The portrayal of Arsenal this year has been one of the biggest disinformation campaigns of all time in football. And it is a disaster because the media, having launched the campaign (to save them bothering to research any other story) are now struggling to find any way out of it.
But this whole business of ignoring Arsenal’s radical transformation of how football under PGMO rules can be played is by no means the first deliberate misinformation campaign that we’ve seen.
1: Women’s football is unsafe
The banning of women’s football by announcing that any game played on a ground used by men, would then mean that ground could not be used for future men’s games, is surely the most notorious. Worse, the ban lasted 50 years (1921-1971) and the subsequent FA investment in women’s football has been miserly since. The FA should have voluntarily wound itself up and allowed another organisation untainted by the scandal to take over. But once it happened, the media were silent, many even supporting the ban.
2: FA carrying on overseeing football at Wembley
In any other walk of life, a body that oversaw the utter cock-up of the Euro final would be closed down – or at the very least told that on the basis of public safety, it could never arrange another event. But worse than that, it is now conducting the enquiry into its own incompetence. And guess what, it is going to find itself not guilty.
3. Daily Mirror accuses Arsenal of match fixing.
On 29 March 2020 the Daily Mirror newspaper ran the headline “Inside England’s match-fixing scandal that involved Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal” above a story by Simon Mullock, Chief Football Writer of the Sunday Mirror.
The problem with the headline is that Arsenal were never in any way involved in any match-fixing scandal. Man U and Liverpool certainly were – Liverpool repeatedly in fact – but it was Arsenal’s owner, Henry Norris who first reported the matter to the League and FA.
To the League’s eternal discredit, rather than investigate Norris’ claims (which were enhanced by several subsequently fixed matches, ultimately resulting in many players being banned from football) the League warned Norris that if he were to write anything more on the subject, he (rather than the match-fixers) would be banned from football for life. (This was the standard penalty in those days which was liberally handed out. Even such luminaries as Herbert Chapman got a lifetime ban).
4. Ignoring a call for the obvious
Misinformation is not only spread by giving out false information (such as the notion that Arsenal’s 2020/1 season was a disaster, when in fact the last two thirds were sensational) but by ignoring whole issues.
The most obvious is the notion that rule saying referees should not be interviewed after the game or held to account could be challenged. As it is the referee body PGMO is prosecutor, judge and jury and works is utter secret. The media could call this out, but they never do. They could also notice that the way referees work in England is different from the rest of Europe. They could also note what the matches played in empty stadia showed us. See Results from crowdless games are different from those with crowds. Why?
I’d like to give a link to PGMO’s own website – but they don’t have one. Instead here’s a report from 6 February 2001 on how they operate.
5. Stopping football damaging players for life
A study published in October 2019 found that former professional footballers are three-and-a-half times more likely to die of dementia than their peers. Researchers at Glasgow University confirmed the link between football and brain damage after investigating claims that heading the ball could cause brain injuries. And since then? Bit of publicity at the time, true, but not much, and it quickly vanished.
Those are the stories we could have – stories which show the ineptitude of those running our game, but no, we get none of that. Instead we get headlines such as
Or try this from TBR: Mikel Arteta’s Gunners have a lot of work to do on and off the pitch if they are to improve on a poor 2020-21.”
It is a total re-writing of reality, and because it is done every day by hundreds of newspapers, TV channels, websites and radio stations, it becomes the norm. Yes the FA should carry on. Yes Arsenal were involved in match fixing. No the authorities were not corrupt in the way they dealt with women’s football. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with referees.
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