Thinking media turn on Chelsea and Newcastle, but let us not tar everyone

By Tony Attwood

It is not an approach that suits everyone but some of the journalists whose approach is based more on thought than emotion are showing their sense of morality.

Take for example Oliver Brown, chief sports writer of the Telegraph, a newspaper whose political views I find considerably divergent from my own.   He opened up on recent events with his sub-editor writing the headline…

Abramovich banners, street fighting and chants about wealth – this was a bleak day for English football

And below, “Chelsea vs Newcastle was a match between two clubs in a grim fight to see who could boast the more reprehensible owner.”

Now what is curious is that Jacob Steinberg writing in the Guardian, a newspaper at the other end of the spectrum, came up with something similar…

Stamford Bridge hosts dark day for those who care for football’s soul

Three very different newspapers that appeal to totally different audiences, and each one doing something rather unusual.  For instead of trying to manipulate the readership through its own vision of what is and what isn’t in football, each is moving into a head-on confrontation with a particular viewpoint, just as they would if they were writing solely about politics.

So I found myself pondering, how would I respond now if Usmanov had been successful in taking over Arsenal.  You may recall that Alisher Usmanov was Arsenal’s second-biggest shareholder until August 2018, when his offer to take full control of the club was rejected by Stan Kroenke.

And I seem to remember a fair number of Arsenal supporters being in favour of getting Kroenke out, after the slide from finishing runners-up in 2016 to fifth in 2017 and the start of our period outside of the Champions League.

But Kroenke was, at the time, also in a lot of difficulties with Arsenal supporters in that he had in 2017 attempted to launch a bloodsports TV channel in the UK showing the hunting and killing of various endangered species.  There was uproar, and Kroenke pulled back.

I was personally appalled by the Kroenke development and was one of those who wrote to the club expressing my dismay at the affair, and my dismay at Kroenke’s insensitivity and PR ineptitude.

But the issues at Newcastle and Chelsea however are completely different.  These clubs have been taken over by people for whom the notion of human rights means nothing at all.

Usmanov however presents a different scenario.  Yes he is Russian, and yes he is a billionaire.   But then try this report to see how it fits…

“On 4 December 2014, Usmanov paid $4.8m for Dr James Watson‘s Nobel Prize Medal in Physiology or Medicine, which was auctioned at Christie’s in New York City. Watson was selling his prize to raise money to support scientific research. After auctions fees, Watson received $4.1m. Usmanov subsequently returned the medal to Watson, stating “in my opinion, a situation in which an outstanding scientist sells a medal recognizing his achievements, is unacceptable. Watson’s work contributed to cancer research, the illness from which my father died. It is important for me that the money that I spent on this medal will go to supporting scientific research, and the medal will stay with the person who deserved it.”

Dr Watson, now in his 90s, is still with us, and when I was a student he was one of my absolute heroes, although I studied psychology not molecular biology or genetics.  And I was moved by the Usmanov / Watson story eight years ago as I still am.

What we have now should not be a case of going after foreigners taking over English football, but od selling English football to people who have no sense of democracy, human rights, or even sport.  I’m not trying to defend Usmanov, but I did notice at the time he was involved with Arsenal that he did have a sporting background.  Not football but fencing, with which he has been involved as a sportsman and as a sponsor for decades.

But it is not just some oligarchs from Russia that worry me.  It is nations that, and megarich individuals who, have no sense of human rights taking over clubs.  That is the problem.

Obviously, there are people around who support their team no matter who pays the bills and what appaling crimes against humanity they have committed.  And the fact that I protested against the Kroenke TV channel will suggest just how much I am appalled by the ownership of Chelsea and Newcastle.

For people who just think of “my club” and nothing more, life is thin, and morality nothing, and it really is time the rest of the Premier League and the FA started realising that and started acting, rather than let this development to fester.   But very rich people can on occasion do the right thing and we shouldn’t forget that either.

But let us be grateful for one thing.  Because papers as divergent as the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Mail all express their disgust openly on the issue of the day, the debate is open and alive.  We’ve seen years of the FA successfully pushing the crimes of Qatar ahead of the world cup, out of  the public eye.

Maybe now, at last, some of the media will wake up to the fact that there is an awful lot that is not right with football.




17 Replies to “Thinking media turn on Chelsea and Newcastle, but let us not tar everyone”

  1. All this anti Abramovich bile is based on the presumption that he aided Putin in.the invssion and has been providing financial and logistical support . I prefer to believe thst the brit govt is acting pragmatically a la the East India Tea company …perfidy abounds hiding behind a gaux concern for the dead and dying in Ukraine

  2. Hi

    Newcastle fan here.

    Writing from the “other” side of the fence here but what tends to get on our goat is that there is a overwhelming reliance on what happened inside the ground, because that’s what reporters see and write on. They’re not interested in the groups of supporters at Newcastle certainly who have been campaigning against the wrongs of the actions that Saudi Arabia take. This is every game by the way, certainly home there’s always some campaigners highlighting human rights issues and so on. We are not blind to it and never have been even though we get painted as being ambivalent to it.

    But there’s a hell of a lot of hypocrisy involved from the newspapers too. I note that there’s very little criticism of Manxhester City for example, or PSG – the latter I accept because they’re in France. But where is the moral compass with regard to those two clubs?

    Our former owner, one Mr Mike Ashley, hardly has a stellar record either and there have been many undercover reports and documentaries that have captured multiple instances of malpractice towards his UK workforce, the worst of which for me was not allowing an ambulance to be called for a pregnant lady who they subsequently lost her unborn baby in the toilets of a Sports Direct warehouse. Not to mention the use of child labour throughout hid supply chain.

    Yet there was never, from the sports journos at least, a boo said about that particular goose. Why? Was the moral compass offline on those particular days?

    The bottom line is, a fan of Newcastle, or Chelsea, or Man City, or Arsenal or whoever has very little say in who owns “their” club. They shouldn’t be the ones to carry the can. They can campaign, as NUFC fans did for years, to highlight problems but beyond that there is pretty much nothing that can be done to change an owner unless and until they decide to cash out.

    The fans aren’t blind, certainly not in Newcastle, and a few wind up chants shouldn’t cloud the work that has been done on Tyneside to raise awareness within a fanbase who may see success eventually and certainly improvement in infrastructure going forward, but are conscious of what is behind it.

  3. Jo, the imperial history of my country appals me, but at this moment there is little I can do about it. But the way Russia is behaving now, as indeed the way Myanmar is behaving now is present and in my own tiny way I can express my dismay and try and persuade those with more power than I have to act appropriately.

  4. Not just football,all sport everywhere this world which will never change, so get used too it, every country in this world, what about Britain and USA bombing and killing people in countries which had nothing to do with them unless oil comes into it, so or these reporter going to start walking everywhere and not fill there cars with fuel in which these two countries supply to Britain, no don’t think there will, how come these same reporters never ever wrote about Chelsea when he took over years ago, yes we would see a weak Premier league, and these owners would of bought a club from another country and we would not have the players playing in that league today, or is it because little old Newcastle will be come one of the best teams in the world that it’s now time to come out there little holes where there live and write this rubbish, we’re have there been living all these yeas it’s been going on since the second World War finished so don’t just blame football.

  5. Tom I am not at all sure why you think I am just blaming football. How do you know that? Why make that assumption?

    Let me try and explain. This is a blog about football, so in it we talk about football and issues relating to football. In the blog I run about Bob Dylan we talk about Bob Dylan and issues related to Bob Dylan.

    But if you really want to look further, why don’t you actually look at the articles on this blog about corruption in Switzerland, about Qatar and its abuse issues.

    If you want to make a point and have some impact, then, if I may give you some advice, the best way to do it, is to do your research before blaming someone.

  6. Not getting at you my friend,London based press who are the low life of this country, who try to corrupt peoples minds with they own opinion and using our great game and clubs to do it., sorry if I come over that way my friend.

  7. @Simon,

    we’ve lived through that at Arsenal, with a very vocal minority requesting Mr Wenger’s sacking for years and the so-colled press reporting that and only that. And this was petty stuff compared to what happens in the world now. But they were banding together with the mutual agenda : get rid of Mr Wenger and send Arsenal back to Championship as a result.

    Now they’ve banded together wanting to moralise the PL while some other important issues are kept from the public’s radar, like : who got paid by the billionaires to let them in ? No one asks : what about FFP which would once and for all settle the issue as no one would be able to buy a trophy. No one asks : what is PGMOL doing. This is a diversion. As the saying goes : when the wise man points to the moon, the idiot looks at the finger.

    I have no doubt that there are very decent folks at St James Park who just want to watch a football game with their kids and are hard-pressed when the kids ask why all that rukus and what happened in Saudi Arabia?

    The issue at hand is that the PL ownership got out of control and let pretty much anyone with the right checkbook buy a PL club. And some bought clubs accross several continents. The sports-washing strategy is not something we can easily get rid off. And Newcastle found themselves this week-end having to confront the fact that their owner just decided what he did and they were playing a club itself under ‘moral investigation’.

    Yes, the moral compass has shifted. I should say the so-called press’ moral compass has shifted.
    Here at Untold, it is something that has been discussed at length. Even when it was M. Kroenke’s blood sports TV channel.
    By the way, in France, profiting from money coming from a crime is a crime. So in France, there would probably be a case to go after then management of such a club. Probably would not happen, yet, morally, does this means there is profiting and profiting and it depends on the prevailing winds ?

    Now about fans’ power…

    Interestingly, when a Super League was planned, fans rose in the thousands and scared the sh..t out of the owners and they took a step back, apologized, made amends even if under durress.

    So individual fans have power on their hands. Imagine half the Newcastle fans deciding to attend the games of any of the other clubs of the area ? They’d still see games, they’d most probably get to see exciting outcomes, help more deserving clubs with new income and they’d boycott an organisation that hoped to show games full of supporters on live TV and who’d have to broadcast ‘covid-time’ images with half full stands. Talk about negative publicity. TV wants full stadia. TV pays for that. TV would be at a loss to explain something like that, game after game. And imagine fans of games receiving Newcastle deciding to do the same – one club at a time. There would be one big elephant in the room and it would be talked about at each game.

    So, contrary to your belief, as the Super League fiasco has shown, fans have more power then they believe. And maybe someday they’ll start boycotting games depending on the referee in charge…that would be fun.

    Then again as a Chelsea fan said in a TV interview about the Ukraine war and the Chelsea situation : why should fans suffer…. SUFFER ?!?! send him to Kiev for God’s sake !

    Thanks for the intelligent discussion !

  8. Once again, some interesting observations in the article from Untold Arsenal. Thus, to paraphrase Howard Jacobsen:
    When people get their “facts” from Facebook, their idea of debate from Twitter, their understanding of human nature from fantasies and their ability to parse a promise from nowhere, you can’t expect them to act in their own best interests, let alone their country’s. ”

    Mr Jacobsen makes a number of astute observations culminating in a possible outcome. Perhaps such observations might help us to understand why many football followers operate in a belief system in the way that they do. For instance:
    The Kroenke KSE conglomerate does own a television site highlighting hunting and people were right to complain about the site and KSE in 2017.
    Kroenke also donated £1million dollars to the Trump’s presidential campaign, thus helping to facilitate 4 years of an American Presidency that has helped to destabilise the entire world.
    KSE moved its American football franchise from St Louis to Los Angeles without any democratic discussion with the season ticket holders of the football franchise let alone other supporters of the franchise nor even the local communities within St Louis in order to discuss the further repercussions on them by such a move.
    Mr Kroenke is married to the heiress of Walmart. A huge US conglomerate that is well known for its anti trades union policies etc.( US National Media has highlighted much more!)

    I mention these facts as a reminder as to the little information many Arsenal fans have had other than what is picked up through Social Media. What I have read in the past 10 years (on sites other than UA) has concerned the notion that KSE
    “needs to spend some fucking money” Very little has beed penned about the political and social activities of Mr Kroenke and his KSE organisation.

    I am not suggesting that KSE should sell Arsenal. What I am suggesting is that many fans, not just fans of Arsenal, know very little about the nature of their club’s ownership and the histories underpinning such owners. That many fans are unaware of the many ills implicit in the society in which they live and experience. The politics and economics of the UK Society for instance, allows for such ownership of sporting enterprises by very rich people, (even whole countries under pseudonyms). Unfortunately Human Rights; Migration; Poverty and other such notions are deemed less important by such a society. So:

    My team rules! Parochialism rules! OK! Wealth and power reinforce each other – We saw it on ‘Game of Thrones’ so it must be good! We want it. Political parties offer it; we vote for it, we live it……

    I am implying that Society needs a complete change in culture. Without such a change, very little will change from that which we now experience. How is such a culture change to happen? Well, perhaps the so-called squatters who are now occupying a Russian oligarch’s London mansion might have some answers.

  9. Thanks Tom. And I’ll admit, when I am taking a battering (including of course the many comments that you won’t see because they don’t get past moderation) I can get touchy.

  10. Hi Tony, just want to relate a you Good story of your old great manager Mr Wenger, football has good in it, when my late father was on his dying of cancer, my brother in law who worked on the build of your new ground was chatting to Mr Wenger one day and my father came up in the conversation, a few days latter Mr Wenger came is see my brother in law and asked him if he could write to my father, who from a boy supported Newcastle and had the pleasure of see the great Jackie Milburn play in the 50s, and Mr Wenger did write to my father a lovely hand written letter, and a hand signed team photo,so I have the up most respect for this great football man, and respect for the club he once managed, and along with the great Bobby Robson these are football Legends,

  11. Thanks for that Tom. I can relate in return that when my company published a book in which Mr Wenger was mention, we very cheekily asked him to write a foreword, and he kindly did, without any fuss.

  12. @AKH,

    I’m not sure I can put Kroenke’s empire and what he does onto the same balance as some of the owners who are being discussed. He does not rule his country, lives in a coutry that the last time I checked is rather democratic and has something that is called the rule of law. Sure, none of both are perfect, but as you’ve seen, even someone like Trump with all his rich backers had to leave after he was voted (v-o-t-e-d) out.

    As for KSE and/or Walmart, comparing their bullying in a country where courts exist with dictators with blood on their hands is to me unacceptable.
    May I remind you that what you have written here would send you to jail in the countries of of owners of some of these clubs, but in the USA, you’d probably appear in some Fox Newss show.

    So to me the comparison is totally out of place and does not hold and smells like someone having an axe to grind with Arsenal and wrapping it in so-alled rational discourse. And I cannot for the life of me fathom how you can make these comparisons. You are way out of line, imho

    I had mentionned a few posts back that I was expecting KSE being compared with these other owners because of the TV channel. You’ve done it pretty much within the timeframe I had expected.

  13. @AKH

    A donation of a million dollars to Trump, from a Walmart family owner, to the official Republican Party candidate in a US Presidential race, is purely functional, like buying a ticket as an exhibit to verify you are alive, the supermarkets belong to your family, you are Republicans, there’s a Presidential election going on.

    Likewise, his anti-union activities is what you get when 10% of the US workforce is unionized, the pursuit of profit is the purpose of employing people, pay differentials are massive.

    I would have been concerned about Kroenke as Arsenal owner if he had pumped in millions into Trump, like the Koch brothers, the Mercers, or he had a proven track record of supporting militias, supremacists, anti-Vaxxers, the likes of The Oath Keepers or the Proud Boys. His name hasn’t come up with the January 6 Insurrection, nor Breitbart, nor has anyone linked him to Steve Bannon/Farage/Brexit.

    The hunters business is bad news but I live with it. The Walmart ownership bothered me because it suggested he might be ruled by a penny pinching ledger mentality. Seeing how Mr Arteta has spent the money available, and developed the players already here, remembering Pepe’s last goal, then I’ve put that concern aside.

    Kashoggi the journalist and critic of the Saudi ruling family was hacked into small pieces in the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul. Abramovitch stole a huge fortune out of the wealth created by Russian working people and was then given the nod by Putin to create Londongrad and a culture as a very wealthy title-winning football club owner. Putin was allowed to murder in England without reprisals against him.

    The Finnish football captain, and others, have spoken out against the thousands of deaths building the stadia for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Not a word out of English football. To be expected. Over sixty years we have sold arms to the Saudis. Our refusal to open our doors for Urainian refugees is precisely and exactly what we voted for in the Brexit Referendum, the 2017 Election, the 2019 election. Racism and easy money is the heartbeat of our culture.

    As a society we are structured to keep a minority in the luxury they are entitled to. Kroenke does not disturb that, nor do many others. What Abramovitch did open the door for was the plunder of something that we did have, the certainty of our knowledge that our football belongs to us.

    Kroenke recognises the game. To compare him with the others cannot be sustained.

  14. Chris, I note your comments. May I first add that I have no axe to grind with Arsenal. The point I was trying to make is that I believe that many football fans have relatively little insight into the nature of the practices of the owners of the clubs that one supports.

    In the case of Arsenal, indeed, I am not suggesting that Mr Kroenke is as bad as Mr X or Mr Y, rather that opposition to the KSE ownership has not been based on much more than KSE not putting money into the club! I acknowledge that some people have mentioned their opposition to the tv site highlighting hunting, but very little has been espoused about other KSE practices. (Yes, I do have an axe to grind about some KSE practices which do not appear to be too ethical but have rarely if ever been highlighted by Arsenal followers, myself included.)

    I was trying to suggest reasons why a number of football followers, not just Arsenal supporters may act in the way that they do and used the observations of a journalist Howard Jacobsen which I feel represent to a certain degree, modern day society in the UK. Hence my conclusion that we need a major culture change to help understand more the social and political consequences of the actions occurring in our society let alone those of countries following dictatorships that you allude to. However, I am not sure how one might help to make such a culture change.

    I was trying to add something in support of the original article above. Clearly I have failed to do this with respect to your interpretation of what I have written. We probably differ in the way that we view societies and the notion of democracy but if so it was not my intention to alienate you nor other readers in believing that I support ultra right wing regimes and the like when that could not be more further than the truth.

  15. Panarama:

    “Abramovich has pumped £1.5 Billion of his own money into Chelsea buying them success on the pitch”

    I have been saying for years I would not want what Chelsea had at any price.

    I have said for years their trophies mean nothing.

    Man Utd had success during the ‘Fergie’ years.

    Arsenal had success during the ‘Wenger’ years.

    Chelsea had the ‘Abramovich’ years.

    The one pound club may of had a lot of money, but they were still the one pound club.

    Chelsea fans: No class. No contrition. No Club ?

  16. Just a note… a cursory internet check has Kroenke donating 100 000 to the Hilary Victory Fund and then subsequently a million to Trump’s inaguaration fund. Hard to draw any conclusions from such a small sample…goes the way the wind blows, maybe?

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