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…
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.
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