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Few journalists ever criticise the state of football… so why is it starting now?

By Tony Attwood

I am shocked, amazed, stunned, bemused.

For 12 years we have been plodding away, writing up the notion that the reporting of football is warped by the media to suit their own needs and ends, and those of their powerful allies.

Among the many examples found are those suggesting that key stories are ignored (such as the control freakery of PGMO, and the curious tackles/fouls/cards data), that facts are deliberately misreported (as with the Telegraph’s recent faking of statistics to try and show that having more places reserved for English players in the PL will help England win the World cup), and that total untruths are propagated by ignorant pundits and not corrected by those supposedly overseeing the discussion (like the failure to build lots of all-weather pitches is somehow not being the fault of the FA – which went and spent the money on other things).

So I did a very quick resume of what Untold stands for in the article The media is preparing to fight back against the notion they’re to blame for football’s ills.

In that piece I highlighted two articles – one in the Telegraph and one in the Guardian – in which the newspapers seemingly respond to my suggestions of their constant bias, which leads to many subjects of importance never being discussed, while the everyday trivia continues to be headlined.

Of course I don’t know if this is just coincidence, or if someone in the newspaper industry took a glance at once of our pieces, but of late a couple of pieces on the forbidden topics have started to emerge.

And indeed now, a third article has appeared.  A piece in the Independent of 13th February titled “How modern football became broken beyond repair” does try to muscle in on the theme (although without explaining why the publication has failed to touch on the topic in the past two decades.)

As with the earlier articles, the notion that there is something fundamentally wrong with having the ultra-secretive referees’ organization, PGMO, running the show, is not covered.  Nor the strange tackles/fouls /yellow data we published recently.  Nor the fact that PGMO runs refereeing in the way it was run in Italy before its match-fixing scandal.

And just as the media lays off PGMO, it seems to have agreed to lay off the FA.  When Sport England withdrew its funding from the FA because of the FA’s failure over the creation of more all-weather pitches, that story was hardly mentioned.  Can you imagine?  Sport England disowned the FA and called them incompetent – and the media didn’t even mention it!!!!

Just as the fact that the FA wants to bid for another world cup, despite spending £millions and only getting two votes last time around, because their bidding team was so utterly thick that they remained the only people on the entire planet who didn’t know the bidding was rigged.  (OK there were three people in Greenland who didn’t know, and I’m not sure about my ex-wife but even so…)

Thus the utterly obvious fact that the big difference between England and the rest of Europe in football is the tiny number of qualified coaches in England per 1000 players was once again successfully hidden.

In short, I have been arguing that the media has since the start of professional football created their own narrative to describe football, as a way of hiding the fact that they don’t cover these obvious topics.  (Although to be fair, not long after we published the revelations about the lack of fully qualified coaches, the Telegraph did run that piece, but they did not cite us as the source, and quickly abandoned the notion and went back to the “too many foreigners in our league” argument in subsequent articles).

Anyway, this past week out of the blue we’ve had an article in the Telegraph, and a survey in the Guardian, seeming to move into what has, until now, been Untold’s exclusive territory: that something is seriously wrong.

And now the Independent has joined in with a piece that argues that “football’s embrace of unregulated hyper-capitalism has created a growing financial disparity that is now destroying the inherent unpredictability of the sport. This is not just the big clubs often winning, as has been the case since time immemorial. It is that a small group of super-wealthy clubs are now so financially insulated that they are winning more games than ever before, by more goals than ever before, to break more records than ever before. They are stretching the game in a way that has caused the entire sport to transform and shift.”

The technique thus is the same.  Starting from the point that maybe it is time to move away from the everyday trivia and tribalism that has been at the centre of football journalism for about 30 years, they’ve noticed, quite suddenly, that something is wrong.  It’s as if they have never noticed it before, but today, having pulled back the curtains, they suddenly think, oh look, the world isn’t as we have been describing it.

The resultant article is a bit of a weedy affair, despite its length, starting as it does with the notion that the gap between the successful and non-successful on the pitch is getting ever greater because of money.  “This is why we are seeing so many historic records now being broken season after season,” they proclaim.

That word “now” is a bit odd however.  So today’s money would explain Arsenal’s unbeaten season created by a club with a ground that held 38,000.  Really?  Or the second and third doubles – something that Liverpool with all their extra wealth can only dream about given they are just going to win their first Premier League title, more than 20 years after Arsenal had got those extra doubles.

So they speak of, “The last decade alone, which represents the true rise of the super-clubs alongside the huge rise in money, has seen….‘Invincible’ seasons in Italy, Portugal, Scotland and seven other European leagues.”

Yes, I think we can see the bias in this.  Invincibles?  2004?

Of course we’ve noted it here, as when the season before last we predicted, at the start of the season, the winners in six leagues, and got each one correct.

For it is the sheer unadulterated bias of the piece in knocking Arsenal that has to be seen to be believed.   For having written Arsenal’s doubles and its unbeaten season out of history, the piece continues, “This is not to say there won’t be outliers, like the underwhelming seasons recently suffered by Manchester United or Arsenal, or the unexpected triumphs of clubs like Leicester City.”

Ah yes, Leicester.  As noted above: those very, very strange figures which show that when we compare their number of tackles to fouls to yellow cards we find figures so far removed from every other club they are not just playing in a league of their own, but on a planet of their own.

And then they say, ‘Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin made the issue front and centre of his introduction to the body’s 2020 annual benchmarking report, citing the “threats” and “risks” of “globalisation-fuelled revenue polarisation”.’

But unfortunately the homework is still not done, because they don’t also look at the moves by Infantino, Ceferin’s predecessor, now in charge of Fifa, who have wound up the Confederation of African Football and imposed direct rule from Switzerland.  Yes there are risks and threats, but Ceferin by Infantino was prevented from openly saying where they come from.  Nor do they note that Uefa under Ceferin has admitted that match fixing out of control.  Why did they not report that speech?

What is happening is that the media is waking up to the fact that their past methods of describing football simply won’t wash, but as they rush out new approaches, they do so without any proper research or insight other than to cover their own past mistakes and omissions.  These are quick fix articles pushed in front of punters hoping desperately that no one notices the change of emphasis.

It is rather like the Guardian suddenly going back and reading Untold pieces on how sacking managers doesn’t improve form, and then quickly coming up with (yesterday) Sacking managers often does not work just look at the premier league.  Nice one, just five years out of date.

My point is not that we are very clever, it is that this rush of articles suggesting that football is broken, is manipulating the message as the mainstream media tries to recover the right to set the agenda.

Yes, football is broken, but the people who have broken it have done their evil deeds by having the journalists (who should be holding football to account) in their pockets.

That is why this slew of articles does not and will not touch on the big issues.  The dominance and control of PGMO with its tiny coterie of referees overseeing matches over and over.  The faking of figures by journalists and editors, as with the Telegraph last week, to prove that their argument is right.  The attempts right up to the last possible second, not to talk about corruption.   (Remember how Untold highlighted the change in law in Switzerland that allowed the Americans to march in and arrest Fifa officials – a story ignored by all the mainstream until it couldn’t be ignored any longer, with Untold being – as far as I know – the only UK publisher to run it).

In fact, my mates and I are getting a bit fed up with being used as the researchers who can be ignored until the last second and then have our stories nicked, sanitized and represented as mainstream media originals.

So we are going to give them a shock.  A shock so big that even the drinkers down at the Toppled Bollard feel it.

It has been in preparation for quite a while, and we are getting close.  Just wait a little longer.

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