Category Archives: journalism

AFTV – The Verdict

The recent furore over Arsenal Fan TV and their exploits reached a crescendo at Goodison Park. In the post-match glow of our hard-earned clean sheet away from home, large pockets of away fans made their feelings more than clear regarding the channel’s work and produce.

It is a growing feeling amongst Gooners that the organisation is set up to profit from the ills of the club. When Arsenal suffers, AFTV pockets swell, as vociferous and often poisonous soundbites do the rounds on social media.

AFTV out

This is now lapped up by millions, and probably the majority of those masses are not Arsenal fans. Noel Gallagher even watches the channel, so the content certainly has its merits if the reach is so wide.

It has been a marketing dream really for Robbie and his boys. The word spreads over some Arsenal fan going apoplectic with rage, veins popping in his neck as he seethes over another perceived inept display. This then gets carried around the internet on a wave of hilarity as Arsenal fandom once again looks like the flaky, fractured, negative group it has been in the last decade.

It is true that in order for AFTV to succeed, they need negativity to thrive. If it was all victories and positivity, then the viewer base would shrink as the non-Arsenal footie fans would switch off. Ask yourself, why would they watch the videos if it was just sound debate and reasoning regarding Arsenal tactics?

No, they need their ‘characters’ to pipe up, stand on the soapbox and vent heavily in front of the camera, and AFTV will know this. Hence the video after Arsenal lost the Europa League final, with some of their characters laughing at the fact that AFTV will profit from the dejecting Cup Final loss.

The thing is though, that they have found a business model, a niche, that works. The characters that show up on AFTV are now names that millions recognise. They are chosen to offer their opinion on major channels, they are the face of Arsenal to many external fans.

Which is why many resent them. They do profit from our suffering and they are now the unofficial mouthpiece of Gooner-ism across media.

The long and the short of it though, is that the beauty of their channel is that you can just choose to not watch. Why boil your guts over something you know you won’t enjoy? Why choose to watch when you know that the content isn’t what you like?

The organisation has been going for a few years now, and I’ve managed to avoid the content until now. Sometimes, some quotes and material slip its way to my Twitter feed but I can just extend my thumb and happily scroll on in my ignorance. Before any research for this, I had blissfully existed without sampling any of the AFTV wares.

So, yes we can comment on some of the ludicrous comments and things they say. As they are now a big business and proclaim to be one of us, as a media channel they are open to scrutiny – just as we critique TalkSport, The Daily Mail etc.

But actively chucking hate at them? Doesn’t that make us as bad as them?

It’s quite simple really.

Just don’t watch their stuff.

Walking Off Pitch In Face Of Racism

You’re sat at your desk, your monitor filled with the inane characters that you are meant to make sense of.

It’s a usual day, and you’re attempting to ignore the clock that is taunting you with its sedentary progress toward 5pm.

While you’re responding to emails and setting up meetings, all the things that don’t actually matter, you see one of your colleagues stand up.

They then start performing an impression of a monkey, complete with arm actions and noises.

They then rope in others, and all of a sudden, you have a cacophony of primate sounds – and it is directed at you.

All because of your skin colour.

Would you stand for it?

England boss Gareth Southgate and his squad have faced opposition from the Bulgarian FA after Tammy Abraham and other members of the team declared they would walk off the pitch should they be subject to racist chanting.

England Racism walkout

 

The Bulgarian FA have argued that this is “unjust branding of local spectators as people inclined to discriminatory behaviour.”

This is anything but unjust.

The game in question was played partially behind closed doors, with 5,000 of 46,000 capacity to be left empty. Why? Because Bulgarian fans were found guilty of racist behaviour against Kosovo and the Czech Republic in June.

This isn’t just having a reputation, this is fresh conviction. Their fans are known to have a racist element and of course, our media pressed the English players into answers should they be inflicted with the same.

There has been a fresh, and needed, focus on racism in the game recently. Pushed by figureheads like Raheem Sterling, it has been welcome to hear global names talk on the subject.

Playing Bulgaria, much like when England played Montenegro recently, brings with it a chance for racism in the stands. Do the players have a duty to carry on in their roles even in the face of such hatred though?

Not a chance.

In any other workplace, this simply wouldn’t fly. What does a players earnings have to do with vilification and infringement on human rights?

If a man or woman is subject to racism, sexism etc, then the gloves are off.

For too long, the approach has not been stern enough – and that is why bodies such as ‘Kick It Out’ are still in place, existing long after they should be. Racism shouldn’t have a place in sport.

Sport has always been a leveller for all classes, and man, woman and child should be able to enjoy the action without fear of such hate.

Should the Bulgarian fans rain down abuse at any game, I for one look forward to their reaction and the attention it brings. Without this, then racism will always be a part of the game we adore.

The very fact we are going into a professional football match with an inkling of this to be expected, brings shame to the game’s governing bodies. Every week we hear new stories, especially in Italy, of players being subjected to chants based solely on their skin colour.

This must stop sooner rather than later. The very fact it exists shows that the preventative measures in place right now are simply not working.

So, walking off to end a game prematurely might just be the moment the game stands up and finally wakes up.

 

Overseas Fixtures Are Stark Warning For Future Of Football

A move from La Liga’s men that matter on the board may not have grabbed the headlines, but it is set to shake football to its core.

A single match between Atletico Madrid and Villareal is all arranged to play this Spanish top-flight fixture at the brand new home of David Beckham-owned Miami Internazionale.

La Liga has requested the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) for permission to hold this December’s fixture between the above sides at the Hard Rock Stadium, currently the home of NFL side, the Miami Dolphins.

Both clubs have already agreed that this is a good idea and have signed on the dotted line, which brings the death of the game as an everyman sport, that one step closer.

Conventional, regular, everyday, diehard fans will now miss a game at their home stadium and instead be forced to watch the game at home. This is how the majority of us consume matches, but while it may be a solitary match, this is how the end begins.

No doubt the move to play this is lucrative in two ways.

Firstly, there will surely be bonuses for the sides for agreeing to play the game overseas.

Secondly, the move will strengthen US fanbases and also recruit new members – increasing their global brand.

The game will be lucrative, but with this in the offing, the NFL playing regularly over this side of the pond and more sports investigating methods on capitalising on the popularity of their respective sports – there will be other projects created to catch as much of the spewing cash as possible.

Clubs are now businesses, and the move to play abroad stinks of a business meeting with board members discussing how to increase revenue – paying no heed to the lifeblood of the club.

The fans.

Football without fans

Can we imagine if Arsenal eventually decided that they will play a fixture or three in a neutral venue in order to sup at the teat of the money-men?

The fallout would be spectacular, with social media awash with critique and vitriol.

This is not to decry the fact that as clubs grow and are a brand, the fanbase will be globally represented.

Indeed, Arsenal are the 6th-9th best represented club on social media. This screams of Gooners in all corners of the world.

Laying the groundwork has been each and every clubs decision to go on pre-season tours that are gruelling and serve no purpose in what a pre-season is meant to be – preparation for the coming season. Fitness and conditioning. Regaining as much match sharpness as possible.

While useful, the majority of games are against sides that have been plucked from obscurity and are as likely to fight each other for a shirt swap as they are putting in a shift and making life difficult for their opposition.

These tours maintain the affinity these fans have with the club, despite the miles of distance. They purchase merch, they watch games on streams with kickoff times that are quite frankly ridiculous. These Gooners are perhaps even more dedicated than a lot of us match-going fans or those of us who pay a kings ransom for a football TV subscription or three.

This move from La Liga and the clubs to play abroad, bodes terribly for the future of well-packed stadiums. It will ruin the already weak link between fan and club for a lot of us.

It is critical that club’s tap into markets and optimise their actions so every cent goes into the coffers. Without these shrewd business decisions, then many clubs would simply go under.

Fans around the world get the chance to see their team play live. This is a good thing, but it is what will lead on from this groundbreaking move that concerns us. At the moment it is one match but when these clubs and others see the packed stadium? When they do their maths, they will see that why not do this twice a season? Perhaps a cup game thrown in?

The RFEF have already rejected a move to play an earlier La Liga match this season, between Barcelona and Girona. This was set to kick off in January. This latest move shows that football is a juggernaut that one refusal will be unable to knock them off their desired route.

A route that takes football into the corporate world for good.

Aubameyang Up For Best Player at London Football Awards 2019

London’s footballing finest will be out in force on 28 February, as the annual London Football Awards take place on 28 February.

 

Battersea Evolution is the destination for this year’s LFA’s, and some of the biggest names in the sport will be vying for the awards, Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Chelsea winger Eden Hazard and Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are all nominated, with nine awards up for grabs during the prestigious event.

 

The cream of the capital’s football crop will be in attendance for this fifth London Football Awards. Among the honours being contested are Manager, Player and Young Player of the Year, as well as Women’s Player of the Year and Community Project of the Year also being in the spotlight.

 

Jordan Knobbs LFA18 winner & Kelly Smith MBE CREDIT Action Images.jpg

 

Nominees are selected by an independent panel of judges, hailing from respected media professionals belonging to the BBC, The Telegraph and Sky Sports, as well as distinguished current and ex-professional players.

 

The nominees were announced by Bob Wilson OBE on 28 January. Wilson and his wife Megs run the charity Willow, the only national charity dedicated to working with seriously ill young adults aged between 16-40, aimed at making wishes come true with Special Days designed to give those suffering a time to forget about their illness and make some memories.

 

The London Football Awards will raise some much-needed funds for Willow, and the competition for the awards will be keenly contested, the city’s biggest clubs and players will be duking it out among some shining lights from the Championship, League One and Two for honours. It will be a celebration of London’s footballing achievements, and a chance for some to achieve recognition for their brilliance during the season.

 

Ian Wright accepts Outstanding Contribution to London Football at LFA18 CREDIT Action Images.jpg

 

 

Over the five years of the LFA’s, the likes of Arsene Wenger, Ian Wright, John Terry and Frank Lampard have attended and picked up Outstanding Contribution to London Football awards, and this year will be no different. Tottenham and England legend Glenn Hoddle will be the next icon picking up this illustrious accolade.

 

The night will be filled with stars and those in attendance will be hoping that this year will be their time to pick up one of the gongs. Other past winners such as N’Golo Kante, Hugo Lloris, Dele Alli, Jordan Nobbs and Aaron Ramsey have all enjoyed the spectacle and been given the honour of winning their respective category, and Bob Wilson feels this year will be even bigger;

 

“The London Football Awards is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the skills of our nominees, as well as the outstanding community work achieved by the clubs and County FA’s. It’s been a dramatic and exciting season for all the capital’s clubs and it’s refreshing to see names from some second and third tier league teams, vying for awards against the usual Premiership heavyweights. I’m looking forward to celebrating the best of London’s football with friends and colleagues on February 28th.”

 

Standard tickets to the London Football Awards, including pre-dinner drinks and a three course meal, cost 225 pounds per person Tables of ten are available at 2,250 pounds, with Premium tables costing 3,500 and Legend tables (for nine guests plus a bona fide footballing legend) going for 6,000.

 

For more information and booking, visit www.londonfootballawards.org or call Willow on 01707 259777.

 

The Anti-Arsenal Agenda

The media agenda has never been clearer.

We should have seen it before, cried out at the injustice of the journalists and experts who have continuously hitched a ride on the Arsenal train to boost their flagging numbers.

Let us look at recent attempts to discolour the truth.

Never happier than during our trophy drought – repeated focus on our nine years without silverware, despite their darlings Liverpool being without a trophy since 2012, and tottenham bereft of anything to put inside their dusty cabinet since 2008 – the League Cup – writers held up our barren run as something that was not acceptable.

When we did hold aloft the FA Cup in 2014 to end the terrible run, newspapers, radio hosts et al then switched their gaze upon our lack of a Premier League since 2004. Like the FA Cup was an insignificant piece of history, as if it didn’t register in the annals of footballing history. This switch even though Liverpool and tottenham have NEVER won a Premier League trophy.

When Manchester United won the FA Cup in 2016, it was lauded as a significant step in the recovery of the Red Devils. Yet we had won it two years on the spin before United achieved their win at Wembley.

The Wenger era was faltering, there could be no doubt, but we had won silverware. It mattered little though, as our failings rather than our success that fed the media machine. When we did stumble? Manna from heaven for the journalists.

When we eventually fell out of the Champions League reckoning? It was only  a matter of time. Every year, every publication, every show, they all predicted the final positions of each coming season. For five years prior to us finishing fifth in 2016, the lions share of experts would predict that we would finish well out of the top4. When it did happen many years later, it wasn’t seen as an epic fail or egg on the face of those that are supposed to know – it was used as vindication.

Of course Arsenal finished outside of the top4 – look, we’ve been saying it for years!!!

Now we have a new man at the helm. After more than two decades at Arsenal, Wenger had left the club and we had Unai Emery who was tasked with returning the Gunners to the top table of English and European football. Change after such a long time is difficult, and the level-headed ones amongst us recognised this and were optimistic, yet guarded. It would take time to instill Emery’s values, tactics and framework. The Spaniard’s processes would differ from Wenger’s inevitably, and a period of adjustment would be needed.

Emery-team-talk

After the first two games of the season we were pointless, and the stories surrounding us all were loving every minute. Emery stuck gamely to his principles though, and even though we still have plenty to work on, Emery oversaw a fantastic run that helped us up the table and progress in the Europa League.

The blemish-free run was in the face of a squad that were adapting to new measures and ways that would hamper any attempt to hit top gear – and yet we were winning.

The focus in the news?

Our shaky defence. The amount of chances we were presenting. All genuine causes for concern but the actual main thread?

All the while, Liverpool and tottenham struggled in the Champions League.

How were their efforts described?

Unlucky. Brave. Heroic. Full of effort.

It shows that no matter what we do, unless Emery masterminds a blitz toward the title,the external opinions surrounding our club from outsiders will always be tainted. It also highlights that both the Reds and spurs enjoy a certain leeway from writers and presenters who are meant to be delivering honest assessments.

What has overtaken real news is attention. Clicks and hits.

What gets clicks and hits? Disgruntled Arsenal fans.

During my research for my book about the title-winning team of 1990/91, I found that George Graham commented on this even back then, saying that the anti-Arsenal bias existed even in the days of pre-internet.

This isn’t a new thing, yet it is getting worse.

Match Of The Day never highlight our excellent passages of play, yet always remember to showcase other clubs.

When Stewart Robson comes out with another pearl regarding how poor Arsenal are, pay him no heed.

The next time Neil Ashton or Adrian Durham spew forth some bile regarding Arsenal’s bleak future or lowering targets? Ignorance is bliss.

Courting controversy is what they are doing, and we are playing our part too, by feeling the need to vent our spleens at such idiotic content.

Let us just enjoy the Emery revolution and constantly remind ourselves that impartiality is predominantly dead, and if you do find a writer whose opinion you respect?

Those are the clicks we should be giving away. Rewarding those who present us with agenda-free content.

Does contact constitute a penalty?

The recent match between tottenham and Liverpool illuminated an alarming facet of the modern game.

The game ended in a 2-2 draw, but only thanks to some erroneous decision making that was then judged by the majority of authority figures to in fact, be on the correct path.

The game swivelled on two late penalties – both for tottenham – and on close inspection, with the aid of slo-mo technology and a myriad of angles, we can surely all see that both spot-kicks were incorrectly given.

Since when does contact constitute a penalty?

We can forgive the referee, Jon Moss, for giving them. In the speed of the game, some things take on entirely different views and mistakes are commonplace. If VAR was in place though, then neither would’ve been given, right?

Jon Moss was in conversation with his fourth official for the final penalty – when Virgil Van Dijk ‘collided’ with Erik Lamela – and after a lengthy discussion, he judged that the Dutchman had brought down the Argentine winger. Moss even asked the fourth official for the use of VAR – even though the technology wasn’t available for this game.

If Moss was so unsure that he needed the benefit of a TV replay, surely he shouldn’t have given it?

Jurgen Klopp raged after the game, the German coach was obviously convinced his side had bagged the points after Mohamed Salah had scored in extra time to put Liverpool 2-1 up.

Mark Clattenburg was asked in the days afterward regarding the awarding of both spot kicks and said that both were incorrectly awarded – but he was in the minority.

Harry Kane, when asked by BBC Sport about the award of the first penalty, when he went over Lorus Karius’s dive, said “I felt contact so I went down. I’m not going to jump out of the way because it’s football.”

Dejan Lovren was incensed about the penalty, and Van Dijk was quite candid, saying that Kane dived.

The second penalty, Jurgen Klopp said of Lamela;

“The softest touch in the whole game decided the game. Lamela was already on the way down.”

The PGMOL, Jermaine Jenas, former referee Dermot Gallagher and a host of other supposedly respected voices in the game all branded the penalties correct.

What does the actual law state for a penalty though?

‘If a player commits a direct free-kick offence in the penalty area, then a penalty is awarded.’

What constitutes a direct free-kick offence?

‘A direct free-kick is awarded if a player commits any of the following in a careless, reckless manner or using excessive force

charges

jumps at

kicks or attempts to kick

pushes

strikes or attempts to strike

tackles or challenges

trips or attempts to trip.

Did either incident involve any of the above? Does any of the above mention that contact constitutes an automatic spot kick?

No.

Raheem Sterling, Ashley Young, Delle Ali, Harry Kane, Ander Herrerra are all serial offenders, using a trailing leg or their forward impetus to sway the referees into a decision. Even our own players aren’t above simulating to earn an advantage – Welbeck vs AC Milan anyone?

Contact is going to be made in the game, and when a corner is swung in, players clamber over each other to gain leverage, yet no spot kicks are given. Harry Kane used Laurent Koscielny to climb and score the winner in the recent North London Derby, yet he wasn’t pulled up for this.

There are instances when players are unfairly penalised for not going down under a tackle, as the referee believes it isn’t a foul as the player hasn’t fallen to the ground like he’s been shot.

It is this that has led to players feeling justified in going to ground when they feel any form of contact. Why should their team lose out?

The game has changed, but it’s on dangerous footing. The current decision making is inconsistent and it can lead to massive errors.

Errors that can hardly have bigger ramifications with the financial rewards in the game.

VAR needs to be the impartial factor we all know it could be, but if match officials believe that contact constitutes a penalty, then what hope is there?

Calling out the bias and clickbait with a cup of tea.

Published originally on Goonersphere

Mertesacker leaned his shoulder into his marker and shifted his weight. The corner was ready to be whizzed in, and a goal here in the 93rd minute would surely mean the winner.

The away crowd bubbled in anticipation. The whole game had been nip and tuck but they had been buoyed by the effort their team had put in. Snapping into tackles, running at their opponents. It had only been a combination of the goalkeeper and the woodwork that had stopped them breaking the deadlock.


The fans and the players knew they had deserved all three points. Still, this was Arsenal – when had that ever been a factor in a result?


This match could be different though. A win here would be huge, a real game-changer.


Mesut Ozil looked into the box, and delivered the ball. It arced toward the back post, and Per started to move.


The German’s weight pushed into his marker and it gave him the half yard he needed to jump cleanly. His marker would now be milliseconds behind him.


The ball sailed over the goalkeeper’s grasping hands and Mertesacker knew he was in the right place. His leap was above his attempted captor, and his forehead met the ball in the sweet spot. The ball smacked against his head and careered toward the goal. The goalkeeper trying to get the ball at the first attempt meant he couldn’t stop the ball hitting the back of the net.


It was the winner.


This win proved many people wrong. So many writers, pundits, former players – no-one gave them a hope in hell of winning this game. The build-up to the game was filled with talk of how many the opponent would get, the atrocious away record of Arsenal going to top teams.


This was one of those sweet moments that fans dream of.


Social media fizzed with activity. Memes from social media teams and joyous fans flashed up furiously as they all revelled in upsetting the odds.


One of the journalists was particularly biased in his pre-match assessment. He had picked a combined XI from the two teams, and included precisely zero from the Gunners. It would have attracted a lot of attention if it wasn’t typical fare that Arsenal fans had to deal with.


It attracted a fair amount of attention after the result though.


Arsenal’s social media team were quite prolific in the use of their twitter and facebook accounts. They posted regular, interesting content and they obviously saw a chance – and they took it.


They posted a reply to this journalist’s pessimistic view of Arsenal’s chances with an image designed to simply capture Arsenal’s joy and give an emphatic reply to the doubters.


It was a dog with a grumpy face, in an Arsenal scarf.


Everyone loves a dog image on social media, So it proved, as the retweets and comments went through the roof.


The journalist, quite obviously suffering from an upset stomach after eating too much humble pie, took to Twitter to rally support from his fellow writers. They began a campaign to lambast Arsenal’s social media arm for what was a blatant and uncalled for attack.


The writer complained of death threats and horrible comments after Arsenal’s dog-themed reply. Obviously, a sarcastic reply from the club would prompt such bile. How could the club even think to reply, knowing this would be the result?


The response the next day, was quite something.


The FA got involved on the request of the journalists, who claimed this response was uncalled for and they should be able to write anything without being subjected to a reply. The FA agreed that this needed to be stamped out, and quickly put into place a set of guidelines that each club had to adhere to.


This meant that writers could cobble together articles that had freedom to say literally anything, and clubs needed to follow rules when replying to the writer’s products.


The next match saw a newspaper run with a story that Arsenal have been in the shadow of tottenham since 1961. Arsenal, following the strict procedural rules, replied with a massive thumbs up and a smiling unicorn.


This rule stayed in place, but no other club were subject to the level of attention that Arsenal were. Fans were apoplectic, and directed their furore toward the authors of such defamatory pieces. This led to the FA working alongside social media to stop any direct replies to the writers.


The end game was that writers were given free reign, and got exactly what they wanted, without fear of reprisal.


The end.  







The above is obviously fiction thankfully, but is written in response to the utterly ridiculous set of actions and words that followed Arsenal’s social media team tweeting a picture of Mesut Ozil drinking a cup of tea to a writer. This writer had hashed together such a biased piece on a North London combined XI, that Arsenal saw a perfect riposte when we had won 2-0.


The level of ire from supposedly respected journalists was nothing short of babies crying with nappy rash. These writers have a duty to put together stories and factual content that carries the weight of impartiality. It needs to produce facts and leave the reader free to decide what they think.


Can we honestly say that the majority do this? It all depends on what newspaper you read of course, but the article in question was designed to gather clicks, it was a mass of words connected to a giant fishing rod.


We Gooners produce more response than most – look at any nationwide poll on Sky Sports for evidence of this. This is why there are so many stories, phone-ins and debates on Arsenal – the producers know that it will get high response levels. You always fish where there are biters.


They then react like spoiled kids when they get a response that doesn’t fit their desired demographic. No one is condoning hatred-filled answers, but a well-informed riposte is not hatred, nor is it what the writers want. They want red-faced Gooners, choking on their own froth.


So, it is important that we continue to highlight these biased writers, as they are not fulfilling their duty of impartiality.


They aren’t doing their job, and we need to show that.