Posts Tagged ‘Liverpool’

Back from a Research Trip

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Greetings to all interested football fans. My apologies for the length of time in posting a new blog. I am just back from a long research trip working on the next book and then a holiday. So here is a small selection of thoughts and work that have come up in the last few months:

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I know nothing about the Chelsea versus Barcelona Champions League Semi-Final! Within minutes of the final whistle my inbox was flooded with requests for information. I did not see the game, except the highlights the next day, and have nothing to say. This, by the way, is my attitude when people approach me with questions on most matches. In the book and elsewhere, I have identified some very high-profile international matches where in my opinion there was something very corrupt going on. I have that belief because I spent years researching the background, the players, the officials and the fixers. However, I know that is controversial stuff so to maintain my credibility I try hard not to comment or speculate on games where I have no inside information.

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Here is link to a very well-written and interesting article from a young American – Tyler Matthews – playing in a minor league tournament in Ghana. Great insight from someone so young, and it certainly matches some of what I saw, sadly, in the football leagues there.

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Outrageous. Stupid. A disaster for North American sports journalism. Those were my feelings when I saw that Steven Cohen had been pulled from his position on Fox Football Fone-in.

For the people who don’t know the background, here is a quick update.

Cohen is a broadcaster out of Los Angeles who covers football. A few months ago he made a number of comments about the 1989 Hillsborough disaster where 96 Liverpool fans died thanks to official incompetence. He said that part of the blame should be attributed to drunken fans turning up without tickets. Cohen was wrong, but for his error he faced an organized boycott of his program by Liverpool fans and a number of e-mails calling for the kidnapping of his children and his own murder.

I also received a number of mostly polite e-mails from Liverpool fans requesting that I ask my publisher to stop advertising on Cohen’s program.

This is sad. I like the Liverpool Football Club. In the book I write of a number of fantastic evenings spent with the Liverpool fan club in Singapore after they won that extraordinary Champions League Final in Istanbul. I wrote of meeting and spending a really cordial time with Ian Rush and I mention the Grobbelaar trials. However, I did not ask my publisher to withdraw their support and I think that the firing of Cohen is an unmitigated fiasco. Here is why:

In general, North American sports journalism is an oxymoron. Most journalists are so-beholden to the teams, sponsors or sports associations that they will not even begin to ask difficult questions let alone broadcast them. Since the publication of the book, a number of journalists have told me of their frustration of trying to raise the issues of corruption in sports. Their colleagues and bosses will simply not allow any discussion of these really important questions.

Steven Cohen is not like that. He is one of the few North American journalists who has the courage to speak his mind and voice difficult opinions. In this case Cohen was wrong (Check the interim Taylor Report, paragraphs 194-212, to see why. But I do think he should have the capacity to say what he thinks. Any individual, sponsor or organization who withdraws their support for someone who genuinely speaks their mind, particularly because they think they will get more money from doing so, is not worth their professional salt and should not be trusted. Football fans, no matter what team they support need someone who is unafraid to explore all issues – and the removal of Cohen, sends a chilling message throughout sports journalism that only the banal, safe and corporate friendly views are welcome on the air waves.

As for the death threats addressed to Cohen by a few idiot fans, this is simply not on. I hope the Liverpool fan clubs are finding and condemning these people in their ranks as quickly and successfully as they organized the boycott of Cohen.