World Cup conundrum: No say, no guilt for fans over Qatar. But we can’t turn a blind eye…

FIFA president Gianni Infantino with the World Cup trophy ahead of the tournament in Qatar. Credit: Alamy
FIFA president Gianni Infantino with the World Cup trophy ahead of the tournament in Qatar. Credit: Alamy

The Mailbox comes at the World Cup from both sides: we didn’t choose Qatar, but we can’t pretend it’s all fine. Also: Liverpool for sale, are they? Really?

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For sale, you say? 
It remains to be seen whether bombshell news of FSG’s sale of Liverpool football club is indeed a full sale and exit of ownership, or more a dilution of ownership to inject capital and liquidity. Either way the message is the same: cash is needed. It’s vast understatement to say that rules of engagement in premier league club ownership has changed so much the past decade. F365 mailbox has had several writers chime in w some very good insights over the past few weeks; one writer foresaw wks ago Fsg was monetizing assets to shape the club for sale, another writer noted just how serious the pandemic was on the club’s finances and how situationally it perhaps affected Lfc more than any other top club in Europe at the time.

Well the pandemic really was the first of the dominoes in my opinion… from a position of great strength, no, perhaps even an apex position (at the time leading the premiership table by a canter, holders of the European cup, aura of peak invincibility painstakingly built blade by blade upon the pitch) the Covid outbreak forced our hand in what otherwise, I believe, would have been substantial strengthening of the squad and more proactive evolution of the first team. The way the club are/were run with Michael edwards then at the helm of the transfer dealings, one has to believe it academic Lfc would have stayed ahead of the curve, all spreadsheets and data gurus and their whirring laptops planning for several transfer windows ahead and continuing to get most of the business spot on. And yrs ago observations were already being made that a tipping point would arrive; key portions of the first team (incl one of the best front threes in the world) were on contracts with parallel timelines, concurrently aging into their 30s together to face inevitable dropoffs. Ditto the midfield, and throw in some of the backline too. We tried to be creative with kit sponsorship and instead of taking the big cash up front made some kind of royalty play on percentage shirt sales per. If one is lucky enough to win the lottery on a scratcher ticket you always take the lump sum no? Basic. And to this eye at least, Nike’s shirt designs (and quality) year on year have been a far cry from the beauties New Balance consistently put out, and obviously pandemic restricted buying power of the masses in seasons subsequent.

In business schools around the world they teach lessons off case studies of companies that fly and pivot and fly ever higher, and others that stall, stagnate, crash or burn. Rarely do giant entities nowadays hit an iceberg and flat out sink, nevermind an entity out of the Liverpool docks. If you traced the decisions Fsg have made the past few seasons, from the pinnacle of world football winning the league after 30 yrs and adding that sixth CL cup to this point in time, deterioration in the product on the field should not come as a surprise… and no it’s not because we are simply being wise after the events today. I for one was shocked last year when the quadruple even came into play; for at least two seasons prrior to this i had predicted Lfc would fall away to 3rd or 4th in the league instead of challenging City for the crown. My footballing anxieties proved premature but the same reasoning has come to pass albeit on a slower curve (credit to Jurgen for his ability to really wring out the last bits of graft and mentality), we spent a few too many windows looking at Sepp van den bergs of the world to no real tangible effect. It should have been clear several seasons ago these aging legs / injury prone players all over the park needed replacement and maybe Fsg knew this, maybe all the whirriing laptops already saw this downward trajectory but the wins were still coming so why not play a little frugality brinksmanship instead? It’s only a billion pound football club we’re playing chicken with across the atlantic.

I think Fsg recognize now frontrunner momentum has collapsed to the extent it is no longer spot treatments but more an overhaul that is needed. And I think that is scary to them. Maybe in the boardroom came that thought bubble: you can’t simply drop 85M on a darwin and believe he’ll magically solve key outgoings while simultaneously papering over frontline player attrition that will occur over any season anyway. So with the fanbase growing ever louder in their hopes for Bellingham incoming, perhaps Fsg realized uh oh another repeat scenario, there can be no single saviour to magically solve it all again in midfield. Honestly it made me chuckle to see Lfc’s purported 86M set aside for his bidding, Dortmund would be opening bidding at or above the 100s! But it isnt just Jude; there are plenty of other midfielders who could come in and bolster this midfield but the issue is exactly that, it isn’t just Jude. We need 3 maybe 4 to come in. One imagines John henry in all his soybeans futures insight taking one quick macro assessment of expenditure required and throwing his arms up knowing Fsg either cannot or will not pay out to anything close to that degree as presently constituted. Also full well knowing, intuitively, that fan resentment is record high after years of underinvestment and some kind of recalcitrant corporate adherence to self sustaining ideologies when the top end of the prem is demonstrably strengthening by spending left right and centre.

this was a long time coming; I’m cognizant of the beware for what you wish for sentiments, that Lfc perhaps more than any other football institution simply would not jive with petrodollars or crypto investors or support from entire nation states. But I’m also aware that as it is the ownership under their currnet guise cannot support the club to maintain the growth and excellence Jurgen has painstakingly nurtured. The time is right, this is good news for the health of the football club. I’d rather Fsg stay on and open up the coffers but it’s clear that’s never going to happen, so I’m very pleased they are doing the right thing and either stepping aside or inviting participants to what will hopefully amount to large infusions for immediate expenditure. It can’t be any clearer that we need it right now!
Eric, Los Angeles CA (Apologies for this bleary eyed rant but hope it’s coherent. First time I’m hitting ‘send’ into this mailbag cos I deleted my last 10 drafts over the past few months talking each time about how anything mildly speculative down our right back’s channel inevitably leads to 0.9xG)


…So the news broke that FSG are selling Liverpool. Who to? Another Arab petro state? Americans? Chinese?

Firstly if you read the stAtement it sounds far more likely that they’re selling a stake in the club rather than the entire thing, though they don’t rule it out.

Whether it’s a full sale or just a stake I think the likeliest would be redbird increasing their 10% stake to something more significant and our club and business continuing using the current FSG model. The 10% stake sold interestingly values the club at £5.1bn (ish)

In the event that an Arab based investment fund buys the club and starts chucking money around a lot of Liverpool fans will have to eat their own criticisms but honestly I can’t see that, if that was the goal why turn down the £3bn offered last year?

I’m not gonna get too excited about it because I genuinely think it’ll be an increase in redbirds stake and things continuing as they are now. I don’t see us placing super bids for mbappe any time soon.


They don’t care about us
Some potentially helpful reminders given the recent Liverpool sale news

1. Owners do not care about football
2. Owners do not care about winning
3. Owners do not care about your neighbourhoods or the community
4. Owners do not care about your clubs history
5. Owners do not care about setting up your club for long term success
6. Owners do not care about you

This is true of every owner. From the Henry’s, to the Glazers, to the various dictatorships that own teams and everyone in between. Their business decisions are never based on what’s best for the employees or the fans of the club. The only thing they care about is the value of the asset and how they can increase that value for future sale or leverage.

So whenever you think to write about how your ownership group is better, or worse, or morally different please maybe reconsider. They don’t care about you and you sound extreme silly extolling the virtues and passion of people and corporations who value the money in you account more than the breath in your lungs by many orders of magnitude.
Greg, Tampa


We’re not all guilty
Read the guilt article, Johnny Nic. Compelling argument at the end, on whether it was a loved one.

Forgive me for being a little objective. No, we’re not all guilty, because we’re not at fault. We didn’t cause this, we’re not to blame, we’re not guilty.

The World Cup has always been in existence, what changed this time is the means, the vessel to our enjoyment. It is unfortunate, but we’re not guilty.

Let’s use this anger to turn things around if we can. We’re not at all guilty. Let those who are bear the blame. It’s their fault, not ours, Nic. You’re not at fault either.

I’m personally looking forward to the games, catching those I can, and following up the scores, but it doesn’t change my opinion of those who made this wretched decision, or even diminish the pain for those who died for this. Karma is real, justice will be served.
Iyanu, Nigeria.


We can’t turn a blind eye
When JN’s not busy being an old man, shaking his fist at VAR, he isn’t half a man after my own heart.

I’ve seen a lot of comments about the death toll of workers specifically working on the World Cup in Qatar, trying to play it down, saying it wasn’t that high and deaths in construction are common. Well if you take Qatari figures, which are as low as 37 you could be forgiven for holding that opinion. But embassies of the respective countries of the migrant workers suggest the toll is greater than 6000. Some say that is an underestimate.

But even if you accept the Qatari figures as accurate, some of these workers are being paid as little as £1 an hour. Qatar has the 4th highest GDP per capita in the world. That’s exploitation no matter which way you look at it. Many will take those figures, shrug and point to the fact that these people still travelled to Qatar for work in the first place. Well done Qatar for providing job opportunities! Doesn’t it just point further to the exploitation of vulnerable people?

Whilst it is welcome that a number of FAs are petitioning FIFA to deliver on their promise of lasting improvement on this issue, what are they going to do if FIFA doesn’t do it or Qatar refuses? My guess would be nothing. I can’t see the FA withdrawing the England team. And if it did, the Government would be pushing a u-turn to save its own embarrassment (not that they’ve any shame left to be fair) and its funding stream. So this looks like an utter waste of time.

There have actually been legislative changes in Qatar to improve conditions for workers. But these have faced opposition from employers and have subsequently been watered down. Reports from the ground suggest little has changed. It would seem the desire is to be seen to be conforming to pesky western ideals but to carry on as normal. There’s no point changing the law if there is no will to enforce it.

And whilst the current discourse seems to be about the workers why are these football associations not doing anything to support LGBTQ rights in Qatar? Qatar is a country where homosexuality is illegal and its is possible – though unlikely – under Sharia law that you could be executed for that “crime”. There are reports of homosexual people being arrested and assaulted – sometimes raped – by the Qatari police. Someone remind me while we’re having the World Cup there again?

What exactly are gay supporters and journalists supposed to do while they’re there?be respectful apparently. Don’t show affection for your partner publicly, don’t promote gay rights. Don’t be gay. Sure, there has been a release of some documentation suggesting the Qatari police might not actually enforce their laws during the tournament but the Qataris haven’t agreed to that publicly and are we really ok with having a jolly there and then it all going back to shit after the World Cup?

I’ve friends who moved to Abu Dhabi – another state that oppresses the rights of the LGBTQ community – and when questioned by gay friends about how they were supposed to visit they were told similar: just don’t show them that you’re gay. Now these friends are a liberal couple and have attended countless Pride events. On an individual level you can understand why they wanted to go abroad and make a shit ton of money and paying little tax (their admitted reasons for going). But by going they’re contributing to that repression of rights and (I suspect) general exploitation of vulnerable people.

This is why I don’t agree that footballers and managers get a free pass for this tournament. Gareth Southgate has apparently met many of the workers and they definitely want the tournament to go ahead. So this one’s for you guys! Utter tosh. By playing and working in Qatar you’re legitimising the Qatari state. That’s the whole point of them hosting the tournament. There isn’t a great history of tournaments being held in states with dubious human rights records. The Berlin Olympics in 1936 is an oft cited one, but the last World Cup is a shiny shit of an example. We were wooed for a month with a pretty fun tournament. England were good and everyone seemed welcome. Four years later, Russia have clamped down on LGBTQ rights and have invaded Ukraine. Yes, I’m sure World Cup 2022 will have a lasting positive legacy.

The players shouldn’t get a free pass for this. It’s easy getting the UK government to U-turn Marcus Rashford but can you effect lasting change for gay people in Qatar? Oh the team are all wearing rainbows on their kit? That’ll do it. What a crock. It’s all very well saying the fans should boycott it but until the players refuse to play at these things it’s going to continually be a problem. Not long until China gets the World Cup surely?

The world is a burning hellscape and a cesspit of hot takes and moral compromise. WC22 is clearly the World Cup we all deserve. We haven’t even touched on woman’s rights or the climate impact of the tournament and Qatar in general (highest carbon footprint per capita in the world). I hope that some footballers make some sort of stand. Not kneeling or wearing rainbows but something that will actually have an impact – like not turning up for the game. Or maybe the FA can withdraw from FIFA until stands up for human rights?

Though I know it won’t make a difference I won’t be watching it. It’s ok if you do just accept what you’re turning a blind eye to.

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

Arsenal grinding gears
Well Arsenal seem to be boiling all of the piss, aren’t they?

Look, I get it, modern players love a moan up, but the most histrionic side in history? Not sure.

Actually, I thought it was quite refreshing on Sunday to see Michael Oliver ref it quite well. I think we should’ve had a free-kick (not a penalty) for handball, and Cucurella should’ve been booked for his foul (it was a foul) on Saka. That Saka got booked within five seconds through frustration was the right decision in isolation, but it never should’ve got to that point.

Aside from those, Arsenal were so sharp with the ball and so strong in midfield Sunday that it became a bit of a scrappy game because Chelsea niggled at us; clipping and tripping. They committed 20 fouls, all told.

It was in stark contrast to Southampton the other week, who committed about 30 fouls but only got penalised for 11. It was a shocker of a reffing performance (though not the sole/key reason we didn’t win) so if moaning and whining about things get us the right result and outcomes in the end, I’m all for it.

As for the Arteta technical area thing, it’s hilarious. Most of them do it – Conte literally left his on Sunday to smack the ball out of someone’s hands and pick up his third booking (as many as Saka – both of these statistics are laughable in different ways) this season. I thought we all liked pashun? Apparently not when it’s a gesticulating Spaniard managing Arsenal.

And if you think Xhaka didn’t know exactly what he was doing, in front of our fans, in the 91st minute, 1-0 up away to a London rival, then you haven’t been paying close enough attention to the most unexpected redemption arc of all time.
Joe, AFC, East Sussex (Apologies, didn’t realise there’d been an afternoon mailbox yesterday until just now, so this looks a far more delayed response)


Apathy City
Jim, Norwich: It’s a weird one. I can only speak for this Arsenal fan, but Man City hold a peculiar place in my football world.

They’re a machine. A 90+ point per season machine. And we’re not that. We’re good. And we’ve been building for near three years and this is where it’s been heading and it’s beautiful to watch. But we ain’t 90+ points good. So until we are still top with ten games to go, I don’t think we’re in a title race. I care more about the gaps to spurs and Newcastle and Man United and Chelsea and Liverpool.

But that’s not the peculiar place Man City hold to me. All the above is logic and good sense. But football isn’t just about that is it? I’m lucky enough to remember title races. A few successes. And a few failures. And with those there was a passion and a fury that came from really really not liking the rivals. Fergies Utd. Anything that Jose ever breathed on. Hates a strong word but it ain’t far off from the sheer fucking need to just get one over those teams.

But I just don’t have that for Man City. It’s close to apathy really. All the years of Abramovic, I think, dulled my ire towards financial doping. So whilst I don’t like what they represent, there’s so much of it, they almost don’t stand out. This is reality now. And to maintain levels of anger against it would require an energy I can’t spare. They win titles because they have all that money and they have spent it, mostly, very well. They won that game against Fulham because they have all the money and they have spent it, mostly, very well. They should win the league. They certainly should win this league where we seem to be their closest rivals. And they probably will. And I kind of won’t care. Because it’s all a bit meaningless. I know the Man City fans reading this won’t like it. But I don’t hate them like Fergie’s Utd. Or Jose’s anything. So they’re not rivals, for me. Because I can’t bring myself to care about them.

As I said. Peculiar.


Blackout bullsh*t
I get why we have an artificial blackout at 3pm, I just heavily disagree. Here’s why.

1. The idea is we blackout some games and fans will go to watch a lower league game instead. Except for many, myself included, it just means you watch no football. For example if the country had an alcohol blackout and made it so that nobody could buy any major alcohol for 3 hours to try and encourage people to buy a brand new local peppermint cider would people go spend money on the cider? Or just wait until they can buy their favourite drink?

2. It’s laughable that literally any other country apart from the one the game is actually played in, can watch the game. Why? I suppose you might say “well those fans can’t attend the game so why should they lose out?” Well as a Liverpool fan I’ve been unable to get tickets for years so I have the same problem, except now I cant watch the game from home either.

Why do we do this? It doesn’t generate extra interest in lower leagues or in attending matches because the lower league games don’t provide what many fans want to watch – hence why they’re not fans in the first place, and it cant force people to attend matches when there’s no tickets.

Finally there’s the piracy issue, a fan who wants to watch from home won’t be attending the stadium if they can’t watch on sky, they’ll just hop on illegal streams instead. It isn’t solving any problems at all.
Imagine we said that at peak times when most people do their shopping all major supermarkets were closed to encourage you to do your shopping at a local corner shop instead and support local business. Would you agree with it?


Everton let off
I love the Winners & Losers section. Why? I have no idea because my Everton are usually showing up in the loser section more often than not, and deservedly so. I see you gave them a reprieve this weekend but it wouldn’t have been harsh to put Everton’s midfield in there. Leicester overran us with little effort, Gana being stretched all over the pitch trying to put fires out that we created ourselves through bad giveaways, poor passing, etc…. It was laughable to watch him try though.

Let’s talk about Leicester though. Leicester are certainly a team on the rise. Tielemans’ rocket was a wonderful but simple piece of skill. Maddison bossed the midfield (admittedly not hard for him to do) and was a threat most every time he had the ball. Harvey Barnes doing what he does best against us. I thought they certainly deserved a spot in the winners section by how they dominated our three of Gana, Onana, & Iwobi. It also didn’t help that Gray was anonymous as was McNeil.

I know that Leicester supporters have had it a bit rough to start the season, but on evidence of that match, I don’t see any reason why whey won’t be in the top half of the table before too long. It looks like Rodgers has righted the ship and should be given credit for that. Also, as a USA supporter but one that follows England as well, is it wrong to think Maddison should be considered for England? A little late I know but he seems the complete package.
TX Bill (we’ve got Bournemouth next, possible for TWO losers next week?) EFC


GOAT to gash
Cristiano Ronaldo is currently the worst striker in the premier league.
Ryan, Bermuda

Read more: Ranking the Premier League clubs on how badly they might be affected by the World Cup

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