Call a referee every name under the sun, get yourself a booking or two along the way and the FA Beaks will have you before them for “bringing the game into disrepute”. The letter inviting Stan Kroenke to defend himself against the same charge is surely winging its way to KSE HQ as we speak.
We might have hooked up with a philanthropist billionaire, one who despite making oodles of cash, gave much back to society, recognising the privilege of their circumstances. No, we get a gruesome twosome. Yesterday’s announcement that the KSE-owned MyOutdoor TV (MOTV) would broadcast to the UK its menu of big game hunting.
Don’t worry, it’s ethical. Quite what ethical means is beyond me. Unless, of course, the elephants and other animals are being given rifles, body armour, and suitably fast all-terrain vehicles in which to escape. And the green light to stalk the hunters and ravage their miserable bodies out of existence. Not particularly ethical, just less one-sided, I think.
KSE doesn’t care; the argument put out in defence of the channel was based around, “it’s legal, get over it”. I didn’t see it but I’m sure there was an “if we don’t show it, someone else will”, defence as well. Which they probably would but they wouldn’t be the majority shareholder of Arsenal FC.
Which is where the issue becomes clouded. The Football Association will no doubt take the view that KSE’s investment is nothing to do with football, legal, and nothing to do with football. There’s little time or appetite at FA House for ethical hunting of transgressors in the boardroom. Mainly because the FA suits know the boardroom suits can afford better lawyers.
So why is MOTV bringing the game into disrepute if it is legal?
Whichever way you dress it, ethical hunting is still hunting. Not only that, the ‘rewards’ end up stuffed above the mantelpiece or plastered across walls with photos of the grade A plum with a rifle posing above it. Man, conqueror of everything on the planet.
The problem football faces is where the boundaries of ‘disrepute’ lie. They are very flexible and contain three strands: legal, moral and image. If the first isn’t an issue, two and three come into play.
Is MOTV’s existence as part of the KSE portfolio morally dubious? In itself, no. Broadcasting big game hunting is where the issue exists. Programmes will cover fishing and all sorts of other aspects of the great outdoors which allow viewers to channel their inner Bear Grylls. Or if the hunt goes wrong, Bear Grills, Bakes and Barbecues Man. I was going to put roasts but we’re already talking dubious morals and don’t need to add to that further.
It’s one aspect of their programming which is causing the issue and honestly, if that was ditched, the issue goes away. The question Kroenke has to answer is whether the money gained from this aspect of the endeavour is worth the opprobrium of the masses?
It is lucrative; KSE isn’t interest in chump change. And disturbingly, tacit approval is given by Kroenke if that aspect of the programming continues.
Hitting the Bottom Line
We live in a society which is quick to outrage. The politics of hate and economics of greed divide the world, and the media feeds that frenzy with its profit-driven column inches. What fuels a tirade of abuse one day, is embraced a month later. Will anyone beyond the animal rights groups remember MOTV once the season starts?
While the output is, in my view, morally unpalatable, I’m not sure football will see it in the same way.
They should however. There is a puritanical instinct toward the players which is not pursued with any zeal for others. It’s wrong. Had Dele Alli invested in MOTV, all hell would break loose with cries that he should be sacked from the England squad. He probably would be; fined as well and told to mind his p’s and q’s in future.
Kroenke won’t face any censure, and that is wrong. This is an investment on his part which brings football’s moral stance into disrepute.
Hit football’s bottom line and the game takes notice. “Boycott Arsenal!”, the cry went up; “Sack him!”, the ill-informed declared, knowing a soundbite rarely faces scrutiny. Neither thing is going to happen. It’s a storm in a teacup; commercial negotiations won’t suffer on a wide enough scale for any action to be taken. Sponsors will watch the reaction with interest but only when the season starts is when they will really take notice.
The reality is that while the MOTV incident brings football into disrepute, nothing will be done. Expectations that Arsenal will take a stand are a nonsense, only aired if an individual is seeking a career change. The board won’t do anything. They could take the admirable stance that resigning is the only path to follow but that would mean paying for their own tickets. Not going to happen.
It’s another nail in the KSE coffin. Another reason for them to be unloved. They will not give two hoots. Nothing, but nothing will change at Arsenal. There is not a catalyst for change at the club, certainly not change of that magnitude.
The good ship Arsenal will sail through these choppy waters and survive. Will the next billionaire owner form an orderly queue at the door and present your ethical credentials for inspection.