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BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 June 2006, 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK
Arsenal - the conspiracy theory

By Peter Barron
Newsnight editor


    Since our investigation into Arsenal's secret loans last week the press and blogosphere have gone into overdrive, and it's been suggested in one or two places that our motivation was linked to the fact that I'm a "devoted Spurs fan".

    I know some Spurs fans hate Arsenal and vice versa, but isn't it time to get over that?
    One partisan blog has even taken to calling us Spursnight.

    Certainly Spurs are my team of choice, but I think "devoted fan" is putting it a bit strongly - I hold no season tickets or bonds or club memberships and in fact have in recent years been to Highbury far more often than to White Hart Lane on account of the fact that some of my best friends are Gooners.

    Crick on Tour
    Michael Crick's devotion to football has led to an assignment in Germany during the World Cup
    I know some Spurs fans hate Arsenal and vice versa, but isn't it time to get over that?

    We have a few devoted football fanatics on the programme - Michael Crick's devotion to Man United is well known, Peter Marshall lives for Liverpool, Deputy Editor Daniel Pearl is an Arsenal (yes Arsenal) season ticket holder - but I can't claim to be one of them.

    Devoted politics fans

    Would it matter if I was? While only a small number of Newsnight employees follow football with a passion, all of them follow politics and presumably hold views and in some cases membership cards (though for the record I've never belonged to a political party either).

    As BBC employees they are required to leave their personal views at the door when they come to work.

    Was lasagne involved?

    When our producer Meirion Jones brought me the story I didn't think for a second: here's a good way to get back for that lasagne incident, not least because he first raised it about two years ago.

    I simply thought: this is potentially a very good story about the state of modern soccer, whose salaries, payments and bungs have been an issue of huge concern.

    And to those of you who say this is not the most serious thing that's ever happened in football, you may well be right.

    We'd be delighted to hear more stories about football's murky deals, no matter which clubs, countries or associations are involved.

    Click here to watch Newsnight's 2004 report on Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich

    The West Lothian answer

    If you read this column regularly you'll know we spend a possibly unhealthy amount of time trying to work out who our viewers are and what will turn them on.

    Sometimes things we think will go massive go instead with a whimper and vice versa.

    Kirsty Wark shows of the England flag
    Kirsty shows off Newsnight's inexpensive prize
    But there was no doubt about the response to Wednesday's exploration of the apparently arcane issue of the West Lothian question, Tam Dalyell's classic constitutional poser about Scottish MPs voting on English matters.

    Hundreds of you rose to our challenge to try to answer the question.

    This from Matthew Kilcoyne was my favourite, though in the light of Arsenal and my own Ulster roots I must stress his views do not necessarily coincide with my own.

    "You may believe that as a 14 year old that I will be naive in this answer and my point is a little one sided, you might also note that this is a view that many of my friends share showing I believe a higher intelligence than many in some cases. I believe that if the Union is to remain a union and possibly grow to expand peace in the world then we must unify again the UNITED Kingdom into one parliament scrapping the devolution and bringing all issues into one. If we are unable to do this surely other countries will be mocking us soon? Our country and its reputation as a stable and reliable faced one is quickly disappearing as was shown by the complete lack of regard during the break up of the Empire. We are a Union and that's that, the queen is queen the prime minister is the prime minister and all people are the people of the SAME country."
    Matthew Kilcoyne, Wrexham/Chester

    We promised a prize and after some deliberation and the outlay of 97p, came up with the ultimate West Lothian accessory: a flag of St George, signed by Scotland's own Kirsty Wark.

    With some amusement, I read your response to the conspiracy theory being levelled at you by some Arsenal fans. I am an ardent Arsenal fan who has followed the team in and out of Europe on many occasions. I must say there is a part of me that thinks the conspiracy theory has some mileage given the fact Arsenal beat Tottenham into the Fourth spot on the final day of the session. Let us be perfectly honest the chances of FIFA charging Arsenal Football Club with anything would be extraordinary given their current position!
    Michael Porter, UK

    Good on you Peter. Any rational person who is not making a joke out of their comments knows that your investigation is impartial. Only a paranoid and delusional person would think otherwise!
    John O'Dowd, London

    You state that this matter was first raised 2 years ago and presumably therefore insist it is coincidence that this was raised the night before David Dein was due for re-election? Anyone could see a program such as yours that put Mr Dein in such a bad light would drastically harm his chances. I can only see two options:
    - You knew of the elections, and so had some motive for his non election (Spurs fan or not)
    - Or you didn't know of the elections, in which case I would suggest your research is limited to the point of incompetence. So put this together with comments by David Mellor and the Belgian police after your program that suggest it's a non story and you can see why a lot of people are upset over this. Please don't view this as BBC bashing, I've argued many many times on your behalf. But we expect sensationalised non stories put out in the tabloid press for their own means, but not from the BBC.
    S King, London

    "Here's a good way to get back for that lasagne incident" Dangerous territory you are in there. Precisely who would you be suggesting getting back? Sure, leave your devotions at the door, but at least get your facts right. Surely it would have been better not to respond at all. The story was a non-starter in the first place, why bring the attention back to your own editorial failings?
    John Rourke, London

    I'd say it's rather a non-story. Blatter is likely to have more important things to worry about, based on what your colleagues on the Panorama team have been doing.
    Dave, Cambridge UK

    With regard to the 'Spursnight' jibe, I take your point but have to wonder about your timing. The fact that David Dein was voted off the FA Committee he sits on the very next day with the papers full of alleged Arsenal corruption does seem a coincidence. No law of any country seems to have been broken here and at the end of it all, your story doesn't seem to have any firm proof of wrong doing. I doubt whether the FA will take the matter much further. Will you report on this saga again if this is the case or even apologise to Arsenal Football Club? I think we both know the answer to that question.
    Jeremy Price, Cardiff

    I feel by calling ANR [Arsenal News Review] "partisan" you are not helping your argument. ANR is actually a well argued intelligently written website and is not "partisan" in the eyes of many. It is opinionated but not partisan as you call it. The shoddy story you ran on Arsenal and your attempts to justify the "old news" presented as new, appear to have backfired. I am sure my comments won't be printed but if Peter Barron gets to read them I'm sure he knows what I mean, even if he won't admit it in public. Denial is a well known phenomenon,
    Ben Dean, Oxford

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