My first reaction to the news that Arsenal had agreed to take part in a season of Amazon’s ‘All or nothing’ series was: I hate this.
In the cold light of day, I still kinda hate it. However, I can acknowledge this is something a significant number of people seem hugely interested in, and I can understand why. People love their football clubs, and the more access to behind the scenes stuff the better. This is why the official channels do training videos (which make everyone look like the best finisher ever), Bench Cam, and all that. Even tiny stuff from players’ Instagram stories gets devoured, so I get why there is an appetite for something more substantial.
Leaving aside my antipathy for the tax-dodging, make your workers urinate in bottles because they don’t get sufficient break-time, platform this will be broadcast on, I still have some worries about the whole thing. I can’t quite get my head around the idea that NOW is the right time. Let me be clear: I don’t think the presence the Amazon crew is going to be the difference between a good season and a bad season, but if you do under-perform, you leave yourself open accusations that you’ve been distracted and lack focus. Perhaps it speaks to the confidence that Mikel Arteta – who must have given the ok for it – has in his ability to produce the necessary improvement.
We’re coming off the back of our worst two seasons in living memory, and before we’ve even signed a single new player, we’re announcing a deal to do TV show/documentary. I know the two things aren’t mutually exclusive (except for the purposes of quick gags on Twitter), but the optics of it really aren’t great. It can’t be just about the money either. The reported £10m we’ll be paid (which seems very cheap given the unprecedented level of access) is barely 20% of what we’re going to pay for Ben White, so while I know every penny counts at the moment, this cannot be the driving factor behind this.
— arseblog (@arseblog) July 9, 2021
Will it be a way for Josh Kroenke to get front and centre, to demonstrate his hands-on commitment to the club? I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a significant part of it. Soft focus Josh, hanging out with his buds Mik and Ed and Dick and Vin, with some likely cringe-worthy interactions with players.
“My man PeePee!”
“Wow, that KP guy is nuts! NUTS, geddit?”
The other thing is that having cameras everywhere changes … well, everything. Remember, when footballers talk to each other on the pitch, they put their hands over their mouths to prevent people lipreading. Now, we’re supposed to believe that with an intrusuive film-crew everywhere they’re just going to chat freely among themselves like they normally would? I don’t think so. What we’ll get might well be interesting, and perhaps we’ll see stuff we wouldn’t normally see, but it just can’t be authentic in the true sense.
Just put yourself in the same position in your work or even at home. If you knew every word you said was going to be filmed, you’d watch what you say, how you said it, and you’d probably start saying things and behaving in a way which would make you come across as the best possible version of yourself for the finished product. The film crew can’t be a fly on the wall when they’re buzzing around all day long shouting “IT’S ME, THE FLY!”
So, while I get people want to see more and want to know what happens behind the scenes, this version of it will be sanitised, inauthentic, and more than likely selectively edited to produce the best entertainment product to drive subscriptions for Amazon Prime. If that’s ok with you, then fine, but I just can’t see beyond the artifice.
Now, will I watch it? Sure. As I said, I don’t doubt parts of it will be entertaining, perhaps incisive, and I’m as much an Arsenal content junkie as anyone else. My gut feeling though is that this may prove to be more fun for fans of other clubs than it will for us. Sort of like the guy who climbs to the highest diving board and shouts ‘WATCH THIS!’, before producing the biggest belly-flop of all time, and a slap that reverberates around the world.
For some time now, the lines between football and entertainment have become blurred. This is top-level sport, but it’s no longer just that. Clubs exist to play football, but also to sell subscriptions, merchandise, produce content, drive traffic to websites and apps, and that genie is well and truly out of the bottle now. There’s no going back, and I suppose this is the next logical step. You’re either in or you’re out, and Arsenal have decided they’re all the way in.
I suppose how this is ultimately viewed will depend on the season we have. If it’s good and successful (within whatever the definition of that is for the upcoming campaign), it’ll be an interesting companion piece. If it’s not, not only do we have to endure the football side of things, we’ll have to watch the car crash unfolding again with behind the scenes footage of training ground bust-ups, toe-curling teamtalks, and forlorn looking players and staff. I sincerely hope it’s the former.
To be fair, it’s not the first time Arsenal have dipped their waters into the fly on the wall documentary world. There was an experiment back in the late 80s when referee David Ellaray was mic’d up, but the club forgot to tell the players and some of the interactions are downright hilarious now.
I do find myself very much in line with George Graham on this kind of entertainment, but his ‘I’d rather not’ at the end of the video below is a masterful piece of comedic timing. The other point about how what’s filmed ends up with you for your entire career is still spot on though!
Right, let’s leave it there for now. Enjoy your Saturday, and I’ll be back tomorrow with more ahead of the final of Euro 2020!
Take it easy.