WFD vs. EPL Talk

Before I begin this article, I should mention that this article was actually written around late 2009 & early 2010, and the motivations of this particular article were as follows: my long love for live radio broadcasts and my support of the host of World Football Daily, Steven Cohen, due to the reaction of comments he mad about an incident I would elaborate later on.  To this day, I still believe in what I had commented in this particular article; in the meantime, I have since unsubscribed EPL Talk as that show has gone entirely into subscription base – after the fact that they have gone to that route … about 1 year too late.  So here’s the entire article written by yours truly:

Since April 15, 1989, there are so many opinions surrounding what happened at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England, and even with the advent of the Lord Taylor Report in 1990, questions remained on whether Liverpool supporters that were in that section (West Stand) where the disaster occurred should be held accountable for their actions alongside the Football Association, South Yorkshire Police, and Sheffield Wednesday Football Club.  Some football supporters (outside of Liverpool Football Club) have voiced that club supporters (including one involved with Steven Cohen, host of then-World Soccer Daily, since changed its name to World Football Daily – details later) should share the blame for the tragedy with objective opinions, however, that was mostly drown out by both Taylor Report (for deeming fan involvement as an insignificant factor) and the core Liverpool FC Supporters.  Many English football fans in the United Kingdom thought that they have left behind of the tragedy since then; however, that notion was sadly mistaken when a new level of disruption of football supporters erupted just a few months ago with a number of incidents occurred around the world.  One must be wondering what football supporter disruption has anything to do with two of the most popular shows on iTunes, unfortunately it has, particularly when EPL Talk have recently launched an attack on World Football Daily with regards of their business practices.  Therefore, I have decided to provide as much details as possible with regards to this set of controversies.

First and fore most, as I provide the background of both shows, I have to confess that I am a subscriber on World Football Daily Premium Content, as well as a listener of EPL Talk podcast.  In my opinion, both shows carry terrifically great guests from football media and journalist, and opinions from the hosts.  However, what separates WFD from EPL Talk and other podcasts are not only the frequent involvement from listeners like me via calling into the show, via e-mail or instant messenger system (specifically Skype), but WFD is a live call-in show, much like its counterpart from BBC Radio 5 Live programs such as 6-0-6, 5 Live Sports & World Football Phone-In feature within the Up All Night program.  Novice listeners and football supporters alike are able to contribute to the show with opinions and responses from the host and headlines related to “the beautiful game”, which was coined by a former player like Eric Cantona, who’s famously played for Manchester United during the early days of the English Premier League (1992-1997).  In addition, the predecessor of World Football Daily, World Soccer Daily, had its live radio run from 2002 to 2009 on Sirius Satellite Radio (later Sirius XM Satellite Radio).  Its hosts of World Football Daily, Steven Cohen has been a Chelsea FC supporter since the late 1960s, while Scottish-born Kenny Hassan is a loyal Rangers (Glasgow) FC.  In the meantime, Wales-born Christopher Harris, a former journalist and football founded EPL Talk in 2005 and provides interviews on free podcast-only access.  Under his show’s umbrella, Harris has also built a network of discussing other leagues asides EPL.  To my knowledge, both shows have generated at least a million listeners since 2002, and with the popularity of the game in the United States.  However, in the case of Hillsborough Disaster and the responses reigned on both sides, it was bound for controversy. First, though let me give you some background if you have no idea why this issue is so controversial.

Before I began to reveal the background of English football environment in the 1980s, I would like to make a few points clear with regards to my involvement in football.  First of all, my engagement in football was actually begun during the 1980s (how ironic) in Hong Kong, and not 2005-06, when I watched the Premier League on Fox Soccer Channel.  Secondly, I have been a keen listener to radio call-in shows for more than 20 years, which began shortly after my arrival in San Francisco through LEGAL immigration, and I had listened to KNBR AM 680/1050 and KGO AM 810 throughout the entire 1990s and early 2000s.  I must have listened to hundreds of thousands of opinions coming from listeners in all over this country and the world, in addition to my way of improving my then-seldom used English in my initial years living here.  Thirdly, even though my failing health prevented me from actively involve with the sports, the thrills of watching every movement in the game has always enticed me to ask for more even though some matches can be a disappointment with lack of enthusiasm from some clubs.

On April 15, 1989, the English FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forrest FC was held at Hillsborough Stadium, it was a re-match of the same fixture in 1988.  Both clubs have held the European Cup champions during the late 1970s to 1984 before all English clubs were banned after the Heysel Stadium Disaster in 1984, which was caused by violence between hooligan firms from Juventus FC and, ironically enough, Liverpool FC, on a dilapidated Heysel Stadium where the 1985 European Cup final was held.  Many championship winning football clubs in England were reduced to focus their efforts on domestic cup trophies for the next few years while their neighboring Scotland went on to become European powerhouse during their absence.  On the day of the tragedy, from the information I have been reading on Wikipedia and the official report that was written by Lord Taylor, Hillsborough Stadium, much like other football grounds in England, had been inundated with unsafe elements with security fences to divide various sections of stands that featured terracing.  In addition, many stadiums did not have sufficient numbers of turnstiles to accommodate the sheer numbers of Liverpool FC supporters even with a healthy number of tickets available still on sale. In the meantime, even though this particular fixture did not attract too much troublemakers that could potentially turn violence in 1988, the still-lingering issues between both clubs could still erupt, which the Football Association has somehow neglected to factor in.  In the meantime, South Yorkshire Police had also underestimated the number of Liverpool fans who would arrive to watch that tournament fixture, thus gave some of more rabid section of LFC fans showed up in strength and forced entry into the stadium gate.  During all of these incidents occurred, something went terribly wrong and hundreds of fans somehow trampled one another and subsequently overflowed into the pitch itself, and local authorities had a tough time of not only keeping the Nottingham Forest fans from getting involved, but also getting rescue vehicles into the stadium and retrieved the victims.  Unfortunately, with all the chaos simultaneously happened, many other ambulances were stuck outside of the stadium and the death toll was quite immense as 94 people died at the West Stand with 2 more died within a few years apart.  Subsequently, the stadiums within the first two divisions in England were forced reconstruction of stands that contained terraces, and the age of all-seater stadiums began as the Premier League was established in 1992 in spite of some clubs like Liverpool have attempted to resist the reconstruction but in vain.  Since then, any clubs that have been promoted to the second division of English football pyramid would have to plan for converting terraces into seating purposes.

After hearing all the backgrounds I have mentioned above, now the fun part of providing my opinions begins.  For that, I would first begin by making this declaration before some lame fools try to drown me out at every turn, which unfortunately had occurred on Steven Cohen since last April when he made his views, particularly with Christopher Harris made a false claim that Mr. Cohen said the Liverpool fans have “blatantly” started the rudely behaviors at Hillsborough, which Cohen had never said in his rebuttal on Major League Soccer Talk podcast, nor his own show.  A few months later, Cohen’s views were first vindicated after the event occurred in Ivory Coast when thousands of fans were forced to evacuate when riot police fired tear gas toward the stands before a 2010 World Cup Qualifier match between Ivory Coast (now called Côte d’Ivoire) and Malawi at Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny on March 29, 2009; then further incidents such as during a Carling Cup (Football League Cup) second round match between West Ham United & Millwall FC, along with a group of Liverpool supporters called themselves “Shades of Shankly” made a series of mass-protest against Royal Bank of Scotland for their decision to allow George Gillette and Tom Hicks to refinance their loans to purchase Liverpool FC that resulted in thrashing at least one of RBS branches in Liverpool by those “supporters”.  In addition, there was also an incident at the City of Manchester Stadium involving Arsenal supporters due to a “controversial” celebration by Emmanuel Adebayor, who went across the field of play and celebrated his goal against his former club, and one of the Arsenal supporters was nearly crushed by others who supports Arsenal.  While I understand that external factors such as stadium infrastructure and tournament organization were not in sync with modern standards after years of operating under the old standards, that does not excuse of overlooking any potential cost of human lives that occurred on that day even if it might have been  an accident all along.  On March 13, 2010, yet another example of fan behavior emerged after a match between Hertha Berlin and Nuremburg, in which dozens of Hertha supporters brought in lead pipes and other weapons at hand and attempted to charge toward Berlin squad & club personnel.  For those fool hearted supporters who persisted that football fans should NEVER be responsible for their behaviors regardless of what they have or might be doing is just plan wrong.

To which, I am bringing out my opinion of both EPL Talk and World Football Daily, and I would have to say in all honesty, that while both shows are rather informative with expert correspondents providing their insights to various areas in the sports.  However, I sense that Christopher Harris has a tendency of just “stuffing” opinions without allowing providing and respecting the voice of football audience, and in the meantime claiming Harris’s network is the sole football discussion program needed in the world.  Even though I may sound a bit bias, I have seen such operations similar to what is known as “trolling”, which translates to just (excuse my language) “bitching” on matters without judging with its own merit.  In this particular case, the fact that Christopher Harris has been fueled with jealousy of Steven Cohen’s success in the years prior and attempted to “troll” on the latter’s show for some of his personal opinion about stadium disasters by misquoting is quite reprehensible.  Even though Lord Taylor Report has been established for almost 20 years, there are certainly needs for improvements by adding provisions involving fan behavior, such as fan-policing.  By condoning fan violence against not only one another, but also creating hostile environment with physical intimation is utterly unacceptable and counterproductive.  In addition, by limiting one special guest per show, EPL Talk has limited them from expanding opinions on the football community.  Although Mr. Harris has amended that issue by adding more staffs to provide comments on other leagues, it still runs into a lot of restriction of letting people actually voice their opinions.

Some of you might think that I don’t have any issues at all with previous and current operations of World Football Daily and its predecessor, you have also been mistaken.  In that, I have taken some offenses of some of the comments made by Cohen, Kenny Hassan, Howard Rogers, or Nick Geber.  They had, prior to the change of co-hosts, often boasted their supported clubs over other clubs – although that was changed when Cohen brought up more and more correspondents to make then-World Soccer Daily more neutral in opinions about clubs, leagues and countries.  More than one instants they had instigated a few arguments with some of more vocal – perhaps, more vile – callers such as Tony from New Mexico, who wanted nothing more than literally bragging and complaining about his beloved Liverpool FC all throughout the show without allowing other callers to make their views heard.  Nick Geber, in particular, often called other clubs rubbish with their performances and acted like Tony and other close-minded Liverpool supporters.  However, the virtues of having a live call-in show is to allow other football fans to express their opinions and reaction and to create a meaningful discussion for everyone who is either interested or fascinated about football.  In addition, for someone who has listened to live radio programs for a long time like me, Steven Cohen and Kenny Hassan are entertaining with their presentation.  Even with some of their childish behaviors, their interaction in their discussions is spontaneously enjoyable, rather than just getting bogged down with news and facts, which can turn off many people.  As I mentioned earlier about the guest issues on EPL Talk and having more guests on WSD/WFD, the latter have brought a lot of guests to provide more insights to other leagues around the world with the likes of Andy Brassell, Bobby McMahon, Misha Sher, Jason Cundy, Sean Wheelock, Pat Dolan, Grant Wahl, and Jon Champion.  Often they would even have former & current players and coaches to discuss the states of football.  Some of those topics include economy, transfer policy, possible use of technology, crowd trouble and rule changes, which often bring in a lot of insights and controversies surrounding to those subjects.  Particularly when any one of those issues incurred from hours earlier, Cohen and company encourages more discussions between fans, hosts, and special guests while having the entertainment values to keep the show from being stale.

In terms of fee-for-service controversy brought out by Mr. Harris after loading his own programs into EPL Talk website, while I wasn’t too thrilled about Mr. Cohen making that decision at the beginning with fear of exorbitant fees, that fear was utterly put into ease as they would charge as minimal as possible when they have long recognized the current state of economy since late 2008.  In addition, this issue began when Mr. Harris misquoted Mr. Cohen’s original statement by claiming Liverpool fans “determined to cause chaos at Hillsborough” in spite of the opposite.  In some respect, Christopher Harris has caused this issue on his own and exacerbated it even more.  Some of the “loyal” EPL Talk podcast listeners have been trolling about wishing utter failures on Mr. Cohen’s new venture since the beginning and claiming the “righteousness” in Liverpool Supporters who supports and condone the vile aspects.  For that reason, they had campaigned to “terminate” WSD, along with everyone involved with that program and its family member (including Mr. Cohen’s second wife & adopted children), thus forced Mr. Cohen to essentially “pull the plug” on the former program and reformatted with extensive use of the internet.  What we have now is that one show that should have never been into “fee-for-service” and become one, while the opposite was true, which makes this following point about Mr. Harris.  I have read some of Mr. Harris’s articles on EPL Talk for a while, and though I am somewhat impressed about his blogs, he has showed me a sign of being a hypocrite by condoning vile behaviors of Liverpool supporters while making opposite remarks against people who have opposing views.  Asides from these points, there is also an issue involving entitlement and privilege, in which Mr. Harris have maintained that every football supporters should hear experts’ opinion with no sort of fees whatsoever, however, an extra boost from the audience would not hurt the cause either.  In the case of WFD, in spite of occasional over-the-top comments with regards of some of more glaring headlines, the quality of the show outshines the liability of the hosts.  Also, the fact that statements made by Mr. Harris that blatantly accused of Mr. Cohen not apologizing for comments that was misquoted by the former had forced the latter’s hands.

Before I close this column, however, I almost forgot to mention one more issue at hand, and that would be the issue of how football fans should conduct themselves during a football match in stadiums.  I have heard about someone once mentioned on BBC Radio 5 Live programs that all football fans should allow to jeer with viciousness and other ruder languages during a match that includes racist and anti-Semitic chants.  This issue brought me back to the days when Major League Baseball began to integrate African American players with the likes of Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, and Larry Dolby from the Negro League from the late 1940s and 1950s.   All of them have received all sorts of racist chants and death threats throughout their careers in spite of playing well for their clubs.  In addition, with the likes of what had occurred this morning (March 13, 2010) in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, this is precisely the nightmarish scenario that brought my attention to write this article in the first place.  Regardless of their races and skills, I have never gone to those rudeness degrees when I watched my alma mater high school American football matches.  Rather, I would make my chants in certain specificity such as calls that I felt it could have been made, or missed call by officials.  Even though each ticket never stamped on specifics in behavioral clause, often times it is considered as part of unspoken rules that originated from theatres.  Such interruption with sordid and discriminatory chants is considered as reprehensible and plain rude, and anyone who gets caught in the act would be subject to be evicted from premise.  Some have argued that such rule restricts their freedom of expression, yet there are a few instants that have led to violence between players and supporters.  The most glaring examples are Tony Phillips, who once charged into the stand and chased down a baseball fan during the early 1990s that earned him a lengthy suspension, and Ron Artest, who got involved with fans during a basketball match in Indiana a few years ago that led him with a similar suspension that of Tony Phillips.

So in closing, here is what I have concluded in all of these points as follows:  While I have recognized that Hillsborough Stadium Disaster on April 15, 1989, has been a rather sensitive subject that has yet to make a fair conclusion that included the concern of fan behaviors during the publication of the Taylor Report, the fact that fan violence and racist chants continued to plague the football culture like a cancer only reinforces the persistence in bringing that into discussion.  While Steven Cohen may have been a bit ill-informed with certain parts of his argument, recent events that involved with fan behaviors have seemed to vindicated his views of shared responsibility between football organization and fans during any sort of stadium disaster and crowd troubles.  In the meantime, while it is fine to make comparison with other shows that are available, by limiting certain aspects of involvement would be deemed as dumping information without letting people digesting while expecting people to agree with your presentation without second thoughts.  One may claim that I have been bought out by Mr. Cohen and troll against Mr. Harris’s network; ironically, not only I have NEVER received a penny by WFD, I am writing this article with my own free will.  While it is true I have paid my subscription with WFD Premium, I have also listened to many other podcasts alongside with my own schedules.  Though I am sure that Mr. Harris is an esteem journalist in his own rights, I sincerely hope he would finally understand what Mr. Cohen is referring with recent events, and not sounding like a troll with jealousy of what he has done with his show; particularly with constantly forcing the issue of entitlement v. privilege on show contents and how Mr. Harris had “demonized” Mr. Cohen of his opinions.  Kenny Hassan, Cohen’s co-host of WFD, had previously made comments about the reactions from Rangers FC supporters with regards to the Ibrox Disaster, that he said that Rangers fans made the consensus of concluding their own behaviors during the tragedy was as responsible as the condition around the Ibrox and the stadium design.  Hassan had also pointed out that Rangers had never brought their issues into the public eye, unlike the counterparts in Liverpool by somehow “glorified” the event.  Regardless of what your opinion might have, it is important that each of us remember to respect opinions from both sides, and not making hateful comments while also commit violence against those who hold opposing views.  In addition, as we accept the tragedy, each of us must realize that our own behaviors affect others in more ways than realized.  With that said, I hope you have enjoyed this presentation.

In the meantime, ENJOY YOUR FOOTBALL!!

Addendum:

A lot of people must be wondering about the rationale of writing this article in such length, or by the basis of even writing it, and there are those (particularly withLiverpoolsupporters and some sections of die-hard Major League Soccer fans) who have held a “legitimate” grudge for comments by Mr. Cohen almost 1 year ago.  So let me hereby make this formal declaration so those “trolls” can understand what I am talking about.  While it’s true that Mr. Cohen have made some inaccurate statements about Hillsborough, the issue that was never commented in the Taylor Report has legitimately given a lot of football fans to attempt to circumvent the regulations that were placed during the mid to late 1990s.  Protest groups such as EuroStand 98, Stand Up Sit Down, and in some respect (as well as ironic) Hillsborough Justice Campaign have, in reality, attempted to justify their claims that fans should never be held responsible for their actions in the stand, and all the while encouraging rudely behaviors that could potentially harm the attendance of casual supporters.  Unfortunately, what happened in Berlin three weeks ago when dozens of Hertha Berlin supporters attempted to chase down the players with lead pipes and other weapons in hands should be a tell-tell sign that such reprehensible behaviors must perish alongside hooligan firms and ultras.

As for the pricing issue of WFD contents, in spite of what some people think EVERYTHING must be free like EPL Talk podcast and other podcasts from UK, let’s think about that for one second.  First, with all due respect to Christopher Harris, by shutting out the very audience who has opinions about football suffers lack of spontaneous discussion with fans.  Second, the pricing on each WFD cast per day is actually a lot cheaper than a cup of coffee from coffee chains and restaurants across the country, i.e., 25¢ instead of $1.50.  Now, if you factor in the fact that WFD is also available on iTunes in both video and audio portions and still cost just a quarter a day, I hate to say it, it’s a lot affordable and more chances of listening to the show than having to wait for hours to hearing EPL Talk podcast.  Third, to extend the first point that I made, ALL interviews conducted by WFD are LIVE RECORDINGS, not the pre-taped.  Like I said, while I might sound like I am bias toward WFD, the fact I had listened to live radio shows throughout the 1990s have greatly influenced my decision of listening WFD live.  In addition, the fact that many questions that are asked by Cohen and Hassan are quite up-to-minute, something that EPL Talk utterly lacks since their inception.  Fourth, to expand the first line I have mentioned with some people think everything must be free, let me bring another subject that is utterly related to this point.  Some anime fans that belong to the fan subs community have made claims that anime should be free to public and anything that is treated as business is crap.  This “viewpoint” mirrors with what I am talking about with regards to the current status with WFD.  Why Hassan & Cohen do made the decision back in August 2009 to make WFD as business is due to the constant harassment and death threats made by the “trolls” fromLiverpool (i.e. Shades of Shankly) and the ill-informed MLS die-hards on online community such as forums and social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and by making a series of threats against those who support then-WSD programming and its affiliates thought their spiteful acts would surely silent them forever.  Unfortunately, they did not calculate the dire consequences such actions have done to football discussion in theUnited States, a nation that had already vilified the sports in more than one ways during the late-1970s.  Those “trolls” never thought that WSD was the forerunner for the modern-day football discussion in the United States, and treated someone with such disrespect by attempting to silence personal views that may not necessary be on the same line and threaten them with their lives has gone too far.  Opinions, regardless of how ill-informed they may have, must still be respected while conducting a peaceful, constructive and meaningful discussion in lieu of trolling about the issues.  If WSD/WFD folds, so goes the chance for those discussions.

Before I officially close this article, however, I would also like to point out something I learned a few weeks back during a safety training course in my workplace.  Specifically, I would like to point out the ratio between environment and behavior, which sparks my interest to inform this intriguing fact: behaviors control 96% while environment only control 4% (even though 20% combines with both).  So while some people would solely blame the environment for their behavior, the individuals who made the decision to cramp into such small space at Hillsborough made them just as guilty as the surroundings at the end of the day.  In other words, for those trolls who keeps thinking of being ruder the better in stadium during a match; please think again before you cause yet another tragedy that you’ll start another blaming session all over again.  I sincerely hope all these points I have made would convince you to give this sport, and mostly, WFD, a chance.  In the meantime, before anyone questions whether this opinion was paid by Mr. Cohen or any one associated with WFD, let me disappoint those people with my final declaration: I, Jeff C. Ng, have NEVER received any payment from anyone when writing this article and my motivation is more to do with the love of football and WFD than making any sort of profit from WFD.  The opinion above is solely those of Jeff C. Ng, and not affiliated with WFD.  If and when I find out that someone trolls about my extended comments, I will make sure those who commit such heinous crimes against me will pay with their lives – in the court of law.

Now, as I have mentioned earlier, it’s been almost 18 months since that was written, and though both Steven Cohen (4/1/2011) & Kenny Hassan (9/26/2011) have since left the show within 5 months apart, the show keeps its beat to this day.  As for the Hillsborough Disaster, let’s be frank, it’s time for all sides to move on.  Regardless of what the mindsets of those football fans may have staked their claims upon, human error from ALL SIDES (including those who were on that stand at Hillsborough Stadium in that faithful day on 4/15/1989) should be considered and not just fixate the blame on the combination of law enforcement agencies, Sheffield Wednesday, and Football Association.  Football fans often forget they are not the only ones who are in the stadiums, there are also video cameras and broadcasting crews bringing the match to the worldwide audience.  In addition, numerous incidents involving football fans had occurred since, and also two of the most glaring contrasting examples to Hillsborough Disaster in Valley Parade fire on May 11, 1985, and the Ibrox Stadium Disaster on January 2, 1971.  In these two cases, NONE of the football supporters blamed the authorities whatsoever, and they moved on without dragging those baggage for years and decades since.  So like I said before, draw your own conclusion after reading.

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