How Premier League CEO Scudamore Blew the Gaff on Man Utd Bias – by Rob Atkinson


Pet lip:  Premier League CEO Scudamore misses those Man U days of success

Pet lip: Premier League CEO Scudamore misses those Man U days of success

As a Leeds United fanatic, a card-carrying cynic and someone with no faith in the football authorities these days to run a fair and disinterested league competition, I have written many times on this blog about my belief that the Man U domination of the game in this country after 1993 (the FA Premier League début season) was deeply suspicious. The last season or so’s steep decline, with a squad not at first markedly different to the one that romped home in Taggart’s final season, begs the question: what’s really different? It has appeared ever since The Demented One left that the change of stewardship is behind this relative failure. But was Alex Ferguson the sole factor in the unprecedented success enjoyed by the Pride of Devon over the last two decades?

These days, following a series of revealing comments over the past year or so from people who should know whereof they speak, it appears that at least a couple of other factors have been at play throughout that twenty year period. I have said over and over again in Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything, that the Fergie years have been trophy-laden for three well-defined reasons, none of them all that adjacent to the quality of their playing squad. They may be summed up as: Ferguson, match officials and the rulers of the game itself. These three influences conspired over two decades to exaggerate the success of Man U out of all proportion to the abilities of their playing and coaching staff in that period, many of whom have gone on to enjoy sustained mediocrity elsewhere. Add into the mix the drip, drip, drip effect of blind, unquestioning media adulation, spearheaded by Murdoch’s Sky empire and endorsed by lapdog attitudes from the terrestrial broadcasters who know which side the commercial bread is buttered, and you have what is technically known as a “Scum-friendly environment”.

This may to the unwary sound like just another conspiracy theory.  But you only have to look at the unprecedented before and after picture of Man U’s record pre-Murdoch as compared to their success under Uncle Rupert. After all, we’re talking an almost total domination of the Premier League era here, by a club that – for the 26 years immediately preceding the league reorganisation – couldn’t buy a title. Seven times Champions in their whole history prior to 1993, and then thirteen Premier League titles in the first twenty years after Rupert Murdoch bought the game.

That’s such a sharp delineation between failure and success – it’s not coincidental that the demarcation line is the inception of the Premier League, the changing of football in this country from a sport to a brand – and the new understanding that the game was now about markets and money to a much greater extent than it had ever been before. Man U were the new brand leader, and they had better succeed – or the Premier League product might not fulfil its immense potential for dominating the world in terms of TV audiences, syndication and merchandising. And that would never do. So the game leant the way of the Man U scum – as we at Leeds United fondly refer to them – and the pressure applied by Ferguson to match officials was allowed to take effect. Professional sport is a matter of extremely fine margins; a slight bias over a long period will skew outcomes to a massive degree – and that’s exactly what has happened.

Naturally, none of this has ever been acknowledged. It’s been of paramount importance, after all, that the Premier League should at least retain the appearance of being a fair competition, on the proverbial level playing field. But now – Ferguson has gone, Man U are failing, the referees are not by any means as intimidated, opposing teams are not scared any more; not, as they used to be, beaten before they took the field. And now people are speaking out, very revealingly – and in some cases that is clearly intentional, in other cases less so. Ex-referee Graham Poll is one who has made his views known quite deliberately; he has spoken out about the feelings of a ref in the Fergie years, how the priority was to get off the field without having made any close calls against Man U – and, ideally, with them having won the game. What is the cumulative effect of that kind of insidious pressure over twenty years? Self-evidently, it’s significant; look at the trophy records, the penalty for and against statistics, the time added on if Man U weren’t winning – and so on and so forth.

Poll has also written about the unprecedented scenes when three penalties were given against Man U in a home game against old rivals Liverpool. Even though things have changed in terms of the favourable decisions enjoyed by Man U, these were the first penalties awarded against Man U as the home team since December 2011 – well over two years without conceding a home league penalty. Poll’s observations on that make for interesting reading for anyone who, as I do, strongly suspects that Man U had it easy from match officials in the Fergie years.

And then, to put the tin lid on it, we had Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore sounding off, in earnestly worried tones, about how the Premier League “brand” is being adversely affected by the difficulties Man U were having last season (happily, it’s carried on in pretty much the same vein this time around). It’s difficult to believe that he was quite aware of the import of what he was saying – this was a tacit admission, after all, that the supposedly disinterested rulers of the game actually have a vested interest – as I’ve been saying long and loud – in the regular success of Man U. “It’s a double-edged sword,” said Scudamore, at the time. “When your most popular club isn’t doing as well, that costs you interest and audience in some places.” The hapless Peter doesn’t identify the other edge of that sword, but he’s clearly perturbed by the prospect of a future with Man U as the also-rans they’ve been this last two campaigns.

Speaking in greater depth about the ethos of the Premier League, as well as its duty to fans around the world, Scudamore went on: “There are lots of fans around the world who wish Manchester United were winning it again. But you have to balance that off against, generally, we’re in the business of putting on a competition and competition means people can compete.” The wistful tone of that last sentence was massively telling. Other clubs will insist on competing, particularly now that Ferguson is history. How very inconvenient and bad for business. What a deuced bore.

The FA Premier League mandarins at a high level clearly see even competition, where any old Tom, Dick or Manuel (or even Jose) can win the League, as their cross to bear, something that will inhibit their ability to market their “brand” around a global audience in thrall to Man U. But they have made a rod for their own back in allowing the creation of that trophy-winning monster, under the inimical sway of a tyrant from Govan, to become so all-consuming in the first place. Now they’re reaping what they have sown – in pumping up the bubble of unrealistic success for one favoured club, they have left themselves without a Plan B for when that bubble bursts – as bubbles inevitably will.

For real football people – the fans out here, the people who have always gone along to the match, with little if any thought of global markets and syndication deals – this new reality of genuine competition has come as a breath of fresh air. There’s a new top four out there, of varied make-up which usually excludes Man U, and they’ve all played wonderful football and succeeded on their own merits.

We’ve also seen less of the media-beloved “mind games” which are so tiresome to the fan in the street. We’ve not missed that old curmudgeon, railing at authority whenever he gets any less than his own way and intimidating anybody who gets in his way. Football seems fresh and new again; Man U were seventh last time – which is probably about where they should have finished the season before. The first twenty years of the Premier League can be seen as a statistical blip, the product of a tyrant dominating and bullying the people charged with the responsibility to see that the game is run fairly. The evidence is there; listen to Poll, listen to what Scudamore is actually saying. Look at the results and standings this season and last.

We’re so very sorry, Mr Scudamore, if your product and your brand are suffering from the failure of “your most popular club”. Perhaps you should take the view that popularity is there to be earned by whichever club can succeed on merit? That it’s not something to be inculcated by the favourable treatment of one chosen club, amounting to institutional bias over twenty long years. Perhaps you can learn that – and then all we will have to regret is the two decades when, aided by Ferguson and a terrified cadre of referees and officials, you – blatantly and with malice aforethought – sold the game down the river.

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50 responses to “How Premier League CEO Scudamore Blew the Gaff on Man Utd Bias – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Spot on Rob BUT it was apparent to anyone who watched closely that they were on the decline for the last three seasons and Man City’s under performance last season skewed the result.
    Scudamore is talking crap because he is referring to Asia and I can tell you having traveled extensively there on business some years ago that Asians support winners and change allegiance like the wind. If Liverpool as I hope win the title they will all be L’pool supporters and drop scum like a hot penny.

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    • The fact that they won it by a mile last season with a squad about 4th best in the league says it all for me. It wasn’t all down to rivals’ bottling it – though that DID happen. Ferguson had to be allowed to go out on a high – so there were plenty of dives awarded penalties, plenty of 50-50 decisions going their way – etc etc. It was the last hurrah of the Evil Empire.

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    • Tim, yes good point, Fergie left at the right time….. Vidic is “sick note” Ferdinand and gigs are past it, there is an old boys network that needs breaking up and until Mata arrived the Man United midfield was distinctly average. I submit that Man u took advantage of other clubs poor seasons last year and punched above their weight…… Fergie new this and did a runner to save his reputation

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  2. “Fergie time” “bullying of match officials ” etc only gets you so far, you still need a very good team. The real reason Fergie dominated is that he took advantage of an excellent youth team. Beckham, Giggs, Scholes, the nevilles etc all came through at the same time and with clever additions of the likes of Keane and Sheringham it created a similar atmosphere to that created under DOL when his “babies” came through. I believe young talented players coming through at the same time can be a potent mix if handled well enough because they inspire each other and show each other the way. Another example is Revies team of course…

    The likes of the Neville brothers who have less skill than many professionals benefited from this atmosphere and at Leeds the likes of McPhail and others arguably played above their real level until the club went off the rails…..

    It could be argued that the likes of Dawson, Mowatt and Byram represents another opportunity to do the same thing at Leeds now but unfortunately the situation at our club has meant that Leeds is a very unpleasant place to be over the last 4-5 months.

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    • But last season’s wasn’t a very good team. That’s the point – I’m not saying Man U would have won nowt without this incredibly helpful set of attitudes from the game’s rulers. Just that the so-called Fergie era was largely a myth, supported by unfair advantage.

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      • Chareose

        Perhaps you could say that about the last few seasons yes……and yes he was a bully and a bit of a cheat but man u fans would argue that was better than a nice guy loser approach…. If you think about Pre-Beckham, man united were merely a good top level side and were open to competition from sides like Leeds United but it was THAT YOUTH TEAM which propelled them to new heights and as much as we all hate fergie he deserves credit for taking advantage of that.

        When our chance came we screwed it up, we also had a good young side come through but our hierarchy got carried away and pushed to hard too fast

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      • No doubt about that – but the institutional bias I’m talking about underpinned the whole Premier League/Ferguson era – without that extremely favourable set-up, Man U would merely have been very good, and they’d have been more vulnerable to challenge by other very good teams. As it was, they were put on a pedestal – you ask a general, you can hold a hill-top against an army with just a few superior weapons. Ferguson, the refs and the game’s administrators were the big difference for Man U from 1993 to 2013.

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  3. This is so good I have tweeted it. Money talks loudly in the Premier League. It also does in the Football League, which is why they don’t want to lose Leeds to the Premiership.

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  4. Just read your article….and I have to say, despite being a fan of man U since 1993, you’re spot on. Well said. I might support my local team Torquay now…

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    • You know it makes sense. If my article makes one plastic, gloryhunting scummer see the light, it’s not been a wasted effort. Thanks for being so honest 😉

      It’s good to be King.

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  5. Hey Rob,

    I *kind* of agree with you, but I think the system as it runs right now is mostly transparent (explanation of “mostly” to come). Man U has done historically very well out of the system. This has built up a historical advantage for them. I don’t think there’s active intervention right now in their favour. That could change.

    The real issue goes back to the late 80s, when the so called “Big Five” managed to establish a cartel which took the majority of the revenue from the new ITV contract (actual numbers: 40% to be shared, deal signed with ITV August 88, deal was put together by – step forward – Mr Greg Dyke of LWT). They got the deal by working with Dyke to threaten a breakaway league (with the cooperation of 5 other teams) run by ITV. The deal also changed the existing 50% of TV revenue for the old D1 (now the PL) to 75%. Leeds were in D2 at the time. The “Big Five” was Man U, Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal and Everton. Any revenue imbalance in the higher echelons of football has a reinforcing effect. The 5 teams were able to use the money to acquire other teams’ up and coming players, reinforcing their squads, disabling competition and maintaining a grip on the division.

    Quote from Mihir Bose, “Game Changer”: “Unknown to the clubs, Dyke had agreed a secret protocol with the Big Five to allocate them a guaranteed number of TV matches. The effect was to boost their share of both the direct television income and the value of sponsorship and advertising hoardings.” (p. 63).

    Ferguson largely wasted his outspending (if you read the Last Champions, it points out the relative cost of the Leeds and Man U teams of 1992) until 1993. If you remember, the period before Man U was briefly dominated by Liverpool, then Arsenal, with championships for Leeds and Blackburn (in the former case for good management under Wilko, in the second because Blackburn could outspend using the now common benefactor model).

    You get the PL in 1993 on. The system changed again so that 100% of the TV money went to the premier league. Revenue was still based on TV appearances – the nearer the top you were the more appearances. One of the reasons for Leeds’ meltdown post O’Leary was that under Venables Leeds’ performance collapsed and TV revenue disappeared for the second half of the season due to the league position at Xmas.

    The deal to do away with the old European Cup was done around the same time, in 1992, again by a cartel, this time working with Adidas. The British members of the cartel were Man U and Arsenal. Initially the European Championship included (as had the old EC) one team from each country, so the league winners suddenly had all the new money and could build up a unique and unassailable lead. For a few years this was Man U.

    With the onset of Blackburn, Man U could not guarantee first place and therefore the CL place. Magically, the system went to 2 then 3 teams (dependent on performance). Ironically, the 4th English place was “won” by Leeds on the basis of its European performance in the early 2000s; subsequently and as of 2003, all the four main leagues – England, Italy, Germany, Spain – have four places each. Note that, when they went back to winning leagues, Man U called for the system to be reverted to just the winner getting the CL place.

    I think the system is fairer now, but the long term imbalance shows. By my projection, the top 7 places at the end of this season will be the original big 5 plus Man C and Chelsea. West Ham’s “free stadium” deal (like Man C, but better) may end up in a lucrative benefactor sale – I wouldn’t bet against them to join the club over the next few years.

    As for Scudamore, look for more rule changes to favour certain clubs. The rules will be transparent, the reasons for them less so (hence the “mostly” at the start of this comment). I think the next one will be for the top 4 of the UEFA/Europa Cup to go through to the CL in the following year.

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    • But is this entirely a bad thing? 22 clubs is too many for a top, elite division. 18 is better. Consider the amount of kids playing football now, compared to the 70s or earlier.

      Also worth pointing out that the 5 + 5 you mention was actually 11, because we were mixed up in it too. IIRC the big five were unsure if they really wanted the Wendies, who were in the 1st Division at the time, or whether they should just dump them in favour of ourselves.

      As for West Ham, what’s your alternative? That Tottering, already a big club, be given the stadium instead? That it be demolished, or given to Orient (which seems like a waste)? Of course a London football club should use it. If there are too few big clubs and too few smaller it helps balance things.

      Personally I’ve long wished the super league had happened with us instead of the Wendies, plus 5 other English clubs, plus Cardiff, Rangers and Celtic. And below it was a federated British Isles pyramid structure. 4 clubs each from the main 4 European Leagues? I’d rather have the 4th Italian club than the 2nd Danish club. 64 clubs, play a 2 legged qualifiying round in September, and have a league of 8 playing home and away!

      As for where the TV cash goes, quite right too. When Leeds are in the top division, I enjoy watching football, and I don’t want to watch Fulham vs Sunderland. I want Scum vs Newcastle or Arsenal vs us. Who gets the biggest gate?

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  6. scottywhites

    That was a very good read rob,scum supporters are a sham my best friend is a scum supporter and he hasnt worn a man u shirt since fergie left just because they are now shit, i on the other hand wear my leeds shirts nearly every day [my missis is sick of washing them lol] they are not real footy supporters they blow with the wind my friend,wouldnt be surprised if they all become city supporters over night. Thats is the type of people that come from devon [sorry just getteng frustrated with not hearing anything from leeds takeover ] rant over. Was fergie really that scary i supose seeing that red glow coming off his whiskey nose would scare any feeble ref with no balls half to death. I agree with you rob old saying handed on a plate comes to mind. MOT

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  7. scottywhites

    Just on another note it didnt take massimo long to work haigh out did it and looks like mcd days are numbered if massimo gets in MOT

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  8. Great article again Rob , I have always been of the opinion that Scum have a different set of rules for them .
    On a different angle , the tragic Munich disaster in its own way kick started them to become Englands biggest supported club with the ability to hand pick all the best young talent from UK and Ireland . Talking about Munich , they always make a huge deal of it with the minutes silence ect . But I would like to know how many people that wring their hands and talk in glowing terms of the Busby Babes realise that for many many years the wives and families of the players that tragically lost their young lives were hardly paid a penny in compensation and were asked to vacate the Club owned houses within 6 months Dennis Violet the England players wife beingamong them . Busby never raised his voice ever in protest along with many Scum directors and exectutives .
    Just Saying .

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    • You’re absolutely right. I’ve blogged about this – search for Superga on this site.

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    • The irony is they rebuilt the dynasty by bribing the parents of budding starlets with houses if they signed up. Another favoured tactic was signing star players from their rivals to weaken them. Terry Gibson,Gary Birtles,Alan Brazil,Peter Davenport etc couldn’t stop scoring for their respective clubs but couldn’t get arrested once they joined the scum. They can get all their medals,pots and pans from the last 30 years and throw them in the nearest bin cos they got them by cheating.

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  9. Sgt.Wilko gave fergie the final piece in the jigsaw,Eric cantona,they already had Dennis Erwin. From then on with the fergie factor they never looked back. Shame Don Revie did not have the same influence on match officials.still waiting for the appeal decision. MOT.

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    • Bill Fotherby has spoken about this in interviews – Leeds didn’t have the money to cover the remaining payments on Cantona, quite apart from Wilko’s issues with him. This all comes down to Man U taking a disproportionate share of funds from English football, by controlling the rules and being able to apply pressure inside.

      Same thing happened with Newcastle as with Leeds. Riding high, then Man U take Cole, who I think is still the Premiership’s top scorer for a single season (Suarez might pass him if he keeps going).

      Control the money, you don’t need to control much else.

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  10. scottywhites

    So the QC is thinking on his decision, or has the fl told him to keep this going for as long as possible because they hate leeds utd when will this hell be over bet they dont give a decision till friday,or knowing fl the end of the season lol [bunch of bast.rds] MOT

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  11. Rob,you may have heard it from a man who narrowly escaped charges of taking bungs due to his failing health and chronic alcoholism. The same man who had the bare faced cheek to accuse Leeds players of cheating. Perhaps the guilt of corruption drove him to drink?

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    • Perhaps. I think he just liked it too much and it claimed him.

      “First the man takes a drink. Then the drink takes a drink. Then the drink takes the man”.

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      • Oh,er,right. Can you remember that winger who was absolutely terrible(sounds familiar) jimmy carter he was called and he was passed around for ridiculous sums of money, everyone who signed him got their fingers caught in the till/brown paper bag,including clough?

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      • Played for Miwwwaww and Liverpool right?

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  12. Robert you’re a modern day poet , a voice of the under class and down troden , a leg-end in hyper space, there are not enough superlatives to bestow on this this blog ….. Love it

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  13. Absolutely spot on , something we have all known for years. They should strip the scum of half of their titles !

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  14. sorry to say mr atkinson but your article seems like a real piece of hateredness towards man united and sir alex man united won trophies because over the years he rebuilt the team again and again and above he never let a player feel bigger than the club which some players are doing now players were dying for the club during his years which is different now . and you can not get 20 titles out of 1 added minute of every game united won because the had resources and a manager to make the team play better and collectivly . sorry but i dont agree with you completely

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  15. Alec wilson

    Phew, they cheated ya mean ! Lol probably did !

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  16. RoystonLUFC

    not sure what Scudamore is so worried about. In the home counties, Devon, Hong Kong and elsewhere they’ll already be throwing their red shirts away and buying shirts of various shades of blue to support their new band-wagons

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  17. FFP is footballs way of ensuring Man U are retained as corporate global brand Number 1. You can’t challenge them or you get a massive fine. What is fair about that? In any other sphere it would be illegal.

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  18. Brilliant, absolutely spot on, been telling everyone for years how loaded the dice was in there favour. Carry on with your truth finding, It was appalling how he Ferguson backed by big business, the media,got away with it.I almost give up watching the game it was so bent.

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  19. What a muppet..u really are another dumbass leeds scum bitter numpty…u ever watch footy, refs are constantly making mistakes in all games at evrry level..mancheter united had some of the finest players..cantona etc..oh thanks for that one u muppets lol, still giggle thking use lot started our reign

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    • Any advice for kenny, anyone? He seems a little confused…

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    • Craigk….grow up, to say some of the players that played for united were not top drawer is to say u know nothing..cantona keane pallister robson vidic thanks for rio too scholes rooney ronaldo need i go on..all the greats recognised these players, to listen to some leeds nobody says it all..have a brain and even start to question this ridiculous article…so every great team of the generations could have the same crap accused to them…barca milan madrid..oh the refs oh the manager shouted at the ref..crsp outter crap..do the fans not try to influence games..am sure dwn at elland road they makee plenty noise or is it just on these silly forums

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      • Kenny wants attention I think… Or shall I gag him? Up to you lot.

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      • Awaiting some reasonable footy banter..have a nephew who supports leeds amd god his head is clouded..wher signing this italian that reserve player..serie b…if you hadnt so many clowns running your circus use wouldnt be strugglin all these years..invest in youth and stop buyin mercenaries..diuof give me a break, billy bremner wouldd turn in his grave! Oh that team where just ok because the refs gave them everythg and the manger shouted..who do i sound like..clown

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      • Yes Kenny, you sound like a clown. You don’t have many lives left now, so make the next one count, there’s a good scummer.

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  20. Pingback: It’s A Knockout! Man U to be Allowed to “Play Their Joker” When Losing – by Rob Atkinson | Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything

  21. Pingback: Leeds United to Miss Out as FA Introduce Selective New “Joker” Rule – by Rob Atkinson | Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything

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