Saturday Night On Channel Five For The Football League
The Decline & Fall Of Leyton Orient
Rape, Disrespect & Fury: The Oyston Family & Blackpool FC
Is It Time For A New Football Club For Newcastle?
Tranmere Rovers & Cheltenham Town Stare Into The Abyss
The following article is a summary of events this summer regarding the American football radio show World Soccer Daily, which went off the air last weekend after a sustained campaign of protest by Liverpool supporters’ groups. In the interests of brevity, it skips over some of the finer details of what has become an extraordinary story involving alleged death threats, anti-semitism and even the involvement of the FBI. Should you wish to read about it in greater – to the point of almost exhaustive – detail, I would suggest that you head here.
It took four months, but Steve Cohen was finally made to pay the ultimate price for his comments about the Hillsborough disaster when his show, World Soccer Daily, broadcast its last episode on Friday. This is the culmination of a lengthy boycott organised by Liverpool supporter groups over Cohen’s continuing involvement in the show which ended with several of the show’s largest sponsors withdrawing their support from it, but it has been a summer of accusation and counter-accusation which has occasionally bordered on the ridiculous and ended up involving the FBI – or not – and ended with a bizarre and petulant final non-statement from WSD.
Cohen was certainly the target of a great deal of anger from Liverpool supporters. That much is clear. However, after a half-hearted apology (which began with the line, “Let’s put this crap to bed”), Cohen seemed to spot an opportunity to shift the blame for this whole sorry mess away from himself and onto Liverpool supporters. Of the emails that he had received, he stated in an interview with Bnet at the end of June that, “The ones who are against us I would say about 30 to 35 percent of emails I’m getting courtesy of the Liverpool supporters’ groups have some sort of racist, anti-Semitic overtones to them and by the way were handed over to the FBI on Sunday”.
But had they been reported to the FBI? There is no evidence so far to suggest that they have been. Cohen had made a great play of one particular email that he claimed had been sent by “an official member of an official supporters group which is sanctioned and an official supporters group of Liverpool Football Club” (his exact words). Liverpool supporter groups in America were quickly onto it. They didn’t want an anti-semite as a member of their groups. So, they scoured their records and could find no reference to the existence of the person reported to have sent the message. Of course, when they returned to Cohen to establish what proof he had that the sender of this email was, as he had stated, a member of an official supporters group. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he didn’t have any.
At this point, things took a turn for the strange. Mel Abshier, the co-ordinator of the boycott on behalf of American Liverpool supporters’ groups, received an email from one Mark Sawyer, an associate professor at UCLA, who had been requested to mediate between Cohen and the supporters’ groups. It is, perhaps, no surprise that Cohen wanted to negotiate. Many of the of the show’s biggest sponsors – FourFourTwo magazine, Heineken, FADO (a chain of American-based Irish pubs) and RuffNeck Scarves – were, by now, withdrawing from the show. The groups stated that they would negotiate on three conditions:
1. Evidence as to how Steven Cohen knew that the individual was “an official member of an official supporters group.”
2. Proof that the anti-Semitism was condoned or supported by Liverpool FC, Heineken, FourFourTwo and Ruffneck Scarves.
3. The case officers and numbers of the FBI/LAPD reports in order to co-operate fully with them.
Sawyer, however, was not (or at least did not act like) an independent observer. In this article on the Soccer Universe networking site, he erroneously took the phrase “gets the bullet” to mean a death threat, stated that George Gillett “has also fanned the flames of the anti-Cohen movement” and speculated over Gillett and Hicks that “serving them up Cohen holds the angry fans at bay while they sort out their multimillion-dollar debt crisis”, when all that Gillett and Hicks had done was to issue an official condemnation of Cohen’s initial comments on behalf of Liverpool Football Club. Strong words, and hardly the words of an impartial mediator. On top of this, one of the protestors against Cohen, Antony Ananins, received emails that he took to be threatening (more information on this here) as well as a death threat of his own. He chose to contact the FBI, and has made the name of the agent that he spoke to and his FBI case number public. Was this overblown? Possibly, but Cohen’s reputation and integrity were taking fatal blows from all sides by now, and the ending of the show was becoming inevitable.
There was still time for a sour taste to be left in the mouth as World Soccer Daily entered its death throes. The final message on the site published the email addresses of Tom Hicks, Conor Brennan, Mel Abshier and Antony Ananins in what can only realistically be viewed as a petulant last exhortation to fire out some more messages to those that had led the movement which forced their show off the air. What this fails to take into account, however, was that none of this would even have happened had Cohen not made his initial comments about Hillsborough. Perhaps more surprisingly still, the Everton fansite Toffeeweb ran this somewhat embarrassing letter defending what it described as “a great show”. Ultimately, however, one cannot help but feel that American football enthusiasts deserve better than Cohen. They might just get it now.
Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
Bnet – wow – I used to work for them back in 2000 when all they did was republish DTi extracts.
Anyway, that Toffeweb site is ridiculous. Most real Liverpool and Everton fans are members of the same family and Hillsborough is an issue of shared grieving for a lot of them.
This is just a load of me-too idiots from nowhere near Liverpool (and one particularly big one from nowhere near Chelsea) making fools of themselves on the internet.
This whole incident turned into a mess that ends up costing us the only daily show devoted to football in the US.
I’ve never been a big Steven Cohen fan, but I did like Kenny Hassan (his partner), and the show was a good source of information (they had great interviews).
While the LFC Supporters groups had every right to boycott the show and sponsors (just like Cohen had the right to his opinion on what he believed played a role in the disaster), one tome I saw time and time again from LFC supporters was that they feel there is only one way to talk about what happened, and if you disagree with any part of it then there is no room for discussion: you are wrong.
Here’s my question: will it ever be possible to discuss this incident without fannig the flames? I’d wager that the vast majority of US based LFC Supporters were no where near Hillsborough. I’m quite sure some hadn’t even been born. And if you live in the US and have no connection to the actual event save your club affiliation, do you really feel that connected to it? I’m an Arsenal fan, but I know I don’t feel the same way about Tottenham that fans of the club living in London, and that’s not a bad thing. If I’m an LFC supporter in the states, who only started following the club in the last 15 years or so and don’t even personally know anyone that was in the stadium that day, isn’t feeling that worked up about it somewhat an act?
Hillsborough was a terrible thing, something that could have been avoided, and therein lies the greater tragedy.
I don’t understand why the whole thing (the show) had to end. Why didn’t Cohen just step down and get somebody else in ? Why didn’t he take the politician route (out of the limelight, work behind the scenes and then in time make a return).
I fail to see why it should all stop just because of Cohen’s ego.
Cohen is an idiot. He could have just apologized right away and it would have gone away. Oh well…maybe I should start my own show, since apparently any idiot with an accent can do it in the US. Should I go with Argentinian or Spanish?
First of all, I am not a fan of anyone who joins any “organized” supporters group. Why do you have to be organized to follow any team in any sport? It just smacks of people who have this need to “belong.”
Having said that, shouldn’t this whole campaign have been to get Stephen off the air NOT the entire show axed. Sponsors agreed with the boycott and pulled out as let’s face it EVERYTHING comes down to money in the end. That’s the real reason the plug was pulled. If sponsors agreed with Stephen they’d have backed him to the hilt. They didn’t. the money ran out. Show’s done.
If there was “death threats” to his stepkids, don’t you think that would warrant criminal charges?
Plus this whole Hillsborough tragedy is not just a L’pool one. It just happened to be that L’pool was playing that day. English football stadiums were a disaster in waiting back in the ’80s after years of neglect. Sad that 96 people had to pay for that be they supporters of any club but the legacy that came out of this terrible tragedy was new safer stadiums and better ways of dealing with large crowds. Plus let’s not conveniently forget that the Bradford fire was also a part of this whole mess in that decade.
As far as Cohen–who cares? He’s a talking head. I never took what he said seriously. If you honestly think his off-the-cuff, never-let-the-facts-get-in-the- way-of-my-argument style was something you needed to get worked up about, well, then you really need to take a break from the radio.
The best thing any football supporter can do to honor the 96 who died at Hillsborough now 20 years after the fact is to send cash anywhere in the world to any family who has lost a loved one at or near a football match for whatever reason. That shows true compassion for those who died senselessly back in 1989.
As it is,
Whether or not you agree with ANY talk radio host should be irrelevant. I’m neither scouse nor glory hunter, but you have the right to ignore the stupidity of the host and then tune in next week. It’s a sad day when expat scousers, who must number in the hundreds (Get off the bandwagon, yanks) can bring down a nationwide show. Shame on the sponsors who left out their Man U, Chelsea, Arse fans to please their Scousers.
It seems to me there have been two main reactions to this whole situation- either to focus on Cohen’s right to free speech and the hateful emails he claimed to have received, or alternatively to focus on his initial claims, and the fact that free speech doesn’t mean one doesn’t have to deal with the consequences.
I’m of the latter opinion, although I’ve noticed the difference of opinion often seems to depend on whether the commentator is from the UK/ Ireland or America, rather than what club ones supports. I’d guess that the divide comes chiefly from the particular person’s understanding of Hillsborough- as an American, if I hadn’t bothered to take the time to really learn about what happened, I’d probably have a hard time seeing why Cohen’s comments were so terrible.
I’m very glad Cohen is off the air, chiefly because various sponsors of WSD decided that they didn’t want to be associated with his comments. (He clearly isn’t very bothered by any nasty emails he may have received as he already has a new show starting). Cohen can say what he wants, but that doesn’t mean he has a right to a national platform on which to say them. Hopefully either WSD can find a knowledgeable new host who doesn’t attempt to profit off of offensive lies. The last sentence in the above comment is pretty depressing to me, this isn’t about pleasing ‘Scousers’ at the expense of other Sky 4 fans. It hurts American soccer fans if one of their most influential figures is spreading hateful conspiracy theories that have been disproved over and over again.
I like this part of the Toffeeweb letter:
“You can read all about that on the internet and educate yourselves and make your own opinions”
In that exact order?
I love the way you cast doubt on the threats that Cohen claims to have recieved, but unquestioningly believe Tony Ananins, simply because he was prepared to share information about an FBI agent and his case number?
First of all, if there was any merit to Ananins complaint, and an active investigation was pursued, he would not be allowed to share that information with the public.
Secondly, you should know a little bit about the history of Ananins before you assume he’s telling the truth.
Antony Ananins, aka Tony from New Mexico, was banned from the WSD messageboards for repeatedly calling Man Utd fans “Munichs”. Apparently, he went crying to Steven (who he considered at the time as a friend, which probably explains why Steven knew about his wife’s birthday) to reinstate him and was told “No”. Since then, he’s had it in for Cohen.
More importantly however, when he was an active member of the WSD community, Tony gained a reputation for logging on to the message boards, posing as a United fan to post horrible things about LFC and Hillsborough, then he would come back as Tony and argue with HIMSELF!
Do you think it might be possible that Tony sent himself a threatening email? He certainly has the previous history.
It really is outrageous that virtually all coverage of this debacle makes absolutely no attempt to investigate some of the disgusting and childish behavior of the boycotters. Cohen has been demonized and that’s the lead – no questions asked.
Hi Cohen! I mean Jerry M Bottom line is Cohen LIED no difference of opinion, he LIED and paid the price. This article is spot on, hell even Cohen’s own team Chelsea condemned his behaviour. Also if my kids were threatened then i know the person who threatened them would be questioned by the police. Why hasn’t anyone been question about the “threats” on Cohen’s family? The answer is as simple as Cohen himself there were no threats just more lies from that vile cockroach who mocked dead people for publicity. Shame on Cohen and all his cult.. i mean supporters. Shame on all 8 of them.
you guys do know that it took about a week for cohen to announce he’s coming back with a subscription-based show now that he’s played his martyr card and cut ties with the old name. the new “World Football Daily” has a different title and one major shift… it will be entirely subscription based.
@ Linc D.
No, not Cohen. It really is pathetic the number of times I’ve read that line of reasoning. Anyone defending Cohen/attacking the boycotters must be Cohen himself. Grow up.
I don’t need a history lesson of this boycott. I used to be a vocal advocate until I saw what utter idiots some of the organizers where. Especially the lead drummer-boy, Ananins.
Cohen is an idiot and what he said was a disgusting pack of lies, but to close your eyes and ears to the pathetic and very personal vendetta of Tony Ananins and some of the disgusting things HE has done is pure hypocrisy.
Dismissing Cohen’s claims of intimidation, while blindly accepting Ananins, knowing what you now know about him, is pure hypocrisy.
What do you think of a man who calls United fans “Munichs” and then bleats on and on about respect for the 96?
I’m a lifelong Liverpool fan and it disgusts me.
I’m not here to argue about Cohen’s views or his behavior. Just because Cohen was an idiot, doesn’t mean the boycotters were saints. Some of them were also idiots.
I have no affiliation to Ananins or to Cohen, but I’m afraid that I can’t just let what you have written slide. I know nothing of the boycotters past nor do I find it particularly relevant. Especially when the alleged stains on character are all based around comments made on an open, unregulated forum. Making up alter-egos and argueing with yourself is hardly on the same level as Cohen’s actions – namely spreading misinformation and lies to suit his own misguided agenda. The difference being that Cohen abused his position as a ‘respected’ and ‘knowledgable’ commentator on the game to reach an audience that evidently trusted his output.
Anyway, I know you agree that what Cohen did was completely wrong, I just wanted to make sure you understood the reasons Ananins went to the FBI. It was to discredit Cohen’s claims that he had passed racist and threatening emails to the FBI. When asked for proof, Cohen could not produce any. Ananins action was to prove how easy it would be to report such threatening emails and that there was no barrier to disclosing that fact.
And anyway, just as there was a burden of proof on Cohen to disclose, there is no proof of any of the accusations you have made about some one who has taken direct action in the right way. WHo you now choose to demonize.
Anyway, I really hope you understand the distinction between comments on an unregulated message board/forum and comments on one of the most influential free to air radio/tv shows in the country. Surely you can see the difference?
Apologies if this comment lacks structure but I hope you get my points.
I understand your points Andy, but you are completely off the mark with regards to Tony Ananins. For a start, I wrote to the FBI field office in Albuquerque, NM to ask for confirmation that Tony’s “case number” was genuine, after my own reading led me to believe it was fake. Here is their reply…
The case number you provided is not associated with any FBI cases. We are unable to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation involving Antony Ananins. The existence, or lack there of, of any interest in any individual is protected by the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts. If you would like to provide the FBI with information that may be of investigative interest to us, please do so by e-mailing, mailing or calling the FBI.
4200 Luecking Park Ave, NW
Albuquerque, NM 87107
You see Andy? Tony is being lauded as a hero and a genuine victim of the devil incarnate, Steven Cohen, when in fact, he is a lying, manipulative hypocrite.
He is also a nasty piece of work. One of the WSD community who did a lot of work promoting the show is a really nice and genuine guy called Woody. Back in June, Woody took some time off to grieve the loss of his father to cancer. While he was away, Tony decided it would be appropriate to post on the BigSoccer forum as “Woody’s Dead Dad”.
That’s the kind of person that was leading this boycott. A man that mocks United fans, by calling them “Munichs”, posts vile things about Hillsborough in order to argue with himself, makes up FBI investigations in order to come across as the genuine victim and mocks dead realtives. All while insisting that we all respect the 96.
Cohen was a prick for all kinds of reasons, but it makes me sick to my stomach to read this guy being held up as a hero.
Jeremy Mc Mahon
Ive have ran that FBI number and it belongs to a case attatched to Antony Ananins with the sheriff’s dept in Silver City,NM not the FBI.
Maybe he has a good reason to mislead people.
I cannot comment on alleged posts on WSD as im not a member but i do have some information on “That nice guy” Woody you were talking about.
Woody Posted: Jun 30 2009, 09:02 AM
Member No.: 152
Joined: 13-September 05
Well, if you guys decide to do that, you should all claim to be Liverpool fans (even Del! ), so that the chance of Rome saying something unkind toward that lot is increased. You wouldn’t want Lord Mel and his plebes left out…
°°° A Northlander now freed from Exile…
°° “Football can bring fraternity and tolerance” Arsene Wenger
°”You do not have the right not to be offended” jay_santacruz
Asking posters to pose as Liverpool supporters to incense Jim Rome, yeah that Woody sounds like a nice guy doesnt he?
By the way Jeremy, you call Cohen “A prick” and say
“Cohen is an idiot and what he said was a disgusting pack of lies” and you claim to be a Liverpool supporter who respects the 96, yet you have added him as a friend on Facebook. Hmmmm, i wonder.
Jerry stop acting like an asshole. The boycott is over and it looks like Steven is being left to get on with a new show in peace.
If you think the past couple of weeks have been fun without WSD then think again buddy.
It sounds like you have a hard on for this Tony guy. Why not just email him and tell him so, instead of trying to whip up shit that could start this whole sorry affair up again.
Cohen is finished full stop.
I’m not whipping up any shit pal. Clearly this has all gone away, which is great. However, the legacy left behind is that Ananins is some kind of hero, which is disgusting, because HE’s the asshole. He’s STILL fucking milking it on his “Putting Steven Cohen Straight” group. I’m not going to contact him, because I’ve seen what a goddam psycho he is.
Maybe, with regards to investigations, Cohen had a good reason to mislead people too?
If you were a member of the WSD forum, you’d know that that comment by Woody was facetious. Ananins, on the other hand was up to his antics repeatedly, until he got caught.
I added Steven as a friend on Facebook because I actually talked to him throughout this shit, rather than demonizing him through cherry-picked sound bites, and he’s a good guy. What he said was still “a disgusting pack of lies” and he’s a “prick” and an “idiot” for saying it, but overall he’s ok.
I added Steven as a friend on Facebook because I actually talked to him throughout this shit, rather than demonizing him through cherry-picked sound bites, and he’s a good guy.
Hang your head in shame Jeremy mc mahon.