Pretending their wifi is on the blink and their screen has frozen

Barry Glendenning
Photograph: Fred Lee/Getty Images for Premier League

MASTER CLASS

Despite our status as one of the pre-eminent football authorities and influencers, the Fiver has never been hauled before the Department of Culture, Media and Sport select committee to face a barrage of interrogatory projectiles from stern politicians. With the lockdown in place, current victims get to face their inquisitors through the medium of conference call, which means they can avoid answering particularly probing questions by sitting very still with a particularly gormless expression on their face, pretending their wifi is on the blink and their screen has frozen.

Related: Newcastle takeover saga close to resolution, Richard Masters tells MPs

In front of the DCMSSC this morning to answer questions on a variety of football-related niceties, among them TV piracy in Saudi Arabia, allegations of involvement in murder against the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and their potential effect on any takeover of Newcastle United by a consortium in which the nation state of – you’ve guessed it! – Saudi Arabia has an 80% stake, the Premier League chairman, Richard Masters, looked like he would rather be anywhere else. However, he eschewed the cowardly option, preferring instead to answer questions he clearly found objectionable by looking like a teenager who has just been asked to tidy his bedroom and saying “I can’t talk about any specific takeover of any specific club,” or assorted variations thereof.

Asked by Scottish MP John Nicolson to justify the potentially “humiliating” scenario in which One Direction singer Louis Tomlinson had been blocked from taking over Doncaster Rovers because he did not have enough zeros on the end of his bank statement, “but the grisly Prince Mohamed Bin Salman who is implicated in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, where Mr Khashoggi was lured into a Saudi embassy, murdered and chopped up into little pieces” might be waved through as a Newcastle owner, Masters opted not to point out that Doncaster Rovers have never actually been a Premier League club. “As I’ve said,” began the increasingly familiar refrain. “I think you’re really asking me to comment on a confidential process and I simply can’t do it”.

Unimpressed with Masters’ stonewalling, the right honourable representative of Ochil and South Perthshire made the not entirely unreasonable point that he couldn’t imagine any kind of situation where a notorious wrong’un might be allowed to take over an English football club. “Again, you’re asking me to talk about something that I simply can’t,” came the reply. However, Masters did have some good news for Newcastle fans who, in common with him, prefer not to talk about their potential new owner’s murky and well-documented ‘previous’, by revealing that he hopes the fit-and-proper owner’s test process (that has been dragging on for three months) is to “end shortly”. At which point, one suspects, the really difficult questions might start to be asked.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE

It’s a MBM triple threat, with Ben Fisher doing a Championship clockwatch from 6pm BST, Simon Burnton bringing you Brighton 1-3 Manchester United and Rob Smyth on Barcelona 1-1 Atlético Madrid. Woof!

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Danny Murphy, 29 June: “Kevin De Bruyne is the best midfielder, probably, in the world, and he’s clapping his hands and giving a guard of honour to players who can’t even lace his boots.”

Danny Murphy, 30 June: “Yesterday on Talksport discussing the concept of the guard of honour I used a poor choice of wording which I apologise for in relation to Liverpool midfield. Just to clarify I have nothing but admiration and respect for all the LFC players and their incredible achievements over the last 2 years.”

Bosh! Photograph: Ian Hodgson/Reuters

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Football Weekly will be in this general area for your listening pleasure.

RECOMMENDED LOOKING

It’s ya boy, David Squires, on Liverpool’s barren 30-year period of unparalleled misery between their league titles in 1990 and 2020.

FIVER LETTERS

Have you seen this? It sounds a million miles from the balls I grew up playing with during the early seventies. Back then there was a range of footballs available for the avid young player keen to become the next Supermac. At school you might be unfortunate enough to be handed a ‘casey’ – a dark brown, leather ball that was laced up and absorbed water faster than a sponge. This made it incredibly heavy in County Durham’s equally heavy weather and when I took one at full force on the side of my head, my ear didn’t stop throbbing for three days” – John Cassidy.

“Re: James Armstrong asking what can be done with a Big Paper [Monday’s Fiver], I refer him to Johnny Henshaw-Jacobs in Airplane; “This? Why, I can make a hat, or a brooch, or a pterodactyl...” – Andrew Tate.

“If ever there was a Tesco carrier-bag strip then it has to be that of Huddersfield Town 1990-91” – Dr. Peter Storch.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Andrew Tate.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

For decades, football commentators have talked about black players differently to how they talk about white players, and Clive Tyldesley has had enough. “Racial stereotypes are not just wrong, morally wrong, they are inaccurate and they are irresponsible” he said, after a study found “evident bias” in how darker-skinned players are described in broadcasts.

Sol Campbell has left Southend United, leaving only five BAME managers in the top four divisions of English football.

There’ll be various Premier League managers seeking new excuses, with the announcement that the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations has been postponed by a year.

With the city of Leicester now back in lockdown, the Premier League have been considering contingencies for Leicester City. “We have the opportunity to put them elsewhere or postpone the matches until it is safe,” parped that guy Richard Masters.

The Schalke chairman, Clemens Tönnies, has stepped down after 19 years amid a Covid-19 outbreak at one of his meat factories and following a dismal Bundesliga season for the club.

And best wishes to Derby County defender Andre Wisdom, who is in hospital after being stabbed and robbed during a street attack. Wisdom is in a stable condition and expected to make a full recovery.

STILL WANT MORE?

Football without crowds is inauthentic and we don’t want to go getting used to it, warns Jonathan Liew.

Ben Fisher on Bournemouth, Eddie Howe and survival.

MP Julie Elliott says football won’t truly be back until the women’s game has resumed.

1982’s Zico talks about his playing days in Italy and Japan, playing against England and the attraction of the Premier League to Bruno Freitas.

Sid Lowe swoons over Benzema’s backheel and a lot more besides in La Liga at the weekend.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

IT’S FINALLY HERE