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The truth behind Puskás Akadémia FC - How Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán stole a legend, built a stadium in his backyard and guided his team to Europe
The 2019/2020 season of the Hungary’s National Football League (NB1) – being one of the first leagues to restart play - came to an end on 27 June. If a casual observer (for whatever reason) decides to check out the final standings, he would be not surprised at the first two positions: record-champion Ferencváros defended their title, while regional powerhouse Fehérvár (Videoton) came in second. However, the third place team,Puskás Akadémia FCmight seem unusual and one could think that there is a story behind that. Is there a team named after Ferenc Puskás? Did some academy youths make an incredible run for the Europa League qualification? Well, the observer is right, there is a story behind all this, but it’s absolutely not a fun story. It’s a story about how one powerful man’s obsession with football stole a legend, misused state funds and killed the spirit of Hungarian football.(Warning: this is a long story, feel free to scroll down for a tl;dr. Also, I strongly advise checking out the links, those images are worth seeing). Naturally, political influence in football has been present ever since the dawn of the sport and we know of numerous state leaders who felt confident enough to use their influence to ensure the successful development of their favored clubs – Caucescu’s FC Olt Scornicesti and Erdogan’s Basaksehir are well-known examples of such attempts. However, I fear that very few of the readers are aware of the fact that Puskás Akadémia FC is nothing but Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán’s grandiose project for establishing his hometown’s club as one of the country’s top teams. Considering that Orbán managed to achieve this goal using state funds in an EU member democracy in the 2000s, one might even say that it might be one of the most impressive attempts of cheating your way through Football Manager in real life. Now that Puskás Akadémia FC escaped the desolate football scene of Hungary and is getting ready for the European takeover, I feel that it’s high time to tell its true story.
Part 1: Part time striker, part time PM
Our story begins in 1999 when the 36-year-old striker Viktor Orbán (recently elected as the country’s Prime Minister) was signed by the sixth-tier side of Felcsút FC residing in rural Fejér County. It might sound surprising that an active politician would consider such a side job, but given that Orbán has been playing competitive low-level football throughout his whole life and has always been known as a keen football enthusiast, people seemed to be okay with his choice for a hobby. Orbán spent most of his childhood in the village of Felcsút (population: 1,800), so it seemed only natural that he would join the team after one of his old-time acquaintances became team president there. Orbán’s arrival to the club seemed to work like a charm as Felcsút FC immediately earned a promotion to the fifth league. The Prime Minister’s busy program did not allow him to attend every training session and game but Orbán did make an effort to contribute as much as possible on the field – there is a report of a government meeting being postponed as Orbán was unavailable due to attending Felcsút FC’s spring training camp. The 2001/2002 season brought another breakthrough for the side as Felcsút was promoted to the national level of the football pyramid after being crowned the champion of Fejér County. Sadly enough for Orbán, he suffered a defeat on another pitch – his party lost the 2002 election and Orbán was forced to move to an opposition role. No matter what happened on the political playing field, Orbán would not abandon his club. Just before the 2002 elections, Felcsút was surprisingly appointed as one of the regional youth development centers by the Hungarian FA. Orbán continued contributing on the field as well (he had more spare time after all) but his off-the-field efforts provided much more value for the team as he used his political influence to convince right-wing businessmen that they should definitely get sponsorship deals done with the fourth-division village team. Club management was able to transform the influx of funds into on-field success: Felcsút FC was promoted to the third division in 2004 and achievedpromotion to the second division in 2005. Although these new horizons required a skill level that an aging ex-PM is not likely to possess, Orbán regularly played as a late game sub and even appeared in cup games against actual professional opponents. The now-42-year old Orbán did not want to face the challenge of the second division, so he retired in 2005 – but this did not stop him from temping as an assistant coach when the head coach was sacked in the middle of the 2005-2006 season. Success on the playing field did not translate to political success: Orbán lost the elections once again in 2006. However, this was only a temporary loss: the ruling party committed blunder after blunder and by early 2007 it became absolutely obvious that Orbán would be able return to power in 2010. Now confident in his political future, Orbán opted for the acceleration of football development in Felcsút – by late 2007 he took over the presidency of the club to take matters in his own hands. Sponsors seeking to gain favor with the soon-to-be PM were swarming Felcsút FC, so the club was able to stand very strong in an era where financial stability was a very rare sight in the Hungarian football scene, accumulating three medals (but no promotion) between 2007 and 2009. On the other hand, Orbán realized the value of youth development as well, and started a local foundation for this purpose back in 2004 that gathered funds for the establishment a boarding school-like football academy. The academy opened its doors in September 2006 (only the second of such institutions in the country) and Orbán immediately took upon the challenge of finding an appropriate name for the academy. He went on to visit the now very sick Ferenc Puskás in the hospital to discuss using his name, but as Puskás’ medical situation was deteriorating rapidly, communication attempts were futile. Luckily enough Puskás’ wife (and soon to be widow) was able to act on his incapable husband’s behalf and approved the naming deal in a contract. According to the statement, naming rights were granted without compensation, as “Puskás would have certainly loved what’s happening down in Felcsút”. However, there was much more to the contract: Puskás’ trademark was handed to a sports journalist friend of Orbán (György Szöllősi, also acting communications director of the academy) who promised a hefty annual return for the family (and also a 45% share of the revenue for himself). Ferenc Puskás eventually died on 17 November 2006 and on 26 November 2006 the football academy was named after him: Puskás Academy was born. Orbán shared his vision of the whole organization after the opening ceremony: “It’s unreasonable to think that Felcsút should have a team in the top division. We should not flatter ourselves, our players and our supporters with this dream. Our long term ambition is the creation of a stable second division team that excels in youth development and provides opportunity for the talents of the future.” Let’s leave that there.
Part 2: No stadium left behind
Orbán became PM once again in April 2010 after a landslide victory that pretty much granted him unlimited power. He chased lots of political agendas but one of his policies was rock solid: he would revive sports (and especially football) that was left to bleed out by the previous governments. The football situation in 2010 was quite dire: while the national team has actually made some progress in the recent years and has reached the 42nd position in the world rankings, football infrastructure was in a catastrophic state. Teams were playing in rusty stadiums built in the communist era, club finances were a mess, youth teams couldn’t find training grounds and the league was plagued by violent fan groups and lackluster attendance figures (3100 average spectators per game in the 2009/2010 season). Orbán – aided by the FA backed by business actors very interested in making him happy – saw the future in the total rebuild of the football infrastructure. Vast amounts of state development funds were invested into the football construction industry that warmly welcomed corruption, cost escalation and shady procurement deals. In the end, money triumphed: over the last decade, new stadiums sprung out from nothing all over the country, dozens of new academies opened and pitches for youth development appeared on practically every corner. The final piece of the stadium renovation program was the completion of the new national stadium, Puskás Aréna in 2019 (estimated cost: 575 million EUR). Orbán commemorated this historic moment with a celebratory video on his social media that features a majestic shot of Orbán modestly kicking a CGI ball from his office to the new stadium. Obviously, Orbán understood that infrastructure alone won’t suffice. He believed in the idea that successful clubs are the cornerstone of a strong national side as these clubs would compete in a high quality national league (and in international tournaments) that would require a constant influx of youth players developed by the clubs themselves. However, Orbán was not really keen on sharing the state’s infinite wealth with private club owners who failed to invest in their clubs between 2002 and 2010. The club ownership takeover was not that challenging as previous owners were usually happy to cut their losses, and soon enough most clubs came under Orbán’s influence. Some clubs were integrated deep into Orbán’s reach (Ferencváros and MTK Budapest club presidents are high ranking officials of Orbán’s party) while in other cases, indirect control was deemed sufficient (Diósgyőri VTK was purchased by a businessman as an attempt to display loyalty to Orbán). Pouring taxpayer money into infrastructure (stadium) projects is relatively easy: after all, we are basically talking about overpriced government construction projects, there’s nothing new there. On the other hand, allocating funds to clubs that should be operating on a competitive market is certainly a tougher nut to crack. The obvious solutions were implemented: the state media massively overpaid for broadcasting rights and the national sports betting agency also pays a hefty sum to the FA, allowing for a redistribution of considerable amounts. However, given that the income side of Hungarian clubs was basically non-existent (match day income is negligible, the failed youth development system does not sell players), an even more radical solution was desperately needed. Also, there was definite interest in the development of a tool that would allow for differentiation between clubs (as in the few remaining non-government affiliated clubs should not receive extra money). The solution came in 2011: the so-called TAO (“társasági adó”= corporate tax) system was introduced, granting significant tax deductions for companies if they offered a portion of their profits to sports clubs – however, in theory, funds acquired through TAO can be only used for youth development and infrastructure purposes. Soon enough, it became apparent that state authorities were not exactly interested in the enforcement of these restrictions, so some very basic creative accounting measures enabled clubs to use this income for anything they wanted to. Companies were naturally keen on cutting their tax burdens and scoring goodwill with the government, so TAO money immediately skyrocketed. Opportunistic party strongmen used their influence to convince local business groups to invest in the local clubs, enabling for the meteoric rise of multiple unknown provincial teams (Mezőkövesd [pop: 16,000], Kisvárda [pop: 16,000], Balmazújváros [pop: 17,000]) into the first division. Although it’s not the main subject of this piece, I feel inclined to show you the actual results of Orbán’s grandiose football reform. While we do have our beautiful stadiums, we don’t exactly get them filled – league attendance has stagnated around 3000 spectators per game throughout the whole decade. We couldn’t really move forward with our national team either: Hungary lost 10 positions in the FIFA World Rankings throughout Orbán’s ten years. On the other hand, the level of league has somewhat improved – Videoton and Ferencváros reached the Europa League group stage in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Too bad that the Instat-based top team of 2019/2020 Hungarian league consists of 10 foreigners and only 1 Hungarian: the goalkeeper.
Part 3: Small place, big game!
As seen in the previous chapter, Orbán did have a strong interest in the improvement of the football situation Hungary, but we shouldn’t forget that his deepest interest and true loyalty laid in the wellbeing of Felcsút and its academy. Now that Orbán had limitless means to see to the advancement of his beloved club, he got to work immediately. Orbán handed over formal club management duties to his friend / protégé / middleman / businessman Lőrinc Mészáros in 2010, but no questions would ever arise of who is actually calling the shots. First of all, no club can exist without a proper stadium. Although in 2011 Orbán explicitly stated that “Felcsút does not need a stadium as stadiums belong to cities”, no one was really surprised in 2012 when the construction of the Felcsút stadium was announced. Orbán was generous enough to donate the lands just in front of his summer home in the village for the project, locating the entrance a mere ten meters away from his residence. Construction works for the stunningly aesthetic 3,800-seater arena (in a village of 1,800 people) started in April 2012 and were completed in April 2014, making Felcsút’s arena the second new stadium of Orbán’s gigantic stadium revival program. The estimated budget of the construction was 120 million EUR (31,500 EUR / seat) was financed by the Puskás Academy who explicitly stated that they did not use government funds for the project. Technically, this statement is absolutely true as the construction was financed through the TAO money offered by the numerous companies looking for tax deduction and Orbán’s goodwill. However, technically, this means that the country’s budget was decreased by 120 million EUR unrealized tax revenue. Naturally, the gargantuan football stadium looks ridiculously out of place in the small village, but there’s really no other way to ensure that your favorite team’s stadium is within 20 seconds of walking distance from your home. Obviously, a proper club should also have some glorious history. Felcsút was seriously lagging behind on this matter as though Felcsút FC was founded in 1931, it spent its pre-Orbán history in the uninspiring world of the 5th-7th leagues of the country. Luckily enough, Orbán had already secured Puskás’ naming rights and they were not afraid to use it, so Felcsút FC was renamed to Puskás Academy FC in 2009. The stadium name was a little bit problematic as the Hungarian national stadium in Budapest had sadly had the dibs on Puskás’ name, so they had to settle with Puskás’ Spanish nickname, resulting in the inauguration of the Pancho Arena. But why stop here? Orbán’s sports media strongman György Szöllősi acted upon the contract with Puskás’ widow and transferred all Puskás’ personal memorabilia (medals, jerseys, correspondence) to the most suitable place of all: a remote village in which Puskás never even set foot in. While the off-field issues were getting resolved, Orbán’s attention shifted to another important area: the actual game of football. Although academy players started to graduate from 2008 on, it very soon became painfully obvious that the academy program couldn’t really maintain even a second division side for now. In 2009, Orbán reached an agreement with nearby Videoton’s owner that effectively transformed Felcsút FC into Videoton’s second team under the name of Videoton – Puskás Akadémia FC. The mutually beneficent agreement would allow Videoton to give valuable playing time to squad players while it could also serve as a skipping step for Puskás Academy’s fresh graduates to a first league team. The collaboration resulted in two mid-table finishes and a bronze medal in the second division in the following three seasons that wasn’t really impressive compared to Felcsút FC’s standalone seasons. It seemed that the mixture of reserve Videoton players and academy youth was simply not enough for promotion, and although Orbán had assured the public multiple times that his Felcsút project was not aiming for the top flight, very telling changes arose after the 2011/2012 season. Felcsút terminated the Videoton cooperation deal and used the rapidly accumulating TAO funds to recruit experienced players for the now independently operating Puskás Academy FC (PAFC). The new directive worked almost too well: PAFC won its division with a 10 point lead in its first standalone year which meant that they would have to appear in the first league prior to the completion of their brand-new Pancho Arena. Too bad that this glorious result had almost nothing to do with the academy - only two players were academy graduates of the side’s regular starting XI. Orbán did not let himself bothered with the ridiculousness of an academy team with virtually no academy players being promoted to the first division as he stated that “a marathon runner shouldn’t need to explain why the other runners were much slower than him”. Orbán also displayed a rare burst of modesty as he added that “his team’s right place is not in the first league, and they will soon be overtaken by other, better sides”. The promotion of PAFC to the first division made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move. Supporter groups were united in hatred all along the league and not surprisingly, away fans almost always outnumbered the home side at PAFC’s temporary home at Videoton’s Sóstói Stadium (demolished and rebuilt in its full glory since then). One of the teams, however, possessed an extraordinary degree of anger against PAFC: supporters of Budapest Honvéd – the only Hungarian team in which Ferenc Puskás played – felt especially awkward about the transfer of their club legend’s heritage to Felcsút. Tensions spiked at the PAFC – Honvéd game when home security forced Honvéd supporters to remove the “Puskás” part of their traditional “Puskás – Kispest – Hungary” banner – the team answered the insult with style as they secured a 4-0 victory supported by fans chanting “you can’t buy legends”. Despite Orbán’s prognosis, other better sides did not rush to overtake his team, so PAFC, now residing in their brand new Pancho Arena, came through with a 14th and a 10th place in their first two seasons. Naturally, conspiracy theories began to formulate, speculating that government-friendly owners would certainly not be motivated to give their best against PAFC. However, as the league size was reduced to 12 for the 2015/2016 season, PAFC found themselves in a dire situation just before the final round: they needed a win and needed rival Vasas to lose against MTK in order to avoid relegation. PAFC’s draw seemed to be unlucky as they faced their arch-enemy Honvéd at home, but Honvéd displayed an absolute lackluster effort – fueling conspiracy theories – and lost the fixture 2 to 1 against a home side featuring four academy players. Vasas, however, did not disappoint, their 2-0 victory resulted in PAFC’s elimination and a very relaxed sigh all over the football community. PAFC’s relegation seemed to be in accordance with Orbán’s 2013 statement, so public opinion supposed for a while that Orbán’s project came to a halting point and the Academy would go on to actually field academy players in the second division (especially as rostering foreign players was prohibited in the lower leagues). However, if you have read through this point, you know better than to expect Orbán to retreat – obviously, PAFC came back with a bang. With a ballsy move, PAFC didn’t even sell their foreign players, they just loaned them across the league, promising them that they would be able to return next year to the newly promoted team. The promise was kept as PAFC went into another shopping spree of experienced players (easily convincing lots of them to choose the second division instead of the first) and easily won the second league. Orbán – now aware of his negligence – opted for the doubling the team’s budget,making PAFC the third most well-founded club in the whole country (only coming short to his friend’s Videoton and his party minion’s Ferencváros). With an actual yearly influx from TAO money in the ballpark of 30-40 million EUR, PAFC management had to really work wonders in creative accounting in order to make their money look somewhat legitimate. The books were now full of ridiculous items like:
Construction of a new tea kitchen for youth players for 650,000 EUR
Employment of a 45 person “cleaning and maintenance staff” for the academy.
Naturally, in the country of no consequences, absolutely nothing happened: PAFC went on with its spending and signed 35 foreigners between 2017 and 2020. They did so because they could not hope to field a winning team in the first league consisting of academy players, despite the fact that Puskás Academy has been literally drowning in money since 2007. This seems to somewhat contradict Orbán’s 2013 promise, stating that “Puskás Academy will graduate two or three players to major European leagues each year”. To be fair, there have been players who managed to emerge to Europe (well, exactly two of them: Roland Sallai plays at Freiburg, László Kleinheisler played at Werder Bremen) but most academy graduates don’t even have the slightest the chance to make their own academy’s pro team as it’s full of foreigners and more experienced players drawn for other teams’ programs. Despite their unlimited funding, PAFC could not put up a top-tier performance in their first two years back in the first division, finishing 6th and 7th in the 12-team league. Many speculated that the lack of support, motivation and even a clear team mission did not allow for chemistry to develop within the multinational and multi-generational locker room. Consistency was also a rare sight on the coaching side: club management was absolutely impatient with coaches who were very easily released after a single bad spell and there were talks of on-field micromanagement request coming from as high as Orbán. Even so, their breakthrough came dangerously close in 2018 as PAFC performed consistently well in the cup fixtures and managed to reach the final. Their opponent, Újpest played an incredibly fierce game and after a 2-2 draw, they managed to defeat PAFC in the shootout. Football fans sighed in relief throughout the country as ecstatic Újpest supporters verbally teased a visibly upset Orbán in his VIP lounge about his loss. Obviously, we could only delay the inevitable. While this year’s PAFC side seemed to be more consistent than its predecessors, it seemed that they won’t be able to get close to the podium - they were far behind the obvious league winner duo of Ferencváros and Videoton and were trailing third-place Mezőkövesd 6 points just before the pandemic break. However, both Mezőkövesd and PAFC’s close rivals DVTK and Honvéd fall flat after the restart while PAFC was able to maintain its good form due to its quality roster depth. PAFC overtook Mezőkövesd after the second-to-last round as Mezőkövesd lost to the later relegated Debrecen side. (Mezőkövesd coach Attila Kuttor was fined harshly because of his post-game comments on how the FA wants PAFC to finish third.) PAFC faced Honvéd in the last round once again, and as Honvéd came up with its usual lackluster effort, PAFC secured an effortless win, confidently claiming the third place. PAFC celebrated their success in a nearly empty stadium, however neither Orbán, nor Mészáros (club owner, Orbán’s protégé, now 4th richest man of Hungary) seemed to worry about that. While Orbán high-fived with his peers in the VIP lounge, Mészáros was given the opportunity to award the bronze medals (and for some reason, a trophy) to the players dressed up in the incredibly cringe worthy T-shirts that say “Small place, big game!”. Big game, indeed: in the 2019/2020 season, foreign players’ share of the teams playing time was 43.6% while academy graduates contributed only 17.9%. On Sunday evening, less than 24 hours after PAFC’s glorious success, György Szöllősi, now editor-in-chief of Hungary’s only sports newspaper (purchased by Orbán’s affiliates a few years back) published an editorial on the site, stating that “the soccer rebuild in Felcsút became the motor and symbol of the revitalization of sport throughout the whole country”. Well, Szöllősi is exactly right: Felcsút did became a symbol, but a symbol of something entirely different. Felcsút became a symbol of corruption, inefficiency, lies and the colossal waste of money. But, hey, at least we know now: you only need to spend 200 million EUR (total budget of PAFC and its academy in the 2011-2020 period) if you want to have a Europa League team in your backyard. Good to know!
Epilogue: What's in the future?
As there is no foreseeable chance for political change to happen Hungary (Orbán effortlessly secured qualified majority in 2014 and 2018, and is projected to do so in 2022 as well), PAFC’s future seems to be as bright as it gets. Although consensus opinion now seems to assume that Orbán does not intend to interfere with the Ferencváros – Videoton hegemony, we can never be really sure about the exact limits of his greed. One could also argue that entering the European theater serves as a prime opportunity for making splashy transfers who could be the cornerstones of a side challenging the league title. However, as all political systems are deemed to fall, eventually Orbán’s regime will come apart. Whoever will take upon the helm after Orbán, they will certainly begin with cutting back on the one item on Orbán’s agenda that never had popular support: limitless football spending. Puskás Academy, having next to zero market revenue, will not be able to survive without the state’s life support, so the club will fold very shortly. The abandoned, rotting stadium in Felcsút will serve as a memento of a powerful man who could not understand the true spirit of football. But let’s get back to present day, as we have more pressing issues coming up soon: PAFC will play their first European match in the First qualifying round of the Europa League on 27 August. We don’t have a date for the draw yet, but soon enough, a team unaware of the whole situation will be selected to face the beast. I hope that maybe one of their players does some research and maybe reads this very article for inspiration. I hope that the supporters of this club get in touch with Honvéd fans who would be eager to provide them with some tips on appropriate chants. I hope that other teams gets drawn as the home team so Orbán wouldn’t get the pleasure of walking to his stadium for an international match. But most importantly, I very much hope that this team obliterates PAFC and wipes them off the face of the earth. 5-0 will suffice, thank you. And if this team fails to do that, we don’t have to worry yet. Due to our shitty league coefficient, PAFC would need to win four fixtures in a row. And that – if there’s any justice in this world – is a thing that can’t, that won’t happen. Ball don’t lie – if I may say. TL,DR Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán redirected some 200 million EUR of taxpayer money over 10 years to fuel his ambition of raising a competitive football team in his hometown of 1,800 people. He built a 3,800-seater stadium in his backyard, expropriated football legend Ferenc Puskás’ trademarks and heritage and built up a football league where almost all clubs are owned by his trustees. His team, Puskás Akadémia FC was originally intended to be a development ground for youth players graduating from Orbán’s football academy, but eventually the team became more and more result-orianted. Finally, a roster full of foreign and non-academy players came through and finished third in the league, releasing this abomination of a team to the European football theatre. Please, knock them out asap!
A history of the Peckham Boys - from the Giggs era to Zone 2/Hitsquad (Part 1)
Part 1 of the history of Peckham in south London. From the early Peckham Boys era to Zone 2. Peckham is one of the most legendary ends in London, and probably had the biggest impact on UK Rap music from the 2000s onwards. The history of the Peckham Boys goes back decades, and everything posted here barely scratches the surface of their history.
The Peckham Boys gang originated in the estates of Peckham (SE15), in the borough of Southwark. A large area of Peckham - between the town centre and Burgess Park - is dominated by council estates (public housing complexes). The main cluster is called the 'Five Estates' and consists of the North Peckham Estate, Gloucester Grove Estate, Willowbrook Estate, Camden Estate and Sumner Estate:
Nearby are the Goldsmith Estate, Bells Gardens Estate (Yellow Brick), Acorn Estate, Friary Estate, Ledbury Estate, Southampton Way Estate and several others. The Peckham 'frontline' is the area around Peckham High Street, including local landmarks like Peckham Pulse and the Crackerjack store. The estates of Peckham were notorious and suffered from problems like underinvestment, deprivation, unemployment and crime. The area was termed 'Vietnam' due to the level of violence there, which is the origin of the hood nickname 'Pecknarm' (Peckham + Vietnam).
Evolution of the Peckham Boys Originally, several of the major Peckham estates had their own individual sets: the Peckham Grove Boys, the North Peckham Boys, the Gloucester Boys, the Yellow Brick Massive, the Outlaws and the Acorn Boys. The earliest sets date back to the 1970s, and are the origins of the Peckham Boys gang. By the 1990s those sets had evolved, and the two main sets in Peckham were the Firehouse Crew and the Younger Peckham Boys - also known as Pecky Man Soldiers. Other groups of Peckham included the yardie sets the Sunrise Crew and the Spanglers. Collectively these sets were known as the 'Peckham Boys' . There was sometimes friction between the Peckham sets but it was never deep, and they were united whenever opposition tried to slide on Peckham territory. Alliances and rivalries Peckham's main war was with the Ghetto Boys, a gang headquartered in New Cross and controlling Lewisham borough. Their other major conflict was with Brixton. The decades-long Peckham v Ghetto and Peckham v Brixton conflicts were some of the longest and bloodiest gang wars that London has seen. Peckham's main allies were Dulwich (Circle Crew) and Walworth (Wooly Road), and they often used to roll as one. Legendary members YPB/PMS members included the boss Mad X, Tipsy, Timer, Splash, Joker, Titch, Timer, Rampage, Rage, Temps, Twitch and others. Firehouse Crew members included Rhymer, Mixer, Major, Beans, Breaker, Player, Skipper, Fame and many others. Peckham yardies included the likes of Kirk, Bigga and a bag of others. The Peckham-Circle linkup included names like Mad Danny and Big Lee, legends in both Peckham and Dulwich. It goes without saying that there's many more names from that era of Peckham legends.
In the early 2000s the Peckham Boys had consolidated as a single gang and its sets were structured by age. The most active sets by now were:
the Peckham Boys (PB) set - youngins of the PMS/Firehouse generation
their youngers, the Younger Peckham Boys (YPB) set
their youngers, the Younger Younger Peckham Boys (YYPB) set
Prominent PB members included Knuckles, Raver, X-Fighter, Crimer, Rocker, Giggler, Breaker, Glamour and many others. Prominent YPB members included Killa Ki, Diamond, Timmy, Tiny Ryder, Young Snap, Motion, Taz and many others. Below are very brief examples of what went down in Peckham during this period. Peckham nightclub shootings Peckham had been notorious for gang violence for decades, and this reputation continued into 2000s. National headlines were made in July 2000 when up to 9 people were shot outside the Chicago's nightclub on Peckham High Street:
The nightclub was shut down soon afterwards. Giggs refers to this nightclub in the 2007 track Greaziest Freestyle: "Don't think I'm coming here to rave if you see me 'round the back, big strap inside Chicagos" Death of Damilola Taylor Peckham made international headlines in November 2000 with the murder of Damilola Taylor, a 10-year old boy that lived on the North Peckham Estate. He was stabbed to death by two 16-year old brothers & members of the Untouchables, a small but old set within Peckham:
2003 Peckham Civil War Even though the Peckham Boys and Ghetto Boys were involved in a multi-generational war, there were some instances of Peckham and Ghetto members that fw each other. The most prominent example at that time was Spender from Peckham (a younger brother of Giggler) and Younger Kraver from Ghetto (a younger brother of Kraver) - they used to roll together and make money. That type of association was rare though, as the two gangs remained at war with each other. In 2003 the first 'civil war' in Peckham kicked off because the Peckham Boys were divided over the presence of Mender. Mender was from Lewisham sides but defected from the Ghetto Boys and started rolling with Peckham. Some YPB members trusted him and some didn't - claiming that he was still rolling with the Ghetto Boys and even robbed a Peckham member. This caused tension between Peckham members, including stabbings. In September 2003, Mender was stabbed to death while posted outside the Old Kent Road McDonald's by some YPB members:
Death of Tipsy Peckham legend Tipsy was released from prison after doing 3 years of a 10 year sentence for firearms offences. Soon afterwards in July 2004 he was rammed off his motorcycle by gunmen on Camberwell High Street, who then stood over him and gave him five headshots. His murder remains unsolved to this day:
Shootout in the financial district In October 2004 the Urban Music Awards was held at the Barbican Centre. Peckham Boys and Ghetto Boys members were local and had a shootout outside the venue, in which 18 shots were fired. This was the first ever shootout within London's 'Square Mile' financial district, one of the world's financial centres:
The Peckham Boys were also known as Black Gang due to the gang's association with the colour black. From the mid-2000s, the main Peckham sets also began going by other aliases:
the Peckham Boys (PB) → Spare No 1 (SN1)
the Younger Peckham Boys (YPB) → Shoot Instant (SI)
the Younger Younger Peckham Boys (YYPB) → Pecknarm Young Gunners (PYG)
Giggs release from prison & first SN1 mixtape In early 2005, SN1 member Giggler - now shortened to Giggs - was released from Brixton Prison after serving a couple years for firearm possession. He had dabbled in music in the past, but his jailtime made him determined to take music seriously. Not long afterwards, SN1 released their first project: the 'Bloody Raw' mixtape.
At this time Giggs took part in an SN1 block freestyle in Peckham for the Rap DVD. During the clip Giggs raps verses from the 'Bloody Raw' mixtape. The footage is famous for handguns being shown, and for Giggs not flinching when a handgun is fired:
At a time when Grime was the dominant sound of music on the streets, Giggs's style was very different for its time. Death of Ruthless In August 2005, four YPB members aged between 14 and 16 - Bertz, Tiny Ryder, Timmy and Diamond - stormed a christening on the Wood Dene Estate in order to rob the attendees (and pay back a debt to Big Larry, a Peckham older). During the robbery Bertz shot his gun in the air, and a ricochet bullet hit a woman in the head killing her:
A couple of weeks later, Bertz ambushed Ruthless (an 18-year old high ranking female in Peckham) and stabbed her to death for disrespecting him. Bertz was given a 30-year prison sentence for the two murders. Ryder, Timmy and Diamond were given indeterminate manslaughter sentences for the christening incident, and were deported after their sentences:
Ruthless was a loved person in Peckham. In this 2006 cameraphone footage you can see young Peckham members pay their respects at her grave. In early 2008, Giggs released the 'Ruthless Freestyle' titled in her honour (but more on that track later).
SN1 drop 'The Beginning' mixtape In early 2006, Giggs and other SN1 members dropped the 'SN1: The Beginning' mixtape. This is the first mixtape in which production was handled by their in-house production team at Unit 10 Studios. Their dark sound would go on to have a large impact on the future of UK Rap. A few classics:
Hot September for Ghetto v Peckham In September 2006, a group of up to 40 Shoot Instant (YPB) members went on a rideout to the Woodpecker Estate in New Cross - the main Ghetto Boys block. A brother of Ghetto members Smiley and Kraver ended up getting shot and stabbed to death. Another man was attacked in nearby Deptford but survived:
That murder on Woodpecker remains unsolved, as did five other murders on the Woodpecker Estate within the past 5 years at the time (5 unsolved murders in 5 years on a single block - when people say the 2000s in London was hot, they aren't lying):
Ghetto v Peckham war causes Peckham schools to be evacuated Later in September 2006, police received 'specific intelligence' that the Ghetto Boys would carry out drive-by shootings at Peckham schools at the end of the school day (in order to smoke YPB members as they left). Police decided to immediately evacuate Peckham Academy and Harris Girls Academy in the middle of the school day, before the plot could be carried out. The schools reopened in the following week:
Giggs drops the 'Hollow Grind' mixtape In 2006, Giggs and brother Joe Grind dropped the 'Hollow Grind' mixtape. This is the first of four collaborative mixtapes that Giggs dropped between 2006 and 2009. The mixtape includes several classics:
SN1 and OTB (Wooly Road) collaborated on the track 'Up In The Shoobz', and released a music video for the song. The video was shown on Channel U (a channel for underground music videos) but was blocked from the mainstream channels like MTV Base:
By this time, Giggs and the SN1 movement had a buzz in the streets of London. Giggs was trying to make moves in the music industry but he was blackballed by radio and television (thanks to the police) because of his gang ties/content. He refused to water-down his content in order to blow. Giggs released his frustration on Hollow Grind in 'Fuck Da Industry':
Audio: Giggs - F Da Industry | Track 11 - "Ima give it to 'em raw, so fuck the industry. They won't let us in? We'll be kicking in the door"
Peckham Boys acknowledged by Time Out Magazine In November 2006, Time Out magazine named the Peckham Boys as one of the 100 most influential people or organisations in London: Time Out Magazine - London's 100 top movers and shakers 2006 Time Out magazine is a major international publication, with a circulation of millions, so their inclusion of the Peckham Boys was a big deal. A good demonstration of how 'big' the Peckham Boys were, even in mainstream society.
At this point, prominent members of Shoot Instant (YPB) included Snap Capone, Killa Ki, Nuttie, Butch, Blacks, Billy Da Kid, Taz, Prover, Tem, Capo, Ross etc. Prominent members of PYG (YYPB) included Shocks, Tiny Boost, Young Spend, Young Lap, Jim Jones, Young Killa, Young Butch etc.
Deaths of Javarie Crighton and Michael Dosunmu In February 2007, 21-year old Javarie Crighton and 15-year old Michael Dosunmu were murdered in internal Peckham dispute over money. Members of a group that had successfully pulled off bank robberies were arguing about the split of the proceeds. Michael Dosunmu was shot dead in his bed in a case of mistaken identity, the gunmen had meant to get his older brother (who they believe didn't give them their fair share):
Giggs drops the 'Hollowman Meetz Blade' mixtape In early 2007, Giggs dropped the 'Hollowman Meetz Blade' mixtape in collaboration with Blade Brown. This mixtape continued to advance Giggs' buzz in the streets, and included several classic UK gang/rap tracks. The mixtape is considered a classic in the UK scene:
Sidebar: 'Hollow Meetz Blade' and 'Sink A Boat' were referenced by 67 in their 2016 track 'Lets Lurk': "Like Hollow Meetz Blade, manaman got guns that'll sink down a boat". Peckham boss Raver jailed In July 2007, Raver (SN1) was caught in possession of a Mac-10 submachine gun, 3 handguns, 2 silencers, 379 rounds of ammunition and thousands of pounds worth of drugs. Raver was a Peckham boss and very close to Giggs. Raver is referred to as "Carlton" in Giggs' lyrics. He received a minimum 10-year sentence:
Young Spend jailed for shooting In October 2007, 14-year old member Young Spend (PYG) shot a man in Peckham for disrespecting him. He was convicted of attempted murder the following year and jailed on an indeterminate sentence:
New Cross shootout changes UK legal history In October 2007 there was a shootout widely reported involve Ghetto Boys and Peckham Boys members. During the shootout, a Polish nurse was hit by a stray bullet and died:
The police caught Ghetto member Toner - one participant in the shootout - but they didn't catch the person who actually fired the fatal shot. Toner did not snitch on the person he was having a shootout with. The Supreme Court of decided to convict Toner of murder as if he fired the fatal shot, even though he didn't. In English law, this landmark ruling is known as Regina v Armel Gnango At the same time in SE London, the Woolwich Boys shot dead a man in his car - because he answered "Peckham" when they asked him where he's from:
In Greenwich Borough, Woolwich were beefing heavily with Thamesmead (allies of Peckham). Shoot Instant & PYG drop the 'Blackgang Broadway Vol.1' mixtape In 2007, Shoot Instant and their youngers PYG dropped their first project together: the 'Blackgang Broadway Vol.1' mixtape. With SN1 (Peckham bosses) making noise in the music game, this is the first time that their youngins made their mark. Two tracks from the mixtape:
Giggs drops the 'Ard Bodied' mixtape In December 2007, Giggs (SN1) dropped the 'Ard Bodied' mixtape in collaboration with Dubz. The mixtape included 'Talking The Hardest' and 'Pain is the Essence', which are considered all-time UK anthems, alongside multiple hood classics. A selection of classic Ard Bodied tracks:
Ard Bodied is generally considered the most influential mixtape to drop in the UK scene. It was the first time that UK 'gang' rap (Road Rap) broke into the mainstream, and marked the shift in general popularity from Grime to UK Rap:
Skepta tweet in March 2012: "Still... Till today, Giggs & Dubz's#ArdBodiedmixtape is a uk classic."
Don Strapzy tweet in May 2012: "Free Giggs. Listenin 2 Ard Bodied. I remember this tape shit inspired me to start Rappin. SN1 n dat whole movement der done a lot for UK Rap"
Megaman (So Solid Crew) tweet in November 2012: "All day today i hadARD-BODIEDmixtape pushing... GIGGs shut down UK quickly sssh#GameChanger"
Burna Boy tweet in June 2014: "Dubz/Giggs - Pain is the Essence. This is a song that saw me through the darkest nd hardest times of my life."
Afro B tweet in February 2015: "Giggs - talking the hardest will never die. He don't even need to make another tune. UK Rap general"
It's hard to underestimate the impact Ard Bodied had on the culture. It had youngins in every block wanting to rap that gang shit and rep their block through music. From this point, UK 'gang' rap (Road Rap) - the foundation of the UK Drill scene - started to take off in London.
In 2008 the Shoot Instant set split into two branches:
The S.I. members based on the Aylesbury Estate (Snap Capone etc) remained as S.I
The S.I. members based in the Peckham blocks (Killa Ki etc) formed OPB
S.I. and OPB moved as two different sets within the Peckham Boys, but they were all still brothers.
End of the Peckham Boys v Ghetto Boys war For a few years the Ghetto Boys had undergone major internal divisions, including the murder of leader Sparkz in 2006 by another Ghetto member. These events caused a big shift in the street politics of South London, with Lewisham dividing and fighting amongst itself. By 2008 the decades-long beef between the Peckham Boys and Ghetto Boys was over. The end of the beef was publicly 'announced' by Giggs when he dropped the 'Ruthless Freestyle' in early 2008:
That was a major moment in South London street history, with maybe the bloodiest gang war London has seen officially coming to a close. From that moment, it became safe to play Giggs's music publicly in Lewisham 😂
Young Adz (DBE) tweet in April 2012: "When Giggs sed 'Ghetto vs Peckham I aint on dat dead beef' everybody in da hood starting banging Giggs in public lol"
Giggs drops the 'Best of Giggs 2' compilation mixtape In early 2008, Giggs released the 'Best of Giggs 2' mixtape. The mixtape is a compilation of classic Giggs verses from 2005-2007, alongside some new releases. The last track is one of Giggs' best freestyles:
Giggs is banned by police from Lil Wayne concert The Metropolitan Police were determined to stop Giggs career in music. Despite being the hottest artist in the streets, venues weren't allowed to book him, and television & radio were pressured not to play his music. In early 2008, Lil Wayne was arguably the hottest rapper in the world, and in March he had a headline concert in London. Giggs was booked as the opening act for Lil Wayne, and the sold-out crowd were there to see Giggs as much as they were to see Wayne. At the last minute, the police blocked Giggs from performing. The crowd was so angry that they started moving unruly. Lil Wayne was hit with a bottle and stormed off stage, cancelling the show. This footage making shockwaves around the rap world:
SI, OPB and PYG drop the 'Blackgang Broadway Vol.2' mixtape In 2008, SI/OPB and PYG continued making movements in music, releasing the 'Blackgang Broadway Vol.2' mixtape. The mixtape included the classic track 'Gunshot Riddim', which included 8 Bar verses from 10 different members:
Peckham 'Gunshot Riddim' v Brixton 'Bullet Riddim' With the war between Ghetto and Peckham over, the war between Brixton (OC/GAS) and Peckham (SI/PYG) started cracking in 2008. That summer there were back-and-forth shootings between OC and SI members. In one incident, OC rode out on Walworth Road and caught Snap Capone (SI) and Butch (SI) slipping. Snap and Butch ran into the Costcutter store and OC shot at them from the outside, but ended up killing a civilian. That made big media headlines:
Not long afterwards, OC/GAS released a response track to SI/PYG - Gunshot Riddim in which OC members mocked Snap and Butch for running in the above incident: "remember what we flew in Wooly Road" ... "had you running in the shop like you're buying suttin" ... "my dargs only run when they see the riot van" (etc): OC/GAS - Bullet Riddim Gunshot Riddim v Bullet Riddim was the start of the back-and-forth diss music videos between Brixton (OC/GAS) and Peckham (SI/PYG). Cracking on the streets and over Youtube. As I stated before, this era was the origins of what we now call the UK Drill scene. SN1 and Boomblast release 'Welcome 2 Boomzville' mixtape In the run-up to Giggs' debut album, SN1 released the 'Welcome 2 Boomzville' mixtape - entirely produced by SN1 producer Boomblast. The mixtape included various street classics:
Giggs releases his debut album On 4 August 2008, Giggs released his debut album 'Walk In Da Park' through his independent label SN1 Records. The album cemented the rise of Giggs within the UK scene after his run of mixtapes (Hollow Grind, Hollow Meets Blade & Ard Bodied) made him king in the streets.
Ghetto Boys and Peckham Boys linkup In August 2008, Killa Ki (OPB) arranged the linkup of Peckham Boys and Ghetto Boys members for the Notting Hill Carnival. Up to 180 members from both gangs linked up and started making their way to the carnival, but the police stopped them before they could reach it:
Killa Ki addressed the Ghetto-Peckham linkup in the track Krept & Konan feat. SI (Killa Ki, Snap Capone, Nuttie) - Let Em Ave It: "I organised Ghetto linking Narm, I made history. Darg I'm a boss in the Narm. It was a South East Link Up, anyhow we got Carni it would've been nuts" The following video includes news reports and footage of the Ghetto-Peckham linkup:
Flying squad detain Peckham robbery members It was previously mentioned that Javarie Crighton and Michael Dosunmu were murdered in 2007 during a dispute between members of the Peckham armed robbery team. In September 2008, the police arrested seven members of the gang, including the likes of Moaner. Police suspected them of committing 120 robberies and called their criminal enterprise "prolific". It took 150 police officers to conduct the raids on the Peckham Boys and arrest 7 members:
Giggs becomes first ever winner of the 'Best International Act' at the BET Awards In Autumn, Giggs was nominated for as 'Best International Act' at the BET Hip hop Awards alongside grime artists Skepta, Chip and Ghetts (much more established/mainstream artists):
Fans voted for the winner and Giggs won, becoming the first ever artist to win the 'Best International Act'. This was a big deal, because despite the police applying serious pressure to stop Giggs, he was still able to rise to the top. It was also another demonstration of the fall of Grime and the rise of UK Rap. Here's a video of Tim Westwood congratulating Giggs for the win:
Even though Giggs won the BET Award, when he came back to the UK the pressure applied by the police intensified. In frustration, Giggs released the 'Last Straw' freestyle in which he directly dissed Ray Paul (BBC executive) and Jasmine Dotwala (MTV executive):
Younger PYG members start releasing music In late 2008, the younger generation of PYG members started releasing music videos. The young members included Tiny Snap, Young Size, M1, Stigs, CS and others. Most of the bars at this time were disses towards Brixton's OC (now 410) and GAS (now 150/GBG):
_______________________________________________________________ From 2009 onwards, the beef between Peckham (SI/PYG) and Brixton (OC/GAS) became the biggest story on roads and in the UK Rap scene. For the Brixton perspective, check The History of 410. Part 1 is a demonstration of how Peckham gained the notorious reputation it has, and the environment that PYG and Zone 2 members grew up in. The next part covering the PYG and Zone 2 eras will drop in one week. I'll cover Peckham from 2009-present in Part 2 - including what happened to SN1/SI/PYG members and the rise of the Zone 2 generation.
[Kickstarter watching] Project Phoenix, the rise and fall of Kickstarter's FIRST Japan-based video game project!
Full disclosure, I'm a backer for this. I've also backed a number of other games on KS and most of them actually did really well (Bloodstained yay!). Something I love doing from time to time is going through video game Kickstarter projects to see what cool things developers might be coming up with. Some turn out okay, others, well, not so okay. KS project deaths can be be quick and brutal and some would-be creators know when to call it quits when things don't work out. Some move on or find another way to see their dream project realized making lemonade out of lemons. Some don't. The ones that linger can mutate, becoming a shambling mass of what-could-have-been occasionally moaning a hint of whatever former life it may have once had to anyone within earshot, prodded by the pulse of the occasional update haunting email inboxes. Project Phoenix is one of the latter.
A few helpful terms:
Kickstarter - well known crowdfunding site. All money amounts mentioned here are in USD.
CIA - Creative Intelligence Arts, the studio created to build Project Phoenix.
game engine - the backbone for a game. Two of the most popular engines are Unity and Unreal and both were used to some extent by Project Phoenix. It's like the foundation for a house.
AAA - designation used to describe studios such as Activision, Electronic Arts, Rockstar, Nintendo, Naughty Dog, etc.. These are like the First World tier developers of the game industry. Then you have everyone else. Does not necessarily describe skill or talent (AAA studios/devs create doo doo like anyone else). Think of it as shorthand to describe the economic might and studio size footprint behind a title. Undertale is not a AAA title, for example. But something like Grand Theft Auto V is. Does not tow cars or jump start cold ones in winter.
JRPG - Japanese Role-playing Game (ex: Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy series, Persona series, Shining Force series)
2.5D - perspective that includes 2D elements and 3D elements. Examples would include many of the early 90s FPS games like Doom to more modern uses such as Square Enix's Octopath Traveler which used 2D characteNPC art set against 3D backdrops in the world such as deserts, mountain roads, towns and villages.
Some games mentioned:
Final Fantasy Tactics - developed by Squaresoft (today, Square-Enix) for the PlayStation in the 90s. Considered a classic.
Shining Force - developed by Climax Entertainment for Sega's Genesis/Mega Drive system. Tactical JRPG series considered an early classic of the 90s.
Shadowrun Returns - created by Jordan Weisman and his team at Harebrained Schemes. Weisman is the original creator of the Shadowrun tabletop in the late 80s, early 90s under FASA. Microsoft now owns the Shadowrun property but Weisman was able to get a license to make a game for it. Returns is a tactical, turn-based RPG based on the Shadowrun universe in the the 2050s timeframe. Followed up by two more successful entries that were also Kickstarted, Shadowrun: Dragonfall and Shadowrun: Hong Kong (I backed this one).
KS maintains old projects for reference so the names and events here are public knowledge. As one of the backers, I also have access to the "backer only" updates, so I provided some context from those here, too. The same with the referenced articles from outside sources that have looked in on this weird saga from time to time. Pledges were made, backers followed the promises, and a professional musician becomes the head of his first video game studio. Wanna take a ride?
Oh hey! This is cool!
On August 12th, 2013, Project Phoenix popped up on Kickstarter (KS going forward). This was during a heady era of KS investment following the wild success of projects like Tim Schafer's Broken Age in 2012 which garnered a whopping $3+ million in donations. It, with others, drove a rebellious wave of excitement over what what seen as a fresh, new take on funding games that "AAA" studios may have found too risky, leveraging the connectedness of the internet and the dreams of anyone looking to bring something of theirs to life at the time. Effusive hype bled into projects like Project Phoenix touting itself as "Japan's indie RPG feat. AAA talent!" and as "a JRPG with squad based RTS game design, brought to you by veteran developers and creators from the East and West" with a targeted release in mid-2015. It featured a large roll of people with direct experience in the industry. The director and producer was a professional musician, Hiroaki Yura, who had worked on titles like Valkyria Chronicles. Years later in an interview with Gamespot, he would confess that even though he had never shipped a game himself before, his peers in the industry encouraged him to embark on this grand Kickstarter adventure to realize a game idea he had been nursing. The quest would even be joined by the famous Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy series) as the lead composer. The creative side was bolstered with a number of artists and sound engineers but the programming side had an "unknown" portrait as that person was "one of the leading Unity programmers in the world" whose identity couldn't be made known until "late in the development process". That same Gamespot interview with Yura by Gamespot would reveal that the programmer was David Clark who, at the time, was also working on Ori and the Blind Forest. An even earlier article by Kotaku's Jason Schrier in 2015 had also mentioned Clark. As backers, though, we had no idea just who this mystery programmer was. Clark would simply be referred to with a flattering reverence often reserved for holy figures by Yura, a theme we would become too familiar with over the next few years. Project Phoenix exploded past its initial funding goal of 100k and then some, making a little over a million and change. A separate web page featuring a PayPal donation link was even set up for those "late" to the party. Nearly 16k eager JRPG fans pledged to see what would come next.
2013 - 2014
The next several months following the end of the campaign were a flurry of activity. New staff joined the team, a test video of the animation was shown off, more art was shared along with world-building fiction. Project Phoenix even garnered a mention on Classic FM as part of its "12 video game soundtracks you have to hear in 2014" featuring Nobuo Uematsu. Things seemed to be hopping! On September 10th, 2013, Hiroaki Yura also held an AMA on Reddit where, when asked by a backer concerned over the lack of specifics, he answered that Project Phoenix was to "set an example in Japan, just like how Supergiants Games did with Bastion, what a small team of dedicated individuals can do with a game". In another reply, Yura hoped to surpass what inspired them in the first place citing titles such as "Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy Tactics Ogre, StarCraft and Warcraft, C&C series, DotA/LoL." The hype was reaching Peter Molyneux DEFCON levels. The first odd sign this wasn't your typical KS video game project was when they suddenly made an announcement for an anime called "Under the Dog" on August 18th, 2014, which was also a Kickstarter project. CIA (the company Hiroaki Yura formed to build Project Phoenix) was collaborating with another company to produce the anime episode and pursue a series. It would even have a "special collaborative item reward in Project Phoenix." And just as he had done with Project Phoenix, Yura also did an AMA on Reddit for Under the Dog, describing hopes for it to break free of the typical establishment shackles and pave the way for a new method of creating animation by keeping it under the greater control of those making it. There was even interest in making a game based off of the anime if it took off successfully. A backer or two over on the Project Phoenix campaign page wondered if the company might be spreading itself thin like this, but for the most part, most everyone had faith in Phoenix to keep the course.
2015 - "...an assumption to rely on works by volunteers"
Long story short, Under the Dog was successfully funded and would later be released some time later. Yet at the time in February, 2015, something bubbled up in the news over at Siliconera (who focus a lot on covering Japanese-related game content). It was reported that both CIA and Kinema Citrus (the studio working on Under the Dog) parted ways with CIA due to 'creative differences'. The new producer taking over from Hiroaki Yura, Koji Morimoto (a veteran of the anime industry), had also discovered the following:
"I found out: 1) there is a high possibility of rewards costing more than the initial estimates (since there were expensive rewards such as figurines, etc. being included), and 2) there was practically no budget set aside for the operational costs—probably based on an assumption to rely on works by volunteers. Those were the major concerns for me and that’s why I needed to check the financial aspect of the project first."
A few days later, an update on Project Phoenix's merch store (yes, they were planning a merch store while the game was barely an alpha at this point) wrote "nothing on UTD will affect Project Phoenix going forward". Under the Dog would also never be mentioned again. It also noted they would be "posting applications for recruitment on the project, so if you have experience in creating a game keep your eye out for the next update." This was a bit worrying. By early 2015, the most that backers had gotten was a lot of announcements, art, an underwhelming vertical slice, and a tiny card-based mini-game. Fans were concerned but still had faith that it could work. The solid quality of the art concepts (and the music samples) helped. Still, others were starting to worry, especially in the face of other projects that were leaving their nurseries that year while Project Phoenix seemed to be dragging its virtual feet. It also didn't help that the project was putting out the call for Unreal engine programmers signaling that they were shifting gears from Unity. Again, the reasons why would only become clear a few years later from that Gamespot interview in 2017 and Jason Schrier's piece in 2015. In both, it was explained that with the success of Ori and the Blind Forest, Clark was no longer able to commit to Project Phoenix leaving it scrambling for talent. But as Hiroaki Yura put it then:
Unity had a lot of under-developed tools we need to create the game so our team made a decision to move to UNREAL which would cut development time and mess a lot.
In March, 2015, a "backers only" update came out emphasizing the time needed to transition to the new engine. Changing game engines mid-project is almost never a great thing. It can be akin to deciding, part way through building a house, that maybe you want to change the foundation and where the basement was. That's also money down the drain. For some projects, this is enough to kill them -- or at least force them to rescope just what they need to do such as making a smaller game than was intially envisioned. Updates were also becoming infrequent. Sometimes a month would pass without word. In another apologetic update from Yura, he wrote of using "personal funds" to create concept art for a "very very famous animator" to animate "in a very awesome way" (AFAIK, that never happened or was shown to anyone). In August, another new name dropped into the project to keep us updated and demonstrating a new video with gameplay. Backers were again underwhelmed. The update even mentioned that they "currently lack someone to edit some opener logos, music, and disclaimers so please use your imagination". The suggested lack of professionalism from "AAA talent" was eating away at backers' confidence in the project. Some would go on to say:
It blows my mind that after all this time this is what you guys can show. Other projects did better with less funding. I get it, placeholders, WIP, whatever. The gameplay looks unoriginal and boring, the mechanics don't inspire anything or make me want to play it. I still regret having backed this project, my hopes of it becoming good are completely gone. what is this shit? It went from promising a Final Fantasy Tactics/Tactics Ogre SRPG to THIS?!?! Are you kidding me? I am NEVER backing another videogame on Kickstarter.
By December, the project had to "clarify" that they actually do have a programmer on the team after previous updates made it seem like they were scrambling to find one. In practice, though, the programmer wasn't a full hire and was participating in the project only sporadically with "his current work" apparently "delaying his full commitment here by about 2 months" and pushing the estimates for completing the game "2.5 years from the time we get our full-time programmer on board". Nobuo Uematsu was apparently still doing music for the game and there was hope he would show up in a future video. Updates on his progress would eventually dry up, too. And despite Classic FM's previous optimism, we didn't get that epic soundtrack to listen to in 2014 aside from a few samples. There was also a note on refunds and how they weren't considering those "at this time" because it meant "to give up on the project since there would be no money left to complete it." Kotaku's Jason Schrier posted an article that December as well, two days later on the 11th. In it, and from an email that Yura had sent over in response to questions Schrier had about the project, he revealed that they had been waiting (for a bit over two years now) for David Clark to come onto the project after Ori. That didn't happen. Yura, as usual, cited Clark as a "good friend of mine" and a "godly programmer", but now had to find a new programmer. One thing Yura notes in his email to Schrier is that they were "making this game part time". Nowhere in the original campaign proposal was this made clear, other than in saying in ambiguous terms "Many of them have taken time out of their personal schedule to contribute their expertise towards Project Phoenix's success. So while everyone has donated a lot of their time, there’s only so much more we can do for free." while later stating "Luckily, we have industry veterans on staff who are reliable, not only in the art of programming, but also in the art of project management." None of which seemed to be working in their favor.
Yura and friends seemed to still trying to figure out staffing heading into the year but they eventually did get a programmer proficient in Unreal tech, Daniel Dressler, which was announced in February, 2016. After that, there's not much to say about 2016. The drought of real updates was concerning but in hindsight, there was probably a good reason why. One could almost say, it was a "tiny" glimpse of things to come. Because meanwhile, in another corner of the Kickstarter universe, a game called TINY METAL showed up in September. Created by AREA 34 who were "based out of Los Angeles", the game was asking for 50k in funding to create what was observers regarded as a spiritual successor to the popular Advance Wars from the Game Boy Advance, a fan favorite, JRPG-based tactical, turn-based splash from 2001. The studio had a whole roster of AAA talent, too. It was like this studio came out of nowhere to tackle a classic thirst for chibi tanks. TINY METAL failed to meet its funding goal of 50k but they mentioned that they had managed to secure funding from elsewhere to at least build a basic game and that was what they would continue moving forward with.
On April 23rd, an update explaining The Pathfinder class arrived. But below the class description was something unexpected -- a breakdown of what was going on with the development of Project Phoenix from the money end written by Daniel Dressler. In it, he described how much less money there was to work with. Roughly 260k was off the top of that million+ figure for KS fees, PayPal fees, and fake pledges that didn't come through. In order to fulfill things like physical rewards, 350k of what was left would be set aside and "will not be touched". If Koji Morimoto were a ghost, he would probably be moaning in the background as these words were read. That left roughly half a million in change by their estimates to fund development in 2013. But the thing that crippled the finances for the project was the decision to go fully 3D from 2.5D once they were flush with funding. Costs ballooned. Also mentioned was that "The programming was going to be done by a genius, once he finished up work on this other major indie game" (again, likely a reference to David Clark who would no longer be joining the project and which, as a reminder, they waited nearly two years to join them). To help cover the extra costs, Yura allegedly invested 500k of his own money earned from his music work back into the project. Towards the end, mention is made of a "tiny project" whose success would mean that "private investors" would invest "significant capital into Project Phoenix". These mystery moneymakers funded the creation of a new staff and a new project. And like clockwork, no one really put two and two together until much later. Again, there were more than a few backers that were upset:
Thank you for the update. I know you will never read this but that's only fair since I'm adding this project name to my junk filter because the money I gave you (well not you Daniel since you came in 3.5 years in to the project and are now the de facto spokesperson) is not worth the frustration of seeing Kickstarter emails in my mailbox only to find out it is this project and it is still in development... It sounds like the entire development was a house of cards predicted on getting some anonymous "genius" to do most of the work for little or no money, and having to actually hire people caused your entire budget to fall apart. What utterly inept project management... Thanks for the update. It's a constant reminder why I never buy into a kickstarter project anymore. Keep it up!
And again, Kotaku's Jason Schrier reported on this particular update, saying "Although this campaign always seemed shady to me—too many sketchy claims and lofty promises—it’s a bummer that 15,802 backers will never get their money back." Dressler's explanation compared Project Phoenix's troubles as broadly similar to those that every other project faced. From a certain perspective, he's not wrong. Many crowdfunded projects faced the same general issues especially as more money came in. But as time went on, the Potemkin villages dotting CIA's countryside would slowly come apart in the face of other projects that didn't fit the narrative such as Harebrained Scheme's Shadowrun Returns (and its subsequent sequels). All Kickstarted successfully and each one made in Unity. But one reply came from a developer who was also a backer who offered their time to help get the project back on track and urging contact.
Every word I've heard, from this and other updates, signify huge red flags to me. Your mini project will not be enough. You need an efficient pipeline. Contact me if you are serious about finishing this game.
Others would chime in and urge CIA to take them up on their offer of help. Because of CIA's penchant for vagueness (har har), one question on backers' minds was whether any money from Project Phoenix, since it was in such dire straits at this point, had gone over to this mysterious game. While the money didn't go into building someone's house, going to a wholly different project wasn't a great prospect, either. On June 12th, Hiroaki Yura released another update clarifying that their new project was not using funds from Project Phoenix and was a concept developed with Dressler "several years ago". The game was to be a "proof of concept" to demonstrate an ability to deliver a "successful game", convincing the potential investors backing this strategy title to back Project Phoenix. Because of this, he noted, "progress on Project Phoenix has slowed temporarily as a result". And remember that developer who offered their help in April? They also had something to say in response to this update.
I talked with Mark, who is a backer like all of us and volunteers his time to CIA. He relayed to me that Hiro saw my offers and isn't interested as their "problem doesn't lie with project management"...
...and goes on to say...
...so unless this project has somehow transcended how video games are made and discovered a new set of issues, they are simply not interested in the supporters, or finishing this project as their first priority. I lost $120 on this, nowhere near what some have, but I don't feel right sitting back and saying nothing.
Then in September, PC Gamer interviewed Yura at PAX West 2017 where he was promoting a game called TINY METAL as CEO of the studio in charge of making it (now referred to as AREA 35 instead of AREA 34). So maybe it wasn't surprising that a few months later on November 15th, a "backers only" update appeared in the Project Phoenix campaign for that same game. If you haven't already guessed, this was their "tiny project". Although the game started making the publicity rounds earlier in 2017 as far back as May for the Nintendo Switch, Hiroaki Yura, CIA, or any association with the project was left a vague breadcrumb trail. AREA 34 had listed completely separate roster of developers who were cited instead in press releases and its own updates on their KS page. Now it appeared Yura was promoting TINY METAL as a second Christmas for the studio's survival. Yura urged backers to try out the demo for TINY METAL. For backers who thought they deserved a copy of the game, the reply was that doing so would "be in breach of our terms of agreement with both the major stakeholder groups of the project; our investors and our publisher." which, predictably, didn't sit well with more than a few of them. Then Yura wrote the following:
Unties, the publisher of TINY METAL and a division of Sony Music Entertainment has already expressed interest in publishing Project Phoenix. We are so close. This is the first time to tell anyone outside my friends, but I am going through a lot with my personal life and I have been separated from loved ones at the moment, and it is honestly one of the worst experiences in my life... and going through an extremely hard ordeal. Been beaten by backers about Project Phoenix that I lied and cheated is one thing, as I understand how some people feel about me and honestly, I feel responsible and deserve the beating. However, been beaten when you try to reach for something to keep a promise, and sacrificing so much... losing my family and at the same time protecting the families of my staff, is the biggest challenge I've faced yet in my life. So just this once, please look carefully at the work we've put in. TINY METAL is our only salvation. With so little resources, many staff from Project Phoenix has toiled to make a simple yet fun little game and this is our result. If you truly like what we've made, please help us, we need all the help we can get. We don't want your money, we just need you to tell your friends and family.
Gauging the backer replies, while a few were understanding, many others were not:
...You stole our money. Failing a project is fine but to stop making the game altogether and making another game with the money is damn right disgusting. This is a dead horse you keep beating. Yes, the horse ate our money, shat on us and then died. But it is definetly dead. Please make your peace with that and move on.
But there were also supportive words there, too:
Remember the story of the Phoenix, and you can rise from the ashes after tragedy. I believe in you. <3 This project is clearly a train-wreck, and is having a real effect on those involved. Some of these comments, however, are just gross.
After the November update, something new appeared on Project Phoenix's Facebook page. Tariq Lacy, a former employee of AREA 35 (the Japanese indie studio working on TINY METAL) who had been working there for a few months, put up a post essentially saying that Hiroaki Yura and his company, CIA, had used funds from Project Phoenix to make TINY METAL. Although Yura and Dressler repeatedly said in the past year that TINY METAL was funded by sources outside of Project Phoenix, the long delays and lack of real progress had already incensed furious backers waiting for the other shoe to drop. Lacy's story was all the proof some needed. In return, Yura accused Lacy of "being a toxic employee who has sexually harassed our female staff amongst many other problems" which he later apologized for. Lacy's entry was "factually incorrect" and deleted but not before some news outlets noticed, setting the stage for a little Mortal Kombat. In a Twitter conversation with PC Gamer following the news, Lacy also noted that AREA 35 and CIA are one and the same. Not only that, but they were also in the same building with "shared office space and PCs". Replying to this piece of information, Yura confirmed that both companies are at the same address but both have "different staff and purpose." Further:
"CIA’s core business is audio production and Area 35 is game and animation development," he said. "We used to have CIA do all of the above but we needed corporate identity and clarity hence we separated the companies. We have absolutely no money from CIA that went into Area 35, it was created by our own money from the executives." The majority of Area 35, he added, is held by himself and a partner."
Then the studio's project manager, Gian Carlo Peirce, replied to PC Gamer in an email adding:
"Creative Intelligence Arts has held onto enough funds to create the backer rewards and their fulfillment, but the development funding has been exhausted. We’re not the first and we won’t be the last Kickstarter to have these kinds of challenges, but we’re committed to seeing it through with a quality game..."
Dressler, who also worked on TINY METAL, had a post on Steam, now preserved by the Internet Archive, refuting the accusations of a former staff member that AREA 35/CIA embezzled funds from Project Phoenix. He also noted that the "entire portion of the project phoenix development budget was invested into development ages before I even joined the company." At least now backers knew why updates for Project Phoenix that year were so glacial. Or had a pretty good guess. Then, according to an interview with Siliconera in December, TINY METAL also needed to sell 150k copies to "resurrect" Project Phoenix. In the interview, Yura throws the work that Airborne Studios (the company CIA used for art assets early on) under tank treads by saying "We aren't happy at all, it looks too cheaply made." going on to say later answering another question "We felt, although we did our best with Airborne, it's not their fault. In terms of the pipeline, it's nobody's fault. It's my fault because I did not prepare enough money for that failure. I did not prepare enough time for that failure. I accept that. I would never blame the artists or the pipeline." When pressed to answer what the studio would do if the sales target came short 50k units, Yura replied:
We don’t need to discuss our internal business decisions. There are a lot of things I can’t tell you about. What I can tell you, in general, is this is not the only thing we do. We have other jobs that will basically feed us. That 50,000 [units] would be nice to concentrate on this, but if we can’t do that we can do recordings. We can do other work. We can do programming work for other companies. If we make the right game we hope, it will sell. If we don’t, it won’t sell. Then it will be another challenge to get Project Phoenix’s budget.
A few days before TINY METAL's release, Gamespot posted an interview with Hiroaki Yura who provided the publication with documented proof that the game was funded by investment outside Project Phoenix. As mentioned earlier, this was one of interviews (along with Jason Schrier's) who revealed who the "genius" level programmer Unity programmer was along with some other tidbits. About funding Project Phoenix should TINY METAL do well:
...We were first introduced to Sony during the work on Project Phoenix, and though this is not official, verbally we agreed that if Tiny Metal does well, then we will probably work on Project Phoenix.
...and then on why he started the project:
...I've got lots of friends who've worked on the AAA side of the industry, and when I spoke to them about it, they wanted to do it. And then they all pointed to me to produce and direct it, because I'm bilingual. But the thing is, I've never delivered a game, but I've had backing from Uematsu-san, several key artists from Square-Enix who've worked on Final Fantasy, people from the Warcraft team--it was just sort of overwhelming.
...and on what led to the first major delay with Project Phoenix because of the art:
...It wasn't A1's fault, but I think the visual design was too 'chibi,' like super-deformed. It looked too immature, and the content of the game was much more mature than that. So we were running out of budget, we were running out of time, so we announced our delay and we started planning for [Tiny Metal] to try and make money for Project Phoenix.
TINY METAL was released on December 21st, 2017 after a short delay and published by Sony's Unties garnering relatively solid, if not enthusiastic, response from critics in general and players on Steam. Months passed with the next update arriving on July 31st, 2018, dropping another bombshell with Japanese courts confirming that Lacy's charges against AREA 35 were bogus and legally requiring him to publish a public apology. Although Lacy's claims of embezzlement were ruled untrue, it didn't explain why Yura and Dressler created a fog of war over their relationship with TINY METAL as far back as early 2017, opting instead to cryptically drop hints from time to time as if this were an adventure game from Sierra On-Line. Though, judging from a number of backers' furious reactions when the curtains were finally drawn back, the reasons why might not be that surprising.
"BRING OUT YOUR DEAD" ("But I'm not dead...!")
The last update for Project Phoenix was March 26th, 2019, where Yura wrote that they were "currently cultivating the programming team, but before we're able to fully recommit to Project Phoenix, we're working on titles independent of this project." No mention of genius level programmers, an Academy Award™ winning sound engineer, or very, very good animators was made though he noted that Nobuo Uematsu was still contributing music. Six more artists were also joining the team led by Takuya Suzuki, a former artist at Blizzard, along with Erasmus Brosdau formerly of Crytek, to start creating world assets "sometime later this year". Once those are done, he writes, "we hope to have our programmers ready to take on the task." There was also no further mention of whether the physical rewards were even a thing at this point, the 350k part of the budget that was set aside to cover those. Maybe backers did get them and just decided not to say anything making it another unsolved mystery (Robert Stack not included). By now, more than a few of those with access to the project and able to post replies to the Kickstarter updates do this instead:
CIA/Hiroaki Yura did answer a question about whether there might be a new roadmap to which someone replied:
The balls on you, seriously! " It's going to be very turbulent ahead, but we definitely want to nail down this game." Are you getting a good chuckle out of this, Hiro?
There have been no further updates since though people are still leaving refund demands as recently as January, 2020. But there was one update outside of Project Phoenix. A few months after that March update, a sequel to TINY METAL, TINY METAL: FULL METAL RUMBLE, was released by AREA 34 (and developed by AREA 35) on PCs and the Nintendo Switch on July 11th. As for whether this game will actually resurrect Project Phoenix, it's probably a safe bet at this point that it hasn't.
Nearly seven years later, Project Phoenix has metamorphed into a zombie trainwreck washed up by the tide of exuberance during Kickstarter's peak video game era, becoming another example of a massive KS failure in the video gaming space. Through a variety of factors, it somehow burned through a million dollars of goodwill -- more once you account for Yura's alleged injection of capital -- and attempted to survive with a secret project quietly built behind AREA 34/35 names and rosters as a byzantine Plan B for their funding woes. From what can be told going through the (now largely outdated) staff list still posted at their campaign page and the few names that came up during their staffing spree years ago, most of the principals have either moved on to other work (one former artist is now working on James Cameron's Avatar 2, Airborne went on to do work on titles like Apex Legends, Dressler is working on a new game). Others continued doing what they do outside of the project (their "day jobs") likely having fulfilled whatever contractual obligations they had at the time and few if any of them mention their association with Project Phoenix nowadays. Project Phoenix's .info page now exists only as a largely abandoned forum, a bare shadow of its former self. Its Twitter has remained silent since the last announcement. Responses to the last news on its Facebook page varied from disbelief to shock and happiness that it was still a thing before silence descended once more. A few people out there are still excited to get alerts on the project. The only activity on its campaign page are demands for refunds. Even Hiroaki Yura's twitter doesn't mention the project at all aside from his bio linking to the nigh abandoned .info page. But in an interview with Escapist Magazine in November of last year, he referred to Project Phoenix as a "snafu", a lesson learned informing him on what ventures to pursue nowadays. And that was that, an epitaph likely as close to anything anyone will get for what its campaign page still hails as "Kickstarter's FIRST Japan-based video game project!" EDIT: Many humble thanks kind stranger for the gold!
Anti-Corruption & News Summary - Nov/4/2019 :: Serj relatives & Panamaboy - 136mln pipeline theft :: ORSIS arms & equipment fraud :: Culture wars - Satan & Jesus :: US & EU :: Education reforms :: 7.3bln :: Emergency Min. :: PM vs HHK media - Fake News :: Yerevan transport & forests :: Army :: Stats
US ambassador Lynn: US foreign aid to Armenia rose 40% in 2019, and totaled $60mln. Money is used in anti-corruption, energy sector, education, English classes, human rights, transparency. We don't expect to end this help, especially since today democracy is stronger than ever in Armenia. $2bln given since 1992. https://armtimes.com/hy/article/173086 EU ambassador Wiktorini: EU supports and is helping the ongoing judicial reforms in Armenia. EU has no comment about specific trials that are happening in courts. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/994073.html Azerbaijan has invaded 200 hectares of Georgian land in the past few decades. It's near the Aze-Geo-Arm border. AZE and GEO also have an ongoing land conflict near a border monastery. https://www.bellingcat.com/news/rest-of-world/2019/11/01/azerbaijan-encroaches-into-georgian-territory/ https://www.civilnet.am/news/2019/11/03/Azerbaijan-Encroaches-Into-Georgian-Territory/369906 Spice of the Day Award goes to... SATANISTS and TRADITIONALISTS clash in Yerevan subway. A group of women from CoCholab school were doing a weird "art" performance when a dissatisfied "traditionalist" man came and said it wasn't art and and it was anti-Armenian. He criticized the women for being brainwashed with western values and not having feminine values,, which is "having children as the top priority". The women laughed. "These actions of yours are violating my taste of art", said the man who gave a strong impression of a քյառթ. Another homophobic man begun assaulting and threatening the group, saying he'll "blow the satanists up with a grenade", before being tackled by cops. "Nothing was done about the fags in 1990s, which is why we're suffering now", said the man while being escorted to a police vehicle. Later, a traditionalist activist group came a lit candles in the area to scare the demons away. Turns out it wasn't really satanism. The women were reading Armenian writer Yeghishe Charents' poems, while delivering it in a weird abstract style (dressed in white and doing weird movements). They were one of the arts groups that received a 2.7mln grant from Education Ministry. (Ministry spends 903mln/year to help education and arts initiatives) ARF party seized on the opportunity and demanded Education Minister Arayik Harutyunyan to resign by Friday. ARF doesn't like the recent education reforms in Armenia, calling them anti-traditional and anti-Armenian. Specifically, they don't like the fact that Ministry wants to reduce the load on students by making Armenian Language classes non-mandatory in Universities (Ministry says students learning it for 12 years is enough, and they should focus more on major) They don't like that Ministry wants to merge History of Church with History of Armenia (ministry says it's more efficient that way, there are many complaints by students, it could be unconstitutional to force Yezidis pray in classes, also it's against economic cooperation plans with EU) They don't like the fact that Ministry gave 20mln to make a documentary film about Armenian and world weightlifting champion Mel, because she later became transgender and is now living in Holland. Education Minister Arayik Harutyunyan responded: Let the artists themselves decide how the resources are spent. Right now it's only political parties (ARF) that are discussing the topic for earning political points, while using media outlets under their possession to increase the attacks. These political groups aren't familiar with the arts subject. They are degrading arts and taking it backwards. Artists themselves will shape the system. We'll hear artists' opinions. https://youtu.be/7sz0bFfaVqA https://youtu.be/C2g_RqRxpA8 https://armtimes.com/hy/article/173066 http://panarmenian.net/m/arm/news/274685 https://armenpress.am/arm/news/994031.html Some artists supported the idea of free and un-censored art. Others were critical of it, calling it distasteful. https://factor.am/196726.html Education Minister Harutyunyan supports the recent transition to centralized exam system in which 9th grade students give the exams away from their regular schools, in a large facility. He says it's better at preventing cheating (regular teachers aren't there to help), better at revealing students' true capabilities. "Let the student earn 8 points instead of 6. The parent will have a better understanding about their child's weak points", said Minister. Minister speaking about various reforms: It's normal for some people to resist whenever a change is being made. After the changes are implemented, the opponents will see the end result and support the changes. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/994034.html https://youtu.be/2DgcxgSfn44 Education Minister Harutyunyan: There is a draft bill to reform the science and university cooperation. The two should have closer ties. Scientific research should be "brought back to universities". The bill will "merge" Institutes of the National Academy of Sciences with universities. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/994023.html Pashinyan about Church History, Armenian History, and Armenian Language subjects in schools and universities: Armenian Church's history is Armenian history. The church studies were prohibited in schools for decades during USSR. It should be merged with Armenian History subject and be taught as one subject. It wouldn't make sense to have a separate history class for each aspect of life. Should we have a separate history subject for the 1st Armenian Republic? Our educational system has to be competitive. None of the best universities around the world have the same priorities as ours. Why should an engineer studying in a university be required to take an Armenian Language class? Every time someone does something out of standards, they are referred to as "satanists". Writer Yeghishe Charents has done some non-traditional things in his life (was he gay?). Should we stop loving Charents' literature because of it? They used to burn people in fire for saying the earth is round. Armenia should be a country where people's right of thought is respected. People should not all think the same way. End of Pashinyan's comments. https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/173119 https://www.facebook.com/nikol.pashinyan/videos/2088914214543708/ https://youtu.be/UZ3e551oVM4 (When I was a kid, Armenian Church classes were the best because we had nothing to do and would screw around a lot. God bless the Jesus for giving us that opportunity.) Former IRS chief and HHK Finance Minister Gagik Khachatryan was earlier arrested under the suspicion of embezzling state funds. NSS says 7.3bln was been recovered so far. https://www.azatutyun.am/a/30249512.html https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/173025 From weekend: Yerevan zoo and city workers have caught more dogs roaming around the zoo. They're trying to find out if they are part of the gang of dogs who earlier infiltrated the zoo and killed 6 moulons and kangoroos. One of the busted doggos looks VERY guilty... BAD BOY? https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/173049(innocent until proven guilty) https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/172988 Minister of Emergency Felix Tsolakyan fired the chief of department that oversees wildfire control. Says he was lazy, and wasn't in country when necessary. He called for SOC to come and audit the Ministry to find any possible instances of fraud and favorable treatment by officials towards relatives. There were 3,000 more fires this year vs 2018. This year they got 260mln funds to buy new tools to get ready for 2020. 48 Japanese and Russian trucks will arrive soon. A new helicopter will be brought for fire extinguishing. https://armtimes.com/hy/article/173077 https://armenpress.am/arm/news/994003.html BHK boss Dodi Gagik Tsarukyan took his fellow BHK MP's gold license plates: 111 HH 11. The law gives Parliament MPs a license plate range from 001 HH 11 to 200 HH 11. According to rules, the MPs are then selected automatically and issued plates from this range. Gago was supposed to have 089 HH 11, but the tripple-1 was too juicy to miss. Here is your meme https://www.reddit.com/arMEMEia/comments/drczf9/111_hh_11/ https://youtu.be/RQCPBx3Rdko https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/172930 Daily "Fake News" Report Yerevan mayor Marutyan's spokesman criticized an unnamed media outlet for being "unprofessional", spreading rumors despite receiving an official denial. Outlet called the spokesman and asked if it's true that the mayor plans to resign soon (often outlets try to create a negative atmosphere around Marutyan by spreading such rumors). The spokes said "No. Congrats. You receive and award for being the 10th journalist to call and ask that question." Upon ending the call, the spokesman opens the media outlets and sees that the outlet posted the rumor and a tiny denial note, after it was denied. https://factor.am/196680.html Pashinayan mocked former regime-allied media outlets for spreading rumors that he allegedly fired the Secret Service chief (chief bodyguard) Grigori Hayrapetov last month, because Hayrapetov was in an elevator with Pashinyan and Aliyev and might have overheard about how Pashinyan was secretly colluding with Aliyev to give parts osf Artsakh to Azerbaijan. PM says it wouldn't even make sense for him to discuss such treacherous secrets at the presence of Hayrapetov, who had been friends with Kocharyan and Serj for 10 years, whom he only met few months prior to the event. "Roboserj regime spends millions spreading these rumors, yet look at the quality of their propaganda", ridiculed PM. (Context: after the revolution the former regime's outlets have spread similar rumors on multiple occasions, stoking divide between Artakh and Armenia.) https://youtu.be/S_M48JmwjG https://armtimes.com/hy/article/173055 Pashinyan says: The govt of Armenia and Artsakh have the same ideas about Artsakh conflict's solution. We have no disagreements. Currently, there are no acceptable proposals being discussed with Azerbaijan that we can show to Armenia public and say "what do you think about this?" Roboserj circles are saying "Pashinyan is weakening the army". I'll be surprised if you can show me any 1.5-year time-frame during which the Armenia govt has done as much as we have for the army. Armenia's defense budget rose 26% in 2019. Additional 2.1bln spent on improving soldier's living conditions, installing running water systems. 1/3rd of front positions to have running fresh water by the end of 2019. The number of military units that get their energy off-the-grid from solar panels, rose by 5%. Up to 10% more weapons, including for attacks. Improved front-line positions in 5 border areas. 10% more surveillance cameras monitoring the border and enemy. 114% budget increase for military industrial complex in 2020. 3bln additional aid to Artsakh so they can give officers apartments. The soldier salary hikes and the the new food system helps with the morale, lets the soldier know that the govt cares about them. etc. They also say Pashinyan is weakening the military leadership. So what that some generals are going through felony trials? Didn't we agree that no one is above the law? I have appointed several military-men as generals recently, by the way. The former regime's propaganda is a good opportunity for me to get on Facebook and talk to you every once in a while. End of Pashinyan's report. https://www.facebook.com/nikol.pashinyan/videos/710511952780800/ https://armtimes.com/hy/article/173060 Pashinyan demonstrated the "presidential house". He just moved there to reside with the family. He says Serj was planning to privatize it so HHK would give it to him, but the plan got ruined after the revolution when Pashinyan reversed the decision. (public officials can receive a house from the state, normally upon departure ) PM said the former regime is now salty about this. He denied the rumors that $2mln (953mln) was spent on renovating the building before their arrival, saying the total costs were >10x less than that, the furniture is a state-owned property that will be used by future PMs as well, the interior color was changed from brown to white. Churchmen came to bless the building. Demo https://youtu.be/0W26NDM5a0s https://www.facebook.com/nikol.pashinyan/videos/1373105399537359/ https://www.azatutyun.am/a/30249688.html BLessed https://youtu.be/oTTah5beaTA https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/173018 http://www.panarmenian.net/arm/news/274663/ Many soldiers now receive higher quality food through private firms. It costs 1000AMD per meal, or ~1150AMD if the food company renovated the facility at their expense. Army spokesman denied other numbers that were being circulated. https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/173037 https://www.facebook.com/arcrun/posts/2575702455798680 Defense Ministry Tonoyan says the newly purchased Russian SU-30sm jets will arrive within 3 months. 40% of the soldiers already get the high quality food. In 2020 they plan to implement this program in front-line positions. https://armtimes.com/hy/article/173080 Update: Earlier we learned the Defense Ministry had a felony case involving an official, and a Russian arms dealer ORSIS. The company complained that the official hindered the firm's ability to deliver weapons to the Armenian army. Russian govt allegedly (According to Russian media sources) was unhappy about this and was planning to ask Armenian govt to escalate the investigation. (Read Aug/26/2019 and Sep/5/2019 news for details) A new report says: The firm attempted to deliver low quality hunting gear disguised as military gear. The Dedal-T2.380 Hunter LRF night vision and heat detector cameras have a low 600 meter operational range instead of the required 1600 meters. Their use makes the soldier visible to the enemy, thus placing lives at risk. The firm falsified some tags on the equipment to pass it off as a military certified gear, but they did a poor job at disguising the fraud. Moreover, the firm tried to sell the 2.5mln worth gear for 3.1mln to the military. ORSIS Arms is a subsidiary company and in Armenia it's registered under two Armenian military officers' names. The firm rep denied trying to sell hunting gear masked as military gear. The ORSIS is part of Russian military tech firm PromTechnology. The parent firm is run and sponsored by Putin's friend Dmitry Ragozin family. https://factor.am/196539.html https://factor.am/178700.html www.civilnet.am/news/2019/11/04/Ինչու-է-ՊՆ-ն-չեղարկել-ռուսական-ORSIS-ARMS-ի-շահած-մրցույթը/369972 https://meduza.io/en/shapito/2018/02/26/deputy-prime-minister-dmitry-rogozin-starts-deleting-tweets-about-his-cousin-after-reporters-discover-a-defense-industry-conflict-of-interest Human Rights Ombudsman: take a chill pill, ya'll. More of you have begun using social media, and every time I see a Facebook post, it evolves into a personal fight and insults. CALM DOWN! https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/173051 NSS has busted a soccer match rigging and gambling fraud. Memo says: Masis club played against Torpedo in September. A high ranking official from Masis team management, and the club player, colluded to make sure their team loses the match, so their friends could place a bet on Torpedo and win. NSS has a felony investigation and is looking for the suspects. They've also contacted UEFA and HFF. https://armtimes.com/hy/article/173081 Police says they busted officials at Water Committee and a private firm director for causing 136mln damage to state. Report says: In 2012-2013, officials organized auction to sell 6km long pumping pipeline. They wrote inaccurate pipe details which reduced its value on paper. Pipes were sold to firms for cheaper value on paper. Felony case is launched. It turns out one of the firms that appropriated the materials belonged to Serj's childhood friend Mikhail Harutyunyan, who is the uncle of Mihran Poghosyan. The latter is the guy currently sheltering in Russia awaiting an extradition for his role in Panama Paper scandals. The other firm that appropriated the other part of the pipes is run by Serj's brother Alexander Sargsyan. End of report. https://youtu.be/UApMIMalXok https://armenpress.am/arm/news/994101.html https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/173112 PM office is working with Nature Ministry to bring back "Yerevan's lungs". In the 1990s, hills on Norq Marash and Sari Tagh districts had dense forests. They disappeared over time. Govt will soon examine the cost of drip irrigation system. This will be done as part of Pashinyan's goal to plant 10mln trees by 2050. https://armtimes.com/hy/article/173090 Thank you Mr. Beast. Very cool. Every day, 40 trolleys transport 14,500 passengers in 5 routes in Yerevan. It's eco-friendly (fact). Last time the trolley park was refreshed in 2008. The upcoming transport refresh will have 101 new trolleys in addition to 850 buses. City uses GPS to monitor transport work to reduce delays. http://panarmenian.net/m/arm/news/274693 Public utilities commission says the water price will remain the same for consumers in 2020, while at the same time the govt will stop subsidizing Veolia Water water company. Every year they recalculate water price, partially based on the amount that was consumed. Consumers pay 180 but Veolia used to get 191.4 because govt subsidized 11.4. Now it'll cost 180 without subsidies. (Last year govt decided to subsidize Veolia so they wouldn't raise prices for public in 2019.) https://factor.am/196592.html https://www.lragir.am/2019/11/04/490678/ Sugar imports and sales monopoly stats: In 2018 oligarch Lfik Samo had 67% of the sugar imports. In 2019 it reduced to 48%. His sugar sales market share went from 91% to 76%. The firm in second place has doubled its imports and sales volumes. https://www.lragir.am/2019/11/04/490743/ 3Q19 vs 3Q18 property transactions up 18%. Growth in: Yerevan 11% Other cities 17% Villages 25% Transaction share by region: Yerevan 35%, Kotayk 14%, Ararat 10%, etc. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/993931.html 1st snow in Armenia. https://youtu.be/zPq4L3aRvmM https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/172993 Armenian photo editing app PicsArt is the 15th most popular app in the number of downloads. It's in top-20 for the 3rd consecutive month. http://www.panarmenian.net/arm/news/274659/ European chess tournament: men 4th place, women 7th place. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/993955.html Armen Melikyan wins gold in Greco-Roman wrestling U23 World Championship. https://factor.am/196472.html Edit: typos Disclaimer: All the accused are innocent until proven guilty by the court of law, even if they may sound as being guilty. Currency in Armenian Drams unless specified otherwise. Older posts can be found at: PART 1 ; PART 2 ; PART 3 ; PART 4 , credits to Idontknowmuch.
Broderick Stephen "Steve" Harvey (born January 17, 1957), nicknamed "Mr. Peanut Brain", is an American comedian, businessman, and entertainer. He hosts The Steve Harvey Morning Show, Family Feud, Celebrity Family Feud, the Miss Universe competition (since 2015) and Fox's New Year's Eve (since 2017). Harvey began his career as a comedian. He did standup comedy in the early 1980s and hosted Showtime at the Apollo and The Steve Harvey Show on The WB. He was later featured in The Original Kings of Comedy after starring in the Kings of Comedy Tour. He performed his last standup show in 2012. Harvey is the host of both Family Feud and Celebrity Family Feud which he has done since 2010. He has also hosted Little Big Shots, Little Big Shots Forever Young, and Steve Harvey’s Funderdome. As an author, he has written four books including his bestseller Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, which was published in March 2009. In 2017, Harvey founded Steve Harvey Global, an entertainment company that houses his production company East 112 and various other ventures. He launched an African version of the Family Feud and also invested in the HDNet takeover along with Anthem Sports and Entertainment. He and his wife Marjorie are the founders of The Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation, a non profit organization focused on youth education. He is a six-time Daytime Emmy Award winner, two-time Marconi Award winner, and a 14-time NAACP Image Award winner in various categories. Early Life Harvey was born on January 17, 1957, in Welch, West Virginia, and is the son of Jesse Harvey, a coal miner, and Eloise Vera. His first name is Broderick, named after actor Broderick Crawford of the TV series Highway Patrol. Harvey's family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, living on East 112th Street, which was renamed Steve Harvey Way in 2015. He graduated from Glenville High School in 1974. Shortly after high school, he attended Kent State University and West Virginia University and is a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity. Career Early career and comedy Harvey has been a boxer, an autoworker, an insurance salesman, a carpet cleaner, and a mailman. He first performed stand-up comedy on October 8, 1985, at the Hilarities Comedy Club in Cleveland, Ohio. In the late '80s, Harvey was homeless for three years. He slept in his 1976 Ford when not performing gigs that provided a hotel, and he showered at gas stations or swimming pool showers. Rich and Becky Liss helped Harvey during this time with a contract for carpet cleaning and credit at a travel agency. 1990–2009; Move to television and film Harvey was a finalist in the Second Annual Johnnie Walker National Comedy Search performing on April 16, 1990, eventually leading to a long stint as host of It's Showtime at the Apollo, succeeding Mark Curry in that role. His success as a stand-up comedian led to a starring role on the short-lived ABC show Me and the Boys in 1994. He would later star on the WB network show, The Steve Harvey Show, which ran from 1996 to 2002. While popular, the show never achieved critical acclaim outside of the African-American community. In 1997, Harvey continued his work in stand-up comedy, performing on the Kings of Comedy tour along with Cedric the Entertainer, D.L. Hughley, and Bernie Mac. The tour became the highest grossing comedy tour in history, grossing $18 million its first year and $19 million its second. The comedy act would later be put together into a film by Spike Lee called The Original Kings of Comedy. That title was also used as the name of his comedy and variety television show (later renamed Steve Harvey's Big Time Challenge), which aired on The WB network from 2003 until 2005. Harvey is the host of The Steve Harvey Morning Show, a weekday morning radio program he has hosted since 2000. It was originally syndicated through Radio One Inc. from September 2000 until May 2005. As of 2019, the show is syndicated through the United States. He had appeared in the 2003 movie The Fighting Temptations alongside Cuba Gooding Jr. and Beyoncé Knowles. The same year he played the role of Clarence Johnson in the film Love Don't Cost a Thing. In 2014 he had roles in the films Johnson Family Vacation and You Got Served; and, in 2005, he co-starred in the movie Racing Stripes as the voice of Buzz. In 2006, Harvey released the stand-up special Steve Harvey: Don't Trip... He Ain't Through with Me Yet directed by Leslie Small. The special was filmed at MegaFest with Harvey not using profanity during the show. In 2008, Harvey hosted the Disney Dreamers Academy, a teen-focused personal and professional enrichment event that took place January 17–20, 2008, at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Harvey released the book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man in 2009. The book is about how men think about women and relationships. Based on the book, the 2012 film Think Like a Man, is an ensemble romantic comedy depicting characters taking advice on dating from the book. The hardcover version spent 64 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, 23 of those weeks at No. 1. 2010 to 2016; Family Feud and other ventures Harvey began hosting Family Feud in September 2010. The show has seen improved ratings under Harvey, and he has surpassed every previous Feud host to date in length of consecutive tenures. Harvey also hosts Celebrity Family Feud, where celebrities compete for a chance to donate up to $25,000 to their favorite charity. The show airs during the summer on ABC. On August 2, 2012, Harvey performed his final stand-up act at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, ending a 27-year career as a stand-up comedian. The two-hour performance was broadcast live on Pay-Per-View. “The road to this final show has been an amazing journey, doing stand-up for the past 27 years, and I can’t thank fans enough after reflecting on all those years on stage,” he said. The same year, Harvey debuted a self-titled syndicated talk show produced by Endemol and distributed by NBCUniversal Television Distribution at the NBC Tower in Chicago. In 2013, Harvey became the first double host nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award, receiving nominations for both Outstanding Talk Show Host and Outstanding Game Show Host. He was also honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The following year, Harvey launched a new dating website called Delightful. It is a joint venture with IAC with Harvey supplying articles and videos for the site. In December 2015, Harvey hosted the Miss Universe 2015 pageant in Las Vegas. Upon announcing the final results, he mistakenly named the first runner-up, Miss Colombia (Ariadna Gutiérrez) as the winner. A few minutes after she was crowned, Harvey announced that he had read the results incorrectly and that Miss Philippines (Pia Wurtzbach) was the new Miss Universe. He apologized to Wurtzbach outside the venue and later tweeted an apology to both contestants. Harvey also hosted the Miss Universe 2016 pageant in the Philippines on January 30, 2017, telling the Miss Universe Organization that he wanted to personally apologize to the Filipinos for the incident that occurred in the last Miss Universe pageant he hosted. He returned as host for the Miss Universe 2017 pageant in Las Vegas on November 26, 2017 and the Miss Universe 2018 pageant in Thailand on December 17, 2018. In January 2016, Harvey gave a motivational speech to audience members after the taping of an episode of Family Feud. He theme of the speech was for people to embrace the skills they were born with. He references embracing the gifts with jumping from a cliff and relying on the parachute (those gifts) to help you. The speech was the motivation for the book Leap: Take the Leap of Faith to Achieve Your Life of Abundance, published by Harvey in 2016. In October 2016, it was announced that Harvey would host two revival specials of Showtime at the Apollo for Fox. In November 2016, the Steve Harvey talk show was cancelled, and it was announced that Harvey had reached a deal with IMG to produce a new syndicated talk show in Los Angeles with NBCUniversal. The new series, Steve, premiered in September 2017, and was described as having more of a celebrity and comedy oriented format with a larger amount of creative control held by Harvey, as opposed to the previous program's larger focus on human interest subjects. To facilitate the new series, production of Harvey's radio show and Family Feud were relocated to L.A. Harvey is the co-creator of Little Big Shots, a series launched in 2016 and executive produced by him and Ellen DeGeneres. The series features children demonstrating talents and engaging in conversation with Harvey. Harvey hosted the show until 2019. 2017 to present; Steve Harvey Global Harvey united all of his businesses under Steve Harvey Global (SHG) in 2017. Brands under SHG include East One Twelve, Harvey's in-house production company that is used to develop digital content, films, and television. The company also owns the rights for international versions of Family Feud, of which an African version of the show was announced to begin in 2020. He also launched the Sand and Soul Festival in 2017. The event has been held yearly and features live music, comedy, and a question and answers session with Harvey and his wife Marjorie. He also launched Harvey Events, a special events company led by his daughter Morgan Hawthorne and son-in-law Kareem Hawthorne. It has produced events such as the FroRibbean Fest in Atlanta in 2018. In 2017, Harvey began hosting a New Year's Eve special from Times Square for Fox (which, like his talk show, would be produced in partnership with IMG). Two days before the broadcast, Harvey was ordained in the state of New York so he could officiate an on-air wedding between Keven Undergaro and Maria Menounos during the special. The special was Fox's most-watched New Year's Eve broadcast to date. In 2019, Harvey announced the launch of a learning hub called Vault. He also spoke at the first Vault conference held in Los Angeles. He also invested in the takeover of HDNet along with Anthem Sports & Entertainment. Bibliography 2009, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man 2010, Straight Talk, No Chaser 2014, Act Like a Success 2016, Jump, Take the Leap of Faith to Achieve Your Life of Abundance Awards and Honors Four-time winner: NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002) Three-time winner: NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Comedy Series (as executive producestar of The Steve Harvey Show – 2000, 2001, 2002) 2001: NAACP Image Awards Entertainer of the Year 2007: Syndicated Personality/Show of the Year – Radio & Records magazine 2011: BET Humanitarian Award – 2011 BET Awards 2013: Favorite New Talk Show Host – 39th People's Choice Awards 2013: Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame 2013: Marconi Award winner – Network/Syndicated Personality of the Year Three-time winner: NAACP Image Awards Outstanding News/Talk/Info Series (as executive producehost of Steve Harvey – 2014, 2015, 2017) 2014: Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host – Family Feud 2014: Daytime Emmy Award for Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show Informative (as host/executive producer of Steve Harvey) 2014: NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame inductee (Radio) 2015: East 112th Street in Cleveland renamed Steve Harvey Way 2015: NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Host – Talk/Reality/Variety/News/Information 2015: Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show Informative (as host/executive producer of Steve Harvey) 2015: Marconi Award winner – Network/Syndicated Personality of the Year 2016: NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Host – Talk/Reality/Variety/News/Information 2016: NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Variety Series/Special (as host of Family Feud) 2016: Honorary Doctorate Degree Received at Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama 2017: Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Informative Talk Show Host – Steve Harvey 2017: Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host – Family Feud 2018: Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Informative Talk Show Host – Steve Controversies Politics In August 2011, on his radio show, Harvey called Cornel West and Tavis Smiley "Uncle Toms" because of their criticism of President Barack Obama. Harvey later apologized for using the slur but maintained his criticism of West and Smiley. In January 2017, Harvey was met with backlash from some in the African-American community for his decision to meet with then-President elect Donald Trump. He defended his decision, citing that it would help spark positive changes. Comments about atheists Harvey has received criticism for a May 30, 2009, book interview he gave on Larry King Live, which was guest-hosted by Joy Behar. During that interview, he asserted that women should not date atheists who, he claimed, have no "moral barometer." He opined that atheists are "idiot[s]" and stated that his usual response to discussions with atheists is to walk away. Racial comments about Asian men In January 2017, Steve Harvey made jokes on Steve Harvey about Asian men, ridiculing the idea that any white woman or black woman would want to date them. "Excuse me, do you like Asian men?" he said, "No, thank you." He went on to add, "I don't even like Chinese food." The remarks were met with criticism from Asian Americans, including New York politicians and author Eddie Huang. For instance, Huang remarked about Harvey's hypocrisy in speaking about issues facing the black community while denigrating Asians. Harvey apologized on his talk show and Twitter, saying: "I offer my humblest apology for offending anyone, particularly those in the Asian community. … It was not my intention, and the humor was not meant with any malice or disrespect whatsoever." However, he also earlier said, "I ain’t been laughing that much over the past few days. They’re kinda beating me up on the internet right now for no reason. But, you know, that’s life, ain’t it?" Comments about Flint water crisis In response to a caller from Flint, Michigan, who insulted the Cleveland Cavaliers after their loss to the Golden State Warriors, Harvey, a Cavaliers fan, told the caller to "go have yourself a nice glass of brown water!" in reference to the city's water crisis. The joke was criticized by, among others, Amariyanna Copeny and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, who demanded a public apology. Harvey responded by saying, "The caller and I were talking trash about our teams and cities. Simply trash talking about sports. I made a joke directed at him, as he is from Flint, a city for which I have great affection and respect. So much so that I devoted a full hour on my daytime talk show to raising awareness for the Flint water crisis. … The caller laughed, as my joke was taken in the context it was offered." Philanthropy Harvey is the founder of the Steve & Marjorie Harvey Foundation, a philanthropic organization that provides youth outreach services. The foundation hosts a yearly camp for fatherless children and also partnered with Kent State University to provide scholarships to the school. Harvey is also a partner with Walt Disney World Resort and Essence for the Disney Dreamers Academy, a yearly workshop at Walt Disney World for 100 students. Personal Life Harvey has been married three times and has seven children (four biological and three stepchildren). From his first marriage, to Marcia Harvey, he has two daughters (twins Brandi and Karli) and one son (Broderick Harvey Jr.). From his second marriage, to Mary Shackelford, Harvey has another son named Wynton. The couple divorced in November 2005. In 2011, Collin County, Texas-based 199th District Court Judge Robert Dry expressed concern about Mary Harvey spreading false information about the divorce, with the judge suggesting that she had not been left materially destitute. In June 2007, Harvey married Marjorie Bridges, who he says is responsible for making him a better man and changing his life. Marjorie Harvey is mother to three children (Morgan, Jason, and Lori ), all of whom Steve adopted. Steve and Marjorie have five grandchildren: three through Jason's marriage to his wife Amanda, one through Morgan's marriage to her husband Kareem, and one through Karli's marriage to husband Ben. Through 2017, Harvey and his family divided their time between Atlanta, where his radio show was broadcast and Family Feud was recorded, and Chicago, where he hosted his talk show for NBCUniversal from the company's Chicago studios, although he would host his radio show there as well. In 2018, Harvey moved his talk show, radio show, and Family Feud to Los Angeles. Harvey is a Christian and has attributed his success to his faith in God. Harvey reports that he has followed a vegan diet for health reasons and has presented the rationale for his diet on his TV program.
Summary of the FOOTBALL LEAKS (biggest leak in sports history)
Hi guys, I just read all the Football Leaks articles on Spiegel so far and made a bit of a summary, since I am sure most of you don't want to read everything (the summary is still long, but way shorter than the articles, believe me). So for who is not informed, German newspaper and investigators Spiegel, together with lots of other newspapers did investigate and research the (second part of the) documents they received from Football Leaks, a portuguese hackergroup. This is 3,4TB of data which means about 70 million documents. They published the first articles, but there are many more to come in the next few weeks. More coming also on the topics doping, betting fraud and racism. Man City: In 2013 former French President Nicolas Sarkozy tried to raise money with the help of ManCity president Khaldoon Al Mubarak. A year later when ManCity was investigated by UEFA for FFP violation, Al Mubarak asked Sarkozy for help, who spoke with FIFA president Infantino. In the last 7 years Abu Dhabi has injected €2.7 billion into ManCity. In 2016 Infantino chose to directly negotiate an agreement with ManCity, and therefore bypassing the investigating chamber of UEFA. Between 2009 and 2011 ManCity has made a loss of €451M. ManCity threatened to take legal action against UEFA, if they would make them pay a penalty. 2014 the president of the investigating company of the UEFA recommended to exclude ManCity from the Championsleague. Infantino intervened and negotiated with City manager (and ex Barça VP) Ferran Soriano. Infantino actually told Soriano that he should make a proposal for the fine they would have to pay, so that it looks like FFP is still intact. In the end they settled on a $60m fine, which then Al Mubarak refused to pay. Infantino intervened again to make the fine drop to 20m, which UEFA investigating chamber initially refused to agree to. PSG was angry that ManCity's fine would be lowered, so the UEFA president promised PSG that their fine would also go down to 20m, while lying to Abu Dhabi that PSG's fine would be much higher than theirs. Since that agreement ManCity have spent €700m on new players. ManCity Secretary General Simon Cliff wrote after the death of one of the investigation chamber members in an email "one has fallen, there are six left." EDIT (05.11.18): Additional Info The year FFP was introduced, ManCity spent 9.9M pounds too much, apparently because of the termination of Mancini's contract. The only solution according to an Email where Chief Financial Officer Jorge Chumillas wrote "an additional amount of Abu Dhabi sponsorship revenues, that covers this gap". CEO Ferran Soriano suggested having sponsors pay the amounts they have to pay for the victory of the FA cup, even though ManCity had not won the FA cup. Ten days later many different apparently according to City "fully independent" sponsorship deals were adjusted, Etihad paying 1.5M more, Aabar 0.5M more, and the tourism authority 5.5M more than the deals they negotiated at the begin of the season. When Chumillas asked Simon Pearce if the dates of the sponsorship deals could be modified the answer was "of course, we can do what we want". Already in 2010 ManCity made a 15M deal with Aabar, who according to an email from Simon Pearce would only pay 3M, the rest comes from quote "his highness" (the sheikh). In December 2013 Pearce wrote that Etihad's (mainsponsor) contribution is 8M. According to the contract it should have been 35M. In 2015 Etihad officially had to pay 67.5M pounds per year, but inoficially they were still paying just 8M, the rest coming from the Abu Dhabi United Group, who give companies like Etihad the money to then give it to ManCity, so that everything appears in order. Edit (06.11.18): Additional info from a new article Another plan get Abu Dhabi money to the club was called "Project Longbow" (because the English used longbows to beat the French [in this context UEFA president Platini] at Crecy and Agincourt). This meant using parallel companies like Fordham to outsource the cost of image rights. 2013 ManCity sold the image rights of the players to the company that would later be called Fordham Sports Image Rights, which is attached to a company in the British Virgin Islands. This way money from Abu Dhabi could be injected. Officially Fordham paid players, without receiving anything themselves which UEFA investigators found suspicious, ManCity claimed that Fordham is an independent company and they don't know their business plan but agreed to the deal because it came at a good price. ManCity have recently stopped selling the image rights of their players, but Fordham still exists and has made in 2017 total losses 75M pounds. Edit (07.11.18): Additional info Pep Guardiola signed the contract with ManCity already in October 2015, 2 months after his last season with Bayern started. His salary in his first season with ManCity was 13.5M pounds, in his second it is 16.75M. Several weeks later a journalist from Sunday Mirror wrote that Guardiola has met with ManCity director of football Txiki Begiristain in Barcelona to discuss a possible deal. At this moment the deal was already long signed. ManCity then said this is wrong information and told the newspaper to remove the article. ManCity also compiled a riskreport on a potential sponsor called Arabtec, who have a terrible human rights record in UAE. Their marketing team advised them to not accept the deal, because it would let City appear in a bad light, but they went through with the deal anyways, but made it only a regional deal, in those countries were democratic values and human rights are not always a priority. Edit (10.11.18): Another part Since 2010 Manchester City has invested over a million euros a year in the so called "Right to Dream Academy" which has it's locations in African countries like Ghana. These children get a good education, but have also to work and travel a lot, and some around the age of 10 for example said that they have only time to call their parents on weekends, because their training schedule is so packed. Manchester City documents are referring to that invested money as "venture capital". The main point is not to have them at some point play for Manchester City's first team, but to loan and sell them, to make profit. After FIFA implemented new years in the last years, ManCity had to make changes at that academy, for example the Academy leader has taken control over a Danish team called FC Nordsjaelland, so that the academy players from Ghana can come to Europe through that club. There is an agreement that the Danish club can't sell Right to Dream Academy players without ManCity's permission. For being the third party club in that affair, they get 25% of the transferfee. Edit (10.11.18): Now this should be the last part about ManCity In 2015 City tried to get De Bruyne for 50M, but VW Wolfsburg didn't want to sell, because Volkswagen doesn't need the money. ManCity were pressuring them and ultimately they sold him for 75M. A year later they both Bayern and ManCity tried to get Sané, but ManCity offered to 20 year old a salary of 24.5M pounds over 3 years. Spending money like that was possible because they were able to increase and back-date sponsoring contracts with companies from Abu Dhabi at will. Also the TV money helps, last year they received €170M from the league, which is for example 75% higher than what FC Bayern gets. This helps making it possible paying salaries like €11M/year for Gündogan or >18M for Aguero. Already in 2009 they were studying how to make the most profit and came to the conclusion that it's not enough to own just one club, but instead create a global network of subsidiaries which makes it easier to bring in profits. Back then Roberto Mancini signed 2 contracts on the same day: as coach for ManCity and as "adviser" to the Al Jazira Sports and Cultural Club in the Arabian Gulf League, both clubs owned by Sheikh Mansour. ManCity paid him a salary of 1.45M pounds, but the Abu Dhabi club paid him an even higher salary extra of 1.75M per year. To create such a network, they not only own Manchester City, New York City and Melbourne City but have also stakes in league teams in Uruguay, Spain and Japan. Also they have cooperation agreements with clubs in Scandinavia and with an African Youth academy. Uruguay because there are many quality footballers & the local teams have limited budgets, also they didn't need to pay any taxes on the profits from player transfers. The investment in Girona is so that ManCity's academy players can develop and play in competetive men's football. In 2008 City was bought for 100M pounds, in 2015 a Chinese media company bought 13% of the stakes of the City Football Group for 265M pounds, which shows that the value of ManCity has increased by a factor of atleast 10 in the last 7 years and Sheikh Mansour believes that there can be created a way higher value from football than what has been established until now. PSG: PSG received in total €1.8 billion from Qatar. They were also close to being excluded from UCL, but Platini and Infantino covered it up. Nicolas Sarkozy told Emir of Qatar Tamim Al-Thani in a meeting in 2010 that if he bought PSG & launched a sports channel in France (BeIN Sports), that he would instruct Michel Platini to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup. Edit (07.11.18): Mbappé's transfer to PSG Contract details about Mbappé at PSG are revealed. In the summer 2017 he nearly signed for Real Madrid, who offered €180M. His father was worried about the competition he would have at Madrid with forwards such as Ronaldo, Benzema, Bale. At the beginning of August he then told Monaco he would sign for PSG, who also agreed to pay 180M. The contract demands were 5M upfront and a salary of a total of 50M net over 5 years. Also he would receive an extra 30k/month to pay for his personal staff. He also demanded that in case he would win the Balon d'Or, his salary would rise so far, that he is the highest paid PSG player (more than Neymar). PSG refused. In case PSG would be excluded from UCL because of FFP, Mbappé's family wanted a monetary compensation. Monaco's owner received €124M out of the deal. The strange thing is that portoguese superagent Jorge Mendes (who is not Mbappé's agent) also received atleast 7.25M out of the deal. Spiegel are not exactly sure, but they say documents hint, that it might be for playing up the speculation that he would sign for Real Madrid, to increase his price. Edit (10.11.18): Racism at PSG's scouting department PSG had a recruitment policy which lasted from 2013 until Spring of this year, which discriminated against ethnic minorities at youth academy level. An example is when a talent called Yann Gboho was 13, PSG did not make an offer, only because he is black. The scout rated him highly, but he wasn't signed by the club after a meeting between people working at PSG's academy, because of his skin color. Until Spring 2018 the scouts had in their scouting documents to note the "origin" of players between the 4 categories: French, Maghrebi, West Indian and Black African. A PSG scout agreed to Mediapart that it should say white rather than French, because all the players they scout are French. PSG doesn't want them to sign players born in Africa, because you can't be sure of their date of birth, he said. Note: After this was leak was published PSG made a comunicado, confirming the use of these scouting forms with illegal contents which were instituted on the personal initiative of the head of this department. They condemn all forms of discrimination and racism and already made an internal investigation at the beginning of last october to understand how such practices could exist and to decide on the necessary measures to take. General: In the coming weeks they will reveal the positive doping tests (note: plural) of a worldclass player who won the Championsleague multiple times. (Note: not many fit that criteria except Real Madrid players and some Barça players). Also the tax avoidance models of some EPL titans. European SuperLeague: The developments of a possible European Super League are more advanced than we thought. There is a binding term sheet thought to be signed this month. Started was this project by Bayern president Rumenigge. This would include 16 clubs. Bayern did already make research if the law made it possible to leave Bundesliga to join a Super League and also if they could forbid their players to play for the nationalteam. This would mean that these clubs wouldn't be part of Championsleague or National Leagues like La Liga anymore, and have every week a game against another European giant. This would totally mess up the balance between big and small teams in Football, and would overall be a disaster for Football. UEFA obviously trying to avoid this is heavily pressured and even blackmailed by ECA and the top clubs, which did lead to a reform, which allots greater revenues to those clubs that have found success in the last 10 years in the Champions League and Europa League. This means that there is less money for Europaleague and therefore smaller clubs .The reform also gave the ECA 4 director slots in a company joined with UEFA (one of which ex Barça board member Raul Sanllehi will fill), which will oversee all deals the UEFA makes. Bayern director Gerlinger who was the most essential person in all of this says the Super League was a possibility but is "as far away as ever". Meanwhile Real Madrid received on Octover 22 an email titled "Draft of an Agreement of the 16", which included the binding term sheet to create the Super League, which would be a breakaway from UEFA and the national leagues. This draft includes 11 founders (Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus Turin, FC Chelsea, FC Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, FC Liverpool, AC Milan and Bayern Munich) who have secured membership for 20 years, and 5 guests (which would initially be Atlético Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Olympique Marseille, Inter Milan and AS Roma). The competition would have two phases: a group round and a knockout round. A company in Spain would be registered to make this possible. Shares of this company would be distributed: Real Madrid holding 18.77 percent, Barcelona 17.61 percent and Manchester United 12.58 percent. Bayern Munich would be the fourth largest shareholder at 8.29 percent. More about Infantino: Infantino also was vital that half of the money FIFA made would be distributed to the Associations in advance, without any control about what they would do with it (so that he would get reelected). In 2017 the investigators investigating Infantino were replaced by María Claudia Rojas, who has no experience in investigating, and is a good friend to the notoriously corrupt president of the columbian federation. She immediately cleared Infantino and did say that there are no investigations against him. After that also the FIFA code of ethics was changed (for example the word corruption disappearing). Rinaldo Arnold, a Swiss public prosecutor, is also a good friend with Infantino, who called him capo ("boss") in an email and who assured Infantino that the investigations wouldn't be against him and even offered to have the attorney general to publicly state that. Edit: Added information from a new Article on 05.11.18 International Champions Cup (ICC): A confidential document between Relevent Sports (note: the company organizing ICC and also want to have the Barça Girona game in the US) and FC Barcelona reveals how much money teams to play these friendlies: $3.25M per game. For the game against ManU there was a bonus of 750k, and for the Clásico in the USA a bonus of $6.5M. That's nearly $14M net for a week playing in the US with 3 games. In that contract were clauses: "if Messi didn't play for atleast 45min, Barça would receive 750k less, if Neymar didn't play 600k less, for Suárez 450k less". According to Spiegel the chairman of Relevent Sports, Stillitano, has been trying for years to convince the biggest European clubs to play in a league, in which the best play against eachother. His goal is also to create a Superleague and lure them by showing them how big and plentiful the global revenues are. Edit: Added information from a new article on 05.11.18 (info by Mediapart via @GFFN) AS Monaco: Apparently the AS Monaco owner and Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev attempted to hide a massive, illegal amount of funding into the team with a fictitious marketing contract and through the involvement of a series of offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and Hong Kong. Over the time of 2 years he invested a total of €326M, which does violate the FFP. In 2014 a marketing deal was agreed to, that was in reality a yearly sum of €140M by Rybovlev. This deal did then later fell through, because the Dutch head of Swiss-based sports marketing agency had a disagreement with him and threatened to reveal the scam to UEFA. The Investigatory Chamber of UEFA did find some disturbing things, when going through Monacos finances, but the head of UEFA's FFP program Andrea Traverso did agree to help prepare the club for their Investigatory Chamber hearing. By 2014 Monaco had made losses of €170M over 3 years. Because of their tiny city, they did not receive much money from ticket sales and sponsorship deals. Monaco's marketing director suggested to the president to build a close relationship with Platini, without "giving the slightest indication" that Monaco is violating FFP. Monaco made a marketing deal with AIM, which gave the agency the right to manage sponsorship and marketing for the club, but if Monaco did not make €140M per year revenue, AIM would have to pay the difference. The year before this deal Monaco had a total income (without TV money) of €14.4M, which would mean AIM has to pay €126M, which obviously is an absurd deal to make for AIM. This made Monaco have an income of 11m instead of losses of 116m like the year before. A company registered in the British Virgin Islands called City Concept Ventures "surprisingly" agreed to invest in AIM €140m for 10 years, exactly what they would have to pay to Monaco. The agency of AIM founder de Roos did receive €2.2M for participating in the scheme. This way the Monaco owner was able to put money into the club, through sponsorship contracts. This deal then later fell through, because Rybolovlev had fallen out with Prince Albert of Monaco and decided to stop investing into the club and therefore selling their players. UEFA never discovered this attempted scam. Edit (06.11.18): Added information Russian Clubs Zenit St Petersburg, Dynamo Moscow & Lokomotiv Moscow all artificially inflated sponsorship contracts in order to avoid FFP sanctions & UEFA were complicit in this practice. Edit (07.11.18): Added from atheblacksea.euarticle Zenit is owned by Gazprom, who pumped €113M into the club in 2012. UEFA was investigating in this. Zenit told them, that Russia's league has not the ability to generate revenues like European leagues and if they would have to comply with FFP, they would need to sell their best players. This would be very bad for Russia ahead of the world cup in 2018. UEFA seemed to accept that argument, because 6 months later they closed the case without excluding Zenit from the UCL. Similar things happened to Rubin Kazan, FC Lokomotiv Moscow and FC Dynamo Moscow. In the past 5 years the state Russia has injected over €1.65 billion into these clubs. Edit (10.11.18): New article "Superagent" Pinhas Zahavi and his involvement in deals like Neymar to PSG Let's start this with a quote by him to the investigative journalist meeting him: "So, listen: I did the biggest transfers in the history of world football. There isn't a big deal in the world where I'm not involved," the agent said. "There's no place in international football where I don't have influence and power." The Israeli playeragent Pinhas Zahavi is one of the most powerful agents in world football, who is already way longer involved in football transfers than agents such as Mendes or Raiola, he already was part of transfers in the 1970s. He is known to position footballers against their colleagues, coaches and club bosses, and trying to forcefully push for a move to a new club. As an agent he is nearly invisible. He normally doesn't speak to press and does only "appear in the shadows". No one knows how much money he has floating around or which channels it is floating through. Many of the companies he owns or works for are located in tax heavens such as Gibraltar, Cyprus, Malta, British Virgin Islands. He engages law firms in Brazil and Israel to provide him legal support. He often joins forces with other superagents such as Mendes, or Ramadani. There were investigations against him, but never was anything illegal proven. Officially he is paying his taxes in Israel. Many of his companies have their business accounts at banks in Switzerland. Last summer Lewandowski asked him for help, so that he could leave Bayern. Zahavi spoke with Lewandowski's agent Barthels, who told him that Bayern wouldn't agree to let him leave. He then went to the German newspaper Bild and openly told them that Lewandowski wants to leave and Bayern are aware of it, which made it on the frontpage. However he did not succeed with his plan to have Lewandowski leave Bayern. However he was a vital part of the Neymar to PSG deal. He was noted as second agent, apart from Neymar Sr. and was due to receive €10.7+2M from that deal. Zahavi wanted that this would be paid to one of his companies in either Switzerland or Cyprus, but PSG didn't agree to it and after some angry emails he accepted that the money would be paid to his accounts in Israel. His commissions are negotiated on a deal-by-deal basis and always by mobile phone, so there are often no concrete documents, which makes it harder to track it. Also his companies in tax paradises are often buying the transferrights of young (often underage) talents, for example Markovic to Liverpool of which Zahavi's company had half the transferrights. Edit (10.11.18): Article was behind a paywall on Mediapart, so I used the summary of someone ofsoccer, hope everything is correct More about Neymar's move to PSG and also the "loyalty-bonus" PSG had to pay each of his agents – his father Neymar Senior and Israeli agent Pini Zahavi – a commission sum of 10.7M + 8.7M for Santos. Total price of his transfer: €252M. Zahavi received a 1.5M payement the first year + 2M/year the next 4 years conditional on Neymar remaining with the club. His father received 6M the first year + 3M the following year. The operation to bring Neymar to Paris was codenamed “Gold”. Over a period of five years, the 25-year-old will cost PSG a total of 528 million euros. PSG first proposed a salary of 25M per year, but Neymar would succeed in obtaining 30M/year, free, for him, of social charges and tax. Means 54.7M/year for PSG. PSG were unable to reach an agreement that Neymar would not enter into deals with sponsors who were rivals of the club’s sponsors. PSG lacked the funds to meet the huge cost of the transfer. Information gained by the EIC suggests it was Qatar Sport Investment (QSI), owner of the club, which paid the entire amount. Neymar wanted to make sure he was paid a bonus payment promised by Barça. This was a bonus sum of 64M agreed when he prolonged his contract exactly one year earlier. He had been paid 21M, but their remained a further 43 million euros that FC Barcelona was committed to pay him by midnight on July 30th 2017 at the latest. On the morning of July 31st, the money transfer had still not been made. FC Barcelona informed Neymar that the 43 million euros had been deposited with a solicitor and will be released to him only if the player certifies that he will remain with the club. Since then, a legal battle continues. The player is still demanding payment of the 43M, FC Barcelona are demanding that the player pays the club 73M representing a total refund of the bonuses that were offered to him for prolonging his contract. On August 22nd 2017, Tebas lodged his complaint against PSG with UEFA, accusing the French club of violation of the European football associations’ ruling body’s financial fair play rules, and ten days later UEFA opened its investigation into the matter. The probe was opened against a backdrop of not only the pressure of La Liga, but also the anger against PSG of other enemies, including German club Bayern Munich. According to documents obtained from Football Leaks, paying off of the cost of Neymar’s transfer plus the player’s salary would amount to a total of 528 million euros up until 2022, equivalent to 105 million euros per year. That meant that PSG would have to attract more than 100 million euros in extra revenue each year, or sell players to compensate for the difference. Including Mbappe the number rises to 166M. PSG asked Nike for a sponsorship deal worth 100 million euros per year. Nike declined because the contract with PSG, which they paid just more than 20 million euros per year, was not due to expire until 2022.
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