By Tony Attwood
Having written up my rant about time wasting, last night, I puzzled over how it was that Sky managed to hide all aspects of goal keeper impropriety in the Palace match yesterday.
In the commentaries that followed my little piece last night the point was well made: TV does sometimes mention time wasting but they chuckle over it – as if that is the sort of thing you expect in football, and have to accept it. “Part of the modern game” is the sort of phrase that is used.
But it is not just that, because Sky, in showing the game yesterday, deliberately manipulated the images to reduce the showing and impact of the time wasting.
The way they do it is simple. Each time there is an event on the pitch which comes to an end – for example an Arsenal player running forward, but then the cross goes astray or the ball bobbles out, or anything else that can be classified as an error or mistake happens, the camera focusses on the player who has made the error walking or running back up the field.
There is no reason for this, no benefit to the viewer, no insight into the player’s psyche – it is just a convention. And it is a convention that hides what else is going on, and allows the people running the replay computer to get the right point, and show a replay of the last incident or indeed a previous incident.
This happens time and time again in the match – and it is so common that one almost screens it out.
Indeed I only noticed it in watching the recording of yesterday’s Sky broadcast because I was bemused by the lack of commentary in the press about time wasting by the Palace keeper in the Arsenal / Palace match.
After this coverage of players trotting back head down, and then the replay/s we then come back to the game which is already underway, and as viewers we are seduced into thinking that nothing in particular has happened during this time. We don’t even think how long has passed since we last saw live action.
But something material has happened – the goalkeeper has been indulging in one or two offences against the rules of the game, and the referee has chosen deliberately not to punish the keeper.
I noticed that a number of readers commented to the effect that time wasting is endemic, and I utterly agree. But I am starting to think that in its efforts to suggest that the game being televised is non-stop dramatic action (but cutting out the time wasting by keepers) TV companies are presenting a completely false reality and perpetuating and extending the breaking of the rules.
This scenario however does not excuse the newspapers – what they are in effect doing is deliberately avoiding issues in their reports that TV doesn’t cover in order to stay in line with the “consensus” that is created by television and then adopted by the press.
I don’t want to bore you stupid by banging on about this over and over again, but I do find it important that the media is deliberately manipulating their reportage of football in order to present a particular point of view which ultimately is there to enhance the image of football as non-stop all action.
I think it is important to remember that the game we see on cameras controlled by Sky (and I suspect every other live match broadcaster) is not the game that has occurred. It is the game with very specific elements removed in order to convince the viewer that it was this all action affair.
As a result of this when, on TV, we hear the crowd jeering and counting the seconds, it makes no sense. If the commentator then says “the crowd are unhappy about what they see as time wasting” the viewer is left with the impression that the crowd are being utterly biased and stupid, rather than responding to events. There is no time wasting, because it has not been shown on TV – so what is all the fuss about?
When the newspapers back up this story, then it is even more convincing. The “truth” devised by the media becomes more real than the truth that those of us at the game saw with our own eyes.
Maybe this is just me getting worked up about media affairs again – the manipulation of the way we see the world by the media is one of my favourite topics after all. But I really do think this apparently trivial issue – cutting away to show a player walking back head down – does change one’s perception of the whole game.
And there is no reason to show a player walking or running back head down. What the keeper is doing is actually far more interesting, and far more apposite to the game as a whole.
But it is because the media chooses to avoid this element of the game, the referees are encouraged not to penalise keepers for wasting time. If the cameras stayed on the keeper instead of showing the player walking back, the reality would become plain, and pressure would mount on the referees to act.
Thus my thesis is that this simple model of cutting away from the keeper onto the player who failed to score, cross, pass or whatever, is a fundamental reason why referees don’t act over this issue. TV is influencing how the game is run.
Because I am sometimes tempted to believe that the little campaigns we have run here (most recently publicising the awful attitude of BT Sport to Arsenal) have helped edge developments along, I do think this is worth highlighting. I don’t claim that in most cases Untold actually brings about a change. But by picking up on bits and pieces like this, we can create a little momentum which leads towards a change. That’s what I am trying to do. I hope you feel it is worthwhile.
Thanks to everyone who wrote in and supported my view of the match.