Why newspapers follow TV in not reporting time wasting

By Tony Attwood

Ever since the opening match of the season in which I pointed out that, what to me seemed the biggest problem with the game, (the persistent time wasting) was not picked up either by TV or by the press, I have been wondering why.

I can see why the TV directors don’t want to show time wasting; people are paying to watch the games and if the word starts spreading that the games are horrifically interrupted by time wasting (as was the case with Palace) then a hysteria of the type that grips the AAA could easily grip others, the papers might join in, and there would be a lot of people writing in, ending their subscription.

But what I don’t understand is why the newspapers don’t comment on the problem of persistent time wasting that has been endemic by smaller clubs in the Premier League for years.

So I’ve tried to come up with some options…

1.  The unity of the media

One notion is what one may call the “unity of the media”.  I first came across this at Northampton Town FC when I realised that, in the days before the televising of all games, every major incident was followed by a consultation between journalists from the handful of newspapers who would be there.

If the goal was a scramble there would be a calling up and down the line of reporters that it was “Smith”, “no Brown”, “OK Brown”.  The same was true for the timing of each goal.  This quick call up and down the line and agreement was reached.  Everyone published the same story.

And then pity the poor rookie player who on seeing the report would say, “Hang on, I scored that goal – why have they all said it was Brown?”   And because everyone had said it was Brown, the poor Smith would appear to be a big headed, deluded youngster, who really wasn’t quite grown up enough for the game.

So players learned to take the rough with the smooth.  What happened on the pitch was irrelevant.  What happened in the press box defined reality.

Now each game is filmed, there is no need for such debate most of the time, because we can inspect the filming – except when the film is fixed.  This is where we come back to time wasting where TV instead fills in with the utterly pointless pictures of a player who has just missed a goal or put in a poor cross, running back to the half way line.

So does the “unity of the media” still apply?   Certainly that is one explanation as to why the press don’t show up the TV reality fixers.  They all want to tell the same tale, to protect each other.

But there are others…

2. They are not there

Since I haven’t been a journalist for a while I haven’t experienced a press box for a while, and I just started to wonder if everyone is actually there at the game, or whether they are actually down the pub (or in the office) watching it on TV.

If so, that could explain it.

Or maybe…

3.  They aren’t looking.

The press boxes do seem to be full of scribblers, so I am not sure about option 2, but I do recall watching Alan Smith (our ex-centre forward turn journalist for the Telegraph) doing his report at Highbury once, and noting with interest just how much time he spent looking down at the keypad on his laptop rather than watching the game.  Obviously not a touch typist, as we old timers were taught to be on the old manual typewriters.

So could that be it?  The ball goes out of play, and the time wasting gives the journalists who are not touch typists the chance to get their heads down and write a bit more.

Or perhaps it is a combination of all these things…

4.  They are there but are taking the feed from Sky

Imagine the scenario – they are at the ground but instead of watching the game live they take the feed from the TV, which as a point of honour never shows time wasting.   So they are watching the game – but the sanitised version on TV.

It could be any of these things at all, or maybe several of them together.  But whatever it is, it does show us that the game that we see on TV, and the game that is reported in the press, is not the game that actually happens.

In a very real sense “being there” is not just about soaking up the atmosphere, but is about seeing what actually occurred rather than the invented version of reality that we are presented with by the TV stations and their friends in the printed media.

Recent posts



15 Replies to “Why newspapers follow TV in not reporting time wasting”

  1. I cant even remember when tv commentary became boring and the replays not shown as they did before(long ago?). Was it not Sky who “revolutionised” the coverage of football?
    I would take the old sky back now, for it is better than the dribble today.

  2. Sky are anti arsenal anyway and have been undermining with down beat interviews and other tricks for years

  3. Tony,
    Is it possible that your theory, ‘The Unity of the Media’, be the reason why every media outlet seems to be all over Jack?

    Everyday there seems to be a rehash of criticisms of Jack.

  4. Are newspapers passe , and heading into oblivion like the Dodo ?
    What are you going to line Polly’s cage with ?
    What are millions of pet owners going to use in place of rolled up newspapers to ‘teach’ Fido , Rover , et al ?
    Is there an association or organisation to look after the welfare of all those poor origamists ?
    Will Francis Lee have to look for a new job ?

  5. 5. The press don’t care. It’s 90 minutes give or take of their lives and its a job. Time wasting is built into the 90 minutes. Whether team A or team B is denied a minute or two of playing time is just not on their radar. It’s much more fun to talk about tactics, a nice goal, a nice tackle or someone’s hairdo so why get all bent out of shape about this.

  6. The sameness of the media has been around for some time.
    I believe the arrival of the internet which enables one person to read the report of a match carried by many newspapers at the click of the mouse, or touch screen, has revealed this fact to fans who would not have realised this before.

    So it is that those who attend a match can easily follow the media’s report of the game and not just one newspaper.

    The football fan at the game now knows that the media sees the game as it want to see it and not what actually happened.

    So we have ‘programmed reporting’ and ‘programmed refereeing’. It is thanks to the internet that we know this.

    Did it happen in the past? Probably. It is just we the fan had no means of knowing this in the past.

  7.  I think many of us are hanging on to the hope that there will be more signings, if we beat Besiktas next week and it got me thinking about Sanchez. We’ve seen how Man U, for the first time in more than two decades, are struggling to attract top players. The Spuds are constantly over-paying for dross, in the hope that one of them will turn out to be the next Bale. I know how much getting to the group stages is worth to the club, but how much that affects what we spend is anyone’s guess. What there’s no doubt about is that a lot of the world’s top players simply won’t join a club where they’re not guaranteed CL football and Alexis could have easily been the same way. Everything I’ve heard and seen about this guy so far suggests to me that he’s not your usual spoiled, overpayed footballer. His entire attitude seems to be top notch.

  8. I have tried before with this most simplistic of solutions to the perceived problem with time wasting.

    Adopt the basketball system of countdown with the clock only running when the ball is in play.

    Easy- peasy.

    Have a look and see what you think, but if this was introduced it would totally eliminate any form of time wasting at a stroke.

  9. @Bob
    This system is used in American Football. It means that a game scheduled to last an hour can last up to 3 hours. With the game against CP it would have lasted an extra half hour.

    However if this system was applied then I think it would stop a lot of time waisting at throw ins and free kicks and half hour extra would be exceptional.

  10. A couple of points.
    As a kid I distinctly remember more than one occasion on which the papers to a man attributed a goal in a night game to the wrong player. I may have been a kid but I was there at Highbury. For them all to have got it wrong would have been impossible. Conclusion: they were taking it in turns to actually attend the match then report it back to the rest of the talentless wasters in the Wig and Pen post match.
    Secondly, I remember a game in the last few years at Highbury when the referee didn’t even play regulation time. Not a word said in any paper next morning. Conclusion: collusion between journalists and officials.
    As a result I really don’t give a fig what anyone in the press says about anything as they just cannot be trusted.

  11. @colario The average amount of real play in a football match varies between about 55 minutes to around 70 minutes. If the league were to choose a value…let’s arbitrarily say 70 minutes and then have the game played, the amount of time that we would be in the stadium would be the same and the Stokes/Crystal Palaces tactics wouldn’t work. There is no real reason why the game has to be 90 minutes long.

  12. I think the reason why the media in general doesn’t make an issue out of time wasting is because it’s not really such a big deal. It’s irritating to see when your side is trying to get on with the game, but there are rules in place to combat the practice which can actually be counterproductive. If you have an average to poor side trying to get a result against much better opposition it’s a good [ but chancy ] tactic. George Graham’s sides used to time waste relentlessly and it was hardly ever reported on.

  13. For once Tony I think you are wrong.
    The print media do report time wasting but they do it in code by referring to it as ‘gritty, backs-to-the-wall resiliance’ against the big nasty rich club who arrogantly believe that they provide better value for money to the paying spectator by actually playing football.
    Being on the side of the underdog means that any tactic (be it time wasting or any other) that is successfully employed to cut the big guy down to size is not only fair but even praiseworthy.
    Coaches who are highly restricted in their tactics (and they are mainly British, sadly) are encouraged by this media ‘support’ and are thereby encouraged to keep doing it – indeed try to outdo each other to see who can get away with most.
    All very sad and to the long term detriment of football as a sprctacle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *