When absolute tragedy overwhelms what do the press say?

by Tony Attwood

Yesterday around 50 people died attempting to enter a football match in Egypt.   But you’ll be hard pressed to find much detail in the media this morning – even on the endlessly updated websites of the mainsteam press.

With football, it seems, in England at least, we have shut off our humanity and our care for others and instead we look inwards.

I suppose it has always been thus – “10 things we learned from the Premier League this weekend” although endlessly tedious and mostly about things we either already knew, or false generalisations out of a single example, is more important in an editor’s mind than mass deaths in another land.

The BBC World Service has had a major coverage on the story, and there is a piece in the Guardian, although you have to search to find it.  Otherwise on monday morning when I looked, there was precious little.

The story, which comes not long after the rioting at the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final, is that police fired teargas and shotgun pellets on supporters queueing to enter a Cairo stadium.   The Egyptian Premier League has been shut down indefinitely.

I am sure further coverage will occur anon, but for the moment on the football pages we get headlines mostly about Leicester City

  • Leicester forced to deny Pearson sacking
  • Confusion over Pearson position as Leicester deny claims they sacked him
  • Pearson clings on to manager’s job after night of confusion
  • Watch the bizarre moment Nigel Pearson put his hands around player’s throat
  • Leicester have issued a statement to deny they have sacked Nigel Pearson after the manager was earlier informed he had lost his post
  • Manager plays down drama after tangling with McArthur on the touchline

Notice the “forced” in the first headline and “confusion” in the second and third.  Forced by whom: ah the ever watchful media.  Confusion caused by whom? Not the ever watchful media – for they are their, guardians of our souls, trying to sort it out. Telling us each day what is important.  Telling us what to think and believe.

And “night of confusion”?  Not for one group of supporters for whom that was the last match ever.

That is what the media does – create stories out of nothing, taking a minute incident on a pitch and making it far more important than multiple deaths which occurred as people in a far off land (from the UK that is) were trying to do what most of us do – watch football.

So desperate are the media for the instant gibberish, the constant nonsense, the childish prattle that among the three supposedly more serious papers (the Guardian, the Telegraph and the Independent) we get as the lead football headlines today

  • Allardyce bemoans United’s long ball game
  • Manchester United players ‘made sex tape in club toilets and passed video between them’

Thus we did get the report of the Lyon coach, Hubert Fournier saying that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has a nasty habit of insulting referees in English or Italian – which the ref doesn’t understand.

The comment came before Lyon, top of the league, played second-place PSG.  It was a 1-1 draw.

It is a weird accusation, and if true, weird behaviour – why insult the ref in a language the ref doesn’t understand?   But apparently he does it, so the paper covering the story says that the ref will have to “brace himself” for a difficult time.

And I wondered, apart from the fact that our football newspaper pages are covered in mindless trivia most of the time, quite how one is supposed to “brace oneself”.  As in.  “Arsenal are braced for a transfer request from Alexis, who is angry at the fans’ reaction to him…”

How do you do this bracing?  What does it mean?

Sometimes the meanings are a little clearer – but then if the story is overseas, don’t expect to read much about it in England.

Ángel María Villar, the President of the FA of Spain, still upset at the fine Fifa imposed on it for allowing Barcelona to get away with child trafficking for years, is now also upset by an audit undertaken by the Spanish state which shows €17m of “unusual loans”. Villar has claimed that the sports minister of the government in Spain, Miguel Cardenal, was “abusing his power and Spain’s law” by running a campaign of “excessive interference”.

The secretary of state wants the FA of Spain to explain how its funding is spent.  This is not a story that has received much if any coverage in England, because it would contradict the English newspapers’ decision never to reveal the mis-spending of money by the English FA given to it by Sport England (a government institution) who ultimately cancelled its donations and demanded its money back.

Likewise for years the press in the UK has meekly reprinted Barce press releases which claimed that their boarding school and football youth academy was “world class” and “world famous”.  They became world class and world famous because the press constantly reported that they were world class and world famous, never once saying, “hang on a minute – how come all these non-EU children are turning up in Barcelona?  Do all their parents really have jobs in that city?  If so how on earth did they get work permits and entry visas?”

No, no one asked.

So you won’t read much about documents from the auditors of the FA in Spain being published in AS showing loans of  six million euros with the auditors saying no information has been supplied over terms of payment or interest being charged.

Also it seems Atletico Madrid has also received “financing” of 11 million euros between 2012 and 2013 – sums shown as “advances” of Uefa prize money.

The government is also asking for 8 million euros to be returned that was supposed to have been spent on youth football between 2010 and 2013 which wasn’t spent as it should have been.

The story from Spain of course is not at all as important as the loss of life in Egypt, but I write it up here because off and on Untold covers the chaos in Spanish football.  And we cover it just as we cover the financial doings of clubs like QPR, Manchester City, Chelsea, Leicester City – and when I can put together enough information, the curious case of Bournemouth.

Others (especially Man C supporters) shout us down, but it still seems worth covering.  The stories are, by and large untold elsewhere, and I think that is what we are here to cover.

Much of the time I see the lack of coverage elsewhere as just typical of the British media, and British blogs.  But when it comes to our media saying little or nothing about the death of supporters (whether they had tickets as some reports say) or not (as the police department says) that is, I feel, a real indictment on where the media has got to.

Untold Arsenal



8 Replies to “When absolute tragedy overwhelms what do the press say?”

  1. Tony, to be fair, I first heard this story on the BBC 5 Live sports bulletin at 5.30 this morning (although it was, I think, the final item). It did, however, focus more on football being shut down in Egypt than the loss of life and why that occurred.

  2. Unfortunately this isn’t the first time football in Egypt has witnessed the dead of supporters. In 2012 72 supporters were killed in riots in the stadium.
    I don’t know who is to blame for what or how it all came to this but there seems to be something completely rotten in football in Egypt.

    After 2012 the authorities stopped football for a few years and now when they start again, again people get killed.

    It’s terrible news….

  3. As I see it “Newspapers ” are in a situation where despite being a huge industry they no longer have a purpose . News is covered ,digested and assimilated before they hit the streets. For years now their importance has diminished and they have grown into being carriers of opinion rather than fact. Both in politics and everyday life they print what can be termed popular opinion because there is no point in pandering to the non popular because that would reduce their potential market. As they propagate their oft repeated opinions they become fact and the general populace believe what they are told. As such the journalists have become lazy and have forgotten to investigate the subject and just trot out what will sell. This week end on a radio programme called the press pass an opening comment whilst discussing the league title asserted that the reason that The Arsenal would never win the league because we always have too many injuries. 3 major newspaper reporters were presenting the show but they forgot to ask “”Why “”

  4. Sad news indeed. I’m not entirely surprised by the lack of coverage of this tragedy by the English media. A story about Jack Wishere holding what looks like a cigar is more important to the English media than the deaths of hundreds of people in a foreign land. I grew up in Africa myself, and have lived in England for nearly two decades now. But my knowledge of what was going on in the world has drastically reduced (which, if one really thinks about it, should be improving with the advent of better technology with information being readily available) over the last 15 years or so. Back then I could almost tell you the full line ups of half the teams and their league standings in the Dutch league, serie A, la liga, the NBA, who was playing who in rugby or test cricket, who was the leading wicket taker, who was president of what countr, what was going on where, etc. But now I couldn’t tell you even three names of active players in the NBA apart from James, Bryant and Duncan (if they’re still playing that is!).

    I was not a sports mad fanatic to know the above, most of it was simply because it was constantly reported/covered in the news that you just became aware of it. You’d no choice. Nothing is ever reported here unless it’s deemed of interest to local people sportswise or if it’s viewed as a threat political wise. I initially struggled with this dearth of information, but now am so used to it that for me to actually learn about something going on elsewhere in this world I have to sit in front of a computer and do a bit of ‘research’!.

  5. Unfortunately it is not just football or the UK. Look at the hysteria when a few cartoonists are murdered or British soldier killed on home soil, when the same day innocent children are wiped out in airstrikes.

  6. ‘a few cartoonists are murdered or British soldier killed on home soil’

    You say it as if it doesn’t matter.
    Deliberate brutal acts of terror are just that, brutal and are rightly major news and abhorrent to right minded people everywhere. Especially when the murders are committed over nothing more than a cartoon.
    Je suis encore Charlie!

  7. “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.”
    ― Mark Twain .

    “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets..”
    ― Napoléon Bonaparte .

    People care about what newspapers tell them to care about.”
    ― Delia Parr.

    “We read the weird tales in newspapers to crowd out the even weirder stuff inside us.”
    ― Alain de Botton

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