by Tony Attwood
OK, if you have been paying attention you’ll know that over the last couple of days we’ve been exploring the British press and the way in which when it comes to football it has embraced fake news as real.
Part of my argument is that this effect is achieved in three ways:
a) by trivialising everything through suggesting that the world of football is all-consumed by ludicrous invented transfer rumours
b) by refusing to discuss the whole issue of what fake news is doing to the news industry. This is a topic that daily occupies such newspapers as The New York Times, the Washington Post and numerous European papers and the Guardian in the UK. But when it comes to football, no, the Guardian is part of the fake news industry as I have tried to show.
c) by excluding key issues, perhaps through the notion that they are too difficult for our readers to grasp. Issues such as the way the 25 rule works, the validity of the notion that transfers actually work as a instant fix in terms of transforming a club, Financial Fair Play, refereeing, Manchester City, Liverpool and the FA all being caught up in breaking transfer regulations etc etc. There are occasional mentions, but nothing in depth.
In the last article How Uefa is being directly challenged by PSG and Qatar, and what might happen next I tried to show that in France there can be serious discussions about contemporary events, taking the example of PSG’s flagrant manipulation of the FFP rules.
Now I want to try and show that this was not a one off. Here is an article from Switzerland headlined “Chaque été, le festival du Fantacalcio” – Each Summer, the festival of Fantasy Football.
The article suggests that during each transfer window (the mercato as it is known in Italy), the Italian sports papers claim that the biggest stars playing in Italy are about to go to Spain. But the article asserts, the life of the “scoop” often does not exceed the time it takes to print the newspaper. But then, who cares, it is the summer, everyone is bored and it is a way of passing the time.
In short, the newspaper is saying, stop believing anything you read on the sports pages – at least in Italy.
Now it is true that this is a Swiss newspaper talking about Italian newspapers, but even so such a revelation in England would be mind-blowing, even if it were associated with the normal talk of the way all foreigners are perfidious and devious.
But back in Switzerland it is different. Here’s an example of the fun the article has
“Alvaro Morata left Real Madrid for Chelsea this week. On May 23rd, the Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport said: “Morata dice si al Milan” (“Morata says yes to AC Milan”). “It is just one more line of the Fantacalcio, the time of year when the Italian sports press loses much of its credibility…”
Yes, here is a newspaper recognising that all this garbage does mean that the sports press has lost much of its credibility.
The article continues,
“The most important thing, by publishing these “fantasies,” these more or less impossible dreams, is to make the tifosi [Italian fans] read more during their coffee breaks with their colleagues and in the evening with the friends at the bar.
“Football is so much a part of the popular culture in Italy that three newspapers devote themselves to it daily: La Gazzetta dello Sport… the most sold national daily newspaper of all categories; Tuttosport, based in Turin, which is mainly interested in Juventus and Torino; and Il Corriere dello Sport, based in Rome, which closely follows the teams of Rome, Fiorentina and Napoli. “La Gazzetta”, based in Milan, with a secondary editorial staff in Rome, has pages covering all the teams in Series A and B.
And then the article continues under the headline “Rumors, gossip and fierce competition”
“During the summer (the Serie A resumes on 20 August), the news is punctuated by what is called – the the mercato, the transfer market [an Italian term that is used throughout the whole of Europe except Britain]. “A world of rumours, gossip and assumption, that the three dailies, pushed by a fierce competition, fantasise in giant bold headlines: “Ibra returning to Turin?”, headlined Tuttosport at the beginning of July. Wesley Sneijde has been approached by Sampdoria (Gazzetta), Angel Di Maria to Inter (Gazzetta), Kylian Mbappé to Juventus (TuttoSport).
So a bit like the English media on a day when the pubs are shut – nowhere near so fanciful nowhere near so varied. Remember last summer Arsenal had the entire first team squad tipped to leave while over 110 players were said to be arriving. They don’t go that far in Italy.
“In France, the news is all checked before going out,” said a journalist from La Gazzetta dello Sport, who covers one of the sette sorelle, (the big seven of the Italian league). “It is clear that in the summer, without the transfer market there would be nothing to write and it is also clear that we are competing. But we are trying to do our job as a journalist, that’s where La Gazzetta stands out from the competition.
“Tuttosport has made a lot out of the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Juventus. At La Gazzetta, we do not believe that and for me, that’s Fantacalcio! ”
And as for the headline on Benzema at AC Milan, back in April… “That was not that fanciful. The new Chinese owners had looked at many players, including Benzema. There was no follow-up but there was a background of truth. ”
One feels like saying, “Up to a point Lord Copper.”
But is there something more sinister going on? I think there might be, and this is why I am so fed up with the English media.
An agent tips off a newspaper journalist about a story that the agent’s man is up for consideration at Manchester City. The player’s current club doesn’t want to lose him, so contacts the agent saying “we’re open to discuss a pay rise.” Nice one for the agent (who gets a commission) and the player.
Meanwhile Chelsea think – “OK this guy might be for sale after all,” and start hovering, maybe holding preliminary discussions which now makes the player think, hey maybe this really is on…” Everything is destabilised.
In short the agent and the newspaper have created a story from nothing which will result (much of the time) in the agent making money. The newspaper (or radio station, blog, TV station, whoever) knows this and is complicit in what is effectively a case of fraud.
On May 23, La Gazzetta ran “Juve to sign Schick. Di Maria is flying in. Dani Alves calls Iniesta. ”
Success rate: 0%.
Patrik Schick (Sampdoria) missed his medical visit to the Bianconeri and seems closer to Inter. Angel Di Maria, meanwhile, said he wants to stay at the PSG. Dani Alves did not attract his friend Andres Iniesta to Turin.
But of course the journalists are in denial.
“I can tell you that what we are doing is not Fantacalcio. Everything is checked with us before it comes out, “says Andrea Schiavon, a journalist in Tuttosport, who denies that he and his colleagues are being used as the play things of agents. “Colleagues are … not manipulated because they always cross these sources to ensure that what is said to them is verified. ”
And if you believe that, well, you might as well believe that the Daily Express is a newspaper.
It is utterly clear that clubs are being manipulated, the media is the willing tool, and football fans are being short changed twice. Once by being lied to in terms of the invented “rumours” and once because with the complicity of the press, players wages and transfers are being manipulated for no reason other than exploitation and the filling of space in a newspaper or on a website.
At least in parts of Europe they discuss the problem. In the UK the media IS the problem. Fans are being duped. Day after day after day.
- How Uefa is being directly challenged by PSG and Qatar, and what might happen next.
- The one-liners that are killing football: what journalists say about Arsenal and others
- Beyond the media; how to take back football from those who tell us how to think.
- How You Tube has destroyed all sensible football debate