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June 2021

What is the benefit of football pundits and journalists insulting their audience? We should be told!

By Tony Attwood
“For the first time the massive newspaper, website and TV conspiracy against whichever club you happen to support can finally be exposed.

“Match of the Day pundits, including Ian Wright, are biased against Arsenal. This claim is hotly disputed – mostly by the pundits in question, but also, tacitly, by all the fans of other clubs who know that, actually, it’s their club against which Match of the Day is biased. And the newspapers and the referees. Well – I have news…”

She goes on, “It’s a massive conspiracy, and it’s bigger than you can possibly imagine. It’s not just the referees that hate your club – it is, as you suspected, the newspapers, the websites, the television programmes, and the Match of the Day pundits too. And Colonel Sanders before he went tits up.”

It’s quite amusing (although how amusing depends on what makes you laugh), and we eventually get to the X Files being told “the truth is out there – somewhere – and the minute I know more, so will you.”

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The problem is, of course, that we are back with the same old problem.  Looking at one event (in this case the Match of the Day representation of the game by two presenters) and using this to laugh at football fans in general, without any real recourse to any broader evidence.

Said like that it becomes rather bemusing instead of amusing because the readers of the football sections of the Telegraph and the Guardian are, well, I suppose, by and large, football fans, who generally speaking, and not to put too fine a point on it, are supporters of a team.

The clear implication of the two pieces is that their football readership so stupid and dumb that they will go on reading even after being insulted.

Football is tribal, an emotional outlet and for some people an escape from the logical confines of everyday life.

Now if I am dealing with a client who is behaving like an idiot, I can’t actually tell him/her that the behaviour I am witnessing is idiotic.  Rather I tend to agree and say “Up to a point” while sniggering to myself that the client hasn’t got the reference, due to a lack of study of the more amusing points of 20th century English literature.  But newspaper journalists don’t bother with sniggering to themselves – they come right out and tell us we are idiots.  A funny way to deal with your customers.

But this still raises an issue.  Why are these journalists laughing at, or otherwise putting down, those of us who recognise that supporting football teams has no logic at all?  I know there are some Arsenal fans who think that Tottenham as a team is inherently inferior to Arsenal, and thus Tottenham supporters are inherently inferior to Arsenal supporters.  And vice versa.  But even in football that is not all of us, no matter how illogical we can all be at times in our support for our club.

If, as seems to be the case, football pundits and writers do look down on the poor saps who pay hard earned cash to go to matches, what is the benefit to them of sneering at us?  Is it increasing circulation?  I suspect the opposite.  Is it increasing viewing figures?  I doubt it.  So what is the point in telling your readership either overtly or covertly that they are stupid?

Perhaps I should leave that question for the esteemed journals’ editors to answer.  And indeed the director of Match of the Day.   For myself I think the 97% inaccurate transfer rumours that the papers publish are surely insulting enough to our intelligence.  And this after all is a simple question: “What is the benefit of insulting your audience day after day?”

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