by Tony Attwood

I suspect most people are aware of what fake news is.  And are aware of Mr Trump’s turning the phrase on its head by calling “fake news” any seriously reported news with evidence that notes his odd doings as President of the most powerful nation in the solar system.

It is interesting (to me at least if no one else) that the fake news that packs the football sections of blogs and newspapers in Britain however is never called fake news.  It is at best identified as “gossip” (a euphemism if ever there was one), but most of the time is not separately identified at all.  Like the impossibility of Yaya Toure coming to Arsenal yesterday, it is reported as news and then when, inevitably, it is shown to be gibberish, it is dropped without a word of apology.

Add in the mix of belief and personal opinion which are presented along with the facts and what we have is a media that does not allow the average reader to separate out the three types of presentation: real news with evidence, fake news deliberately made up on no basis, and reasoned opinion backed by some evidence.

The phrase used when speaking of Tottenham and Liverpool that “There’s a belief at both clubs that something special is patiently being built,” is probably true.  There probably is a real belief in each club that they are on the right track.

The line “If Arsenal need any advice in this post-Wenger era, it’s to take a hard look at what has happened at United since Fergie left… and do the opposite,” is obviously opinion, and that is fine.  The advice that follows, “ignore the short-term knockers and give their new manager, and their own judgement, a little respect,” is also clearly opinion.  Of course that is ok.

The only problem is that opinions are often presented as fact and they get much bigger coverage than actual real hard news.   For example “A former South American football official has been sentenced to nine years in prison on charges arising out of the sprawling Fifa bribery scandal,” is real news, but it hardly gets a mention beyond a couple of the more serious newspapers.

And yet it shows corruption at the very heart of Fifa – which the governments and football clubs across the world support either by contributing finances or by allowing their players to be removed to play in Fifa competitions which help fund the corrupt organisation.

In the latest Fifa case Juan Ángel Napout the former president of Paraguay’s FA and of the South American equivalent of Uefa (Conmebol)  was found guilty of taking bribes totaling millions of dollars in relation to broadcasting rights.  It has got coverage, but not much.

There is perhaps more chance of reading that Sam Allardyce (an unemployed ex-football manager who in 2010 accused Arsene Wenger of trying to use the media to influence referees, and who was accused in 2006 of accepting bungs) has lost a media complaint about the Daily Telegraph using undercover reporters to expose the perfidious nature of the man who might now be called a serial scraper around the edges of good behaviour.

That will turn up in the news because it is a newspaper taking on a silly fat man and winning.  (Their headline was “England manager for sale”.)

What is even more interesting (for me, probably no one else) is that the media regulator ruled that among the articles published by the Daily Telegraph on the fiendish Allardyce in September 2016 there were three significant inaccuracies that required correction!

Can you imagine how we could tie up the regulator if we had the time to report every bit of fake news from the football blogs?  But then it would take up my time too, so perhaps not.

Anyway it seems the Telegraph wrongly “implied third parties could benefit from transfer fees”.  Oh my goodness.  Agents and manager’s sons getting rake offs.  No!  The paper also said implied Allardyce “had offered to brief the Daily Telegraph’s fake company on how to break ownership rules, rather than merely being willing to consider speaking at their events.”  Something of a point of detail it seems to me.

In 2006 he said he was preparing to sue the BBC but withdrew when he found how much it would cost.

So it will all pass, which is perhaps not the case with the TV football presenter charged with armed robbery near Brussels.

Now it is of course quite true that I did not mention in my headline that this story was Brussels related, rather than happening in England, where I live, and where most of the stories Untold covers are based.  Normally I would – but today I just wanted to make the point about how these stories are being manipulated.

There’s no financial benefit to me if you did come to this story in the belief that it was a reporter on an English station who has been arrested (although I must admit that despite not wishing any of them personal harm I would enjoy football on TV if a lot of them were no longer involved).  But I’ve tried in my usual cumbersome manner to show just how people can be drawn into stories.

There is nothing in the headline that is wrong, and there is an actual story (which is more than is the case with many of football’s fake news headlines) but there is no doubt of the implication.  And this is what happens all the time on the bloggettas.

Anyway, the man in question is Stephane Pauwels, who is suspected of “armed robbery with a firearm, at night, as part of a gang”, according to AFP.

He works with RTL which may better be known to British citizens of an older persuasion as the company that used to run the English language pop music service Radio Luxembourg in the days when recorded pop music on the BBC was severely limited by a combination of trade union action and a desire to protect public morals.

Ah, public morality protected by the media.  Now there’s a thought.