By Nitram and Tony Attwood
- CHAMPIONS BLAST BACK
The Sun’s coverage of the Manchester City story concerning whether or not the club has been engaging in financial activities that breach Uefa rules is something to behold.
Of course given the way that the Sun presents stories, and given the literacy and intellectual level that the writing is aimed at, the coverage is in one way to be expected. The Sun was enthusiastic about Britain leaving the EU, and tends to hate most things European, but it is interesting just how far the paper has gone in supporting the cause of Man C.
In essence the background to the story is simple: using information revealed through a series of leaked emails it is suggested that Manchester City flagrantly broke Uefa’s financial rules.
In response, those who have followed the story then tend to split roughly into four camps:
The first group believe that Manchester City as a club should be punished for their misbehaviour.
The second group believe that the owners of Manchester City should be punished for their misbehaviour (either alongside Manchester City as the club, or instead of punishing the club).
The third group believe that no case can be brought because the “evidence” is a set of leaked documents, and these should not be admitted as evidence as they were obtained illegally.
The final group believe that Manchester City are innocent, and that these sort of accusations are simply made by people who are would like their club to have success than Manchester City has had.
The Sun normally makes its position on any issue blazingly clear, usually in two feet high banner headlines, but its treatment of the City story is slightly odd. Take these headlines for example…
- ‘City think Utd & Euro giants are out to get them’
- ‘Fury at Etihad over damaging leaked report’
- ‘Manchester City believe there is a campaign by Europes elite, including local rivals United, to bring them down’.
Such headlines have also been presented with pictures of two waring galleons, one with Man City Sails and the other with FIFA and UEFA along with yet more headlines such as
- MAN of WAR
- ‘City ready to fight to the finish’
- ‘They insist FIFA fair play model is wrong’
Interestingly much of the commentary is then carried forward by Martin Lipton, the Sun’s deputy head of sport. So not a regular football reporter, but a very senior man in the newspaper’s sport department, which suggests this is not just a spot of space filling anti-Euro copy but something a little deeper.
A typical piece from Lipton reads…
“If Europe’s big guns thought they could pick Manchester City off, they know different now. The “noisy neighbours” will not be pushed around around by FIFA UEFA or anybody else.”
Such writing gives a clear impression that it is already settled that Manchester City have done nothing wrong, and that a conspiracy of other clubs, Fifa and Uefa have joined together to put Manchester City down. Quite why they are doing this is, presumably, because Manchester City are the new kids on the block and the old guard which (by implication) control Uefa don’t want to lose their powerbase.
But, it is suggested by the Sun, Manchester City will not be a pushover.
This theme continues with
- Man City v UEFA
- GOAT TO HELL
- ‘City war with a nanny-lovin’ ex-Belgian PM’
- ‘CL ban looms after chief’s FFP ‘guilty’ verdict’
Lipton then writes:
MANCHESTER CITY are at war with goat-loving Uefa investigations chief…’ continuing on the inside back page…
- ‘City bosses bite back in FFP row’
There is very little evidence given here. The conclusion that Manchester City are innocent, that the old guard are out to do them down, and there is something seriously wrong with the person leading the investigation. He is “nanny lovin”, “goat loving” a Belgian citizen (an insult in the Sun’s terms because being Belgian means a supporter of the EU which is hated by the Sun), the word guilty is put into inverted commas implying that it is not real, and nothing is written concerning the other side of the case.
Now you may recall that when the leaked emails first came out Untold spend a lot of time going through all of them, reporting on each release and working through the allegations to try and tease out the details.
But it was long before this, in fact over four years ago, that we ran Man City decides to take on Uefa; the result will finally decide who runs football. Then after several more forays into the issue and the tales that were emerging following the leaks we tried to cover as much of the detail of the investigation into Manchester City by Uefa as we could. The series started here, and continued day by day if you want to go back and take a look.
Of course we are biased – we are Arsenal fans and the notion that another club has broken a lot of rules as part of its route to success, is interesting. Also, as Tony has often confessed (as if it were not evident anyway) his personal support for human rights movements, and his dislike of the political activities of many Middle East countries which deny the human rights which we take for granted in much of the west. The Sun however has made no mention of this – although it does regularly stress the stuff about Belgium and goats.
But it is possible to argue that it is Liverpool and the Sun that are at the heart of this story.
The Sun famously accused Liverpool supporters of being to blame for much of the outcome of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 in which 96 people died as a result a disasterous crowd management at the Sheffield Wednesday ground for an FA Cup semi-final. Since then many Liverpudlians and Liverpool supporters elsewhere have singuarly refused to buy the Sun, and estimates suggest that the boycott of the paper by the city has cost the publishers £15m a month at 1989 prices ever since.
So in response the Sun has, it appears, looked for other causes to support in order to boost sales. And where better than with Manchester City, a club whose owner Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family has not always had the best of publicity.
This might therefore be (and I do stress “might”) a way of recovering some of the losses by cosying up both to the owners and supporters of Manchester City FC, thus increasing sales to those who follow the club and perhaps bringing in some welcome advertising.
Of course there is nothing that a lifelong supporter of the club can do about the fact that the Sun is now actively engaged in supporting the club also, except perhaps not buying the Sun if such a supporter doesn’t like their manipulative approach. But for the rest of us, it is a move worth watching to see how far it is taken.