The media should be “held accountable for the way they harass and vilify people”.

by Tony Attwood

A petition signed by over three-quarters of a million people which calls for curbs on the British media has been handed into the government.  And while the motivation behind the petition has nothing to do with the vilification of footballers by the media, it could, if adopted by the state, be used to curtail the currently ceaseless wild excesses of football commentators who abuse players, managers and other fans.

For the petition, if it were to become law, would make media bullying and harassment a criminal offence.  It has arisen from the way in which the media focused on TV presenter Caroline Flack who subsequently committed suicide, and says, in the words of Holly Maltby, of campaigning group 38 Degrees, that the media should be “held accountable for the way they harass and vilify people”.

Shortly before her death the presenter wrote “The truth has been taken out of my hands and used as entertainment.”

While the focus has very much been on the Ms Flack taking her own life, the vilification of some footballers by blogs, TV and radio programmes and newspapers has for years been taken as normal, and has now reached outrageous proportions, without any thought about the effect it may have on the players themselves.  From my personal point of view, where the player has committed a horrendous and career-damaging tackle or similar offence, that indeed can be publicised because clearly the player has been lacking in care in doing his job and through his actions has damaged another.   But when the attacks are on a player simply because he has had a bad game, the language needs to be moderated, and the negative reports kept within proportion.

Most newspapers and magazines in the UK are currently regulated by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) under the “Editors’ Code of Practice.”  This appears to have a little impact on reigning in comments on people in the public eye, but even this minuscule protection for individuals doesn’t exist with footballers.

There is some progress happening however, as Ofcom which regulates television and radio broadcasters in the UK is expected to be given more powers over social media firms in the near future.  There is the suggestion that this change will reduce harassment, intimidation and bullying.  If it were effective it would make much of the commentary on social media of footballers open to challenge.

Take for example, the headline from The Football Tavern “‘Laughably bad’, ‘Terrible’ – Many Arsenal fans slam player who lost the ball 22 times”  That report from the Transfer Tavern over Joe Willock could well be described as bullying (and that without even needing to check if statistic is right anyway) and would, therefore, be open to a legal challenge against the owners of The Football Tavern.

Of course, it is not just Arsenal players who get this treatment, and nor would it stop all debate.  The headline “‘He has the biggest ego on that pitch’ – Many LFC fans slam ‘pathetic’ footage from Fratton Park”  from This Is Futbol referred to the referee, and would probably be safe under any forthcoming legislation.





18 Replies to “The media should be “held accountable for the way they harass and vilify people”.”

  1. I have witnessed the power of the media from very nearby during the last year. A good friend (who is a politician) of mine got a very high public position. But then one media outlet right on the day he made an important speech on our national holiday spreaded a real vile rumour about his personal life about a thing from the past. All the media jumped all over him and repeated the accusations over and over and over and over. My friend stepped down immediately to prevent his party being dragged in to this shit.
    The headlines in the media on the front page continued for around a week and all the TV stations made sure that nobody would have missed the accusations.
    As is usual when a politician commits a crime (the accusations would have been a crime if true) there is in my country a special way on how they deal with it. The parliament acts more or less as a chamber of investigation and a court.
    After a few weeks it died down a bit.
    My friend was knackered by the accusations and I see him 3-4 times each week, and was completely down. I admit I feared he might take his life at some stage as the accusations really hacked in to his personal life. Luckily his new wife stood with him. But it was a hell for his wife and certainly for his children. He later admitted about having thought about taking his life.

    When the result of the investigation was made public the verdict was that he had done nothing wrong. No need to tell you that this was only mentioned somewhere on page 7 of the newspapers and on the TV stations it was a one line mention in the news somewhere between the messages of a potato was found somewhere in the form of a p*n*s and there has been spotted a bright light in the sky around midnight that could have been a UFO.

    My friend has started a trial against the news outlet that spread the false accusations not for the money because in my country they don’t have high punishments for this but to make sure that they publish a rectification about their accusations.

    Since then I can hardly watch the news anymore on TV or read any newspapers without feeling sick. I always wonder nowadays : Are they again lying? Are they again spreading lies?

    My friend is doing okayish. But the mud that was thrown at him will stick on him for ever. That is what I know as when I meet other people even now they still mention the story when they know I know him rather well. And most don’t really know that he has been cleared of all wrong doing because of the sweaping under the carpet of that fact by the media.

    Media? I shit on them. I puke on them.

  2. By a coincidence I went to the movies with my wife this week and we went to see the movie Harry Jewell. Based on a real story about the bombing during the Atlanta Olympics games.
    When looking at the movie I had to think of my friend the whole time and the movie really touched me a lot as I could very well relate to what this Harry Jewell had to go through. He also was a victim of the media.

  3. Tony

    I think this is a very very complicated topic.

    Personally I’m going to think about it for a while before commenting directly on it because of that.

    In the meantime though I would just like to ask one question regarding the following comment that you highlighted.

    “….the headline from The Football Tavern “‘Laughably bad’, ‘Terrible’ – Many Arsenal fans slam player who lost the ball 22 times” That report from the Transfer Tavern over Joe Willock”'”

    How could any Arsenal fan with a modicum of intelligence think that that kind of approach to a young players performance is in anyway helpful with regards to the development of his career?

    Not only that but it’s just plain wrong.

    Yes he may of given the ball away a bit too much but he did that because he had the balls to try so much. To me he had a typical game that younger less experienced players so often have.

    Full of energy. Full of bravado. Poor moments. Moments of brilliance.

    I thought what we did with these guys was celebrate these moments of brilliance, which at the end of the day created our goals, and work on the errors, which at the end of the day cost us nothing.

    All that kind of critisism is likely to do is knock the magnificent bravado out of his game, and make him more prone to mistakes.

    Honestly I just don’t get where these guys are comming from.

  4. Sorry for the mistake. Obviously it was our other young gun Nelson with the assists, but my point stands that public critisism of the like exhibited by The Football Tavern is completely unhelpful when it comes to building the confidence and the career of a player with such promise.

    Surely these guys get enough stick from outside the Club without our own ‘supporters’ wading in.

    ‘Supporters’ The clue is in the name.

  5. OT: Alien referees?

    Given what I think I know about the attitudes towards foreigners refereeing, this story has both good and bad points. Is this the start of change?

    This Italian referee is not doing EPL games, he has officiated games at that level. I’ve no idea if he was unfairly sacked in Italy, but it is possible that some of what he dealt with is similar to what this thread is talking about.

    But if this is the beginning of The (sweet) FA, EPL and PGMO starting to recruit better officials from all of England, I think it is a good thing.

  6. Gord

    “But if this is the beginning of The (sweet) FA, EPL and PGMO starting to recruit better officials from all of England, I think it is a good thing.”

    Not sure if you, or anyone else for that matter, will agree, but I don’t think the real issue is with the quality of our referees, moreover it is with the PGMO, and it’s willingness to follow an agenda clearly laid down by our Northern biased media, from how the referees interpret the Laws of the game, to from where they recruit the referees to implement those Laws.

    Firstly, on a general note, I believe that at the behest of the PGMO, or more specifically it’s chief incompetent Riley, they referee to an interpretation of the Laws of the Game that is as far removed from that of the rest of the World as they can possibly get away with.

    As I suggested, not only is it a generically ‘English’ interpretation, but more specifically a ‘Northern’ interpretation. They have done exactly the same thing regarding the use of VAR.

    Secondly of course, is the totally corrupt way in which they interpret those already skewed laws depending on whom precisely they are refereeing, with us of course being on the wrong end of what seems to be an entirely unique set laws.

    Why do I believe this. Well a few reasons.

    1) I think by and large when our referees are in charge of matches in Europe they generally perform okay. Not perfectly, but at least to the level of most ‘foreign’ referees. But more important they referee with impartiality.

    So once out of the controlling hand of the PGMO they are quite capable of doing a reasonable job.

    2) I know Dean was an utter disgrace the other night, but that accepted I have always felt we got a much more even hand from referees when playing in the domestic cups, compared to how we are refereed in the PL.

    3) Also some referees in their early days actually refereed us pretty well. Michael Oliver in particular I seem to recall refereed is with utter impartiality, even to the degree of standing his ground against a belligerent Man Utd at OT some years ago. So they can do it, it’s just when they do show us a little respite they are ridiculed in the media, and it seems told to correct their ways in the future by the master of misdirection, Riley.

    Referees have suddenly found themselves demoted following a performance the media deemed as ‘in our favour’.

    So just employing Italian, French, German or whatever Nationality of referee will make absolutely no difference if they are under the guidance of the PGMO.

    This is not to say foreign referees are not a good idea, I think they are, and I have been saying so for many years, they just have to be used without the interference of either the media, or in their wake, the PGMO.

    In other words I believe there should be a vast pool of European referees, which shouldn’t be too difficult as they already have such a thing in place, just at a smaller scale, for CL an EL matches, that are distributed by a central European body.

    The referee should arrive in the vicinity of his appointed match the day before and leave immediately after the match. No media influence. No fear of reprisals from an agenda driven PGMO.

    This would eliminate entirely any latent historical or regional bias that there may be.

    There will be no need for a referee to be in charge of any team more than once, let alone a multiple number of times, in a season. Much less chance of Italian style type 3 max fixing.

    The positives to this are many. It should give us more accountability, a better standard of refereeing, total impartiality and most importantly a set of officials that are far less open to corruption.

    Which is exactly why it will never happen.

  7. The English (and Welsh?) system needs more referees. In particular, it needs referees in proportion to local populations. If the largest population is London, the most referees should be from London. But it also needs to move towards (more) equal representation by ethnicity, race and other measures. There has to be some reasonably large number of referees (especially higher level) from other countries, who now live in England (or Wales).

    Will we ever see 38 (or more?) referees in the PGMO Select Group?

    We could have peaches and cream, if we had peaches, if we had cream.

    Or, something about 😈 Mike Riley flying.

    Perhaps football fans worldwide could build up a fund to partially refurbish the USS Iowa or USS Wisconsin? Surely one of those 2 fine ships could give even 😈 Mike Riley a chance at flying?


  8. @ Nitram
    You said we are normally refereed better in cup matches , there was an exception FA Cup Final against Hull , how many penalties were we denied

  9. WalterBroeckx
    04/03/2020 at 9:10 am

    Walter the matter of unusual unwarranted stress does have a factor of isolation and subsequent thoughts of uselessness. I sympathise with you and your friend and wish him strength and good health. Having close friends and family that take away the constant thoughts and stress are a great help as is good food that also gets one to a happy place.

    Pets, specially dogs are a great asset as they seem more understanding and help remove stress in a strange natural way.

    Wish you all the best.

  10. One point: When the first sentence in an article on AFC reads “Arsenal fans say blah, blah, blah…” you can rest assured the point being made is that of the writer or the editor, not any fictional Arsenal supporter. Even contributors on this site will ignore that and focus on the insult to the club. If the media outlet had actually spoken to any fans they would attribute the comment by name to bolster their opinion. The fact that it’s ALWAYS anonymous Arsenal fans seems to support my point. I have in the past written or commented electronically to some of these publications to ask them to name even one of these so-called Arsenal fans and have never had a response. Bunch of transparent tripe. Pay them no mind.

  11. @Tony, don’t you think you’ll be the first critic of what you’re arguing for? Because inasmuch as you complain about arsenal players being overly criticized by the media, the same you, criticize the media for not being nearly critical enough of other people in the game. You criticize them for not bullying the likes of Redknapp, Allardyce,Pulis, the Liverpool owner, the FA, FIFA, Manchester city and its owners, Carragher, the Neville brothers and many others too numerous to mention. And just like Walter said about his friend, you have criticized the media so many times for not talking enough about people who have been accused of things such as sexual offences against minors, even though these accusations have not been conclusively judged at the appropriate quarters.
    So, don’t you think in the end, you will be the biggest critic of the consequence of this piece of legislation?

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