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Do journalists really know what football is like, but choose not to tell us?

By Tony Attwood

The Athletic has admitted it; a huge amount (quite possibly most) of football reporting is pure and simple rubbish.

In a recent article the online magazine says, “We often do not find out how much signings cost, we are never told how much people are paid and we rarely witness what actually happens….”

Which when you come to read what is said in the daily postings is quite remarkable.

The piece also openly admits that a lot of football stories in the media are simply made up.  Which is quite a step forward.  If you are a regular reader you’ll know that we analyse the football transfer rumours that run through the spring into each summer, and discover that only 3% are correct.  Now someone is admitting it – but then since we have been publishing the evidence each year for four years it has become rather hard to deny.

Except… The Athletic’s article doesn’t actually admit to making things up.  Try this story as an example:

“I could tell you about sitting beside a leading manager in an airport lounge when the yellow ticker on Sky Sports News suddenly detailed the star player his club were signing. He went ballistic. He was enraged. His chief scout called him to find out what was happening; this fella wasn’t even on their list of targets. “I don’t want him,” the manager told me. “He’s not fit. His legs have gone. He does this…” And the manager mimed snorting cocaine. The player still signed.”

Now that is a story of chaos.  And it is interesting how quickly the piece in the magazine moves from a tale of journalists not having a clue what is going on, through to one where managers don’t have a clue, and so it is not the journalist’s fault if rubbish is printed.

And it is interesting how quickly the piece descends from the open admission that journalists make stuff up to one of pure tittle tattle.  For example

“I could tell you about taking part in an event with a former England manager, a few months after his sorry departure from the role. The background picture on his mobile phone was still the England crest, although I don’t know if that was deliberate or simply a lack of technological nous.”

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OK so that manager doesn’t know how to change the background picture on his phone.  Does that make him a bad manager?  Or a prat?  I mean he probably was both, but the fact that he couldn’t change an image on his phone really doesn’t have anything to do with it.

The fact is that this rather flimsy piece does admit what we know – that the world of reporting football is chaotic, made up of writers, editors and publishers who know, but don’t actually care that much, that most of what they publish is wrong.

But the situation is worse than that.  Because it doesn’t ask the fundamental question, “Why does nobody care?”  Is it because they are lazy, or because it costs money to care, or because the PGMO are telling them which questions they can and can’t ask, or because the old way is so ingrained no one can imagine any changes?

There was a little coverage of the fact that Liverpool FC have put their stewards, on technical unemployment and then send out a “Message to managers of supermarkets here on the banks of the Mersey. Our stewards here at LFC offer to volunteer their time and skills to help control the flow of people, manage queues, parking, support the elderly and disabled to get their supplies to to their car, etc., They are truly the best in the business and would be happy to assist you in whatever way you think is appropriate (and safe) on your premises. ”

They are also the least well paid.  In fact so poorly paid that the idea seems to be that the individuals won’t miss the little amount of money they get.

But that, I guess, is football.

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