By Tony Attwood
I have several times raised the point that the media hates the question “why?” And so it seems today as none of the main news outlets in the UK are asking why the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care said that he wanted footballers to take pay cuts and thus at a stroke reduce the government’s income at a time when it needs every penny it can get.
Perhaps it was simply that he thought he could swing attention away from the government’s handling of the current crisis, by focusing on football. But whatever the reason I thought it might be interesting to see what a variety of English newspapers across the political spectrum were today making of this affair.
The Guardian’s lead on the topic is “‘What would Shankly do?’ Not what Liverpool are doing, that’s for sure.” The opening to the piece is well made, I thought.
“Six months ago the Liverpool chief executive, Peter Moore, was asked what distinguished his club from other European football giants. “We had this amazing historical figure: Bill Shankly, a Scottish socialist who built the foundation,” he told El Pais. “Even today, when we talk about business, we ask ourselves: ‘What would Shankly do?’”
And of course they conclude that he would not have done what Liverpool have just done, but then add, “True, Newcastle and Spurs did the same last week but by now we know who Mike Ashley and Daniel Levy are. Liverpool were supposed to be different.” Whether this ends the media’s love in with Liverpool, we shall see.
Elsewhere, the Sunday Times yesterday ran a piece by Wayne Rooney in which he wrote that Matt Hancock the Health Secretary, “was supposed to be giving the nation the latest on the biggest crisis we’ve faced in our lifetimes. Why was the pay of footballers even in his head? Was he desperate to divert attention from his government’s handling of this pandemic?”
The Telegraph is openly critical of Liverpool, saying, “Liverpool FC were supposed to be better than this – their use of government scheme feels like a betrayal” and also have an article that opens “Manchester City have become the first Premier League club to pledge publicly that they will not furlough any of their non-playing staff during the coronavirus pandemic.” That shows that at least Man City’s PR team are still active even if their players are not.
The Daily Mail has done a very odd piece under the banner “Gary Neville’s five points illustrate perfectly the Premier League’s poor handling of coronavirus crisis… from trying to play on to Liverpool putting staff on furlough, the response has been a DISASTER”.
That sounds like the header of an article by Neville, but in fact what the Mail has done is take five of Neville’s tweets and then explored them, sometimes quite critically. For example, Neville suggests Premier League football was slow to shut down, and the Mail’s response is to show a picture of the crowds at the Cheltenham Festival (a horse racing event) the same day as a justification for football carrying on. It’s all rather odd.
The Mail however does agree with Neville, and pretty much everyone else, that the stance of Liverpool, Tottenham and others in furloughing staff has been a PR disaster. But then it loses the plot totally with “Manchester City set to hand hefty fine to Kyle Walker after breaching lockdown instructions by holding sex party with two escorts”.
The Sun has finally caught up with Untold by running, “Big Six face financial black hole as sponsorship deals dwindle during coronavirus”, but it also uses the crisis to run its regular anti-trade union stance with “Teams are alarmed by the PFA’s rejection of the proposal for ALL players to take a wage cut or pay deferral of up to 30 per cent.” The stance is that the union does not represent its members’ feelings – a very regular Sun position on industrial disputes.
The Express which is totally out on its own, with “Premier League set for June return as UK government green light behind closed doors games”. They also have “Former Man Utd boss Louis van Gaal fumes at Ajax using coronavirus ‘for their own gain’,” over a story in which van Gaal simply says that he would prefer seasons to be finished, rather than abandoned. The Ajax bit comes because they were top of the league when football was halted.
And beyond that one, for the Express, it is simply transfer rumours all the way.
The Independent goes with “Wage-cut talks turn ugly as players insist cash goes to NHS, not clubs” in which they say, “A heated conference call between all 20 Premier League clubs and captains saw a growing anger with Liverpool’s timing of their decision to furlough non-playing staff.”
After that they seem rather to lose interest in the whole concept of “news”, going with “Lineker wants people to stop using footballers as scapegoats,” “The Premier League’s audacious World Cup plan” and “Inside story of United vs Newcastle and the 1995/6 title.”
For the media, overall, it looks like a time when, as Bob Dylan said in a song, “Something is happening, but you don’t know what it is.”
But at least, on the issue of the virus, for the moment they can’t attack Arsenal
- Arsenal v Tottenham; the team and some rather jolly recent history
- We are running out of referees, and the reason is the PGMO.
- Arsenal v Tottenham: the key fact the media won’t to tell you – and why they won’t
- Arsenal v Tottenham: different clubs, different managers, different successes
- Arsenal v Tottenham with clubs now getting more cards than they put in tackles!