Welcome to the age of fake news and alternative facts. Or maybe not “welcome” because as football fans we’ve been dealing with fake news and alternative facts forever. We even know their sources, their styles, which papers traffic in fake news, and which reporters are more and less “fake” or “alternative” with their reporting.
I’m not suggesting that the media are all bad or that we should degrade our hard-working members of the press. But I am saying that fake news is nothing new for football fans. It permeates almost everything we read.
For example, today’s big story is about Arsene Wenger. As we all know, Wenger was sent to the stands after reacting to a penalty late in the Arsenal win over Burnley. Anthony Taylor shuttled Wenger down the tunnel and Wenger reacted with a “get your hands off me” shove. The FA have charged Wenger with both counts and Wenger has admitted that what he said was “something that you hear every day in football” and that he regrets everything (including the shove).
That should be the story.
However, according to the Sun, Wenger called Anthony Taylor a “fucking cheat” and now we get our alternative facts and fake news. Why? Because it ups the level of the controversy. Making something banal, Wenger getting angry at an official, into a much more – maybe even criminal – offence.
This accusation isn’t being carried by the respectable paper. The Guardian’s reporting on the topic is straightforward and not really that controversial: Wenger’s charges are pretty serious, but Dominic Fifield expects a one match ban, comparing Wenger’s outburst to that of Jose Mourinho, a manager who routinely claims that the officials are conspiring against him, and who was both fined and banned for a tirade against… Jon Moss.
That’s a good bit of reporting right there. Fifield tells us facts, verifiable facts, shows comparisons and contrasts and gives us a reasonable conclusion. But it’s not very controversial is it?
It’s certainly not, as Arseblog pointed out this morning, at the level of the chief sports writer of The Times calling for Wenger to be banned for 10 matches and forced to officiate little league games.
Instead of a limp fine or weak touchline ban, make managers ref 10 Sunday league games. Community service – and a lesson in how hard it is https://t.co/2D4MXVAoYF
— Matt Dickinson (@DickinsonTimes) January 23, 2017
If you want a look at the level that fake news and unsubstantiated accusations have become the coin of the journalistic landscape look no further than the chief sports writer for the Times and his first reply on that tweet. He repeats the claim that Wenger called Moss a cheat. Utterly irresponsible from a reporter. And what’s awful about this reporting is that when journalists from respectable papers start trading in fake news, some people use that to discredit ALL journalists. Then we find ourselves in the situation of not knowing reality from alternate reality. Which news is real? What did Wenger actually say? Who should we believe?
Apart from fake news, the other thing that is lacking in the sports media is actual investigative journalism. Could that pillock from the Times spend 10 minutes of his day doing some investigating? Naw. He’s got clever ideas to toss around.
Investigative journalism doesn’t have to take the form of breaking stories about corruption at the highest level of the sport. Though, how the sports press missed the corruption at FIFA story for so long is a mystery. But even low level investigation seems to be missing.
For example, how many times have managers been charged in the Premier League after a confrontation with a referee? Which referees are most likely to draw a charge? We already know that Moss has previous with both Wenger and Mourinho, are there other examples?
Or how about a piece on the level of officiating in the Premier League? How many calls are they actually getting right and how many wrong? How would we design a study like that? How far back would we go? I know that Untold Arsenal does something like this. I know that there have been several bloggers who tried to take this issue on. But why hasn’t some journalist taken the time to look into the officiating?
I suppose it’s too much work. Maybe I’ll have to do it. Since the guardians of the free world are too busy preening on twitter about how much they want “justice” to be done because an old man cursed at an official and told another official to get his hands off of him.
Oh the horror.