Another week passes in England’s infamous silly-season. While there is no football taking place, the pencils of Fleet Street’s footie scribes are as sharp as ever with stories of treachery and deceit. Yes, football’s finest want out, a trip elsewhere, often abroad and often undermining the Premier League’s claim of being the best League in the world.
With plenty of cash in the bank, English clubs should be safe from the predatory Presidente’s of this World. But no, Real Madrid’s wish to take the Portu-geezer-in-chief Cristiano Ronaldo to Spain is promoted in their constant denials through media outlets such as Spain’s sport’s dailies Marca and As, while at Adebayor confuses even himself with his “I am staying at Arsenal, but watch this space” type comments.
So, given that England hosts the world’s richest league, why is it that every summer clubs like Manchester United and Arsenal and others are subjected to negative headlines involving overseas clubs? Why is it that Fleet Street’s titles, who hype up our League and its headline-givers during the season, turn every summer into a season for despair for supporters of the League’s top-tier clubs?
Well, the reason is that the reporting of sports news, especially football, in England is quite different to how it’s reported in the rest of Europe, especially Spain.
While in England and the rest of Britain sports news is part of each newspaper, filling numerous back pages, Spain, Italy and France have dedicated daily sports titles – from Marca and As in Spain to La Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy and L’Equipe in France.
Having dedicated sports titles forces many of these media outlets to run more gossip and innuendo that wouldn’t be used as filler in the Britain. At the same time, the relationship between titles such as Marca and As and top-tier clubs in Spain like Real Madrid and Barcelona are very close. Some claim to be too close for comfort and for journalistic integrity. It is a relationship of convenience, the titles needs stories – as trivial as they might be, to ensure that advertisers and the paying-public are happy. This relationship often works in such a away that the clubs can get away with using these titles for propaganda, to boost the egos of the players that they wish to sign. It works very well for the club, the players and their agents. But, it often doesn’t work for English clubs.
But I hear you ask, what about all the nonsense that is printed in the back pages of The Sun, The Mirror et al every day? Simple really, The Sun might have six to ten dedicated pages to sport. Marca meanwhile has that focusing on a specific club in La Liga, often Real Madrid. Sports dailies in the rest of Europe have pages and pages more space to fill, which often leads to much more nonsense and spin, comment and innuendo, misinterpretation, which is often benefits clubs in the papers host country. And it is these stories that then get picked up over in England and run as ‘real’ news. And of course agents know all this works, just call one of these papers, say that you represent ‘Player A’ and say, as a source, that it would be a dream for them to move to Madrid, Milan or whoever. You can bet your last Euro that a title like the above would run this as a story.
Media in the Britain pride themselves of having integrity, with the majority of hacks keeping their club allegiances of their by-lined page. This is true for some, but not for many. Axes to grind can be very visible, with numerous people knowing journalists that are supporters of West Ham, Manchester United or Arsenal. But, for a League to be seen as the leading the world it needs the support of the media in the close season, and a PR strategy from clubs that make up the Premier League that challenges La Liga and Serie A at their own game. Somehow though I can’t see press offices of English clubs planting stories in foreign titles. To do that would mean increasing and improving the relationship with predatory tiles and for many clubs this would just not be a priority, even though it would make business sense. Funny how we over here in England see Real Madrid and Barca are sexy foreign clubs, while the same wouldn’t be thought in Spain of English clubs?
It really does show that when it comes to hype in PR, English clubs are just not that sharp. Possibly because we just don’t have the papers to fill. Maybe, just maybe, it is our media that is holding us from further promoting ourselves.
In the meantime though, it will be Spanish and Italian clubs, together with registered and unregistered agents that will keep their focus on taking the Premier League’s gold back to mainland Europe. And really, we only ourselves and our media to blame.