Mediawatch doesn’t normally bother with what we’ll vaguely label as ‘new media’, largely because there is a mush of outlets that publish the same dump of viral video content to gain clicks and advertising revenue. ‘Ooh look, someone did a funny penalty. Look forward to seeing that another 427 times today. Tag a mate!’.
Still, we’re prepared to make an exception for one headline from 90min.com, another of those viral banterites with 2.2m Facebook likes and almost 100,000 Twitter followers that survive almost exclusively on a diet of regurgitated videos and the word ‘Class’ followed by the clapping hands emoji.
On Monday afternoon, 90min.com hosted a story about Joe Hart and Kieran Trippier holding each other’s hands as they left a London nightclub with the headline ‘Two England players caught holding hands coming out of nightclub’.
Now, for those of you who assume the word ‘caught’ was referring to leaving the nightclub rather than holding hands, think again. The night was arranged by Gareth Southgate to reward the players for World Cup qualification, and the story was posted on Facebook with the caption ‘WTF’.
The phrases ‘caught’ and ‘WTF’ are pretty instructive here. 90min.com feel the need to express alarm or outrage at the idea of two England players holding each other’s hands, as if that is something abhorrent.
This kind of article is poison. It re-enforces the archaic mindset that same-sex relationships need to be brought under scrutiny of the general public and put on trial. It suggests that two people holding hands is in some way newsworthy. And it forces those suggestions into the eyes and minds of impressionable readers.
Some things are worth more than a few Facebook shares. They should be bloody ashamed.
EDIT: 90min.com have subsequently deleted the page. They say it was written by a fan with access to publish stories on their site, and are investigating the matter.
News or PR?
The relationship between bookmakers and headlines is one that makes Mediawatch feel uneasy.
Whenever you read ‘Club X are favourites to sign Player Y’, this isn’t news; it’s PR. A bookmaker has got in touch with a news desk (and the alternative of news desks searching through bookmaker markets for stories is even less pleasant so we’re hoping it doesn’t happen that way) and said ‘hey, we have created this market and believe we have a story for you’.
Tuesday brings a perfect example of the breed. Mirror Football run the headline ‘Liverpool favourites to sign Barcelona star in January transfer window’, a story that they do not even credit to a named writer:
‘Liverpool have been made favourites to sign Barcelona star Javier Mascherano in January. Mascherano’s contract at Barcelona is less than two years to run and he is understood to be considering an early exit.
‘Liverpool have been made 6/4 favourites to sign him by Sky Bet, although River Plate are another option for the 33-year-old.’
That’s completely misleading. Sky Bet do indeed have a market on Javier Mascherano signing for a club before 3rd February 2018 in which Liverpool are 6/4, but he is 1/2 to stay at Barcelona. So they aren’t favourites to sign him. If we’re using the bookmaker’s definition, he’s favourite to stay exactly where he is.
But crucially, River Plate, who Mascherano spoke specifically about last week, are not even given a price. In fact, only Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus are mentioned, with the other two priced at 18/1 and 16/1 respectively.
The issue here is clear. A bookmaker could make a market for Harry Kane’s next club and list only Arsenal, Levante and Accrington Stanley as options. Just because Arsenal would have comfortably the shortest odds in that market does not make them ‘favourites to sign’ Kane, other than entirely within the construct of the bookmaker’s actions. Yet it becomes an easy headline to sell.
So, where does news end and PR for betting companies begin?
Come on now
— MailOnline Sport (@MailSport) November 13, 2017
Which suggests that now might be the time to have some f**king dignity and leave him alone rather than shoving a camera in his face and reporting on it.
In their rush to get the clicks on the death of a person related to a footballer, Mail Online have left the headline on their football homepage as ‘Madrid star Bale arrives at training ashen-faced after he and fiancee receiving news of brother-in-law’s death’. Superb work all round.
Do as I say, not…
‘Reacting to the penalty award that, ultimately, eliminated Northern Ireland from the World Cup, Lisa Evans, wife of defender Corry, unleashed a tirade of racist abuse on Twitter. The referee, Ovidiu Hategan, was a ‘Romanian gypsy c***’, an ‘ungrateful t***’ and had ‘smelly relatives’ who were probably housed in Northern Ireland. ‘Anyway,’ she concluded cheerily, ‘onwards and upwards’.
‘Leaving aside that it was probably impossible to go downwards from there, you’ve got to love the absence of self-awareness, of the obvious offence caused, in that sign-off. The way Lisa was now blithely choosing to move on from a public display of abusive racism’ – Martin Samuel, Daily Mail.
Samuel is bang on the money when he says the wife of Evans should not be able to sweep such racism under the carpet.
Sort of like when a chief sports writer of a national newspaper shouldn’t write that racial slurs from Luis Suarez and John Terry were only ‘for private consumption’ and ‘not intended to be heard beyond that game’ and so were ‘ultimately meaningless’.
Maybe Lisa Evans reads the Mail?
Straw man argument of the day
‘It is amazing what a 0-0 draw against world champions Germany can do for optimism. Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s double nutmeg – as delightful as it was – is suddenly the key to a successful World Cup’ – Neil Ashton, The Sun.
Literally nobody is saying that.
In that opinion piece from Neil Ashton on England, he accuses Gareth Southgate of ‘forgetting about the old guard of Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and the rest’. Instead he is ‘raving about Jordan Pickford and Loftus-Cheek, relying on players with a handful of Premier League appearances’.
Firstly, Southgate is hardly ‘relying’ on those players. Pickford is generally considered to be our third-choice goalkeeper, while Loftus-Cheek is still odds against to go to Russia with England. Also, Jordan Pickford has played 42 Premier League games. If that’s a ‘handful’, Ashton must have some whacking great mitts.
But it’s the description of Southgate ‘raving’ about those players that annoys most. Here’s everything that England’s manager has said about Loftus-Cheek since his debut against Brazil:
“I see things in him that lead me to believe he can play at this level and I think he showed that tonight. He’s an exciting player – we’ve got a few exciting players. He’s one that for the wider public may have flown under the radar a bit until now. I think we have to be brave and put some of these boys in because we think they’re capable” – on Friday.
“He has been able to battle through difficult spells at Chelsea, training with senior players who recognise his talent so get into him in training. This season going out and playing has helped him. In the early season I saw him and he showed flashes of what we saw against Germany. I think he can affect big matches like he did” – on Sunday.
“I think he obviously has taken a lot from the game, found it a great experience, that he was learning throughout it. We believe in him. He did really well. But sometimes the first game is easier because nobody is aware of you” – on Monday.
So saying that Loftus-Cheek has talent but so do plenty of players, saying that he can affect big matches and warning him that things will get harder. One man’s ‘raving’ is another’s ‘saying perfectly reasonable things’.
Take my advice
‘Manchester City have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to players who can operate in the hole just behind the striker. Kevin De Bruyne is the man — certainly in the Premier League — in the No.10 position, and arguably among the top two or three attacking midfielders in the world at the moment. David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva… City are blessed with talented players who can all do a great job in that department.
‘But, do you know what, if I were Pep Guardiola, I’d still be tempted to give Leroy Sane a couple of games there sometime soon, just to see how he goes. Watching him closely at Wembley on Friday, when he was the most exciting player in a Germany shirt, particularly in those first 20-25 minutes of the game, made me wonder how he’d get on through the middle in the Premier League.
‘I always thought he was just about outrageous pace — stick him down the left, watch him go past a full-back and put the ball into the box. But every time he drifted inside for Germany, he looked like he might be a source of danger. What I really liked is that he had the confidence to take a big game by the scruff of the neck’ – Stan Collymore, Daily Mirror.
Yes that’s right, after months of saying that Guardiola is nothing but a fraud and weeks of saying that Guardiola has it easy, hence why Manchester City are in wonderful form, Collymore is now giving advice to him on how he could do better with his attack. Because 38 league goals in 11 games isn’t enough?
The best thing about Collymore’s advice is that Sane played virtually the same role for Germany as he does for Manchester City. He was nominally picked out wide, like at City, and he had licence to drift infield just like at City.
Only Raheem Sterling has touched the ball in the opposition penalty area more times than Sane for City this season. That hardly suggests a player who has been ‘stuck him down the left and watched as he goes past a full-back and puts the ball into the box’.
Stan, it’s going pretty well for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City. Don’t sweat on it.
Recommended reading of the day
James Horncastle on Gigi Buffon.
Jon Cotterill on Tite.
Ken Early on international football.