Mediawatch is incredibly grateful that it does not normally have to deal with newspaper front pages. That is where complaints about migrants, weather scaremongering and Princess Diana reside, not football. At least not usually.
Unfortunately, The Sun dabbles in sticking sports on the front now and again, usually when there is a ‘Premier League ace’ to shame and target.
That phrase is indeed used by Nick Parker, who is responsible for perhaps the single worst sentence ever committed to print:
‘Tonight it was unclear what action was taken against the Wag, who was not travelling with her Premier League ace boyfriend.’
To conclude: here is a half-baked story about an unnamed ‘Wag’ whose ‘Premier League ace boyfriend’ – so we can drop the ‘Wa’ – was not involved. And this is considered the biggest piece of news by the nation’s best-selling newspaper at a time when hundreds of people are still dying each day and many thousands more are putting themselves at constant risk to prevent that number rising.
This ‘Wag’ should consider herself lucky she is a mere ‘Instagram star’ and not a teacher.
Speaking of which, schools are ‘safe’ now! Although that actually means teachers are just ‘at no greater risk of Covid-19 than any other key workers’. Which absolutely makes it alright to harangue them into returning.
There's an uncomfortable amount of understated glee with which The Sun report on a 'Prem wag' (one woman cannot be a wife AND girlfriend, unless that's another EXCLUSIVE) trying to protect herself at a time when footballers and their families have been targeted. pic.twitter.com/QMJs4ZsTmt
— Football365 (@F365) May 22, 2020
Honestly, though. It seems like the real story should probably be that someone is having to go to such ridiculous lengths to feel safe and protected at a time of global crisis, not that she was ‘caught smuggling’ a stun gun and cosh after ‘stepping off a private jet’. The more you casually mention such inconsequential material advantages, the more you legitimise them as a potential target. So maybe don’t.
The Sun‘s back page is Neil Custis central. He exclusively reveals that Newcastle’s £300m takeover ‘has been approved’, while covering the financial results Manchester United announced on Thursday.
Now Mediawatch is no expert in the field. An increase in net debt of £127.4m does not sound good – although some of that can be attributed to signing a player for an initial £47m – nor do drops in broadcasting, retail and matchday revenues. They do seem like rather obvious consequences that a football club might face when not playing football, mind.
But when United themselves declare that “as of 31 March 2020, the company had £90.3million of cash balances together with access to an additional £150million available under the company’s revolving credit facility,” can that really be considered a ‘chilling warning’? It’s a lukewarm caution at best.
Andy Dunn of the Daily Mirror is right to highlight the many examples of Premier League players posting social-media messages expressing happiness at their return to training. Footballers need that work-life ‘balance’ as much as anyone and will be ‘happy to be back at their workplace’.
But these were players coming back to small group training in controlled environments. It seems fanciful to state ‘Project Restart is no Project Fear’ when this is literally the tentative first phase towards 22 players being in close contact for 90 minutes every weekend, and some have already opted out.
There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
Writes Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail:
‘So, it is fair to say, statistical studies in science work on a different time-scale to those that are considered worthwhile in sport. Linking smoking to cancer is not the same as proving the centre forward should run more. It takes years, often decades, for the information to be trustworthy.
‘So any link between Covid-19 and skin colour is in its infancy and very much unproven. Just the loose term BAME is bad science given the wide range of minority ethnic groups.
‘And if black people are more vulnerable to coronavirus, how come only 2,708 deaths have been recorded among the entire African continent of 1.216billion people? It cannot all be down to poor data collection.’
Because some countries such as Senegal reacted far quicker, closing their borders, declaring a state of national emergency and implementing contact tracing at a time when they had not even recorded 100 cases of transmission? Because others cancelled large social gatherings and sports events long before the virus had spread too far instead of waiting for thousands to die first? Because ‘poor data collection’ is actually a quite legitimate issue in some countries? And are we really only judging the severity of a global pandemic on certain areas of the world on mortality rate alone?
Sure, ‘only 2,708 deaths have been recorded’ in Africa. Does that mean the near 100,000 other cases didn’t or haven’t suffered? They aren’t being asked to play football in close contact with others, either.
But Premier League ‘needs to be explaining’ to BAME players that ‘any link between Covid-19 and skin colouris in its infancy and very much unproven’. So says a white man from the comfort of his own home, who apparently just wants actual games to write about.
Selling it like it is
Samuel’s main column is dedicated to Unai Emery’s recent comments about his time at Arsenal in an interview that was ‘absolutely fascinating, yet wholly predictable’.
That’s fair. Everyone knew they had leadership problems, issues in terms of recruitment and certain players who perhaps lacked direction or motivation.
But the claim that ‘this is a selling club now’ is a little weird. They sold Thierry Henry in 2007, Ashley Cole in 2006, Patrick Vieira in 2005, Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars together in 2000 and Nicolas Anelka in 1999. All were first teamers.
Pretty much everyone is ‘a selling club’ aside from probably Real Madrid and Barcelona. It’s not a valid criticism: were Liverpool ‘a selling club’ when they let Philippe Coutinho go?
Over at the Daily Mirror website…
‘Javier Mascherano says Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool is “nothing to do with” Reds team he was in’
That’s one in the eye for all those people who said Jurgen Klopp couldn’t have led Liverpool to the brink of the Premier League title if a completely different manager, squad and owners hadn’t been around a decade before them.
Good news of the day
Ipso finds the Express website broke accuracy rules in its story 'Why are Man City fans booing Liverpool star James Milner in Vincent Kompany testimonial?'
— The Sun Apologies (@SunApology) May 21, 2020