Mediawatch: The Daily Star, homophobia and the witch-hunt

Date published: Tuesday 24th October 2017 10:35

The front page of the Daily Star


It would be wonderful if there were more openly gay footballers in English men’s football, for it would offer meaningful evidence that the game and its supporters are finally mature and decent enough to treat those players as they deserve to be treated: exactly the same as anyone else.

We have come a long way, too. Mediawatch truly believes that the culture of homophobia has been eroded (although clearly not completely) within English football and English society as a whole. Yet instances like the Daily Star‘s front page threaten to undermine that progress. They should be bloody ashamed.

Not only is the private life of any footballer not a subject for public consumption, it certainly doesn’t merit this front-page guessing game. The media fascination with professional players ‘coming out’, even when expressed in supportive terms, inevitably becomes a witch-hunt, fuelling a perceived public interest in wanting to know the who and who with.

When sold in the manner the Daily Star has packaged it – we give you the clubs, you guess the players – it becomes the worst sort of gutter tripe tabloid sensationalism. Look at the use of the word ‘secret’, for example, as if referring to some illicit activity. The piece even says ‘their sexuality was not a secret’, but the Star need to imply mystery to sell their story.

For the last time, there is a difference between ‘secret’ and ‘we aren’t interested in having our personal lives covered by the Daily f**king Star, thanks’. ‘Secrecy’ and ‘privacy’ are not one and the same.

Don’t let anyone pretend that the Star have covered this simply as a matter of attempted public interest either. It is merely a paper splashing ‘gay Prem footie aces’ on its front cover in an effort to shift copies. It is shameless.

This strand of the media doesn’t just fail to address the problem of homophobia in sport; it actively makes it worse. It helps create a culture of fear and suspicion that leads to players feeling unable to live their lives openly. How can that be right?

The Daily Star do not want a role model but a museum exhibit, a player whose private life they can prod and poke for web traffic and column inches. They don’t even really want players to come out, because that removes their distasteful layer of mystery. For them, homosexuality is content. And that stinks.

Until someone’s sexuality stops being not just front-page news but news of any sort, the fight for equality will never be won. Maybe someone at the Daily Star might consider that the next time they mock up such a woeful front page.


The Best man for the job
On Monday evening, the votes for the FIFA Best awards were revealed, with the best players and coaches voted for by a representative captain, coach and journalist from every country in the world.

Scotland’s media vote was submitted by Duncan Castles, despite him living in (and largely working from) South Africa. You can already see where this is going, can’t you? It’s hardly Sixth Sense stuff.

Castles has a reputation for being a little too closely aligned with Jose Mourinho, you see. To the extent that Mediawatch has occasionally wondered whether he’s become a deliberate parody of a journalist. But this is serious; this is a FIFA vote.

So, did Castles vote for:

a) The coach who retained the European Cup for the first time since 1990 and won Real Madrid’s first European Cup and La Liga double since 1958?

b) The coach who won the Premier League in his first season in England, at a club who had finished tenth in the previous campaign?

c) The coach who had guided Brazil out of the shadows and back into the light, serenely qualifying for the 2018 World Cup?

d) The coach who took Monaco to the Champions League semi-finals and Ligue Un title against all expectations?

e) The coach who led Juventus to another Champions League final and retained the Serie A title?

f) The coach who won the Europa League and League Cup (and Comunity Shield, of course) and took Manchester United down from fourth to sixth in the Premier League?

What do you bloody think?

It’s okay to have Mourinho as a close ally and source. It’s okay to think that he’s a good manager. But when your relationship clouds everything you write and do within your profession, questions will always be asked. Where is the line between journalism and PR?


Wee men
The other enjoyable Scottish-related fall-out from the FIFA Best voting was then-Scotland manager Gordon Strachan’s selections for his best player. Strachan picked Luka Modric (5 ft 9in), Lionel Messi (5 ft 7 in) and N’Golo Kante (5 ft 6 in).

Not bothered about those small players, is he?


Draxler to Liverpool: Don’t get excited
Reads the headline on the Daily Mirror website on Tuesday morning:

‘Liverpool ‘to move for PSG star Julian Draxler’ as Philippe Coutinho replacement’

The inverted commas within that headline indicate that the story has come from elsewhere, and that is indeed the case. It’s off to the Daily Star:

‘Liverpool ready to make huge January move for world star as Philippe Coutinho replacement’

We already know that it’s Draxler, guys. Your clickbait hasn’t worked this time.

This headline does not contain inverted commas, so Mediawatch assumed it was a Daily Star story. After all, that’s what the Mirror said. Alas, it is not.

‘Transfermarketweb claim Liverpool could finally lose their Brazilian ace to Barca in January,’ the Star story says. ‘And if the 25-year-old does go, the Reds’ [sic] are ready ‘to make a big effort’ in [sic] land Germany star Draxler.’

So it’s off to the Italian corner of the internet, and’s own headline. This journey is giving us a stitch:

‘LIVERPOOL – All-in on DRAXLER if Coutinho leaves’

‘According to both French and UK sources, Liverpool management, living a very hard time and possibly signing Philippe Coutinho over to Barcelona in January, are ready to make a big effort in signing German international attacking midfielder/winger Julian Draxler (24) as a replacement,’ a 73-word story that has had 418 clicks (it tells you) reads. Full disclosure: Mediawatch accounts for two of those clicks.

So we’ve gone from the Mirror’s ‘Liverpool to move’ to the Star’s ‘Liverpool ready to move’ to Transfermarketweb telling us that UK sources are saying he will move. More the circle of absolute guff than the circle of life. Elton, do us a remix.


Job for the boys?
It is now three-and-a-half years since Ryan Giggs’ role as interim manager of Manchester United ended after a four-game spell. He is yet to manage a single club on a full-time basis.

It is now four-and-a-half years since Phil Neville retired as a footballer, and 17 months since his last coaching role. He is yet to manage a single club on a full-time basis.

On Monday, Giggs expressed his interest in the vacant managerial roles at Everton and Leicester City. On Tuesday, Neville expressed his interest in the vacant managerial role at Everton. Because pitching for the Leicester job would have been silly.

“I think you look at those two teams, Leicester being champions two seasons ago, Everton being a fantastic club with a fantastic history, for me these are clubs I would be interested in,” Giggs said.

“I’ve said all along that I’d be open to clubs which share the ambitions of myself. I want to improve clubs and improve players, to enjoy working for them and for players to enjoy the challenge. I’ve said all along that I’d be open to clubs which share the ambitions of myself. I want to improve clubs and improve players, to enjoy working for them and for players to enjoy the challenge.”

That’s wonderful, Ryan – and you Phil – but don’t you think it might be worth expressing your public interest in those jobs lower down the leagues? Because right now it looks an awful lot like you (Ryan) applied for the Swansea City job and declared your interest in managing Everton and Leicester. And it looks like you (Phil) lost your job assisting your brother at Valencia and declared your interest in managing Everton. And expecting to get a job like that having never managed on a full-time basis before comes across as incredibly entitled, as if playing for Manchester United somehow gives you a VIP pass to Premier League management.

This is the issue with the ‘no jobs for British managers’ argument. Those who bemoan the number of foreign coaches (as Giggs did in February) then advertise their interest in high-profile jobs as if the Premier League owes them something. They talk up their willingness to drop down the divisions, but jobs come and go without their interest being noted.

All the while, coaches like Marco Silva (Estoril, Sporting CP, Olympiakos) and Mauricio Pellegrino (Estudiantes, Independiente, Alaves) are improving their CVs by actually managing. Not all those appointments will work out, but the recruitment decisions are at least based on something other than blind faith, ‘Oooh he was a good player’ and the vague and faulty notion that ‘British is best’.

At a time when staying in the Premier League has never been more crucial to the financial health of a club, asking them to take a leap of faith on a rookie coach is an unrealistic ambition. Rather than talking about your willingness to drop down the leagues, show it.


Ten thousand spoons
‘Tuchel is in the running for the manager’s job at Bayern, which will be available in the summer following the recent sacking of Carlo Ancelotti, who was replaced by 72-year-old caretaker manager Jupp Heynckes until the end of the season.

‘Ancelotti himself is admired strongly by Everton major shareholder Moshiri. But the Italian has indicated he will take a break from football and not return until next season, and it will take something seismic to change his mind. Ironically, Ancelotti was brutally sacked by Chelsea in a side-office at Goodison in May 2011’ – Daily Mirror.

Manager sacked at the stadium of a club who themselves sacked a manager six-and-a-half years later? Our irony-meter is off the scale.


Recommended reading of the day
Sid Lowe on Valencia.

Adam Bate with Paul Hurst.

Freddie Paxton with Javier Zanetti.

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