Jan 182010

It is nearly three years since Arsene Wenger first coined the term ‘Sky Sports Justice’ following the Carling Cup final with Chelsea. That day, in case you’ve forgotten, Adebayor was sent off for slapping Wayne Bridge, when that was in fact Eboue’s action. The press machine went into overdrive, focusing heavily on the ‘brawl’, and Eboue in particular, and as a result both clubs were disproportionately fined, with Eboue banned (Adebayor’s ban was not rescinded). Drogba, meanwhile, slapped Cesc away from the main cluster of players, but Sky refused to show it in their coverage, and no charge was brought. It was one of the clearest cases of media-driven action (and lack of) we’ve seen.

Since then, it has become worrying prevalent. We are now in the age of 24 hour news coverage, Sky Sports News running stories on a loop while the written press pick their targets, going after them online and each morning. Phone-ins give voices to those who read the Sun’s agenda-filled stories and wish to emphasise and embellish them, and suddenly fiction becomes fact. A minor incident becomes the disgrace of the century, and an individual finds himself the victim of a bloodthirsty witchhunt. It is all rather unedifying.

Moreover, it is a tough subject for a manager to broach – challenging the power that the media have over the football authorities can and will turn them against you, which only increases the focus on those incidents in which your players could be seen to be in the wrong. For example, any Arsenal fan can tell you that the Daily Mail has become the anti-Arsenal rag, with a constant stream of stories mocking everything that goes on at the Emirates, irrespective of whether there is any shred of truth in the words they print. With every story they twist reality to make us seem like the bad guys.

That isn’t a complaint, incidentally – I’m sure fans of other clubs can find columnists and even entire papers that continually paint them in a bad light. Much like political affiliation, they like to appeal to a subset of the country’s readership by taking a consistent line on the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’. They pick their targets, and stick to them. If their numbers dwindle, they switch. It is classic marketing, but so many are gullible enough to soak in every last word.

Sometimes they even announce their change – witness the Sun’s recent political declaration of support for the Conservative party over Labour, a complete about turn after a decade of allegiance. Now every story comes from the opposite angle. Do all the columnists and reporters back the switch? Of course not – they’re just doing their job. It is the same in sport.

If the media are effectively only doing their job, the same cannot be said of the authorities who should be strong enough to act independently of public furore.

First, of course, we had the Eduardo farce. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I believe it was a dive and I would like to see divers punished. But, and this is a big but, UEFA charged him and found him guilty based entirely on the media outrage sparked by the Scottish FA. FIFA’s rule is clear – if there is any contact it cannot be deemed a dive. UEFA were attempting to pacify the outcry with a scapegoat, but had to back down when they realised the punishment would never stick, and that they were only giving themselves a massive headache going forward.

Had the press not focused on the dive, the charge would never even have been brought. Was FC Zurich’s Alphonse hauled before judge and jury for his dive against Real Madrid on the first day of the group stage? Of course not. It was the first in a string of examples that exposed UEFA’s hypocrisy.

More recently, we had Henry’s handball. More instinctive than a dive, it was blown out of all proportion because of the magnitude of the event, and the timing. No other handball incident (Scharner and Defoe, to name two who transgressed in the weeks after the furore) even got a mention. The hypocrisy is staggering, yet once against the press triumphed, Henry today being forced to attend a disciplinary hearing.

Not only did he face sanction, but he was found guilty before the trial. Sepp Blatter said:

“This is a matter of the disciplinary committee but it was blatant unfair playing and was shown all around the world, but I don’t know what the outcome will be.”

Henry escaped a ban, but it was made abundantly clear that it was due only to a lack of legal options. You can be sure that had laws not been set firmly in stone, FIFA would have found a way to suspend him, effectively giving the press carte blanche to vilify individuals and get them taken to task for offences no worse than we see week in week out.

Worrying times, indeed. But all it takes to fix this problem is for FIFA and UEFA to be strong and communicate. Resist the hype machine, and explain clearly why fair decisions are taken.

But instead, they pander, and show themselves up as weak-minded in the process, presenting the media with an opportunity to influence by carefully selected stories to fit their agendas. They no longer report the news, they create it.

  32 Responses to “Trial by media is getting to be a major concern – Eduardo/Henry and Sky Sports Justice”

  1. Cheating is rife in football, but as you say it is only reported or re-reported when it suits the media.Rooney and Gerrard were guilty of diving recently.Rooney got booked,Gerrard didn’t. In neither case was there media persucution. Why? BECAUSE OF THEIR NATIONALITY AND BECAUSE OF THE CLUBS THEY PLAY FOR !!!!Simple as that.

  2. nic one… Agree 100% Agree WIT THIS STORY………

  3. The daily mirror has always been ante arsenal ( i buy it )

  4. I am an American and what strikes me the most is the blatant xenophobia in England and other places. Over there you see American’s as racist but I have to give it to the Brits. The love to attack Arsenal especially. Imagine if Cesc or any other non-english player had had his knee on someone’s neck and pulled hair. There would be an outcry the likes of which have never been seen. The british media is so hypocritical it is a darn shame. They should be ashamed of themselves.

  5. henry got exactly what he deserved from the media, he blatantly handled the ball, not once but twice, and as a result a smaller nation who had been the better team were denied the chance of at the very least taking part in a penalty shootout to try and secure a place in the world cup finals, so no matter what henry done when he was at arsenal, he out and out cheated, and had nothing to do with instinct imo either… as for eduardo i hate to say it, but he deserved all the flak he got for that ridiculous dive against celtic, yes ill agree that other players dont recieve the same attention especially english players, like rooney a few weeks ago when he dived and it didnt even get mentioned on motd and the weekend before ngog was crucifed in the press… i agree the media needs to be more balanced in their outrage, but beacuse players from our associated with arsenal get a hard time for trying to con the referee or cheat, you cant just concentrate on the media and forget about the players themselves and the fact that they are responsible

  6. @ Jack: I agree that players must take some responsibility for their actions, but where’s the press scrutiny for English divers? Wasn’t it Stevie Me who claimed he’d have a word with any teammate of his who dived, only for him to gleefully stick away the penalty Ngog got? Why didn’t he hit it over the bar to show his English honesty?

    Eduardo dived, and since that game Arsenal have only been awarded 1 penalty in the premier league all season. We’ve seen nailed on penalties ignored by refs, with the two at Notlob on Sunday just the most recent examples.

    Where is the equal treatment for everybody?

  7. To K. Metz :
    Spot on.

    To Jack :
    Tell Blatter to use the video camera to avoid and help ref. in such situations

  8. Jack, I agree that both Henry handled and Eduardo dived, all I’m asking for is consistency. The press want it from referees, we want it from the press.

    One week a dive is a dive, the next it is ‘clever’. Saying it is all based on nationalities may be a little simplistic, more that the media have favourites (e.g. they will call Ashley Young’s dive, but not Gerrard’s or Rooney’s).

  9. It has been clear to many of us that Sky have an agenda and a position on most controversial incidents that happen in football matches. They honed their style during the infamous Old Trafford brawl but chose not to highlight Rooney’s blatant dive which effectively ended Arsenal’s unbeaten run or Van Nistelrooy’s rather horrible punch to the ribs of Ljunberg in another match, an act which was worthy of arrest if committed on the street. These are isolated cases but when they constantly ignore the awful diving of Rooney and Gerrard or the really shocking behavior of Defoe this year like his stamping or malicious breaking of Gordon’s arm with a well aimed kick then you do wonder. Taylor’s actions in the Bolton game yesterday are not even deemed worthy of mention but, if it had been Fabregas doing it, then it surely would have. I happen to know that Jeff Stelling has enormous power over his Saturday show and if any guest doesn’t toe his line they are dropped for a while. Arsenal have to be whiter than white because they have few Englishmen. Sky don’t like it and take every chance to beat them up. It’s just the way it is.

  10. Excellent article – thanks.
    I believe that the media witchunt was initiated by the FA in order to divert attention from the violence at the West Ham / Millwall Carling Cup derby game which occurred just before the Eduardo dive – the FA knew that this kind of incident would damage their bid to host the World Cup. The media coverage of Eduardo’s dive was so outrageously over the top that this seems a plausible explanation.

  11. K. Metz – you are a legend.

    Jack, please go back to your National Front message board.

  12. I cannot stand Adrian Durham from Talk Sport as he seems to be leading the cavalry charge against our boys and our team. I got myself switchiing off so many times this evening when he was going on and on about Henry and why he should give up his world cup place. That man has to have his mouth shut by a huge fist as he talks nonsense most of the time all in the pretence of playing the devil’s advocate.

    Let’s support the boys both past & present with as many ways available to us as possible!! Go on You Gunners!!!!!

  13. I’m 76 years of age. I’ve lived in Canada for half a century but spent much of my teenage life waving a red-and-white gas rattle on the Highbury terraces. Nowadays I have the privilege of watching most Arsenal games on TV.

    Please know that anti-Arsenal sentiment from individuals and from the press is nothing new. During WW2 my family lived in the Midlands … inter-“class” strife, particularly represented by North of England – South of England social confrontations, was rampant and has hung-on in the nation’s football psyche from the earliest days. The Arsenal always took the brunt of it … it upsets me enormously, but I’m afraid it’s part of football history!

  14. Jack i dont agree with any point you have made, End of the day Football is a fast paced game and yes he handled but not being rude you guys benifitted from a slow motion view of the incident.

    I play football and that incident occured in half a second you telling me his reflexes are that quick that he can miss handle the ball intentionally twice in half a second?? Such nonsense Henry is fast but he aint the flash. Any hew im glad france progressed instead of ireland cos frankly they are shite.

    Back to the issue yes the Media especially the sun and sky sports have always been racists in particular to black african players.
    I’ve lost countless of times the golden boys such as Terry, Gerard and even Fatboy Lambard have gotten away with far worse.

    Its ridiculous

  15. nice article man, im just hoping readers of media thrash can evolve into proper thinkers as well.

  16. the truth is football as a sport has been adultrated.

  17. Top post, brilliantly written.

    And so true Don, a little bit of poverty and all the little minifascists come out – this will only get worse.

  18. After the Eduardo dive incedent we had Rooney twice could be called up for the same thing (oncs for his country) Nothing said. There is also the fact that I think this week against Bolton we had two penalty’s not given to Fab. Why are these not interperated as cheating or the goalkeeper going to the ref and saying sorry I brought him down. No! cause this is game that at speed cannot be seen or changed on the day unless it can be seen by the forth official on camara if there is a question and reports to the ref at that moment to concrete the decision.
    The game should be forgotten for the incedent after the game knowing you get some and lose some. If a player is seen by the ref or assistant on the day to have cheated he should be sent from the game. or sin binned for ten mins. But on the day!!!

  19. Stupid Jack! Football’s all about trying to outsmart the opposing team, the ref and to some extent the funs – while still in Arsenal, Pires dodged some guy in the center without touching him fell on his leg and almost broke it thereafter carried off injured. Do you want to tell me he (Pires) deserved a yellow/red coz he body movement lied to the opposing player who almost broke himself?

  20. A guy like Jack sh’ldn’t be commenting on such a matter because i bet if he’s ever played football in his life. All he did as a kid was play “snakes ‘n ladders?” whatever!

  21. On d gooner – I can stand very little of Talk Sport, personally, not just him! They seem to be masters of blowing everything out of all proportion, and rile each other up to the point of ridiculous hyperbole.

    Since 1933, very interesting to hear – thanks. I never knew allegiances, and more particularly negative sentiment, was held by the press for so long. Great to hear from a long time Gooner!

    Thanks for the comments everyone, it certainly is an issue that stirs emotions, and the more the media are called out on it, the more fair they may forced to be. They won’t ever be neutral, as they need to distinguish themselves from each other, but it would be a start.

  22. To add to that point, as I said in the article, I think more of the issue lies with the authorities rather than the press.

    The media are just doing their job, sensationalising to sell papers or subscriptions. FIFA, UEFA and the FA should be strong enough to treat incidents fairly no matter how much or how little coverage they get.

  23. you are a moron, you undermine arsenal with this crap. why do YOU believe eduardo dived…??? he did not dive,as was PROVED by a forensic examination of the video footage. Eduardo is not a diver and in all his years of playing there is not a single piece of video to contradict this. Eduardo is one of the few decent honourable footballers left in the game. you can shove your pathetic, weak-minded allegations where the sun don’t shine.

  24. timao, I believe Eduardo dived because he was on his way down before contact would have occurred. Same with Rooney, same with Lucas at the weekend. I will continue to call a spade a spade, irrespective of my allegiances.

    I do however agree that the incident is the only blot on Eduardo’s copybook, and he was therefore extremely harshly treated given comparisons to some of his rivals.

    He was not proved not to have dived by a forensic examination. He was cleared because FIFA rules state very clearly that any contact means no dive, even if, as with Rooney’s one over Almunia, the player is already horizontal when that contact arrives.

    I think you’re missing the point of the article.

  25. whatever the point of the article i’m picking up on the fact you are repeating the libel against eduardo. you are a victim of trial by media. in fact fifa rules state that there oes not have to be any contact for a fould to be committed. simply diving in recklessly at an opponent can be a foul regardless. as it happens eduardo was knocked over. you think he was on his way down already – that just shows you don’t give a shit about arsenal, because regardless of allegiances – no-one can 100 per cent accurately say what happened except eduardo himself. and he says he did not dive. or are you calling him a liar as well as a cheat now?

  26. by the way… in six words please, what is the point of the article?

  27. timao, so much aggression, relax.

    I’m not a victim of trial by media. When I saw the match live, I thought it was a dive. The endless slow motion replays have not convinced me otherwise. The witchhunt that following was unpleasant and overblown, and I disagreed with it from the start, BUT I always believed it was a dive.

    Me saying I believe Eduardo was already on the way down means I don’t care about Arsenal. That is somewhat odd logic.

    There are, however, multiple forms of dives. There are those where no contact is expected, and the player is simply trying to con the ref. There are those when contact is expected, and the player falls early to make it more obvious. The latter category is the one Eduardo, Rooney (this season), and Lucas at the weekend fall into. The former covers much of Ronaldo’s and Drogba’s dive, and Rooney’s against us to end the unbeaten run.

    Crucial point: An incident can be a dive and a foul. Case in point – Lucas dived at the weekend, and on his way down was taken out. That is both. Of course, it seems to be a circumstance that officials and pundits cannot agree on, something I’ve never understood.

    As for summing up the article in six words, why would I do that? It is a focus on the hypocritical and selective nature of the national media, and the way in which authorities react to that by investigating the same chosen stories.

    I’m not sure I can sum that up in six words, which is why I posted it here, not on Twitter.

  28. Just remember Peter Crouch pulling the pony-tail of the West Indian defender in the last World cup to score a goal
    Totally premeditated!. What were the comments, laugh, he`s English.
    The media regretably provide what the illiterate fans want!.

  29. P.S.

    “no-one can 100 per cent accurately say what happened except eduardo himself”

    I agree with this, which is why I have been referring to my opinion as exactly that, not fact. You are free to disagree, and you clearly do, which is also fine.

  30. With trial by camera ,so to speak why is it that the referees are still so frigging pedantic .The top players in the Premier League earn huge salaries compared to the refs but these same refs halt play call the infringing player back and delay the action ,get on with it and show cards where necessary ,too much refereeing bull these days?

  31. Ruud van Nistelrooy ,Jurgen Klinsmann,D
    idier Drogba ,Michael Essien ,Steven Gerrard ,Wayne Rooney just some of the all time top divers in the game over the last 15 years.

  32. Trial by media also means coming down hard on managers who try and influence the game through nonsense ,Sir Alex ,for example ,there,s only one time keeper who matters on the pitch ,the ref not Sir Alex or his coaching staff.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.