How To Be A Football Reporter

From the Rage Online newsdesk Sunday, December 1st, 1996  

How To Be A Football Reporter

with Jim Manky

Lesson two: Why the directors are always right (until they leave)

When you are a journalist, you have a professional duty to your readers. Your duty is to never tell them anything if you can possibly avoid it – particularly if they might get the idea that their club is run less than perfectly. As football clubs are usually in debt or in danger of relegation, this may seem a difficult task, but it’s not. Just remember our golden rule: never ask anybody any questions.

Your role model is Nick Harris, who said he would never broadcast anything that Oxford United wouldn’t want him to. He’s grasped the first principle of football journalism: you are not here to inform the public, but to protect the club. I know your wages are paid by the newspaper, not the club, but don’t worry. The newspaper will have supported the club’s directors for years, so it would be very embarrassing if their faith turned out to be misplaced. It suits everyone if you simply pump out the propaganda. Don’t make a fuss about secrecy, or about anything else. The public won’t be worried about secrecy if they don’t know there’s anything to hide.

All you have to do is shut up and quote the directors. They’re not going to badmouth themselves, are they? So if the club loses millions, don’t ask why. Just quote the chairman who’ll tell you that things are much better now, and print it as fact. Hey presto! Disaster turns into triumph and everybody has a smile on their faces.

Present directors in the best possible light. Nothing is ever their fault. If the club makes losses, that’s because selfish fans don’t turn up to watch. The club always depends on the directors’ financial contribution, not that of the fans, so don’t ask what precise financial relationship directors have with the club, let alone what they actually do. Never mention freebies and privileges. If readers get the impression that they give the club money, rather than merely lending it, so much the better.

If readers are still unsatisfied, blame everything on the previous owner. So what if you called them ‘The man who saved United’ after they died. Past owners bad, current owners good. Once directors leave, then their financial affairs and business judgement can be called into question all you wish. Don’t compare past and present administrations, like asking if having an AGM two days before Xmas resembles the Maxwell policy of holding meetings at deliberately inconvenient times. And for God’s sake don’t ask any questions about stadium finance or changes in plan. Just present each new statement as a brilliant new idea and everything will be all right.

Next issue: fans, and how to ignore them.

CLICHE CORNER: More handy hints to save you the trouble of thinking. Directors are ‘a lifelong fan’, saviour’, ‘the man who saved..’ and so on. Critics are ‘oh-so-critical’. The future is ‘bright’, ‘hopeful’; ‘promising’.

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