Posts Tagged ‘Ian Wright’

Match-Fixing and English Sports Journalists

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

I am on another research trip, so for all the media people who are contacting me for comments about either the alleged fix in the lower Scottish divisions or the announcement that UEFA is investigating a possible 40 fixed matches in the Champions League:

1)I told you so.

2)You haven’t seen anything yet. It is only going to get worse.

Lots of interviews from places like Sweden, South Korea, Belgium.  The journalists invariably have a question like, “But these incidents are happening in such lowly matches, that we don’t even care about them! They are in the semi-regional third division games.”   Listen, the gambling market is so huge that there is a way of profiting on almost any match.  The lower the level of the match the easier it is to fix.  10,000 euros, pounds or dollars can buy a lot of influence very quickly in those leagues.

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As the UK reels from yet another controversy of odd bet movements, some football fans may stop and wonder why they had not heard of these issues before.  Indeed all football fans should stop and ask the media why they have not heard of the dangers of match-corruption before now.  I have been speaking about the dangers since 2005, the book has been out on the market for over a year.  It is a best-seller in Canada, Germany, France and a number of other countries.  Yet, there is not much publicity in the UK.    The book explains how the illegal gambling market works, it shows how the fixes are performed, it identifies a number of top international matches that I believe were corrupted.  I even outline how the sport that we all love can be protected.

A small indication of why English sports journalism is, generally, so bad was given by a recent article by Patrick Barclay of the Times.  He writes of an interview twelve years ago with the then England and Arsenal striker Ian Wright.  In the interview, Wright basically said that he would fall down for his country or fake a penalty if he were playing for England.  After the interview Barclay writes:

…as part of a group of Sunday-paper journalists who had interviewed him [Wright] after training at Bisham Abbey, I looked forward to publishing his views. That was until my colleagues were approached by the FA press department and agreed, after a near-unanimous vote, to suppress the supposedly explosive material. In such circumstances, you don’t break ranks, but to this day I feel guilty about selling the readers short. Or, as you might say, cheating them.

Ummm… it is called collusion. It is called complicity. It is called cowardly. It is called a lot of other things, but it is not journalism.    And remember Patrick Barclay is one of the best journalists. He, at least, has the decency to feel badly.  He, at least, had the decency to vote against a cover-up.  The rest of these little creeps actually voted for censorship.  These purported professionals working for rival news organizations all got together and agreed not to print news because an official asked them not to.   There was no higher moral purpose, no grieving relative, no hapless kidnap victim to protect, just a whole lot of inappropriate chumminess.

This kind of deliberate inaptitude extends to English sports journalists’ attempts to cover corruption. First, most of them are not competent enough to do the necessary journalism. Second, they have no wish to find out about possible corruption.  And third, if they did stumble upon corruption (Hint: try interviewing a player by yourself. You might be surprised at what they tell you.) they would not know what to do without the rest of the pack telling them.

One more note.  I write of the general incompetence and complicity of UK sports journalism. There are a number of good English sports journalists.  Unfortunately, they truly are the exception in their industry.