Media Monkey business

Media Monkey business
Greg Dyke. Chairman of the FA.

Greg Dyke. Chairman of the FA.

I despair when the industry I have worked in since 1977 tries to make a non story into a something it is not.

Day after day, they persist with running a non story. I want to scream. It is lazy journalism. Recognising a non story as just that, and dismissing it accordingly, should be foremost in the working life of any newspaper, radio or television journalist.

But we live in a copycat media world (apologies to any cats offended by my assertion that they do not each have something unique to offer society).

When the admirable Andros Townsend said that the Roy Hodgson ‘monkey’ story was “not newsworthy”, that should have been the end of it. But, oh no.

What a pity Andros Townsend is not head of Sky Sports News or BBC Radio 5 Live. Or editor of ‘The Sun’ – a most despicable rag not fit to be the bearer of fish and chips.

I watched in dismay as, day after day, former colleagues at Sky kept banging on the chest of this non story to try and ensure its heart kept beating.

The alternative would mean them getting off their backsides and trying to find a genuine story. Not just something lifted from the front page of another Rupert Murdoch owned media outlet.

I expect it was the agent of an England player who sold the news of what Roy Hodgson said at half time in the England dressing room. Players no longer need to sell stories to the newspapers. Not like they did when I worked in Fleet Street. Anything ‘The Sun’ newspaper offered a modern day footballer would be akin to loose change, especially for those good enough to play for their country.

A player in that dressing room told their agent about the words the England manager used to try and get a point across. It was a good story which, in the heat of a a dressing room, lost something in the telling.

That ‘The Sun’ thought this to be worthy of front page news (‘Roy in Andros monkey gaffe’) only proves a) how low that rag has sunk b) how out of touch with its readers it now is and c) how quickly certain elements of the media are to shoot English football down, seconds after it has something to celebrate.

My greater concern is with the response of others. People Radio 5 Live listeners would refer to as “do-gooders.”

Individuals and organisations pointing the racist finger at Roy Hodgson has as much credibility as calling Arsene Wenger a little Englander.


That the Football Association had Hodgson apologise for saying something that did not require one, is itself a sad indictment on the times we live in.

Hells bells! Not even the alleged ‘victim’ of his monkey tale took offence.

Andros Townsend Andros Townsend (above) has been brought up well. While his on the pitch performances have impressed everyone, it was his off the pitch interviews that made me sit up and take notice.

The media kept on banging on and on about this story. Townsend finally said that he did not wish to breath more life into what he classed as a non event. It was not what the media wanted to here.

So, instead, they rang someone who always has something to say. A man whose name is filed under ‘rent a quote’ in their respective contacts books.

Peter Herbert is the head of the Society of Black Lawyers. The man loves publicity. He is the vocal head of the newly established pressure group called Race for Sport. He wrote a four page letter to the Football Association in which he criticised them for declaring that the issue was a closed matter without, as Herbert put it, “any actions being taken against the England manager.” Herbert said that was unacceptable.

Herbert went on to demand “race appreciation” training and “cultural capital and cultural intelligence” training be provided to Hodgson and all football managers in the UK.

Has he not spoken to John Barnes or Stan Collymore?

Barnes said: “No one can possibly be offended by the comments made by Roy Hodgson.”

Collymore said: “Racism is hard enough to keep on the agenda as it is without making everyone think a legitimate space tale should be cause for offence.”

There have been racist managers working in football. I have dealt with them. There still are. But Roy Hodgson is not one of them.

England could not have a less narrow minded, blinkered, little Englander managing the national team. This is a man who has worked well in various European countries and managed teams containing players from all over the world.


I cannot sum up this fake furore better than the best sporting scribe of my lifetime.

Hugh McIlvaney says: “Every sensible person recognises that racism is a scourge so virulent, and so stubborn in its refusal to be eradicated, that combating it calls for unremitting vigilance and zeal. But this invented furore around the England manager reminds us of how much harm can be done when the watchdogs turn rabid.

“Respect for all the energy laudably expended in campaigning against the plague is liable to be undermined if there is a tendency to see racism where none exists.”

And, as subsequent events have proved, it leads to the situation where a player who ‘forgot’ to turn up for a drugs test is now the black face on the new FA commission set up by a former TV boss of mine, Greg Dyke.

He has invited Rio Ferdinand and Roy Hodgson himself to sit on the FA commission. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but did those two men not fall out over the minor detail of which England player should wear the captain’s armband?

The FA took the captaincy away from John Terry over a previous race row. Hodgson made Ferdinand captain. Then, in the blink of an eye, Terry was reinstated as captain. At the time Ferdinand reacted by tweeting the below photograph of himself.

Go figure.

john sitton talks to vgtips about rio ferdinand england row Roy Hodgson is a decent man who has always wanted to manage England. He is a proud Englishman whose joy at qualifying for the World Cup was evident for all to see.

Is that not what we want from an England manager? Or would we rather go back to foreign managers such as Sven Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello. Both took the job only for its salary. Sven also took it so that he could bed younger women in yet another country.

Capello didn’t speak to his players directly. He didn’t even know the names of some players he picked in his squad. As he has done elsewhere, he treated the players as a 1950’s public school headmaster would treat naughty schoolchildren.

And yet the sports press bowed and scraped before Capello. While I predicted on day one that his appointment was a gross error, it took my fellow hacks years for the penny to drop that this man was only in it for the dosh.

As John Sitton has said to me during conversations for his autobiography, which can be pre-ordered via this link “myths are easily created in football.”

Too true.

We all know the Premier League dictates how football is run in England. The FA is now a largely toothless organisation. In recent times it has been more successful as a knocking shop than an administrator of the great game.

Greg Dyke is a good man. In his heyday he was an inspiring figure to those who worked for him. He gave television viewers much more than ‘Roland Rat’ and the famous five presenters on TV-AM. When he took on the job as Chairman of the FA he probably thought he could make a difference (and get good seats for him and his children at the World Cup).

Staff at the BBC were never happier than when led by Dyke. His politically driven removal from office there was the worst thing to happen to the broadcaster in recent years. He would have given the green light to the ‘Newsnight’ investigation into Jimmy Savile. He would not have fleeced the licence payer in the manner of a successor, Mark Thompson.

When he was stitched up at the BBC, I thought he would opt for a more low profile life. Being chairman of Brentford Football Club was ideal.

But it wasn’t enough for Dyke. He has never been scared of a challenge. Sooner or later he will tire of the nonsense that surrounds the FA and the England national team.

Now that the country has qualified for the World Cup, certain people working in the media will spend the next six months undermining the FA, the players and a team manager whose credentials should be respected.

If Greg Dyke didn’t know what he had taken on when he became chairman of the Football Association, he surely does so now.


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