Mail on Sunday get their scoop but at what cost?

So Lord Triesman, a man many who follow football will have known probably very little about until yesterday, has had to step down from his post as head of the FA because of a Mail on Sunday  exclusive.  Well done, they’ve probably sold a few more papers in these days of dwindling circulation, but to what cost?  Could it cost England the World Cup in 2018?  Could it even detract from the performance of the national side in South Africa this summer?  Who knows, only time will tell, but there is one thing I’m fairly sure of – it is perhaps the most disgusting of examples of a section of the British media looking to make a sensational story with reckless regard to the consequences, or arguably the facts.

Triesman himself claims his comments were out of context, he has stepped down and the FA are clearly working as hard as they can to try and clear all this up as quickly as possible, with the decision of who will host the 2018 World Cup set to be announced in December.

The Mail on Sunday claimed he suggested Spain would bribe referees at the World Cup 2010 in South Africa, and for some reason they would support the Russian bid for the 2018 World Cup if they helped.  Considering Russia aren’t even at this World Cup, it seems hard to see how he could be being serious anyway.   Are we to believe Spain and Russia have been holding secret meetings?  I don’t think they’ll need to bribe officials either, if they perform the same way they did at the Euros it would be hard to beat them to say the least.

Triesman says he was set up, he said: “A private conversation with someone whom I thought to be a friend was taped without my knowledge and passed to a national newspaper.

“That same friend has also chosen to greatly exaggerate the extent of our friendship.

“In that conversation I commentated on speculation circulating about conspiracies around the world. Those comments were never intended to be taken seriously as indeed is the case with many private conversations.”

So he thinks he was set up by a mate basically. Whoever this former ‘friend’ of Triesman’s is has basically sold him out the Mail on Sunday if his statement is to be believed. This kind of reporting doesn’t just happen in football either.  Look at the John Higgins scenario a few weeks ago, the News of the World ‘uncovered’ the story Higgins was willing to take bribes to throw frames.  This clearly rocked the world of snooker, where there is much less money than in football and they’re desperately trying to find ways to get more people involved in the sport.  For that particular story, the NOTW utilised the expertise of Mazher Mahmood – sound familiar?  It should do, he is an undercover reporter for NOTW and the infamous ‘Fake Sheik’ who tricked Sven-Göran Eriksson in 2006, just before the World Cup.  The Higgins story incidentally, was while the World Championship was in progress and there is no suggestion he actually did fix any frames, while both he and his former manager allege they “were genuinely in fear for our safety”.  There was no meeting with anyone who genuinely wanted to fix a match either, just Mahmood and whoever his team is.

With the pressing issue of World Cup Betting on the agenda, now less than four weeks away, and the decision on England’s World Cup bid due in December, it should surprise me this story has surfaced but sadly it doesn’t.  Fortunately the section of the press who thrive on such stories is in reality in the minority, but that does not disguise the fact it was a truly odious story.  If Triesman is guilty of one thing it is being extremely naive  and letting his mouth go, he talks about ‘conspiracies’ so he might just be repeating hearsay, and by hearsay I mean a suggestion somebody has probably made on a whim with no basis – at least let us hope so.  So all the Mail on Sunday have is some flimsy quotes and it has been blown up into a massive story for their ‘exclusive’, purely for the implications it could possibly have if it were anywhere near true.  They’ve made a bit more money, raised the profile of the paper and will probably claim they broke the biggest story of the summer but I know I won’t be buying that newspaper anytime soon.

Granted, I accept this article is, perhaps even very, heavily biased towards the subjects of these reports.  I doubt any victims of newspaper stings are completely blameless in some way or another but to entrap people by fabricating friendships, taping conversations in secret, posing as businessmen or gangsters or whatever just seems rank, and the subjects were hardly treated fairly in the original reports.  Undercover reporting can be a noble profession, used to trap genuine crooks and even infiltrate dangerous groups in search not only of a good story but for the greater good.  Unfortunately in the case of the massive majority of sports stars and celebrities it is usually foolishness, naivety or greed that is punished, because scandal sells, no matter how shaky the foundations or sensationalised the claims.  So a final congratulations then to the Mail on Sunday, at last they’ve managed to throw out a big story after years of struggling to compete with the competition and the changing way news is consumed, but what will the implications be and how many readers could it cost in the long run?

Written By Betfair Blogger Gareth Freeman

 


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