Rumour Has It…

Manchester United Midfielder Michael CarrickPutting two and two together and making five, whether it is seeing your best friend and your ex cavorting in a club, or making assumptions about that Playstation shaped gift under the Christmas tree, is something we’ve all done. But, however damaging some of these postulations can be, we come to these innocently misguided conclusions only on an occasional, or at least part-time basis. However, in certain sections of the media they seem to have entire teams of people, operating on permanent contracts, dedicated to getting mathematical problems wrong. The problem is, with the considerable weight and influence behind these often illogical conclusions, what at first may seem to be a wholly false assumption, could very well turn into a tangible reality.

Take today’s rumours for example; in Metro they lead with an article entitled “Michael Carrick ‘to be offered back to Spurs’ as United prepare £100m spending spree”, in which they state; “according to reports, he [Carrick] may be lined up for a return to his old club Spurs – potentially as a makeweight in negotiations for their star man Gareth Bale”. Clues as to the validity of this rumour can be found in the title, with ‘to be offered back to Spurs’ in quotation marks, steering the finger of blame for this rumour firmly away from the writer and paper to an anonymous source. The fact this quote is then not corroborated with any anecdotal evidence from the text, and there are in fact no citations to be found in the article whatsoever, combined with qualifying statements such as “according to reports” and “potentially”, means this rumour is tenuous to say the least.

The way this rumour seems to have materialised, is one of combining several different story strands and trying to come out with a completely original yarn. First, you have the story that having spent a reported £200,000 on a weekly contract for Wayne Rooney, the Glazers have given Sir Alex Ferguson a £100m transfer kitty. Second, you have the current form of Tottenham Hotspur wunderkind Gareth Bale, and third, you have Michael Carrick’s lack of form and present status as benchwarmer at Old Trafford. If you then throw these ingredients together, and sprinkle the herbs and spices of plausibility on top that not only has Carrick played for Spurs previously, but that he came through the youth system at West Ham under the guidance of current Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, then you have a rumour fit to dine on.

And I have no doubt the media will dine out on this rumour; it’s got legs, at least until the January transfer window is firmly shut anyway. But is there any problem with letting the media have a little artistic licence with their transfer rumours? The problem lies in the round-a-bout way these articles sometimes make the leap from fiction to fact. It has been seen before, and will no doubt be seen again, that articles of this nature can in fact facilitate moves for players, turning what was originally conjecture into a reality, essentially creating truth from what ultimately can be seen as lies.

I am not suggesting in any way that this proposed deal between United and Spurs will go ahead, but some aspects of it may well become true, for example Michael Carrick making the move back to White Hart Lane. It is indeed highly possible that Carrick’s agent did in fact release information to the press that the 29 year-old midfielder wanted a transfer, and the media filled in the blanks, in which case, with all the recent condemnation concerning agents power within the game on the back of the Rooney saga, the media surely provides yet another string to the agents’ already fairly extensive bow.

But while football continues to be the money-spinning enterprise that it is, and football rumours sell papers, media agencies will have carte-blanche to write pretty much what they want and continue to influence the game. The ‘unsettling’ of players has become a big inter-club issue and with the media lubricating transfer rumours, articles of this nature merely exacerbate the problem.

It seems the spreading of rumours is not confined only to OK magazine and all-girl teenage cliques, and is rife within the football-related media, and like those teenage girls who have been told how damaging their rumour spreading can be, the media outlets know exactly what they are doing.

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