Michael Dye: The Death Of A Football Supporter And Tabloid Values
There will be a sombre mood in the air at The Cardiff City Stadium this afternoon, as the team takes to the field for its home league match against Doncaster Rovers. The death of Cardiff City supporter Michael Dye shortly before the start of Tuesday night’s European Championship qualifier between England and Wales cast am obvious pall over the subsequent discussion of that match and several articles written in the press about Mr Dye since then have reeked of a sadly all too familiar insensitivity on the part of a section of the British press. This behaviour has led to the The Sun being banned from attending this afternoon’s match at The Cardiff City Stadium – the other two newspapers concerned, The Daily Mail and The Daily Star, are understood not to have been attending anyway – and to a flurry of complaints to the Press Complaints Commission from supporters of both Cardiff City and Swansea City.
In the immediate aftermath of Mr Dye’s death, facts on what had actually happened were hard to come by and a hastily set up Facebook tribute descended fairly rapidly into a series of small arguments, some of which represented what we could not unreasonably call the very worst of human nature. At first, it was assumed that Mr Dye’s death had come about as the result of fighting between England and Wales supporters, but when the Metropolitan Police confirmed that the six people arrested in connection with the incident were Welsh and that Mr Dye was a Cardiff City supporter, a considerable amount of supposition arrived at the consensus that the incident must have been something to do with the rivalry between Swansea City and Cardiff City.
There was nothing to prove any of this, of course, but that didn’t prevent certain elements of the press adding two and two to make two hundred and fifty-six over the next forty-eight hours or so. The Sun snarled that “he was closely associated with Cardiff City’s notorious “Soul Crew” of trouble-seeking louts”, while the Daily Mail, having seemingly set where their priorities lay with a sub-headline which read “Six fans arrested – none of them England supporters”, made the completely unsubstantiated claim that Dye “was caught up in a fight with fans of arch-rivals Swansea City before the big game”. The Daily Mirror, meanwhile, managed to add mangling the English language to their charge sheet while repeating the Swansea fib, stating that “a fanatical Cardiff City supporter killed at the England-Wales match was in a fight with Swansea City fans, murder cops believe”. The police may well have believed that in the immediate aftermath of what happened, but it doesn’t make any of it true until such a time that it has been substantiated and, at the time of writing, it has not been.
Of course, the truth of the matter is that the Metropolitan Police haven’t yet released much information in relation to the circumstances surrounding Mr Dye’s death. The small amount of detail that has been made public – the six arrested were all released with no further action having been taken and a fuzzy CCTV still this morning – has been largely subsumed by more sensationalist rhetoric, but even the whys and wherefores of Mr Dye’s past are in irrelevance in comparison with the tragedy of his death. That these lurid stories should be embellished through an attempt at the creation of a narrative to fit the papers’ black and white perception of the world is hardly surprising, but this doesn’t excuse such behaviour on their part, and the fact that these stories were splashed over news stands the length and breadth of the country at a time during which the family and friends of the deceased were still in a state of shock and mourning adds a further bitter layer of distaste to the whole unpleasant story.
What inference are we supposed to take from the timbre of the press reporting on this sad story? That Mr Dye somehow “deserved” his fate because of “He had boasted on football forums about his fights with rival fans during the 1980s” (The Daily Star)? That the reader should somehow be “relieved” that the perpetrator of the act that led to his death might not have been English (The Daily Mail)? The press coverage of this story has been a disgrace from top to bottom – an insult, not only to the family of the victim and those that knew him, but to the intelligence of anybody that suffered the misfortune to read it. It should go without saying, of course, that nobody should go to a football match and not return from it. This remains a matter for the police to deal with, and club or national loyalties are an absolute irrelevance. It is to be hoped that whoever carried out the act that led to his death is caught and dealt with to the full extent of the law. An arrest has been made this morning, and it is to be hoped that justice is done in this case.
There is one small chink of light that can be taken from this story, though. The relationship between the supporters of Cardiff City and Swansea City has been fractious in the past, but they seem to have been brought together somewhat by this tragedy and Swansea supporters have been fulsome in paying their respects to Mr Dye. At the start of next month, at Bryntirion Athletic F.C. in Bridgend, a team of Cardiff supporters will play a team of Swansea supporters to raise money for Mr Dye’s family, which is a reminder in itself of the ongoing cost of such an untimely death. That the supporters of the two clubs should come together in such a way is perhaps the most apt way to stick two fingers up in the direction of a section of the press which has contrived to act in a manner which has been both defamatory and inflammatory over the last three or four days or so. It is perhaps ironic – yet not surprising – that those that are so often demonised by a section of the press are behaving with considerably more respect, grace and dignity than those that have spent the last few days concocting innuendo and half-stories about a very human tragedy.
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