This morning, Mark Murphy drew some conclusions about the benign influence of the Premier League in the fall of Lord Triesman from the FA. Ian King, however, feels that the blame for such incidents as this lies squarely with the press itself, who have been complicit in an agenda aimed at removing Triesman since he criticised the status quo a couple of years ago.
It had alwaysfelt as if the England bid for the 2018 World Cup was ill-starred, but the final blow to it almost certainly with yesterday’s kiss and tell story in the Mail on Sunday, which began with the usual intrusive nonsense that is habitually wheeled out with that oldest of catch-all media defences, that it is somehow in the “public interest”, and finished with a personal attack on Lord Triesman, something that it had felt as if certain sections of the press had been lining up for some considerable time. Very quickly, though, we should take a moment to consider Triesman’s comments about the Spanish/Portuguese and Russian bids for the tournament.
Triesman should make one final public statement. If he has any evidence to back up what he said (and there is nothing in the public domain to suggest that there is), he should confirm that he is referring the information that he holds to FIFA. If not, he should state clearly and unequivocably that there is nothing behind what he said, and apologise accordingly to the bidding teams of the Spanish/Portuguese and Russian bids for what he said, for there is no doubt that he made the comments that he made. This, however, is not even really the point of this story. The point is a wretched tabloid culture in which newspapers mix moral sermonising with behaviour that is at best morally base and at worst illegal to pursue their political agendas, spread tittle-tattle to boost their circulation and sell newspapers.
The Mail On Sunday’s sister newspaper, The Daily Mail, hasn’t apologised for running a story that may ruin the chances of a World Cup being held in this country for the forseeable future, though there was some evidence to suggest that it knew that it was over-stepping the mark. This morning, the Mail’s Martin Samuel laughably led with the story, stating that, “he [Triesman] did not even know that his girlfriend was setting him up for a salacious fall in a Sunday newspaper”, without mentioning that the “Sunday newspaper” that he was referring to was the Sunday edition of his very own newspaper. Similarly, The Daily Mail’s moral outrage this morning was headed “The Woman Who Could Cost England The 2018 World Cup” (apparently without irony, considering that they had paid her a five figure sum for a story that even the rest of the tabloid press is believed to have turned down), but they seemed unable to decide who had written the story – the original name of the writer, Ian Callaghan, was replaced twice in the newspaper’s website before they finally settled upon “Daily Mail Reporter”.
This time, though, they have misjudged the mood of even their own readership. At the time of writing, the article concerned had attracted over 1,300 comments from readers, the overwhelming majority of which were contemptuous for the Mail’s modus operandum and with many stating that they would never be buying the newspaper again and calling for a boycott of the paper. After all, as many readers pointed out, photographs showing the couple together at the meeting at which Triesman made his comments were clearly taken by the long-lens camera of a professional photographer. It was a deliberate and calculated sting. Whilst Triesman, considering the circumstances, himself clearly had no option but to go, the word “entrapment”, which appeared in his FA statement yesterday, is a valid one to use. Indeed, in running an article like this accusing the woman at the centre of the story of being “The Woman Who Could Cost England The 2018 World Cup”, the Daily Mail stands accused of trying to deflect the blame for this state of affairs away from itself and onto one opportunist individual.
To suggest, however, that the attitude of such newspapers has been shaped by this story and this story alone, however, would be wide of the mark. Triesman has been persona non grata at the Premier League since he made a speech that was heavily critical of the Premier League’s culture of debt, and this criticism has spread into the newspapers. There was very little substance to very much of the criticism that the newspapers threw at him, but they threw it with gusto in the hope that some of it would stick. Maybe the right-wing press really is in the pocket of the Premier League to this extent. Perhaps they were driven to insanity by there being a Labour peer in control of something/anything in this country. Whatever the reason, they were more than happy to stretch the straw man of “public interest” to breaking point in order to oust him.
With the savage level of criticism aimed at the Mail group of newspapers today (and the fact that so much of this criticism this time seems to be coming from what they have considered to be the relative safety of their own readership), it is at least pleasing to see that they are getting some degree of comeuppance themselves. Readers are being encouraged to send in complaints to Press Complaints Commission, though whether, with the Mail’s Paul Dacre being its chairman, whether anything will come of such complaints remains open to question. There are already numerous Facebook groups dedicated to boycotting the Mail, and others suggest emailing companies that advertise in the newspaper. There seems little chance of an apology from the Mail group itself, and any that is issued would be a mere exercise in face-saving.
The Mail should apologise, but the damage has already been done. The England 2018 World Cup bid was already hanging on a knife-edge, and it seems unlikely that it will be able to recover from it. The Mail group, along with all of the other papers that revel in this trash, will, as be said before at the time of the John Terry scandal, travel to the World Cup finals in South Africa next month and report their stories and, should England conspire to be any good, their bosses will decide to jump back onto the bandwagon and decide that they are the greatest patriots known to man after all. Their cover, however, has been blown. The Mail on Sunday has exposed itself as being a hater of football supporters, and an organisation that is prepared to blow the chances of a World Cup finals being held in England out of the water to pursue whatever seedy agenda it wishes to sell. Quite why any genuine football supporter would want to read these contemptible rags has long been a matter of conjecture. What possible justification could there be for doing so now? They may themselves find this out to their costs over the next few weeks or so.