Is England’s World Cup collapse the media’s fault?

After England’s dismal start to the World Cup, reports of mutiny in the camp are rife. But does this tell us more about journalism than it does about football?

Was it England’s worst ever World Cup performance? After a draw against America, England were outplayed by Algeria in a stultifying 0-0. They must now beat Slovenia tomorrow to avoid elimination and outright humiliation.
What happened? Man-for-man, the England players outclass their group opponents. The manager, Fabio Capello, is not only paid twice as much as any other international coach, but is also amongst the most successful club managers in history.
After an impressive qualifying campaign, Capello was seen as England’s saviour, but questions are now being raised about the effect of his methods on morale. Is he too strict (telling grown men to stay in the rooms)? Too angry? Too stubborn (not changing the formation or tactics when something seems obviously wrong)?
Such questions are rarely answered in a press conference, where players tend to present a united front, trotting out clichés about team spirit. This is understandable: with thousands of reporters needing ‘news’ to satisfy ever more frequent deadlines, it pays to be boring.
But on Sunday John Terry, England’s former captain, was surprisingly interesting. In declaring that he would say his piece to the manager, he made every back page in the country, and most of the front pages as well.

Some called his motives selfish: if he wasn’t trying to reassert himself after being deposed as captain by Capello, why did he speak to the media before checking with the team and the staff? Apparently, team-mates were unimpressed, hence the ease with which Capello quietly suppressed the so-called mutiny.

Broken news?

In the mad rush of 24-hour news, there are countless journalists who need a story about England that’s not “footballer says all is going well”, but such stories feed themselves. Morale is a funny thing: talk of unrest can itself breed unrest. It all adds up to a press corps which unintentionally damages the morale of the team it supports. Similarly bad for morale is the knowledge that an error might see you viciously attacked in the tabloids. So is the media ruining England’s chances? Does it create impossible pressure, expectation and a vicious culture of blame?

You Decide

  1. Is it better for players to pretend that all is well even if it isn’t? Is this loyalty or dishonesty?
  2. Do you think that the 24-hour news media has a similar effect outside sport? What other areas of public life do you think are affected by it, and in what ways?
  3. When is it right to question an authority figure in public?

Activities

  1. List the key qualities that you consider are important for a good leader. Discuss whether Fabio Capello has those qualities.

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