The back pages won’t fill themselves anymore

Whether or not you feel that tapping into Malky Mackay’s phone and finding a couple of tasteless private messages among 10,000 is worthwhile, or if you think the calls for Luis Suarez to be permanently banned from kicking a ball after he ‘fell’ teeth-first onto an opposing players’ shoulder is a reasonable response, please bear in mind the thinking behind the copious ink used on those stories.

I’m not condoning either of the incidents above nor do I think either action should go unpunished. But it does shine a light on the requirements that sports scribes currently find themselves working under. The reason both those sagas hit the headlines for days and even weeks after they occurred is partly due to the fact that many of the worlds’ top sports people offer very little in the way of individual personality. The results of matches and events are known instantly these days and in-depth analysis of those outcomes often only appeal to a small minority. With athletes overly concerned with keeping a whiter-than-white image intact, they have become bland. Don’t agree? Ok, watch this weekend’s football coverage. Watch the pre and post-match interviews for any league you like and any team you fancy. Dull viewing isn’t it?
“It was a team effort and credit to the lads for getting the right result.”
“It’s disappointing not to get three points but there were a lot of positives to take into the next game.”
Maybe it’s always been this way and I am viewing the past through rose-tinted glasses but after watching a full weekend of English Premier League action, I didn’t notice more than a couple of personalities on display. Jose Mourinho being one. While Chelsea were delighted to see the ‘Special One’ re-sign on the Stamford Bridge dotted line, the journalists throughout the UK virtually cracked open the champagne.
It’s not just football. Rory McIlroy is world number one and deservedly so but he can’t escape the fact he is a nice, young man. Tiger Woods career has been in jeopardy for some time, but his aura and highly charged press conferences always take center stage.

Formula One is now nice, young men hoping their mechanics have won them the championship for them. Like him or not, Lewis Hamilton is about as fiery and newsworthy as it gets.
Tennis. Everyone is nice.

Even modern-day Rugby has found itself under the ‘don’t say anything’ PR blanket.
England’s cricket captain Alistair Cook looks like he probably apologises to the opposition when he wins.   
As role models for future generations, it’s all very commendable. But I’m old enough now that I don’t want role models anymore. I want my sportspeople saying exactly what they think. You know how you and I sometimes annoy people by being a bit honest? Well, everyone survives don’t they? And maybe everyone learns a little something too.

So come on agents, PR gurus, chairmen and club media officers - take the shackles off your clients.  If they have a personality, it won’t dampen their ability. Let them be themselves and take responsibility for their own opinions. Then the media won’t have to make mountains out of molehills in order to fulfill their contractual word count. And for the sports people themselves, it might be good for them if they have to stand on their own two feet.

Graham Clews

Graham is the TV Sports anchor for Emirates News, every night on Dubai One.

Interested in all aspects of sport and keen for local events to gain publicity and support. Lucky enough to have interviewed a lot of big names such as Beckham, Charlton, Viera, Federer, Murray, Montgomerie, Westwood, Botham, Ponting and Flintoff to name a few.

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