The Sweeper: The Press, Spying and English Football


Big Story

You probably read yesterday about the bugging of England team meetings by an unknown party, with several hours worth of recording offered up to media outlets.

It’s interesting to note that also yesterday, a court case settlement involving a newspaper, the News of the World, and well-known publicist Max Clifford offers insight into the lengths the press are prepared to go to peek behind the curtains of football’s leading figures.

The Guardian reports:

The News of the World was tonight accused of buying silence in the phone-hacking scandal after it agreed to pay more than £1m to persuade the celebrity PR agent Max Clifford to drop his legal action over the interception of his voicemail messages.

The settlement means that there will now be no disclosure of court-ordered evidence which threatened to expose the involvement of the newspaper’s journalists in a range of illegal information-gathering by private investigators.

This is not the first settlement the NofTW has made; £700,000 was paid to Gordon Taylor, head of the Professional Footballers’ Association, after a private investigator working for the NofTW hacked into his phone messages.

An expensive settlement, given the NofTW’s editor at the time said “I never asked for a Gordon Taylor story, I never commissioned an Gordon Taylor story, I never read a Gordon Taylor story, I never published a Gordon Taylor story. With all respect to Gordon Taylor, he is hardly a household name.”

But messages on Taylor’s phone featured many prominent football figures, including Sir Alex Ferguson and Alan Shearer.

Another known victim in football was David Davies, former executive director of the Football Association. There’s no information when he was targeted, but it’s fair to guess that it may have coincided with the News of the World’s “fake sheikh” sting of England manager Sven- Goran Eriksson in 2006.

Unfortunately, the willingness of those targeted to settle out of court with the News of the World means we may never know the extent of the operations the newspaper took to spy on prominent footballing figures.

Quick Hits

  • The reports by Deloitte on football’s finances always receive considerable publicity, and buzz with positivity about rising revenues in European football. At the same time, we know particularly in England, that this rising revenue does not mean clubs are stable or profitable, a key fact missed in Deloitte’s reports, as Paul Kelso says in the Telegraph: “As a test of financial health the focus on revenue alone borders on the specious, akin to complementing a man in intensive care for having a full head of hair.”
  • Two’s a crowd for a penalty kick, the J-League rules.
  • Chester City Football Club’s 126 year-old history is over. The club were wound-up today over unpaid debts. Time for a Phoenix club to rise from the flames. Cardiff and Southend, meanwhile, have a stay of execution from the high court.

The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.