Sunday Supplement. On Sky Sports.
I avoid this like the plague, but much like daring biblical middle class day trippers curiously staring at leprosy sufferers, waiting in anticipation for a limb to drop off, just for larfs, I found myself momentarily transfixed at a segment of this past weekends show. Momentarily, I hasten to add. Before the remote was found and used.
The topic at the time of viewing was Arsenal and their title credentials. Host (Brian Woolnough of the Daily Star, yes the Star, which is apparently a news paper with a sports section) cited the Sam Allardyce quote ("Wenger has the media in his pocket"). This was the catalyst for much hilarity.
John Richardson of the Sunday/Daily Express made a follow-up comment in agreement that Wenger has, at the very least, the London media in his pocket. This was then the cue for Ian Ridley to enter the discussion.
And so began the spectacle.
Ridley (Mail on Sunday, yes, the Mail, which is apparently a news paper with a sports section) went into full-defensive mode and as he explained to the panel how majestic Arsenal are with their hospitality for journalists and how wonderful they are because of it. He went onto explain that Wenger is wonderful and that he supplies a copy to file on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and that the Emirates media suite is wonderful and that they have no trouble going beyond their catering budget to make sure everyone is more than content.
Then Ridley held back the tears as he told Woolnough ("Is there a point to this?" - he asked) that the oh so lovely media girl at Arsenal was leaving. Heart-breaking stuff. He was clearly devastated, what with holding back the tears.
There is no naivety on my part relating to clubs pampering journalists with preferential treatment. I'm sure it's industry standard, to some degree. Across many industries. You'd be daft to think this sort of thing didn't go on, be it as subtle an approach as you like as far as the hosts are concerned. You have to look after those that can be critical towards you because they can be equally praising and less critical if you are accommodating enough. It's fair to say that for every huddle of hacks who go over-board with the superlatives for them lot across the road, there are many who are unbiased to the core.
Then Ridley out-done himself by just coming out and saying what was so blatantly obvious at this point if you had half-attempted to read between the flimsily held together lines.
He admitted that because of the lengths Arsenal go to in order to pander to said journalists, it places them (the hacks) into a state of mind that will result with 'sympathetic and more empathetic treatment' compared to other clubs who offer lesser facilities and hands-on pampering. So, in this example, unbiased is a word we can't be flaunting around. Ridley doesn't cite any other club.
So, to clarify, Ridley is saying out loud that because of the manner in which he (they) are treated, they are influenced with how they might report on the game or news items involving the club in question.
Back of the net.
Daniel, if you're reading this, I suggest you amend the redevelopment plans and make sure there is a massive suite for the tabloid and broadsheet mob in the new ground. I'm thinking jacuzzi (with accompanying sexy females), mini-golf range, a Michelin chef, Bruce Forsyth who could provide light-hearted humour and do that thing he does where he says he'll 'clear this place' (classic, Bruce, classic) if things get saucy with the bikini clad girls, the Michelin man - hey, why the heck not? And we could also get Harry to write up the actual match reports for the back pages because there'd be no time for the guests to watch the game what with tongues firmly lodged where the sun doesn't shine...and we'll be set to go.
We could even build a dungeon of doom for Matthew Norman deep in the dark depths of the foundations of the new stadium, tied up to a chair Clockwork Orange style, watching never-ending re-runs of Tottenham defeats from the 1990's and flashing imagery of Ramon Vega defending. We could wire up Norman's face to harness the airflow generated from his constant gloomy huffing and puffing facial expressions which could in-turn power the grounds air conditioning system so we can have more money available to spend on black Caviar and Cristal champagne for our esteemed members of the press.
It's a win win situation.