Andrew Jennings: We have world's worst sport reporters - Press Gazette

Andrew Jennings: We have world's worst sport reporters

Fifa bribe revelations journalist Andrew Jennings has derided as “total tosh” the suggestion that his BBC Panorama investigation cost England the chance to host the 2018 World Cup.

Jennings instead condemned UK sports news journalists across the board for failing to make their own investigations into corruption allegations at world football governing body Fifa.

The BBC broadcast Jennings’ Panorama investigation last Monday, just days ahead of the annoucement of the host countries for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

The programme claimed that three of the Fifa officials voting on the World Cup bids had taken bribes and that a fourth, Jack Warner, was subject to further allegations of financial impropriety relating to ticket touts

The broadcast followed “cash for votes” revelations about two members of the Fifa executive from the Sunday Times in October that led to members being suspended from Fifa.

On claims that negative British media coverage had scuppered England’s World Cup bid, Jennings said: “It is total tosh. They never should have played, what was the point?

“It was like a casino with a big sign over the door saying the dice are loaded, the wheel is rigged, come on in and lose your money…England rushed through that door.

“It was a bid created on sand – we were going on about how wonderful our facilities were when that’s not how the game is played.

“I’ve done two previous Panoramas on this, the second one in 2007 was about the bribes that were paid to help Germany secure the World Cup in 2006…

“They were not paid by the German bid team but by people who wanted the German bid to win and would benefit financially from it. Did no-one from the FA watch that?”

Jennings noted that Daily Mail writer Patrick Collins revealed in his column on Monday off-the-record comments made by England World Cup bid chief executive Andy Anson about Fifa corruption.

Collins said that three or four UK journalists were at a private dinner on 11 January this year where Anson said he believed that at “at least 13” voting members of the Fifa executive were “buyable”.

In the Mail article, Collins also said he realised at the time that to report the comments would have made England’s World Cup bid “dead in the water” and he wrote: “Aware of the stakes, we swallowed hard and respected the confidence”.

Jennings said: “Why haven’t our reporters spent all this time turning them [Fifa] over? There are some very good reporters around but they don’t seem to work in sports news.

“It’s time editors started looking at the garbage that you get from sports news reporters. They are probably the worst in the world… they won’t check, they won’t research and they won’t cultivate the sources that you need to get the documents that reveal what is really going on.

“If you got all our sports reporters and shot every one that hasn’t acquired any documents they shouldn’t have, you wouldn’t have any sports reporters in London – and I include the BBC sports news reporters in that.”

Jennings was in Zurich last month filming for Panorama as the Fifa ethics committee hearings discussing corruption allegations were taking place.

He said: “British sports news journalists just sat around in the press room and decided what rumour to go with that day… It would be attributed to a Fifa source…Some would write it elegantly, some would report it badly, but it was all tosh – no-one noticed the bags of money arriving at the back door.”

Jennings added: “I’m getting a great response from the fans. There have been one or two very silly letters, but mostly England fans are saying ‘well done for exposing these bastards’.”

Jennings has been ‘banned’from Fifa press conferences since 2003 when he made allegations about corruption in the world football governing body in the Daily Mail.

Press Gazette put Jennings’ criticisms to Paul Hetherington, football editor of the Daily Star Sunday and executive secretary of the Football Writers Association.

He said: “The football writers and national newspaper in general have been on Fifa’s case for some time and I think that’s been reflected in virtually every national newspaper over the last year.

“There’s certainly been a lot of critical comment about Fifa, allegations have been reported…But you have got to remember that football writers are answerable to sports editors and editors who have to decide whether they want to invest the time in a full-scale investigation along the lines of the Panorama investigation.

“Football writers are a very hard working group of journalists. There are football matches on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday night – they are previewing matches, writing match reports and doing follow-ups, as well as big interviews. They are often working from early in the morning until midnight.

“For that reason newspapers often hand over major investigations to the investigations department, rather than asking a football writer to go off diary for a few months to investigate allegations of corruption.”

Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette


13 thoughts on “Andrew Jennings: We have world's worst sport reporters”

  1. Full marks to Andrew Jennings for great investigative reporting – and how nauseating, and ludicrous, that the FA should try to gag the story on Fifa fraud – because it might spoil the English bid – and then join the press in a chorus of accusations about Fifa fraud when they are eventually defeated in the bid. Where’s the logic?

  2. Well said, Mr Jennings. Sports news journalists are indeed on the case and know probably almost as much as you do, but they don’t say it straight out. You can always read the hints – they are often quite loud and obvious – but they never write it up front. And the result? Business journalists are rude about Vodafone’s taxes, but Vodafone then defends itself, it doesn’t cancel the reporters’ phone contract. Health reporters are spectacularly, and often inaccurately, rude about the NHS, but their doctors don’t refuse to treat them. But one word out of place about last Saturday’s defence and your local footie team bans you from the ground. That’s what you get for being habitually mealy mouthed around the corrupt!

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