Controlling the Media?

Most sports have very clear areas in which their game is played, and in most cases the rules under which the game operates ensure that there are no misunderstandings, so why is it when they walk off the pitch these clear boundaries and rules become blurred by those charged with running sport?

At the weekend Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold took a swipe at the FFA website and accused the game’s governing body of ‘leaking’ news about Hull City approaching his young goalkeeper Mat Ryan. His claims were vehemently denied by the FFA’s head of Corporate Affairs and Communications Kyle Patterson. However it would appear that Mr Patterson has in fact now opened an even bigger can of worms.

The FFA under Ben Buckley have not had a healthy relationship with the Football Media, and Mr Patterson has done little to assist in healing the relationship since his appointment, which is surprising when one considers he built his career in the football media.

Following the accusations the FFA Website wrote the following:

Patterson said the Ryan story was breaking news reported by the editorial team that uncovered the story using its own resources and contacts.

“The website employs independent journalists in conjunction with our digital partner Optus,” said Patterson. “They don’t work in the FFA offices.

“Their job is to publish compelling news and features on Australian football. The website is not just a corporate noticeboard. Our aim is to make it the number one football portal in Australia and breaking the Mat Ryan story shows how serious we are about that.

“In October FFA appointed Mike Cockerill to the position of Associate Editor of website. Mike is one of the top football journalists in Australia after a 28-year career with the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’.

“One of the principal reasons for this appointment was to make the content of the website more compelling; that includes breaking news. We are confident we’re on the right path in this regard.”

There are many issues that this extract raises. The first is, the question as to whether this is really the role of the game’s governing body, breaking stories on their website? Surely the organisation and the website are there first and foremost to be a source of information for fans and participants of the game at all levels, male and female. Sadly finding such information from their website can prove at times virtually impossible. Therefore wouldn’t they be better off ensuring that they are the key source for all information on the National teams at all ages, and in all competitions for both sexes, as well as the A league? Their website should not be about breaking stories, leave that to the traditional media, simply give them all of the information they require to complete the story, so that Football ends up with as much media coverage as possible.

Having taken the decision as Mr Patterson states to ‘break news,’ the FFA have now basically declared that they are going head-to-head with the traditional media for stories. Yet as the game’s governing body they already have access to information that the average media outlet has to gain by trust or skullduggery. One has to question whether, thanks to this stance, the mainstream media will now ease off on its coverage of Football as the FFA are in a prime position to get the inside straight on stories and in fact kill many potential stories. One wonders why they would continue to send out press releases to the media if they plan to run all key stories themselves before sharing with the mainstream media.

It would appear that this path is more about trying to control what is written about the game and the way it is run than anything else. Yet one feels that it could back fire horribly. If Graham Arnold a former faithful long time employee of the FFA is questioning whether they can be trusted then what will other coaches and players be thinking?

Mike Cockerill is as Mr Patterson states probably one of the most well respected football writers in Australia and a long time commentator of the game, and still works for Fox Sports covering the Hyundai A League – he is also a personal friend – and his appointment was a great one for the FFA. However with Mr. Patterson revealing the aim of the FFA’s website one wonders how willing many of the A League players and coaches will be to talk so openly to him now especially in his role as a Fox Commentator. Sadly it also opens Mr Cockerill up for potential criticism should he fail to criticise his employer in his role as a commentator should criticism be warranted.

It would appear that the FFA have unwittingly created a Pandoras box which may well come back and haunt them. This move has eroded trust on so many levels, and seen many question the direction being taken and why, but sadly once again has left the average Australian footballer bewildered as to how their needs are once again being neglected.


Controlling the Media?
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