Sunday, 11 January 2009


The media is not simply an observer and a message-carrier. It is also a big player in the daily drama of 21st century sport.

The last few days have seen great examples. First we had the newspapers, notably the Daily Mail, setting the agenda for the future of the England cricket captaincy. Matters which had been discussed in private took on new significance as soon as Kevin Pietersen's doubts about the coach Peter Moores surfaced in public. If the media had not shed light on that particular row, it is doubtful if the positions of both coach and captain would be appearing in the "situations vacant" column.

Then there were Rafa Benitez' high-profile accusations against Sir Alex Ferguson - allegations prepared with the specific aim of airing them in front of TV cameras. Vinny O'Connor, the Sky reporter who asked the question, told me yesterday at the Everton v Hull game that he had no idea that he would be rewarded with such a headline-grabbing response.

The response to Benitez' comments has been widely interpreted as an attack on Sir Alex. They were certainly that, but they were also an attack on the FA and Premier League authorities. Rafa has put their decision-making under the spotlight and one thing is for sure - the next time Fergie has a pop at Keith Hackett or any individual referee, or the compiler of the fixture lists, the authorities will be much less likely to reach for the brush to sweep it under the carpet.