Rupert Murdoch has built his empire on backing winners. From Thatcher to Blair to the emergence of Manchester United as a domineering force in British football he has routinely used his immense propaganda machine to ensure they are helped considerably along the way. If Kinnock, Major and Rafa Benitez have to be ridiculed in the process…well thats just business. Sam Windrim reports on a skewed media portrayal of a leading football club and asks if it’s worth fighting against or to simply ignore and conquer.
Some time ago, the Murdoch empire identified and targeted the happy-clapper audience and shrewdly hitched its wagon to Manchester United’s star. This move began in the written media back in the late Eighties as it judiciously foresaw Liverpool’s probable (if not inevitable) decline after decades of dominance and, at that time, courted favour with the armchair masses by being quite hostile towards a certain Mr. A. Ferguson for failing to deliver what they perceived to be rightly theirs. As he turned United’s fortunes around and in so doing won over the fanbase (happy clappers and otherwise), they did a complete u-turn on their treatment of the manager (as, incidentally, they’ve done twice, with both Labour and the Conservatives).
In strictly business terms, it was a brilliant strategy which, as you’ll be aware, reaches its zenith with SKY TV’s almost symbiotic relationship with that club.
Their plan of action is as incredibly simple as it has been successful – praise Manchester United for the benefit of happy clapping masses to fill space between the lucrative advertising.
Dare you challenge it? If you do, you’ll be ridiculed, mocked and pilloried – think of Keegan and Benitez. Never mind that they were truthfully pointing out inaccurate accusations made by the Man Utd manager, they were characterised as crazy, ranting, border-line lunatics who had “lost it”. Mike Summerbee received similar treatment after last year’s Old Trafford derby. When he had the nerve to point out that the better team on the day had not actually been United, statistics that damned his argument -which curiously were not corroborated by any other source (including even SKY’s own website) – were immediately flashed up on screen. An entirely new twist on lies, damn lies and statistics.
You see, the Murdoch Press will never alter or even deviate from this business strategy because they make too much money from it.
There is a reason why SKY TV has chosen cheerleaders rather than analysts to inform its viewers -people like Jamie Redknapp, Ray Wilkins and Ruud Gullitt… the bland leading the blind, muttering the same platitudes and inanities like Richard Keyes (or whatever his unctuous replacement will be called) has just pulled on the string hanging out of their backs. Heaven help us but Gary Neville is to be the controversial voice of the opposition! The reason for this drivel-fest is that SKY likes the predictable – all businesses do – so, spinning the usual claptrap rather than anything thought provoking will be the order of the day for as long as watching the best-supported team winning trophies makes them money.
You see, the Murdoch Press will never alter or even deviate from this business strategy because they make too much money from it. SKY is reportedly struggling in some financial aspects and simply cannot afford to risk jumping ship because there is no other club with such marketability.
Manchester City may win more trophies in the coming decades but, frankly, our club’s billionaire-backed successes will never sell as much copy as billionaire-backed successes that come complete with their very own footballing version of the Jesus story applied to that other club’s history. It’s an uncomfortable truth but we may as well face it.
SKY (and its publishing sisters) are not public broadcasting they are a business and our business model clashes directly with theirs. Like any good businessmen, the first thing that they’ll consider as Manchester City emerge as a force is what’s in it for them. The answer will be firstly, not as much as if Utd continue to dominate and secondly, also not as much as if they revert to peddling the poor, maltreated Utd line (see coverage of Liverpool FC during the Hicks & Gillet era).
So, the way I see it, we’re going to do it but we’ll have to do it without SKY’s sycophantic drivel.
I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.