For football reporters, last season was an investigative journalist’s wet dream. There was Kia Joorabchian’s role in the Tevez and Mascherano loan signings. BBC’s Panorama lifted the lid off the bung scandal. Plus the riveting boardroom drama inside Arsenal. And these were just a few of the headlines.
In comparison, this season has been relatively quiet. Lord Stevens’s inquiry into transfer irregularities has still been unable to find any guilty culprits. The boardroom drama this season has switched from Arsenal to Liverpool, but the story is being played out in the media instead of behind closed-doors this time.
Why fewer explosive investigative articles this season? Maybe the Premier League clubs are behaving better? Or maybe the clubs are doing a better job of using their publicists and lawyers to protect their club and officials? Or perhaps the investigative football journalists are part of a dying breed in England?
The ones we can usually depend on for explosive headlines are Andrew Jennings (The Sunday Herald), David Conn (The Guardian), David Bond (The Telegraph), James Lawton (The Independent) and Chris Bascombe (News of the World).
Jennings is FIFA’s worst nightmare exposing all of the crime and corruption allegedly happening within the football world body. Conn and Bond often write extensively about the Arsenal ownership brouhaha. Lawton and his reporters at The Independent recently wrote about the alleged bribe scandal in English football. Bascombe is a bright shining star in English journalism after starting out at the Liverpool Echo and moving to the News of The World, where he has broken several stories recently and is giving the Sunday newspaper a lot of credibility instead of the dubious nature that people previously had for it.
Besides the aforementioned newspapers, where are the investigative football reporters at other British daily newspapers, most notably The Times? Sure, chief football correspondent Martin Samuel is a fantastic writer but his beat focuses on the news and his analysis rather than exhaustive researched articles, understandably so.
Meanwhile, a decision which had a definite impact on the fewer number of revealing investigative stories this season was the departure of Paul Kelso from The Guardian. Kelso consistently revealed insider secrets in The Digger, the column he wrote. But now that Kelso is no longer with The Guardian, The Digger is now written by the charming Matt Scott. While the articles are still interesting, it seems that Scott may not have the network of insider sources that Kelso had.
Where are the next wave of journalists that will be the Woodward and Bernstein of English investigative reporters for football? Let’s hope they’re out there for the sake of our game.