“News goes in cycles. One week there’s the day-by-day developments of a Richard Keys and Andy Gray scandal with more videos being released on an almost daily basis. And on another week, such as when international fixtures happen, you can almost hear a pin drop due to the lack of breaking news. Such is the world of English soccer news, but one constant is that the British newspapers, no matter how busy or quiet the news cycle is, are responsible for publishing the latest news daily.
On a slow day news, you can see the mainstream papers grabbing at straws and trying to make stories out of nothing that’ll help sell print newspapers and drive online traffic. It’s easier on busy news days, without a doubt. But whether it’s a slow news day or a busy one, the question is which of the English newspapers is the most trustworthy? When you read about transfer news or in-depth analysis, which papers should you pay attention to and which should you ignore?
This is hardly a scientific study, but it is based on experience. I’ve been reading the daily English newspapers online for at least 10 years. In doing so, I can often see who first writes about the news, and which newspapers write stories about news that’s been covered first by another paper. Over the years I’ve also seen which newspapers make mistakes more often than others, and which ones write garbage stories about transfer gossip that almost never comes true. Also, to help me, I’ve reviewed the Football Rumour Statistics page at Football Transfer League, which measures the accuracy of transfer rumors from present to as far back as 2006.
So here are my findings, from the best to least trustworthy sources of soccer news by British newspapers.
Actually before I do that, I do want to give credit to one news organization. It’s not a newspaper, which is why it’s not listed in the ‘league table’ below, but if it was a newspaper, it would be listed as the most reliable source for soccer news stories. That organization is BBC Sport.
When you read a story on BBC Sport, especially if it has anything to do with transfer news, you can rest assured that it’s real. For the most part, whenever I read news in BBC Sport about transfer dealings, the story is true. As a result, BBC Sport is often not the first to break transfer news, so it’s accuracy “rating” is much better than all other English newspapers because BBC Sport only seems to publish transfer pieces on stories that presumably have confirmed by more sources and/or the BBC feels are more reliable based on a number of different variables.
That said, BBC Sport is far from perfect. While their transfer news is usually more spot on because they don’t rush to break the news, their website sometimes features mistakes such as factual errors in their stories as well as embarrassing errors such as the wrong scoreline listed for a match, even after it’s finished.
Now, let’s focus on the most to least trustworthy British online papers:
1. The Guardian.
The left-wing newspaper has become a soccer bible for many around the world whether it’s the entertaining Football Weekly podcast, or the exhaustive coverage and expert opinions from sages such as David Conn. It carries with it a lot of reputable and distinguished journalists, and the overall quality is well above-par.
So when it comes to transfer news, The Guardian is usually a leader on trying to find a balance between breaking transfer gossip and reality. Its’ tight network of reliable sources around Europe helps grab scoops now and again, as well as unnamed inside sources providing them valuable insight in columns such as The Digger.
But probably the best attribute of The Guardian, other than its fondness for irreverence, is the newspaper’s commitment to investigative journalism. If it’s not David Conn speaking to sources in dark alleys, it’s Matt Scott or Dominic Fifield pounding the streets in search of scoops.
Despite the praise, The Guardian is not perfect. The newspaper’s puff-piece it wrote on Qatar’s 2022 World Cup was embarrassingly poor. This was compounded by the paper’s initial reluctance to be completely transparent with readers that the journalist in the story had been paid to fly to Qatar as well as being catered to while there. But after negative feedback by readers, the paper finally told the truth. But even then, the statement was hidden in the comments instead of making it clear in the article itself.
2. The Independent.
It’s a toss-up between The Times and The Independent for second spot, but I’m giving it to The Independent for one reason. The Independent is more selective when deciding to run transfer stories, so when you read a transfer gossip story you’ll have a pretty good idea that it’s accurate because there are far fewer than The Times.
While The Independent may not be nearly as well known as The Guardian outside the United Kingdom, the newspaper focuses on quality instead of quantity. With writers such as James Lawton, it’s definitely worth a try.
3. The Times.
According to the Football Transfer League’s rating of transfer stories in The Times, the paper scored an accuracy score of 27.6%. It sounds like a low score, but in comparison to the competition, it’s actually one of the highest scores. Transfer stories aside, the newspaper has a proud history of featuring some of the top names in football writing such as Patrick Barclay, Gabriele Marcotti, Oliver Kay and others. Many readers, however, cannot access the content because The Times has a paywall.
4. The Telegraph.
The Telegraph has a higher profile than The Independent. Plus, The Telegraph features top-rated experts such as Henry Winter, Duncan White, Paul Kelso and Alan Hansen. Most of the time, the paper is spot on with its coverage of transfer stories and other football-related pieces.
But, like The Guardian, it isn’t perfect. Such as the recent example where they twisted Wenger’s words to say that Arsenal could win the quadruple.
In developing news, reports are coming in that The Telegraph plans on changing its website this autumn to include a paywall.
5. The Sun.
Some readers will be upset that I even mention The Sun. But it’s a newspaper that’s in business and one that plays an integral role in the world of English football journalism.
While The Sun has a reputation for making up lies about some of the things that happened in the Hillsborough Disaster, the paper does very well with transfer gossip stories. In my daily rounds of reading about transfer rumors, The Sun is often one of the first newspapers to break the story. Then, several hours later or sometimes a day later, the competing newspapers such as The Guardian, The Mirror and The Mail re-run the same story as The Sun without adding much, if any, additional information.
As it is in the world of transfer gossip, the transfer speculation in The Sun often doesn’t come true. But it does come true on a higher percentage than most people would think.
However, The Sun does have an awful track record of pilfering stories from blogs and publishing them as their own. In a recent example, from today, The Sun published a “world exclusive” about Arsenal signing a Barcelona youngster despite the fact that the Arsenal blog named Young Guns reported it yesterday. On top of that, The Sun got egg on its face by publishing the photo of another kid, and not the Barcelona youngster in question.
6. The Daily Mail.
Out of all of the newspapers online, I find that The Daily Mail has the most varied and interesting number of stories published each day. However, many of them are far-fetched transfer gossip. Or they often sensationalize the truth a little bit to make the story that more interesting. The headlines they write are wonderful, but I soon got tired of the wild goose chases with stories that lacked a lot of substance and often didn’t materialize.
7. Daily Mirror.
The Daily Mirror began life as a newspaper. Then it added a mediocre website with pretty good football coverage. But about a year or two ago, they relaunched their football website to turn it into a mainstream version of a blog. The articles are posted throughout the day. If any interesting developments happen, you can guarantee that there’ll be a “10 Things We Didn’t Know About [insert topic]” within a few hours. And that gets old real fast.
Even The Mirror’s content is lifted from a lot of other blogs. Content such as videos or off-the-wall stories that other blogs such as Who Ate All The Pies or The Offside is reporting. Or copying bogus stories from The Sun.
Once in a while The Mirror does get a scoop on a transfer story. But more often than not, the transfer gossip is quite speculative.
8. Daily Express.
With The Daily Express, we’re beginning to hit the bottom of the barrel when it comes to football journalism. Other than a couple of high profile columnists, the newspaper’s content is rubbish. The newspaper is often one of the last to report the news, typically 12 to 24 hours after everyone else has run stories on it. Plus, the number of mistakes in the online newspaper are too many to mention. Spelling mistakes in headlines are aplenty.
9. Daily Star.
EPL Talk has had some fun with The Daily Star in the past. The newspaper is so awful that it told its readers that Chelsea had beaten Blackburn in a Carling Cup game last season when in fact Blackburn had won the game on penalty kicks. See another example of an epic fail here.
The paper has plenty of very gossipy transfer rumors, most of which don’t come true. Without a doubt, I can’t think of any newspaper other than The Star that is so woefully bad.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with any of the above analysis? Share your opinion in the comments section below.