The veteran investigative reporter behind a long-running probe into alleged corruption at Fifa has launched an attack on what he called the ‘abysmal’standard of British sports journalism.
Andrew Jennings – who said he had been banned from Fifa press conferences for the past five years after publishing stories about the world football governing body – has accused sports reporters of being ‘too frightened or too lazy’to take a critical look at the industry.
In a speech at the University of Brighton, Jennings said: ‘The standard of reporting in the UK on major global sports institutions is abysmal. In this country, too many sports news reporters appear desperate not to offend the people in power.
‘We have the majority of these reporters losing contact with the real world and reporting primarily to please their contacts – not their readers, viewers and listeners.”
Jennings published the initial findings of his Fifa cash-for-contracts investigation in the Daily Mail in 2003, and repeated the charges in a 2006 book and in the BBC documentary programme Panorama.
But most of the British media had failed to cover the ongoing investigation by Swiss police into Fifa’s role in the alleged bung scandal, he said.
‘It’s all in the German-language press but English reporters don’t want to know,’Jennings said. ‘I think some of them are scared of rocking the boat as England prepares to launch its bid [for the 2018 World Cup].
‘Too many media groups are cutting staff and budgets, giving reporters too many assignments, relying on recycling press releases and clips from speeches. Lazy bosses blame the internet for circulation losses, but they’re not using the internet intelligently. Too often they’re recycling the same crap stories, some low-level porn pictures and tons of unadventurous, bland, wire service copy.
‘They hold their readers in contempt – bleeding extra profits from their papers rather than investing in good reporting. That is bad news.”
But Jennings also told the audience, many of whom were on the university’s sports journalism degree course, that there was grounds for optimism.
‘I really think that the internet is the most exciting development we’ve ever had in investigative reporting.
‘The big media groups have had this stranglehold on freedom of speech. The people out there want the stories. They know it should be part of our social fabric.”