Sport journalists hit back over Jennings slur

Two leading UK sport news journalists have hit back at Andrew Jennings’ suggestion that UK sport news reporters are the ‘worst in the world”.

Jennings is the veteran investigative journalist behind last week’s BBC Panorama documentary about financial corruption at Fifa.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Media Show yesterday Jennings repeated criticisms he made to Press Gazette about what he sees as UK sport news journalists’ failure to investigate wrongdoing at Fifa. He claimed that they were guilty of “recycling press releases” and failed to be critical enough of the sports they cover.

Ashling O’Connor, Olympics correspondent for The Times, and Mihir Bose, former BBC sports editor, both insisted that British sports news reporting is actually among the best in the world.

O’Connor said: ‘I think he’s levied these charges at the wrong people. In terms of the stories that the British press have broken, the allegations of Portugal and Spain colluding with Qatar- which is now being investigated by Fifa – were first reported in a British newspaper.

‘If you go to a Fifa press conference the hardest questions are being asked by British journalists. Andrew wouldn’t know that as he’s been banned [after making allegations of corruption against Fifa in 2003].”

She added: ‘He [Jennings] does a different job to what I do and what my colleagues do. I’d love to spend months if not years on one story.

‘I notice that the last time he updated his website it was 15 August, since then I have written 339 stories, and that doesn’t include all the other demands that come with being a daily deadline news reporter.”

Bose, who now writes for the Evening Standard, said: ‘There’s a lack of appetite, from the British public, for stories on men in suits.

‘Panorama aired three days before the vote, because that was a sexy time to go, but normally Fifa and the IOC [International Olympic Committee]are not bodies that the British public is interested in.

‘Andrew’s report didn’t surprise me, Andrew actually didn’t reveal much new stuff, the only thing he got was a document that fleshed out a lot of stuff.”

Bose however did agree with some of Jennings’ points, conceding: ‘[Sport reporters] need to look more closely at institutions, we have tended to go for the sexy end, at looking at what Wayne Rooney is up to in his private life”

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