I am a ‘news junkie’. I don’t know where I got the habit from but the smallest amount of self-psychoanalysis would probably reveal it was from my father! He loved his news bulletins and one of my earliest recollections is of him berating the quality of ITN’s News coverage and teaching me from a very early age that nobody did the news like the BBC. Over the years, despite the best attempts of Sky to draw me away from that very British of institutions, I have been loyal to the publicly funded broadcaster’s reports all my life.
Now unless you’ve been locked in an isolation tank all day today or been on a short visit to another planet you will have heard that Sir Alex Ferguson has retired. There is no doubting the man’s talent – during his 26 years in charge he has won 38 trophies including 13 league titles. He is probably our greatest home grown football manager and I’m inclined to agree with former Manchester United and England striker Michael Owen when he said the Scot’s managerial record will “surely never be eclipsed” but let’s keep a sense of proportion here.
Football, despite what some people think, is only a game. The Premier League, where Sir Alex has flourished for so long, employs many over-paid, jumped-up, prima donnas who have no respect for authority and some who seem to have little time for the thousands who pay extortionate amounts to see them play. I accept Manchester United have the second largest average home game attendance in Europe (75,527) and they are a flourishing business but football is, after all, just a form of entertainment albeit for many people.
As you’ve probably gathered I do not subscribe to the late Bill Shankly’s most famous quote:
“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that”.
So my question is this: What on earth induced the editor of the BBC Six O’Clock News today to decide that Ferguson’s retirement would be the lead story? Clearly the BBC feel that the Queen’s speech when opening parliament today is of far less interest to their viewers than the retirement of a 71 year-old football manager. We often accuse the Americans of being insular so is it some form of retribution to demote the story of three women being held for a decade ‘tied and chained’? Has the civil war in Syria ended? I think not!
The quality of BBC news reporting has not, in my opinion, diminished over the years. Most of their correspondents are experienced skilled journalists who often risk life and limb to bring us the latest from war-torn or troubled countries all around the globe. Their political analysis is very often incisive and second to none. So I say promote the work of those first-class employees to the top of the news bulletins and run the stories about football managers (knighted or otherwise) retiring only if you have the time after the real news.