The big non political story today that is plastered all across the back pages of the papers is the latest in the decline of England and Manchester United footballer Wayne Rooney.
In my earlier post today I wrote about the political reporter’s obsession with an underlying narrative to drive their reporting. There is, of course, a narrative driving the reporting of all sports but especially football and footballers where events off the field often outstrip the story lines of soap operas.
Just prior to the World Cup Rooney starred in a big budget global TV ad campaign for one of his many sponsors, Nike. Under the title ‘Write The Future’ the story illustrated how the slightest margin of error can lead to the ultimate glory - or utter dejection. The ultimate hero to zero story.
The decline imagined by the ad men of Nike seems to be coming true with reports of scandal in Rooney’s private life, a drop in form, huge media interest, reaction from his manager suggesting his lack of form is down to press intrusion and now an attack by a former England manager that it is all of Rooney’s own making.
Kevin Keegan’s remarks that you can’t have it both ways – courting publicity when it suits you to make money but shying away when times get tough - are right at the heart of problems facing many sports stars today. While they seek lucrative endorsements that often portray them as shining role models, using the media to secure the high profiles their backers’ demand, when things go wrong for them they are all too happy to slap an injunction on the media to shut down a story. The media has a right to report if it is in the public interest.
Football has never been bigger business or as powerful. With this power should come responsibility. It is no good Alex Ferguson and others bemoaning the reporting of Rooney’s bedroom antics. Instead they should be taking steps to ensure that these players held in such high regard by millions start acting in a proper way.