The Media is the New Battleground: Just Ask Manchester United

Sing ChenCorrespondent IJuly 19, 2008

Have you had enough of the Cristiano Ronaldo story?

Let's get one thing clear. If it wasn't for "juicy" stories like this, then we'd have a whole lot less to talk about here!

That said, there is a growing trend within football, and sports in general, for parties to make use of the media, whether directly or indirectly, to further their own agenda.

Cristiano Ronaldo wants his dream move to Real Madrid. So, rather than handing in a transfer request and having a proper conversation with his boss (as any other right-minded employee in any other industry would), a story appears in the papers. 

This then sparks story after story, and opinions are coming in from all angles: his national team, the FIFA president, Real Madrid's President, even players from both clubs—all of which influence the public's perception and opinion on the matter.  

Even Pele had something to say on the Ronaldo story!  So-called experts on the payroll of these media organisations also offer their opinion, further fuelling speculation around John Terry's exorbitant salary, Ronaldo's move, the cash-for-transfers investigation, or anything else that might be considered of public interest.  

As much as players and managers claim to not "read the papers"—these stories are unavoidable.

In a way, it almost creates a need to keep an eye on whether or not stories do appear, in order to decide whether or not a counter-story needs to be "leaked" about seeking compensation, reiterating a player's quality or commitment, stating that the authorities will need to take a look at the situation, or a similar action that may put the story in yet another light.  

We, as supporters, have an appetite for this—we can't find out quickly enough if a star players is joining us to further our quest for trophies in the coming season, or if a current player is slightly unhappy because the city doesn't offer enough sunshine.  

Some fans will despair at the prospect that their team is signing a mediocre player. Others will be excited at the prospect that their team is spending a zillion pounds on the next big thing.  

Even a player's friends and family will all have say on the story, "Yes, he will go," or, "No, he won't go."  

"Yes, he's one of our top players, and as a top player, he deserves to be paid accordingly." is another common one.  

A recent story that grates on me is the situation around Dwain Chambers. Should his ill-thought attempt to get into the world of Rugby really have received the media attention that it did?

In my opinion, no, it should not have.

However, that's the magic of it—it is my opinion. There will be a spectrum of others. What it did do was put him back into the limelight, right before the Olympic trials were due to take place. It also raised the question of his potential participation in Beijing 2008.

So Dwain, I congratulate you and your agent/publicist for doing a great job!  

The media has now become the battleground for signaling intent. If you want to get someone's attention—there's no better place to do it than in the printed press, in a TV or radio interview, or on the Internet.