Early Doors

BBC row proves City are a big club

Early Doors

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Dan Roan and Patrick Vieira

ED was left bemused by the reaction of the Twittersphere in the wake of Manchester City's decision to ban BBC journalist Dan Roan.

The diva-esque reaction came after executive Patrick Vieira took issue with the manner in which he was interviewed and the manner in which that interview was edited for public consumption.

Obviously ED is a rogue, biased, borderline criminal that only refrains from phone and email hacking because the technology is beyond its limited means. Therefore, ED will always support its kind — from the slippery, duplicitous two-bit hack, to an experienced stalwart of the world's most respected news agency (Reuters, take a bow).

ED wasn't present at Roan's stop-and-chat with Vieira; ED hasn't seen this aggressive line of questioning that Roan is accused of taking; ED is not privy to the full transcript of their discussion, during which Vieira claims to have contextualised his comments on big clubs (such as Manchester United) getting the benefit of refereeing decisions.

Therefore, ED is not in a position to comment on whether Vieira was indeed misrepresented, or if he was — as many suspect — a touch naive while speaking to the representative of a highly-respected broadcaster, one not exactly renowned for underhand tabloid tactics and sensational reporting.

City's official statement in confirming the ban claimed that "the reporter pursued a leading and aggressive line of questioning,  through which Patrick was very careful to tread a diplomatic path."

Not so diplomatic that he refrained from saying "when United play at home they get some advantage that other teams don't get" — whatever the context, whatever the line of questioning, an experienced ex-footballer now waving the corporate flag for his former club should know better than to say that. Don't attempt to contextualise it, just don't say it —  there is nothing to stop a subject from refusing to answer the question if the subject doesn't like where the interview is going.

And anyway, City should really not be embarrassed by what Vieira said, context or otherwise - it just places an additional bit of pressure on referees in the title run-in, exactly the kind of pressure Roberto Mancini's side want. Indeed, City should be more embarrassed by Vieira's unquestioned comment that City "deserve" to win the league. A sense of entitlement is unbecoming of the lady.

But what ED does know is that the banning of a journalist for what appears to have been a fairly nondescript interview is not a symptom of 'small-club syndrome', as fans of other big clubs (such as Manchester United) have claimed.

Selective, communal memory loss is a viral phenomenon that appears to infect football supporters and political extremists at higher rates than the general population.

United supporters (and those of Real Madrid and Barcelona) are famed for it — they are just as prone to a referee rant as anyone else, yet (according to Vieira) benefit from the decisions. Neutral followers of Spanish football will have watched on with great amusement as both Real Madrid and Barcelona have claimed inherent bias from match officials and governing bodies over the past few seasons, apparently unaware of the other's complaints.

ED would like to remind Vieira and City that the Eastlands club got the rub of the green en route to a 3-0 win against what was at the time an in-form Fulham side earlier this season. And, the bigger City get, the more such rub-downs they will receive. They may even get a happy ending or two.

Similarly, and returning to the Stalinesque banning of reporters, United fans would do well to remember that Sir Alex Ferguson was caught on camera telling an aide to ban Associated Press reporter Rob Harris after he dared to ask a question about Ryan Giggs at the height of injunction-gate. Dramatic, moi?

There is also the small matter of Fergie refusing to speak to anyone from the Beeb for seven years because of a Panorama documentary about corruption in football. Not just a single journalist or programming team, but an entire corporation. That's pretty drastic, particularly given Panorama and BBC Sport are entirely unrelated departments, almost separate entities with little overlap other than coming under the wider BBC umbrella. It would be like banning all interviews with NewsCorp staff — including The Times, Fox and Sky Sports — because of a made-up transfer rumour in The Sun. Petty in the extreme.

And, in an attempt to contextualise its comments, ED would like to point out that such behaviour is not limited to City or United; Chelsea have been at it, albeit somewhat more discretely; Bayern Munich are known for their Hollywood-esque hissy fits with the press; the only reason Real Madrid and Barcelona refrain from such histrionics is because they practically dictate the terms of engagement to the sporting press, who are either pro-Real or pro-Barca and will go to extreme lengths to undermine their rivals - and, when faced with the uncontrollable international media at press conferences, the likes of Jose Mourinho will just sit in silent protest, angered as his inability to conduct the orchestra; Milan, meanwhile, are owned by Silvio Berlusconi, who owns most of the Italian media.

So, rather than making them a small club, this kind of apparently petty behaviour by City is very much the opposite: welcome to the big time, chaps.


What is the point of Adrian Chiles? ED is not alone in wondering this: his knowledge and understanding of football appears to be limited, and he has a really annoying face. But he gets the best gigs about — World Cup, Champions League — while the look on the faces of his ex-pro wingmen, not to mention reactions from of fans of the game, is largely restricted to bewilderment followed by the best attempts to ignore the man.

He has the appearance of your confused mate who likes a bit of rugby, maybe a spot of cycling, but has little or no interest in football other than watching the big games and tournaments because, well, that's just something you do.

Maybe his weakness is his strength; as a football illiterate, a 'casual observer', he asks the questions that Johnny Rugger (or your mum) need answering — such as "what is the point of the goal-line officials"?

This question was posed after the officials in question failed to spot a clear foul by Christian Abbiati on Alexis Sanchez during Barcelona and Milan's goalless draw at the San Siro.

It would have resulted in a penalty to Barca, and possibly a red card to Abbiati, although ED would have stuck with yellow because of the angle and cover on the goal-line.

Roy Keane and Gareth Southgate were, for all their knowledge of the game, unable to answer Chiles.

So ED will — the goal-line official's role is to "ensure that the Laws of the Game are upheld, informing the referee of incidents of any kind that (he or she) may otherwise have missed, particularly in key areas of the field like the penalty area and its surroundings."

So, yes, the official in question does have the power to inform the referee of a potential penalty, such as in this incident.

However, being given the mandate to act does not automatically assume competence — in this case, and in many others, the officials in question seem to miss some pretty straightforward occurrences. Perhaps — like the fourth official, who is a top-rated referee — UEFA should utilise the best available officials for the role in question, and not the host of semi-randoms they have so far used.


QUOTE OF THE DAY: "It definitely means more because it's City. It's down to us two now and it's massive. The media build it up and as players we definitely want to win it because we know quite a few of their players. It's going to be crucial to get those bragging rights for next year." - Manchester United defender Chris Smalling continues the war of words, with United threatening to become just as noisy as their neighbours.

FOREIGN VIEW: A Cuban football player who may be trying to defect in the United States left his team while it was in Tennessee for an Olympic qualifying tournament, local media reported on Wednesday. U.S. authorities declined comment on the location of  defender Yosmel de Armas, who was not with the team when it left a downtown Nashville hotel on Tuesday, according to local television station WZTV Fox-17. Another Cuban player told WZTV De Armas had left the team.

COMING UP: The quarter-finals of the Europa League, as Schalke host Athletic Bilbao in what should be a goal-fest. Atletico Madrid, Valencia and Sporting Lisbon are also in action, matches you can follow live on this site from 8.05pm.

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