A cold war has been brewing within the footballing landscape for some time. The combatants are those in the arena we watch every week – the idolised and glorified champions of the game, and in the other corner are those who fill their pockets reporting on the same game; journalists.
The contentious issues between the two parties of late have been evident; access, door stopping, the newly-found and newly-dubbed player’s right to call out “fake” or inconvenient news and, of course, an objection to “coke-snorting”.
Of course, it was not the act of reporting coke-snorting that sparked the outcry from prominent players and Players-Association types, but the use of the term in an article lauding a footballer’s hard work and loyalty. Thus, this already hostile and uneasy environment lands us at the point where the cold war started to warm up.
It is the Adelaide Football Club, a club not bereft of reported problems of late, who have decided not to limit its fighting to the field, and have gone in with all guns blazing against a journalist. Has history not demonstrated what happens when a war is fought on two fronts?
Michelangelo Rucci, the Chief Football Writer of the Adelaide Advertiser, and the most influential journalistic name in the South Australian football fishbowl, has allegedly been threatened by the most powerful sporting club in the state, the Adelaide Crows. According to Rucci himself, these “gutless” threats, while not violent in nature, relate to restricting his “ability to do [his] work”. This is further explained by Footy Classified’s Caroline Wilson, who stated the Adelaide Football Club met with Rucci’s bosses at News Corporation in an attempt to get the respected journalist dumped from his post at the Advertiser due to his criticism of the club.
If what has been reported is accurate, this is disgraceful from the Crows. Absolutely disgraceful. A football club has no right whatsoever to influence the way in which they are reported, especially through the use of threats and intimidation. The Adelaide Football Club should be held to account in the same manner as every other sporting organisation in the country. To think they are above that standard is tantamount to complete arrogance. To think the general public and footballing fraternity, outside their own loyal fanbase will accept this is pure ignorance and disrespectful to all sport fans.
The fact The Crows considered it appropriate to use their perceived status in the South Australian sporting landscape to corrupt a media organisation does not show strength. In fact, it indicated quite the opposite. From the outside looking in, it indicates a club too weak, and too precious to be take criticism in a tough game. Had they been successful, it would set a dangerous precedent for the way football is covered, and could mean the fans and general public are the some of the first casualties in this ugly war. Them, and the truth.
The Rucci-article that reportedly prompted these extraordinary threats by a football club focused on the failure all of football clubs in the AFL, including the Adelaide Crows, to provide an up to date injury list on their websites. The Crows were singled out in this article due to their chairman Rob Chapman’s advice at the club members information meeting that they should use the club’s official media channels, such as their website in order to get the “facts” – a not so subtle swipe at the media.
Rucci duly pointed out that the Crows’ official website currently displayed an empty injury list.
Now, barring a top-secret miracle recovery of Brodie Smith’s ACL injury, amongst a host of other wounded crows, it’s fair to say the information contained on their official website is woefully incorrect. So as Chapman practically pleads to his members to abandon the independent media as a source, in favour of their club propaganda that cannot even be up front about an injury list, how can you trust him?
Do you think we can trust clubs to keep themselves publicly accountable in the same way we can trust a fox to guard the henhouse? Would you leave a chubby bloke in charge of guarding a donut shop?
Another glaring example of public dishonesty at West Lakes was senior coach Don Pyke revelation on Adelaide radio station, FIVEaa that “Brad Crouch [will have] a delayed start to the season. It’s not osteitis pubis it’s groin soreness which has flared up”. That must have changed quite dramatically when Brad Crouch himself spoke soon after declaring, “It’s osteitis pubis”. Hmmm… one of them is telling a fib. Which one? Better check the Crows website for the truth?
It is not a football club’s job to play the role of the media, and it is understandable that they will quite frequently, let’s face it – lie – in order to maintain a competitive advantage. Therefore, it is definitely not their job to discredit and contaminate independent media through threats and intimidation. It’s schoolyard bully stuff.
Players, coaches and clubs accuse some media of pressing an agenda – I am not denying that this may take place, but it is utter hypocrisy to, in the same breath, offer up their club website as a holier than thou place for supporters, members and the public to find “the facts”. Does anyone seriously think the club’s propaganda is NOT pushing an agenda of its own? Do you believe the online platform riddled with membership advertisements is a good place to go for a balanced commentary regarding their own players, performance or apparent off-field issues? Do you trust the Crows website to publish more disturbing details of the player-dubbed “cult” camp or to expose the salary cap and draft tampering that occurred throughout 2011 and their prelim year of 2012?
I certainly don't.
So Crows, and everyone else for that matter, do your job and play good footy. And allow the media do theirs, without fear or favour.