What makes sports ‘news’?

Posted on 24/07/2011


Sport is an important part of British life. The economic impact of football alone is massive with the world’s richest club worth £1.16bn, to a non league club still turning over £200,000 a year. And that’s not to mention the revenue generated by businesses as a direct result of sports events being staged.

Yet despite the huge economic and social impact of sport on our country, sports news is often just a continual trail of thinly disguised advertorials or a celebration of the individuals involved. Very little investigation actually takes place (ironically, the News of the World’s exposure of corrupt cricket practices is a notable exception).

And this week, data from the excellent journalisted.com site, demonstrates this imbalance.

Figures revealed that there were 357 articles in the mainstream media about Darren Clarke’s individual triumph at the Golf. The Daily Mail led the way with the ridiculous suggestion:

Don’t they erect statues for performances as epic as this?

Yet just FOUR articles appeared in the same period about an Olympic tickets error which saw 700 people charged twice. Given the high value of the tickets, organisers admitted people may face ‘difficulties’ as a result.

Of the four articles in the Telegraph, Express, Mail and BBC, only the last two did more than re-print a Ticketmaster press statement – and linked this problem to previous fiascos. And only the BBC dared to mention there were critical voices out there, saying:

The initial ballot system attracted criticism from various quarters – including from consumer group Which? – for taking the cash from applicants’ bank accounts before they knew which tickets they had been allocated.

So Darren Clarke being paid well for a good weekend’s work, or people being placed in potential financial difficulty because of Olympic failures. Which is the real news story?