Welcome to another week of this column, which I hope finds you and yours well. Things might be bad, but they will be worse if you try to inject yourself with disinfectant or bleach.
What I’m Listening To: One of the big problems about the current situation (call it lockdown or quarantine) is the sheer amount of lies we’re dealing with. The battle against that is long and hard, but will be much easier if we all listen to How To Cure Viral Misinformation, from BBC Trending experts Marianna Spring and Mike Wendling. The pair of them – both deeply skilled in exposing the dark arts of misinformation – produce an expert takedown of one viral post gone wrong, and also provide seven steps it’s always helpful to follow to avoid spreading fake news. You can listen below:
What I’m Reading: This super handy and clever guide from HuffPost’s Rachel Moss about how to stop thinking about when & if anything will happen anymore:
& this excellent piece from Penny Andrews on why – come rain, shine, hailstorm or global pandemic, we’re always talking about Tony Blair.
What I’m Watching: The third series of Killing Eve, and Spooks – one of the all-time great dramas
What I’m Excited About: The two #BettingPeople interviews coming to you next week – look out for them from Monday.
Word Of The Week: Ultracrepidarianism – ‘The habit of giving opinions and advice on matters outside of one’s knowledge’. Follow the money.
The Festival That Was
Anyone reading this is depressingly familiar with the ongoing arguments over the effects that the Cheltenham Festival, held in March has had with spreading Coronavirus. We already know – through simple logic – that the event advanced the spread of COVID-19 in the UK – to what extent exactly, we are only just beginning to find out thanks to more detailed data and the pages of time, given how long it’s been since the Festival. The decision to not postpone the festival and go ahead with it, has drawn widespread media and scientific criticism, considering that at the time all other major sporting events, such as The Football League or RFU had taken the decision to postpone such events themselves. Therefore, the fact that people are questioning the Festival went ahead is fair enough. As someone who went and worked there (whilst staying in the local area, I know it’s a decision that – with hindsight – I would change (although I feel reasonably confident everyone in the country would probably cut back on the last big event they went to as well.)
The Festival has arguably become a symbol of priorities gone wrong – a slow response to Coronavirus that has cost the UK badly – but the scrutiny the event’s receiving appears to have distracted from nearly every other aspect of the UK’s response. The Jockey Club, and racing as a whole, has understandably received for staging the Festival, but it was just one of many large scale events that took place in that week.
On the Wednesday of the Festival, Liverpool faced Atletico in the Champions League, with a capacity crowd of 54,000 – and 3,000 of them came from Madrid, a day after gatherings of more than 1,000 people had been banned in Spain. Additionally, 15,000 people had packed into the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff over two nights on March 14 and 15 to see Stereophonics, and whilst Wales v Scotland in the Six Nations was eventually postponed, it came too late to stop a huge amount of fans travelling to Cardiff.
I must say that this is not to excuse my Cheltenham attendance – or the fact the event took place – but it has been forgotten that the Government’s s advice – led by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) – was that mass gatherings, sporting events included, could continue at this time as long as strict guidelines regarding hygiene were followed.
On the 9th of March, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told BBC Radio 5 Live: “At this stage we’re not in the territory of cancelling or postponing events.”
“I was at Twickenham [for England v Wales] with the Prime Minister [on Saturday],” he said. “There was a huge crowd of people there. There is no reason why people should not be going to those events. It is very premature to be talking about things like that.”
With the power of hindsight, obviously that wasn’t the right course of action to take – but when there’s the eventual inquiry into the Festival – and the wider handling of the Coronavirus outbreak – one will surely have to look at the advice the Government gave. To end a rambling thought, this is not a black and white issue.
For less than a cup of coffee, or even a barrel of oil, you can buy a newspaper, even a broadsheet – yes, really. The Corornavirus crisis is hitting the news industry hard – in every sort of format – and the moral debate of whether to pay for journalism was extremely contested over Saturday and Sunday, when the Sunday Times produced a deep long-read on The government’s early decisions when tackling COVID-19.
That article was shared numerous times – in effect, releasing it from its paywall, and the long running debate on the merits of paying for journalism has. If there is quality journalism- my position is to support it – but don’t forget the independent outlets that are doing brilliant work, who don’t have the backing of the Times, Mail and Sun (and I’m sure you might know who I’m talking about). Here’s one to consider.
The Overtake: https://theovertake.com/
That Sunday Times article can be read here:
The DHSC rebuttal can be read here:
Another serious issue for the press – aside from the deep financial hole of COVID – is trust. Yesterday saw the release of a YouGov poll commissioned by Sky News which found a net trust score for newspaper journalists of -55 and TV journalists not doing much better on -40. This continues what had been a long running trend – the 2019 General Election (oh, how I wish I was there again) saw a constant trend of reports being attacked, although it was accompanied by some pretty dreadful reporting in parts (I wonder how Matt Hancock’s aide is doing – can anyone tell me?)
Those numbers wouldn’t surprise most people who think about the issue – and that’s more than a few people nowadays – but it also hasn’t stopped people watching, listening, or reading the news in record numbers, but Ofcom’s weekly trust ratings appear to tell a different story.
“Traditional broadcasters also continue to remain highly trusted, although all have recorded a decrease, with 79% of users trusting BBC TV in week three (83% week one), 77% Channel 4 (84% week one), 76% ITV (82% week one), and 72% Sky (75% week one). Social media and closed groups continue to be the least trusted media with a fifth of respondents in week three (22%) saying they highly trust news and information about Covid-19 found on Twitter (19% Instagram, 17% Snapchat, 14% Facebook). Just under a quarter of (24%) of respondents in week three said they highly trusted the information found on WhatsApp.”
Love the brand, hate the reporters?
Why are some owners so desperate for racing to resume, they are suggesting that racing should go ahead without medical personnel on site?
— Harriet (@_Harriet90) April 22, 2020
There does seem to be a real clamour in racing to get going again – noticeably more than some other sports. The recent developments from the BHA – which has been one of the most forward-thinking sporting bodies when it comes to a potential resumption – should hopefully settle some nerves.
When is there going to be some bloody football?
— okay gooner (@jroy35848) April 22, 2020
The leading candidate for elite football to resume appears to be the Bundesliga, which – if the German Government approves – could return on the 9th May behind closed doors. Undoubtedly most other countries haven’t contained COVID-19 as well as Germany, so we could assume other leagues are 2-3 weeks behind, which would make early June a potential runner for closed door football in other areas, all being well. What season and order the games are played in is a different matter and topic to be considered altogether.
500. That feels right.
Can boats fly?
— Sophie Bichener (@SophieLB1) April 22, 2020
If you have anything that you’d like to see discussed next week – please do email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for making it this far, be kind, stay indoors and stay safe.
Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.