Issue Facts, rumours and Twitter

As told by Paul Firth

Take a look at those paragraphs to the right of this page. They come under the heading ‘External News’. They provide quick links to stories that the editors of BfB think might be of interest to the readership.

Now take another look at the links that are on this page as I write. One says that a goalkeeper from Tottenham is rumoured to be joining City because Hansen will not be allowed to play at Leeds. Another link is headed ‘Liam Moore announces he is going to join City’ and clicking on the link brings you to Moore’s Twitter page. Go down a little further and there is a story, under ‘more external news’, because it was posted last week, to the effect that Martin Hansen ‘is to arrive at City on loan tomorrow, or so it is said’.

I use these three stories merely to illustrate that BfB is not in the habit of reporting as fact stories about players coming to the club, when those players have not yet signed on the proverbial dotted line. Further, BfB goes to some lengths to make clear that these items of external news are ‘rumours’ or what someone else has announced, which is a fact in itself, when you can read it on a social network. The fact that Moore announced this did not make it true at the time and BfB did not claim it was true then.

I make this point by way of contrast with two recent items on the club website, both of which make clear the extent to which the club is upset either by rumours or by the inability of some people to distinguish rumours from fact, resulting in implied criticism when the club is not quick to report these ‘facts’. The first of these items was about the same Liam Moore and went to some length to say that he hadn’t actually signed until Friday (the day the item was posted), contrary to stories that he had signed on an earlier day.

It is the second item on the club website that troubles me more. It isn’t about any particular player. It is headed ‘Dealing in fact, not rumours’. It was posted on Sunday and, in my ignorance I took it to be either a follow-up to the remarks made in the Moore news or an explanation for why the club had not reported anything about the Tottenham goalkeeper. Either way, it looked as if the club was reacting to criticism, implied or actual, from fans that they were not being kept up to date with the ‘facts’ at Valley Parade.

Since then, via another Twitter feed or two, I gather that the latest rumour is about a player leaving, so now I’m guessing that the new piece on the club website was probably provoked by criticism that the club had not reported that ‘fact’.

I’m all for these social networks and message boards, just so long as they’re not compulsory. I haven’t joined any. I don’t have a Facebook page. I don’t have a blog. Maybe I should have a website, but I’ll talk to an expert (he’s reading this) about that another time. But I can see how these methods of communication can be great fun and provoke endless interest. So I’m not knocking them.

I don’t think the club is knocking them either. I just think the club wants to make clear that they don’t report ‘facts’ until they are facts, if you see what I mean. Two cheers for the club, then. But not quite a third cheer.

Let’s use Liam Moore again as an example. He tweeted that he was going to sign. He hadn’t signed then. He was at that point a Leicester player and no other club had any rights over him whatsoever. When he signed the loan agreement, City’s rights became a fact and were reported as such. Only then did the club comment on the status of player who, until then, had belonged entirely to another club. That seems to me to be the right way of doing business. The same principle applies about players who might or might not be leaving. I wouldn’t expect another club to say publicly that one of our players ‘was going to sign’ for them. Neither should our club, then, say that the same player ‘is going to sign’ for another club. We all know potential signings that have never happened. Let’s wait until it happens.

But the reason I can’t give the club three whole cheers lies in the mere fact that they have, not once, but twice, made a point about their policy. If this is intended to head off further criticism of not revealing ‘facts’ as early as other sources report them, then I suppose it might have that effect. I wouldn’t be holding my breath, though. I would have preferred that the club and those who criticise just accept the difference between something that finally becomes a fact, to be compared with rumours, reports and what others might put on social networking sites.

The club, in my view, would have done better not making an issue of this. Let’s be really professional and say nothing. Let’s not come over as prickly, as a bit on the precious side, as responding sharply to unjustified criticism. Those who prefer rumours must recognise them for what they are, regardless of the reliability of the source, and stop complaining that the club doesn’t repeat them until they are confirmed. But, if there are continuing complaints that the club does not deal in rumours, surely the club is big enough to shrug off that particular criticism.

Maybe the key is to accept that the club website is not another social networking site and has to be controlled in a manner those sites do not. That way we might all get on in peace.