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Wednesday 21st
posted by Kadeem Simmonds in Sport

KADEEM SIMMONDS believes journalists are wrong to leak national team tactics

GARY NEVILLE has opened up a huge debate in the world of football journalism, one that won’t be going away anytime soon.

The former Manchester United defender turned Sky Sports pundit was on Sunday Supplement over the weekend and raised an issue regarding England reporters spying on the team’s training sessions at the 2014 World Cup.

Neville claimed that while he was a coach with England, journalists had set up a rota to take it in turns to snoop on Roy Hodgson’s tactics and starting line-up, to then leak it to the press which in turn gave England’s opponents an advantage.

The journalists in response said that there was no rota but it was their job to find out the England team as it was what the fans at home wanted to know and that the newspapers prided themselves on correctly guessing the starting 11.

For Neville, it was a breach of trust. Spying on closed training sessions is wrong in his opinion and he couldn’t work out why England reporters, supposed England fans, would want to sabotage the national team at a major tournament.

I found it a fascinating discussion, one I have had with other journalists over the past 48 hours and there seems to be a clear split of opinions.

There are those who argue that the team always gets leaked, be it through players telling their club teammates or agents, and that there is nothing wrong with releasing information which isn’t exactly a secret.

If the news is going to come out, why not be the one to tell it and enhance your reputation as a journalist with excellent sources?

Besides, the England team is fairly simple to pick as is it barely changes from game to game. Teams don’t gain much of an advantage knowing the opposition’s line-up in advance so it isn’t really that big a deal according to some journalists.

A few journalists argued that English papers shouldn’t make a big deal out of the leaked team news. That it should be buried on the sports pages so fans who really want to know are able to access it.

And there were those who believe that the English press should not be helping other nations gain a tactical leg-up over England and that we should be doing everything in our power to stop the information from getting out.

They argued that revealing the squad was one thing but to put in detail the movement on set-pieces and tactics of that nature was the wrong thing to do.

They feel that leaking that type of sensitive information hinders England and while it isn’t the main reason why the national team fails at major tournaments, it certainly doesn’t help.

If other nations want to try to get that information then fine. But they will have to resort to flying drones over the training pitches and Casablanca-style spying to gain any information.

This is the side that I fall on. Instead of helping other nations, we as the English media should be using our resources to find out everything we can on our next opponents.

England private training sessions should be viewed as a huge secret, where they can work on set-piece routines and other stuff to surprise opponents.

In a game where games are won and lost on corners, free-kicks etc, it makes perfect sense to use the element of surprise as an advantage.

There is currently a huge controversy in United States college football, where university Wake Forest recently found out that one of their radio announcers, Tommy Elrod, had been leaking confidential game-plan information to opponents.

The Demon Deacons lost 44-12 at home to Louisville last month and the team grew suspicious when the away side were prepared for plays that the Demon Deacons had never run before.

Now things never got that serious with England but what if during these training sessions, tactics were devised to take advantage of the way another team defends corners or how they are weak at left back.

By leaking tactics prior to a match, it allows the opponents to counter England’s counter.

Some fans don’t see football as a game of chess and believe that tactics don’t play a huge role. But look at how Chelsea are now set up under Antonio Conte.

How Jose Mourinho at Inter set up his side to nullify Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona and got his tactics spot on. Mourinho would have had his side well drilled in training and would have made sure that his plans were kept in-house.

He would have demanded that there be no leaks and England need to have that same mentality, from the players right down to the media.

Neville spoke about how the media and the team need to be more integrated, helping each other out, and this would be the perfect way to start.

I understand that if fans want to know this information, then journalists should be doing their job by getting it for them.
But then the question becomes, is this information for the public?

Do the fans have to know who starts the game 24 hours in advance?

Some managers will openly admit his starting 11 24 hours before a match, it’s commonplace in rugby.

But football is different and if a manager wants to keep his cards close to his chest, shouldn’t that be respected?

A successful England team is in everyone’s interest.

Spying on your own national team for a few more scoops is counterproductive if the team goes on to fail.

Yeah, you might see a few more columns on where England are going wrong and sackings are always good for the back pages.

But writing about where England are falling short when these people are part of the problem makes no sense.
This is an interesting debate and one that will surely rumble on for years to come.

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