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Teamsheet-gate: Should the media have withheld the photo or is Gary Neville wrong?

And just when it all seemed to be going so well; Jules Rimmet gleaming, 52 years of hurt subsiding all in one thrust of Harry Kane’s neck muscles, three lions roaring on the shirts, it was on its way home.

Ever since a photograph of England’s possible starting line-up for Sunday’s World Cup group game with Panama appeared on the back page of the Daily Mirror, a furore has erupted across social media with a clear division between two camps.

The image suggests that Raheem Sterling will be left out of the crucial fixture against the Central American side, with Marcus Rashford preferred after his lively cameo in England’s victory over Tunisia.

The media and many from the world of public relations and communications have defended the Mirror’s initial right to publish the photo, as well as the right of fellow media sources – including the BBC, who are official broadcast rights holders of the tournament – to publish and report on the mysterious clipboard.

However, armies of former players and fans have criticised the mainstream media for what has been described by some as a deliberate attempt to derail Gareth Southgate’s side’s chances of success.

There have been claims that the British media would rather see England fail and other arguments that there, simply, was no story to tell in the first place.

Gary Neville tweeted that he believed the move would negatively affect all goodwill that has seemingly existed between media and playing staff in an unusually jovial and relaxed World Cup camp in Repino.

The view from the press is that, ultimately, there was neither malice nor espionage involved in securing the information.

The photograph was taken during an open training session when Steve Holland was standing in plain sight with a clipboard featuring England’s tactical plans.

Whether there was anything remotely unusual or particularly noteworthy to see is a moot point.

Embed from Getty Images

The English press are in Russia, not as cheerleaders to indulge their countrymen and bury bad news, but rather to report the news as it happens.

As far as purely sport-specific news goes at a quadrennial World Cup, news doesn’t get much bigger than obtaining team information.

Whether that information should have been reported has created quite the stir. Come Sunday evening, will all be forgiven?

Nick Friend
Seeing off 500 entries along the way, Nick was the runner-up in the David Welch Student Sportswriter Competition for 2018, culminating in a night a the SJA Awards dinner alongside the very best in the industry. He has spent most of his twenty-three years involved in sport in one way or another. He graduated from Durham University with a degree in Modern Languages, having spent six months working as a coach for Cricket Argentina as part of his year abroad. The 23-year-old gained much of his experience in journalism as sport editor of the University’s student newspaper, Palatinate. During his two years in the role, he sourced and ran a host of high-profile exclusive interviews, three of which rank among the most-read pieces in the website’s history. He won the university’s Hunter Davies Prize for Journalism in 2015. Since leaving Durham, he has written for the iPaper, while contributing weekly to Sport500 – a website focused on creating concise sport opinion content. When not writing, Nick can often be heard bemoaning the fortunes of Queens Park Rangers. Beyond the Rs, he is an ICC and ECB-qualified cricket coach and umpire, while in more delusional times, had set his sights on a career in professional cricket. He counts darts, ski jumping and snooker among his passions, with an unnecessary knowledge of all three.
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