Do people truly think that if you’re in the public eye, you can somehow escape scrutiny? Either Sven was naïve (and he continues to express puzzlement at the rules of celebrity culture – viz “It is always difficult to understand that whoever has this job should be a saint, should not earn a lot of money, should not have a private life, and should not listen to other possibilities in life”), or he was a little less than naïve and knew that the long lenses would be trained on Kenyon, which would give the FA a heart attack, which would consequently make his bank manager a happy man. Whatever, he wasn’t totally sussed, because he could have achieved what he wanted without damaging the Sven identity – a reputation for calm, solidity, integrity and honour.
Dealing with the three options: thick is easy to despatch. Being naïve and stupid (which Sven might have been) isn’t necessarily a bar to managing a football team, but it doesn’t help, and England doesn’t want its manager to be exposed as a total dork, particularly if he’s built a reputation for intelligence . Next up, if Sven was manipulating the media for his own ends in a ruthlessly calculating fashion, then he’s emerged as an untrustworthy, overpaid shyster, in which case, though we think it’s all over, it isn’t now, because we’re just midway through a canny sting to up his price with Chelsea. Abramovich could buy out Sven’s new FA contract in an instant, but he’d have to compensate the Swede, so the salary would spiral still further. If this is the construction on events, he’s lost the public’s confidence.
The sussed operator would have spoken with Kenyon on the phone, and watched Chelsea on Sky. Then he should have gone to the FA and said look, I have to tell you that Chelsea want me as their manager, and they’re offering a substantial inducement. I like managing England, but at the end of the day, when all is said and done – as you will understand – it’s a game of two halves and money is a factor, and – as you will agree – what’s going on at Chelsea represents a rare opportunity. Then the ball would be in the FA’s court, and matters could progress equably and amicably without damaging public confidence in football’s governing body, or the England manager.
So there are ways to manage things, which will get you what you want, and won’t work against you. Which brings me, naturally enough, to a dragon in a jar, and the man who found it two months ago, author Allistair Mitchell. When he first bought it to light, he warned that it might be a pre-war dirty trick by the Germans. Good move – even if it turned out to be a fake, the story of the provenance of the article has to be worth a feature anyway. Two nationals and an evening paper ran with the story. Then, on Sunday, a delighted Mr.Mitchell crowed about how it was all a hoax to get a marketing deal for a children’s book that had been rejected by seven publishers and thirty six literary agents, and wasn’t he clever?
No, he wasn’t, he was a total dick. Everyone now knows that the quality of the work is pretty suspect (publishers and agents may make mistakes, but on the whole they tend to know their business, so their unanimous lack of interest in Mitchell’s effort doesn’t bode well), and – more to the point – Mr.Mitchell is exposed as a bit of a Delboy with Delboy’s lack of integrity, which is not the kind of guy you want in children’s bedroom.
He could have kept this one going as long as he liked, embroidering the fable, developing scientific controversy, fuelling speculation, selling in stories about the provenance of fascinating dragon myths which ultimately led him to write a book. Get it? And all this ballyhoo with Mr.Mitchell at its focus. Instead, Mr.Mitchell thought he’d be admired and people would impute some creative quality to the book because he first generated and then exposed a convincing fake. This was pure short-termism, which got him the deal, but damaged his credibility. Which puts Mitchell and Sven in exactly the same category.
Trust is easily lost, hard to regain. The media’s job is to take it away and lock it up so you never get it back – or if you do, it has to be on their terms. For the innocent abroad in the media market, the advice is to look beyond the easy hit of the first headline. Beyond here be dragons.