The year is 2030 and sports journalists across the land are being rounded up and hauled off to Spike Island where they will live out the rest of their days watching Jesse Lingard Instagram posts and #teamofus Irish Rugby Facebook videos (sponsored) on a loop. Martin O’Neill is still manager of a Republic of Ireland football team that hasn’t strung five passes together since a friendly against Oman in 2019, while Irish boxing matches take place in underground car parks and Joe Schmidt has long since left Ireland to take over the All Blacks.
These dark days are only lifted each September (the new fixtures plan didn’t work) when Dublin play Rest of Ireland XV in the annual All-Ireland Super Bowl Final (sponsored by Etihad) in Coca-Cola Park (formerly Croke Park).
Local sports have long since ceased to exist as kids across the country now prefer to compete against each other online. Minecraft and FIFA have taken over from Community Games and the GAA Blitz. A Marty Morrissey clone presents a gaming show every Saturday night ahead of the big online gaming battles on Sunday. He dances at the end of each show. Poorly.
Ok so maybe that’s a slightly exaggerated forecast and an overreaction following the recent treatment of sports hacks by the likes of Martin O’Neill, Irish Rugby and the MTK Global boxing franchise. However, media bans and restrictions are never a sign of progression and a lack of analysis and comment will leave a vacuum, which will have to be filled by something. We can see this already on social media with teams releasing their own interviews with players and click-bait articles from some “sports websites”.
With this movement towards internal PR pieces and social media clicks, it’s the athletes at the lower end of things that I feel sorry for, the ones trying to get coverage as they eke out a career. They’ll be the big losers following announcements such as MTK’s decision to boycott the media in Ireland.
Meanwhile, national team sports will suffer as a result of Martin O’Neill’s tetchy interviews and Irish Rugby’s reaction to coverage of a convicted doper. But of course none of that will matter as long as there’s money rolling in and pay-per-view games and fights at sponsored, soulless stadiums across Europe and the world.