More than 45 years ago, a gas explosion in David Moyes’s native Scotland – Clarkston, East Renfrewshire to be precise – killed 22 people. It was a terrible event but one, happily rare occurrence ensured that every gas leak or minor explosion for weeks, anywhere in the UK, was reported as if part of a trend.
Much the same happened, in the 1980s if I remember correctly, after a child was killed by vicious dog masquerading as family pet. However minor subsequent incidents involving dog attacks, the sort that happen all the time, they were described as a “spate”. I have spent almost all my working life in journalism but this was not the media – print or broadcast – at its finest.
And now we find Moyes accused in a second case of dishing out heavy-handed treatment to a female sports reporter whose only crime was to ask wholly pertinent questions, which she is paid to do and he is paid handsomely enough to answer without resorting to snarling aggression.
A spate? Proof that Moyes is a serial boor who picks, not only but maybe especially, on women?
The “new” incident turns out to be entirely un-new. It happened more than four years ago. The reporter was Jacqui Oatley, a woman who has broken through traditional barriers to carve out a name for herself in football broadcasting and was made an MBE last year.
At the time, Moyes was in his final season as Everton manager. Marouane Fellaini had butted an opponent without the referee spotting. Moyes answered the question fairly and, apparently, openly as if fully recognising it to be perfectly legitimate. Then Oatley, again with unquestionable professionalism, mentioned other incidents involving the player in the same game.
Moyes’s tone changed: “Bad enough asking me about the first one never mind asking me another one. I’ve not seen the other stuff. It’s down to the FA. I’ve answered your question and you’ve come back with another one.”
The clip I have seen deletes the manager’s remarks as the interview ended. They amounted, allegedly, to an “expletive-laden rant”.
For that, I would not remotely defend Moyes. The report I saw also says there was no sexist edge to what he said – thought I remain of the opinion that his “slap” comment to the BBC’s Vicki Sparks was not sexist either, but yobbish – while adding that Oatley did complain to Everton, a complaint the club didn’t bother to answer. It now says, belatedly, it would “strongly condemn” threatening or abusive behaviour by an employee towards someone doing his or her job.
What Moyes presented, with regard to the Sparks incident, as something entirely “out of character” suddenly appears less so, or can be be presented as such. And that may guide the FA as it considers whether and, if so, how he should be sanctioned for his more recent fall from grace. But we are not dealing with a “spate” and it does not establish him as an unhinged bully.
There was a healthy difference of opinion at Salut! Sunderland over the more recent matter, Pete Sixsmith and I feeling Moyes had acted very badly and our associate editor John McCormick sensing a storm in teacup. Plenty of readers will have instinctively sided with John, but this is how I saw it and see it still:
I don’t think his behaviour was acceptable and nor, in hindsight, did he. Otherwise, he would have been adding insincerity to boorishness by apologising, and I don’t believe he is insincere.
Oddly enough, I am not especially cross because the reporter was female. I don’t think it was an intrinsically sexist moment. And frankly, calls for his dismissal over this – as opposed to other matters, some might argue – are absurdly over the top.
But I do feel his conduct reflected a generally held view, not just in football, that it’s perfectly OK to treat journalists as nastily as you wish because they, even broadcast journalists, are scum (unless they are killed covering wretched events on behalf of the public and democracy, in which case they’re brave or unfortunate, though perhaps still scum). Moyes acted like a boneheaded Front National steward on a rally and thought he could do so because he believed he was off-air. I could be accused of sticking up for an unliked trade – “he would say that, wouldn’t he?” – but would take the same view if the manager had said something of the kind to anyone else.
The same applies to the “new” footage. It falls into a similar category: football manager, even an avowedly Christian one, feels entitled to abuse or threaten a reporter who, as the job demands, asks awkward questions. He is utterly wrong to do so, but hardly alone, though it is reasonable to plead the “pressure of the job” and “the heat of the moment”.
Among all else that can be levelled at David Moyes, these are not sacking matters.
They merely show how easily people in elevated but insecure positions of some power can persuade themselves they can behave as disrespectfully as they wish to others and get away with it.