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British tabloids and the death of Mike Dye

British tabloids and the death of Mike Dye

 

It is no real surprise that the British tabloid press will resort to exaggeration and lying in order to sell more newspapers, but the sad death of Cardiff City fan Mike Dye at Wembley before the game between Wales and England is another reminder of just how low some news organisations are prepared to stoop. In this case, a number of British tabloids (The Sun, the Daily Mail and the Mirror) still clearly have no problem assassinating the character of a murder victim by using anonymous quotes and completely baseless speculation on the cause of his death, even before his funeral.

After the game was over, the shocking news filtered through that a Welsh fan had died and six other Welsh fans had been arrested at Wembley as part of a murder investigation. By Wednesday morning, the Metropolitan Police had already made it clear that they did not believe inter-club rivalry had played any part in Mike Dye’s death.

There is still a very small minority of fans who would cause trouble at club matches though, so it wasn’t out of the question that a drunken argument had escalated into something much worse. Given the enmity between Cardiff and Swansea fans it was the obvious conclusion to jump to, although I can’t remember hearing about any problems with Welsh fans attending international matches before. Most football fans seem to have a strange ability to put aside club loyalties when supporting their countries.

Overnight, the situation became a little clearer. The statement from the Met should have been the end of any speculation involving club rivalry. On Thursday morning they also confirmed that none of the six men arrested were from Swansea or anywhere near west Wales. Four of them were from north Wales and the other two were originally from south east Wales but were living in England.

However, that didn’t stop the tabloids claiming that Mike Dye’s death was a result of an altercation between Cardiff and Swansea fans.

On Thursday morning, the Daily Mail claimed that “police believe the bitter rivalry between Swansea and Cardiff fans may have led to council official Mr Dye’s death”, even though an official police statement had already claimed the complete opposite the day before.

The article then quoted an anonymous Cardiff City fan who attended the game who apparently said this:

“It was a quick flare-up but one of the Cardiff fans ended up on the ground and then had a heart attack. It should have been a night when we were all supporting Wales but for some people the rivalry between Cardiff and Swansea brims over into hatred.”

Notice how there is no name attributed either to the fan who is supposed to have said this, or to the police source. All we are given are rumours. There is no evidence presented that this was an argument between Cardiff and Swansea fans.

Beyond these baseless rumours, the Mail also went through everything that Mikey Dye had written on Cardiff City forums over the last few years, including some quotes about him getting into fights when he was supporting Cardiff in the 1980s. What purpose does it serve to bring up something a 44-year old man did when he was 18, when he is the victim in a murder investigation? A lot of 18-year olds drink and get into fights. What possible relevance does that have 26 years later when that man has been killed while innocently attending another football match? Whether it was intentional or not, this makes the Mail look as if they’re hinting that well, he probably had it coming. If you live by the sword, you die by the sword.

Inevitably, that leads to this kind of callous and sickening comment posted underneath by a reader:

“A known thug dies at the hands of thugs , Dog bites man story. really isn’t it. arrested recently for being a thug with police. Arrested years ago for being a thug dies in a fight at a football match with thugs. All one brain cell individuals no loss to society at all. Life terms for the killers that will clear alot of thugs and trouble makers in one fell swoop.”

The Mirror also made baseless claims about Dye being in a fight with Swansea fans at Wembley, not surprisingly with no evidence whatsoever to back it up, just that this is what “murder cops believe”. Their headline read:

EXCLUSIVE: Cops believe Wales fan died after fight with Swansea fans

Again, this is unsubstantiated. No sources for the claim are offered. The Mirror don’t even bother to make up anonymous quotes from fans who were there. And again, they choose to bring up the fights that Mikey Dye got into in his teens, as if that has any relevance to his death.

But not surprisingly, it’s The Sun who did the best hatchet job. They couldn’t wait to brand Dye as a “soccer hooligan” in the first paragraph of their story, with no mention of how long ago he’d got into trouble until much later in the article. There’s also the usual trawl through Cardiff City messageboards.

Then there’s a classic piece of Sun sophistry, in which Swansea fans are again linked to the murder but with a disclaimer that allows The Sun to avoid responsibility for spreading false rumours:

“One theory was that the flare-up involved fans of Cardiff and Swansea City, who have a history of hostile rivalry”

Because hey, it’s just a theory. They’re not saying it’s actually true, although it doesn’t stop them subsequently quoting a message on a Facebook tribute page which mistakenly reinforces the theory:

“Can’t believe Swansea/Cardiff football rivalry has ended in a man’s death! WALES were playing. Fans should be on the same side.”

The big problem with major newspapers doing this is that the story spreads and gains plausibility. It gets repeated on other clubs’ messageboards and websites and appears unchallenged on a number of news aggregation sites and in this case, even on a website which sells stab vests.

Cardiff City FC deserve a lot of credit for making a statement so quickly in which they condemned the suggestion that Swansea fans were responsible and expressed their objection to Mikey Dye’s name being dragged through the mud simply because of things he did as a teenager.

Quite justifiably, representatives of The Sun, the Mirror and the Daily Mail were not given press accreditation for Saturday’s game with Doncaster as a result.

None of these tabloids mentioned that the Swansea City supporters club sent flowers expressing their condolences. None of them mentioned Swansea fans writing things like this:

“Had many a spat over on Annis’ board with him [ely trendy],and by phuck he hated us Jacks. All pales into insignificance though when this has happened.”

The two clubs are certainly a little closer together than they were two weeks ago, as evidenced by the lengthy and spontaneous expression of sympathy that greeted the announcement before Cardiff’s game with Doncaster of the sad news that Brendan Rodgers’s father had died earlier in the week. It’s a shame that the tabloid press couldn’t have acted with the same kind of human decency that the fans of both clubs have displayed.

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