The Times’ chief football writer spoke passionately on a MediaCom panel about news brands’ support of the England players on and off the pitch, and how journalism and sport can unite the nation.
With the Newsworks and MediaCom event taking place just two days after England’s defeat to Italy in the Euro final on Sunday, the racist abuse that some England players received has been met with universal condemnation including national news brands.
For Winter, it’s important to support and speak up for the England team as they campaign for change by taking the knee and other actions “because I believe in what they represent” and “it’s the right thing to do”.
“My heart dropped when we lost the penalty shoot-out because I knew what was going to happen”, he added. “We should have compassion in our society.”
Winter went on to explain how he has huge “admiration for the players” who are both “good players and good people”.
Noting the high social awareness and media literacy of the current squad, Winter pointed to the “close” relationship that he and the wider press now have with the players when it comes to cheerleading campaigns and making their voices count.
These include Marcus Rashford’s high-profile campaign on free school meals during school holidays and Jordan Henderson speaking up for his cousin working in the NHS on the Covid front line. Henderson was an architect of the ‘Players together’ campaign, raising money for the NHS Charities Together organisation.
Winter also underlined how sport and journalism can capture the nation, particularly during a major tournament. “There are very few things in this country that make life stop”, he said. “The royal wedding, an election and England football.” In those moments, journalism is vital, he continued, quoting the oft-used mantra: “We are the first draft of history.”
On the tournament itself Winter explained how “it’s up there as one of the best tournaments that I’ve witnessed”, saying he was “proud and impressed by the England team”.
Winter’s fellow panellists wholeheartedly agreed on the importance of journalism to the nation, to people and to brands. MediaCom’s head of media creativity Lindsey Jordan passionately advocated journalism’s inherent “link to democracy”, ensuring that “common knowledge” can be “accessed by anyone” and help to contain the prevalence of “echo chambers”.
Paddy Power’s marketing and brand director Michelle Spillane concurred, talking about advertisers’ key role in providing “commercial revenues” to support a “breadth and range” of journalism and voices. Both Spillane and Jordan agreed that breadth was why journalism matters.
For Winter, the answer to that question was simple: “because the truth matters”.