The article below first appeared in Notes From the Borderland issue 3 2000-2001 p.3-8 and is, we believe, of enduring importance, as it accurately nailed the dishonest 'new breed' of TV 'investigative journalists', an insult to the term. Macintyre & those behind him were certainly clever, not in the sense of undertaking genuine investigations, but in dressing up information received primarily from 'official sources' as though it were not. In the day (as they say) Macintyre was a 'big thing', his talent for self publicity knew no bounds. His career subsequent to the show analysed below has hardly flourished, intermittently chronicled in various NFBs (issue 4 p.5/issue 7 p.47/issue 8 p.50). Most recently, he was spotted on regional TV in London looking sheepish reading out reports of lost pets & such-like, still trying to inject an air of mystery into the blindingly obvious. Amusing as his trajectory might be, the hammer-blows Macintyre & other practitioners of SPIJ (State-compromised Pseudo-Investigative Journalism) delivered to the already ailing body of TV investigative journalism are no laughing matter. Though he is, we think you'll agree, an intrinsic figure of fun--a far better clown than journalist.
In 1999 the BBC showed a major investigative series, 'Macintyre Undercover', with accompanying book and glowing media accolades. In the BBC's 2000 annual report Chairman Sir Christopher Bland singled the programme out for particular praise. Donal Macintyre, former print journalist in Ireland and graduate in England of the World In Action reporting school, had made it .
What a difference six months made. Macintyre's laughable documentary on football hooliganism screened 10/11/99, and a seriously shifty performance on Radio 5 Live's Nicky Campbell Show (8/12/99) more than alerted the interest of NFB. To date, while others have been subject to scrutiny, nobody has commented critically (as opposed to satirically) on the football programme. No longer. We have analysed both film and book cross-referencing them with each other and our own information. While the results didn't surprise us. we hazard they will surprise people naive enough to imagine Macintyre was/is a genuine investigative journalist. But then such people no doubt believe The Guardian a cracking good read. In what follows we refer to the football TV documentary as film, and related book 'Macintyre, One Man Four Lives' as book. Page numbers in brackets refer to this text.
PREVIOUS FIXTURE: HEADHUNTERS 1 POLICE 0
On 12 May 1987 5 Chelsea football hooligans were jailed for a total of 38 years. The trial, costing £1.75 million, followed a police operation initiated October 1985 in West London -'Operation Own Goal'. The own goals in this match however, came from police. Dodgy notebook evidence from dodgy geezers led to eventual acquittals and the collapse of 3 similar trials . Not only had crimes been mistakenly attributed, the role of the boys in (temporary Chelsea) blue as regards encouraging, facilitating and participating in violence meant they themselves were compromised. Subsequently, the police, and Football Intelligence Unit (hereafter FIU) especially, have been obsessed with Chelsea. As regular as clockwork, every new football season starts with a 'briefing' on how dangerous Chelsea are (off the pitch at least). In August 1993 for example, Bryan Appleby, FIU Head at NCIS singled out (yet another) "new generation of extreme right-wing football hooligans...involved in violent crime in Britain and abroad" . There was also wistful reference to the failure of Operation Own Goal, which had created a mythology of Chelsea as "untouchables" .
REPORTING FOR DUTY
In view of past matches between police and Chelsea, it was no shock Macintyre focused on the Chelsea Headhunters, and visited the Football Intelligence Unit. It is our contention, however, that Macintyre's dealings with the police were so extensive, and incestuous, his was in effect a police programme, all the more pernicious in that (unlike 'Crimewatch') it masqueraded as 'investigative journalism'. In case you think that too strong a statement for a genteel magazine like NFB, review the facts below. For convenience, we divide evidence into the openly disclosed, and that which Macintyre made some attempts to conceal, or has not trumpeted.
DISCLOSED EVIDENCE OF POLICE INPUT
The final TV programme stated "I started with some background research. A sheet from the police files revealed a rogue's gallery of some of the most dangerous hooligans in the country" . Indeed, his reading (and access) was extensive, for "in the files one man's name keeps cropping up, Andy Frain" (film). In the book, Macintyre states he initially had in front of him an extensive press rogue's gallery of photos—a semantic distinction because these picture galleries come from the police anyway, even if presented as journalistic 'investigation' .
As well as written files, Macintyre & company were given photos. At one point Macintyre admits two researchers used Operation Own Goal trial pictures for identification purposes in the field (p.40). Macintyre himself was so well acquainted that in Lens he recognised "Stuart Glass instantly from the mug-shots" (p.40).
In addition to a free run through police files, Macintyre and crew got excellent access to police footage of football related violence and activity. This included not only a ruck filmed inside Maine Road during the Man City versus Millwall game 6/2/99, but CCTV footage of a fracas outside a pub near Baker Street 11/4/98. Such access has a price-lack of independence and genuine 'investigation'. There again. Macintyre wouldn't know the meaning of either word.
In the book, Macintyre makes no mention of FIU assistance apart from one aside concerning Clothier (see below). Yet the film of Macintyre getting briefed by Chief Superintendent Bryan Drew of the FIU clearly shows the starting point of his whole journey was West London FIU HQ. Indeed, Macintyre is even warned by Drew as to how Headhunters would react if he were discovered to be a journalist. This illustrates the Drew interview was early in the investigation, rather than simply added on at the end. Or if it was added on later, the complicity would be even greater than it appears....read more