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Sorry seems to be the easiest word

Sorry seems to be the easiest word

Bruno Fernandes missed a penalty for Manchester United, and later issued a long apology on social media. Cue an almighty row. Should he apologise for his apology?


Transcript

Chloe Beresford: Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker.

One story every day to make sense of the world of football

Today, how an apology from Bruno Fernandes sparked a wave of controversy.

***

“He missed a penalty… that’s about it. How many times he score? How many times he scored?”

Sky Sports Football

Aston Villa went into last Saturday’s match with Manchester United knowing they’d not won at Old Trafford since 2009. They’d been on the receiving end of some pretty heavy defeats away to United since then. 

At the weekend, the clock was ticking towards full time in Manchester, and it was looking like Villa had pulled off a scoreless draw. 

That was, until the 88th minute, when Kortney Hause netted from another well worked set-piece. And soon there was a chance for some kind of redemption when United were awarded a penalty, in the 93rd minute. 

At this point you’d be forgiven for thinking that Cristiano Ronaldo was about to step up and take it. Out of his 167 career penalties, he’s missed just 28. 

But it was his Portugal teammate Bruno Fernandes that stepped up. He’s one of the best penalty takers in the world, having converted 93% of 45 in his career up until that point. Some fans even nicknamed him Bruno “Penandes” because of that success.

And he skied it way over the bar.

“Bruno Fernandes misses! It almost ended up in the top tier of the Stretford End… It almost ended up at Villa Park… That’s how high it went!”

Sky Sports Football

He’s not the first player to have done this, and he won’t be the last. 

Fernandes had a lot of pressure on his shoulders. Not just being solely responsible for earning a point for his side in the last minute of the game, but doing that with Ronaldo, who loves to take penalties, breathing down his neck!

And so Fernandes issued a public apology. Not just a quick “sorry” to the fans, but a six paragraph statement. You know, the kind that would normally be reserved for a much more serious misdemeanour. 

And it’s caused a huge debate this week. 

Former United defender Gary Neville slammed the apology as “embarrassing” and called for footballers to “sack their PR people” and be more “authentic.”

You could say that Ally McCoist, the former Rangers striker, agrees with Neville.

“I’ve never heard so much nonsense in all my life. You should issue an apology if you mistime a tackle and injure somebody and genuinely don’t mean it, then I get, I get that, right, absolutely I get that. But come on Sam, it’s absolute garbage! And it’s not even him, it’s PR teams, it’s Gary Neville is 110% correct. I’ve never heard so much absolute drivel in all my life.”

Ally McCoist, talkSPORT

So the question is, was this apology really necessary?

***

The key may lie in the debate that was raised after the failed European Superleague project. 

It raised the idea there’s two types of football fans. 

So-called “legacy” fans are the kind of supporters that we traditionally think of with football. They go to matches, or at least go to the pub with friends to watch.

“It’s pure greed, They’re imposters. They’re imposters. They’re nothing to do… the owners of this club, the owners of Liverpool, the owners of Chelsea, the owners of Manchester City, they’re nothing to do with football in this country. There’s a hundred an odd years of history in this country from fans that have lived and loved these clubs…” 

Sky Sports Football

The other type of fans follow their team through social media, watching goals and highlights clips rather than full 90 minute matches. They buy merchandise. In fact, they usually spend lots of money on it. 

And they are usually based in countries across the world that don’t have a strong football league of their own.  

Let’s look at the numbers. 

Old Trafford holds 76,000 people. Only a small percentage of United’s total income comes from match day revenue. But they’ve got 27.4 million followers on Twitter. And almost 75 million people have liked their Facebook page. In 2019, it was estimated that United have over a billion fans worldwide. 

All of those people have the potential to order a shirt, a mug, anything really, from the club’s online store.

So you can see how these large numbers add up to big profits.

This type of fan, added with Bruno Fernandes’ 2.1 million Twitter followers of his own, didn’t necessarily watch the whole match with Villa. And they may well appreciate an apology on social media. 

Because social media is the way in which they choose to interact with their club.

And Manchester United’s profits rely on keeping them happy. 

So now matter how outraged former players and so-called “legacy supporters” are about what seems to be highly-polished, PR-driven apology statements, my guess is they’re here to stay. 

Gary Neville wants authenticity. But isn’t an authentic experience at odds with a world viewed entirely through social media?

Today’s episode was written by Chloe Beresford, and produced by Matt Russell.