Summer’s been cancelled — for some hacks

I watched the second half of the England-Croatia match in utter disbelief — not at the result, but at the state of the pitch, which was like that of a Conference League club after a bad winter. And this is supposed to be Britain’s national stadium.

My colleague, Peter Preston, has been watching the impact of the match on the football media

When England – or, indeed, any home country – fails to qualify for a World Cup or Euro championship, it’s not just the fans who feel let down. The travelling press misses its big adventure, too. Scores of expert correspondents who might have been having a wonderful time in central Europe are stuck at home with the wife, dog and garden. The nights in the beer halls, the schnitzels and fondues, the expenses chits… all suddenly evaporate.

‘The first thing that happened when I got in on the morning after was a message from the managing editor asking me to re-budget my summer spending,’ said one doleful sports editor. He was not alone. Good news for Croatia was dire news for the UK’s growth editorial industry: sports journalism.

One myth of old Fleet Street is that hacks don’t care. But they do. They are genuine fans, true footie junkies. Their bosses are hooked on national moments, and also gathered around the TV in the office last Wednesday, part of an audience 11 million strong enjoying a national moment that might shift a few copies as well. This feels like disaster for them because it upends expectations, cancels hotels, planes, travel plans – and leaves a lumpen month of nothingness where excitement ought to be…

Aw, poor dears.