On Monday, The Secret Footballer, an unnamed professional player who was originally a Guardian columnist and is now the proprietor of an independent website and peddler of books, declared that Cesc Fabregas is leading a “mini revolt” at Chelsea.
This was quickly picked up by other media outlets and touted as one more example of the upheaval and discord reportedly tearing apart the struggling club from within. However, it runs counter to the numerous reports that claim Fabregas is one of the players who remains on Mourinho’s side, and on Tuesday morning, Fabregas himself denied this on his social media accounts.
So the question is why this claim was given credence in the first place and the answer has to do with football’s over-willingness to trust anonymous sources.
In other areas (whistleblowers or witnesses to criminal acts), there’s a potential benefit to society that’s worth chancing the lack of accountability that comes with anonymity. But in football, the only benefit is spreading some gossip that might be true.
As juicy as it may be, a player leading a “mini revolt” or considering a move to another club is ultimately information that serves no true public good, and thus is unworthy of anonymous sourcing. Meanwhile, the downside to this practice is that you’re giving someone the ability to tarnish reputations, even careers without repercussions or the ability to evaluate their personal stake (in other words, is this a person who has an axe to grind or a personal agenda to further with their subject?). It also gives agents and club insiders the ability to strongly influence a media narrative without the public knowing that the information they’re blindly taking in is coming from a biased source with an interest in manufacturing an outcome.
If The Secret Footballer is exposing serious issues in the game like racism, misogyny, homophobia, and abuses of power, his anonymity has value and importance. If he just wants to take pot shots and spread unsubstantiated rumors for personal gain, then he’s simply a coward.