Sports organizations and their relationship with the media
A content analysis on the coverage of FIFA in the context of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar
by Jonathan-Elias Hartmann (13516035)
Supervisor: Pytrik Schafraad University of Amsterdam Corporate Communication Date: 28-06-2022 Word count: 7826
Much has been written about the supposed role of sports journalism as a lapdog, who is aware of his actual duties as a critical observer, but often enough avoids them. This study examines this role of sports journalism, taking a closer look at the relationship of sports journalism with sports organizations. This work aims to fill the gap that exists in the state of knowledge about the development of reporting on the multinational football institution FIFA in recent years. The subject matter is three different years, as well as a comparison of football and non-football countries, and the comparison between tabloid and broadsheet newspapers. For this purpose, a content analysis was conducted, which examines the presence of frames. The framing theory is essential for this study, as it provides a basis for comparing critical and non-critical reporting.
After analyzing N=374 articles, significant differences in coverage were found for all three independent variables. The findings give reason to reclassify the role of sports journalism, and to continue to critically examine its classification as a lapdog.
Keywords: Sports journalism, Lapdog, Framing theory, Tabloidization, Broadsheet newspapers, FIFA
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair.”
Sport is a general good. Many sports can be done completely free of charge and without further equipment. While extreme sports such as climbing or deep-sea diving provide an extreme adrenaline rush, it is the popular sports such as cricket, tennis or basketball that attract the largest audiences. The biggest sport in terms of spectators and fans is unquestionably football.
Many metrics go into this assessment, viewers at the TV, viewers live in the stadiums and arenas, income generated, and other scales are used to determine the outcome. Approximations are difficult, but it is estimated that with over 3 billion fans over the globe, football is by far the most popular sport in the world (Bhardwaj, 2022; Kuper & Szymanski, 2018). In the globalized world we live in, there are a select number of global players who control the major markets, and as in the business world, there are clear rules to follow in organized, professional football.
When thinking about football, a few select professionals quickly come to mind. The Argentine Lionel Messi for example, or the Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo, who have been fighting for the title of the best footballer in the world for over a decade. If you go back in time, it is grandees like Pelé, Maradona or Beckenbauer who are remembered. However, there is one constant that has always been on the scene, and that is the organization that works in the background. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the world's football governing body, the organizer of the world's biggest sporting event, the World Cup, and arguably the biggest player in the global football game.
A total of 211 national federations from 6 continental associations are part of FIFA, which is organized as a non-profit institution and has its headquarters in Switzerland (Schulze- Marmeling, 2006). While many young people associate the organization mainly with the annual video game series FIFA Football (Markovits & Green, 2017), the organization's main task is to host the men's and women's World Cups, which are held every 4 years. The attraction and charisma of football mentioned at the beginning of this chapter puts FIFA in an extraordinary position of power. The president of FIFA, for example, meets with heads of state to discuss the organization of future tournaments and behaves like a head of state himself (Carroll, 2018).
And if you behave like a head of state, you have the right to be treated as such.
At this point, it is necessary to make the transition to the main topic of this thesis, namely the relationship between sports institutions with the media. Two central concepts of this work are sports journalism and framing theory. Sports journalism is occasionally accused of being a lapdog or the toy department of the media instead of doing investigative work (Rowe, 2007).
The accusations are directed at the benign reporting of the sports departments, which too often focus on pre- and post-game coverage instead of paying attention to the important happenings off the field. This permissive form of reporting has often given sports institutions freedoms that they might not enjoy in other sectors of the economy (Sugden & Tomlinson, 2007).
The framing theory becomes furthermore important for the analysis, which is explained extensively in the theoretical framework. The study of frames can be very informative, as it can reveal which aspect of a story an author is focusing on (Scheufele, 2006). By specifically choosing a frame or omitting such, the focus can become more or less skeptical, and readers get a completely different impression (de Vreese, 2005). The goal of this study is therefore to be able to judge, based on the contrasting choice of the selected frames1, whether the reporting
1 The selection of frames is presented in the Methodology section.
of the media on the FIFA is rather critical or rather uncritical and therefore conforms to the cliché of traditional reporting (Rowe, 2007). A global event like the World Cup calls for skeptical sport journalism that looks behind the scenes and does not ignore important issues such as allegations of corruption and fraud.
In order to find out whether the media are critical or uncritical in their reporting, several decisions were made. FIFA was chosen as the institution to be studied because of the aforementioned radiance and importance of the body. Furthermore, newspapers were chosen as the medium, as they represent an important source of information for many people around the world, both in paper and in digital form (Pinto, 2017). On the one hand, there is a comparison between newspapers from football and non-football countries to find out whether the proximity to sports and the relevance of the same play a role in how newspapers report. Furthermore, broadsheet and tabloid newspapers are examined to find out if the quality and form of the publication makes a difference. In order to include a further comparative factor, the period was limited to the years 2006 to 2022. Three years were selected, 2006, 2014 and 2022, in which World Cups were held and which spread out around 2010, the year in which the decision was made to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar (Jackson, 2010). This event made headlines worldwide and is therefore selected as an anchor event in order to be able to draw a comparison before and after.
The aim of this paper is therefore to address the knowledge gap that exists in the reporting about the FIFA. The academic relevance stems from the hopefully fruitful results of the analysis, which seeks to fill the knowledge gap about the potential differences in the usage of frames in different newspapers and over time, and to clarify and facilitate future studies in this area. The comparison of broadsheet and tabloid newspapers lends social relevance to the analysis. Among the important differences between the two types of newspapers are the internal structures and the interests, which sometimes lead to divergent outcomes and emphases in
reporting (Johansson, 2007; Rowe, 2007). The recipients of the texts and reports are the end consumers who form an opinion based on the texts. The analysis is therefore relevant for sports enthusiasts as well as for major sports federations such as FIFA itself, as they live off the interest in their competitions. The research question for this study is:
How does the presence of frames differ in the coverage of FIFA from 2006 to 2022?
Sports journalism is a field within the world of journalism. It can be found in all different types of news media, traditional media such as radio and newspapers feature it, but it is also present in the new types of media, such as social media or podcasts. Sports journalism is often belittled, as it is not bothered with content that is rather important for events that happen on a local or global level, such as labor strikes, elections, climate catastrophes or wars (Rowe, 2017).
Admittedly, the results of the football divisions are of rather secondary importance when presented alongside events of global significance, such as presidential elections or the outbreak of a new virus. The fact that sports are not among the systemically relevant professions became even clearer with the outbreak of the Corona pandemic in 2020. While only supermarkets, pharmacies and a few other businesses remained open, the league operations of all sports from amateur to professional level were shut down and paused (Streeter, 2021). League operations of football were only maintained in Belarus, Nicaragua and Turkmenistan - a colorful mixture of authoritarian and totalitarian states - and sports as a means of entertainment had lost its meaning (Petrosyan, 2020). While many professions however were still carried out at home, professional athletes were forced to take a break.2
2 Eventually, football was played again after a 2-month break, but under strict controls and without spectators in the stadiums. The German division was the first of the major European leagues to come back (Hamilton, 2020).
Even though there are issues that are more important for the survival and advancement of the human species, the impact that sports have on the daily lives of many people around the world is not to be underestimated as there are two important functions. Sport provides entertainment, a treat that has been highly valued since Roman times. The stories that took place in the Colosseum in Rome and in the Circus Maximus are forever linked to the story of the city (D. S. Potter, 2012). They are a part of history, just as the legendary successes of Tiger Woods, the only golfer in history to win all 4 major tournaments (Thompson, 2022), or the 6 championships won by the basketball team Chicago Bulls in the 1990s (Nathan, 2021). Sports entertain and write stories for the ages. Moreover, sport has a unifying function. Whether as a practitioner or a spectator; sports manage to connect people across religions, ethnicities, and social classes as few other things do (Maffey, 2016). This is perhaps the most important attribute of sport.
This study deals exclusively with football and the coverage of the largest football organization on this planet, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).
FIFA's history dates back to 1904 for the founding of the World Football Association. With growing popularity in football and increasing interest in international games in the twentieth century, eight European football associations joined forces in 1904 (Schulze-Marmeling, 2006).
Today, FIFA includes 211 national associations from 6 continents, which compete at regular intervals to participate in the world's biggest sporting event, the World Cup (C. Potter, 2010).
But for all the euphoria surrounding the sport, FIFA also has sides that need to be looked at critically. The awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and especially 2022 to Qatar as hosts triggered skepticism. With Australia, South Korea and the USA, other countries were on the list of candidates in which football plays a supposedly greater role than in Qatar (Jackson, 2010). Investigations revealed that bribes were paid to buy votes to host the tournament in the desert state. The Swiss public prosecutor's office investigated this for disloyal management and money laundering (Schulze-Marmeling, 2006). In addition, research by the British Guardian
newspaper revealed the inhumane conditions to which construction workers are subjected on Qatar's building sites and brought to light the associated deaths of numerous construction workers (Pattisson et al., 2021).
The events surrounding the awarding of a major tournament or the goings-on in football clubs are sometimes subject to opaque procedures that have to be uncovered by the press. The investigations against FIFA described here are an essential part of sports journalism, they must be attributed to the investigative part. However, many scholars are concerned with the question of whether and to what degree this important work of investigative sports journalism is being done (Rowe, 2007). If one follows the line of thinking that sports is merely for entertainment, then the line of thinking of the Frankfurt School can be applied. These scholars essentially stated that the mass media was created to serve only one purpose, to keep the masses in line (McQuail & Deuze, 2020). Pop culture, which includes music but also sporting events for the masses, has been commercialized to the extent that the broad masses of society are only concerned about these secondary issues, and so in a sense are distracted from the important events that move the world. The notion that sports journalists act only as lapdogs with a blind eye stems from this train of thought and needs to be examined critically. In order to draw a comparison between the coverage of the last three decades, and to find out what impact the problematic choice of awarding the World Cups to Russia and Qatar has had on the coverage of FIFA, a comparative analysis over the years is a good option.
SQ1: How has the presence of frames changed over time?
The second concept relevant for this study is the framing theory. The concept of frames has been examined on various occasions by different authors and the concept is central to the investigation of news reports. Frames can be understood as a way to present a piece of information from different angles (Van Gorp, 2007). Following the analysis of Tankard (2001),
a framing mechanism can be present in various forms of a media report; in images that are shown or photo captions, in headlines or sublines, or in the actual text. Frames can therefore be considered as visual or textual elements that differ from the core text which contains collected facts that are objective and not subject to twists of information. For a frame to be considered as such, it must be distinguishable from other frames, and it must be recognizable by others (Cappella & Jamieson, 1997). Entman (1993) highlights that there are 4 aspects that are important for understanding how frames work. The first factor is the communicator or sender, these are journalists and editors who make conscious decisions about what is said and written or not said and written. The text is the second factor where frames are found and absorbed by the receiver (the third factor). The frames guide the recipient in the intake of a story and are mainly responsible for how he/she positions him/herself on the topic. The fourth and last factor, culture, is important for the positioning mentioned above. In the encounter of the text with the reader, the cultural imprint is a decisive factor, it ensures that we automatically process information and, adapted to our cultural standard, regard it as important or unimportant (Van Gorp, 2007).
The question with every news report is how the information is presented, which side of a story is told. As the press in western countries usually is very democratic and open, and journalists can report freely, all different sides of the political spectrum can be found in news reports, depending on the newspaper that is examined. This has been proven in various occasions, as newspapers tend to tell stories in a way that appeals to their target audience (Herman & Chomsky, 2002). Frames include a degree of intentionality from part of the author;
depending on the political or socio-economical ideology, some angles of a story will be highlighted while others fade into the background or are not mentioned at all. This aspect of highlighting and selection is important for understanding frames, because by highlighting certain information and omitting others, the reader is presented with only one side of a story.
This is fundamental to understanding the media and the press, as freedom of the press in some
countries has recently been further restricted (Yılmaz, 2016; Zakharova & Pauthe, 2016). While in autocratic countries such as China or Russia, certain opinions are banned outright and punishable by law, in other countries that want to join the European Union3, a critical opinion towards the government is not welcomed and authors of such articles sometimes end up in court (SCF, 2022). Even if this is not the rule in Western countries, freedom of the press must be considered a high good, as this is the only way for frames to occur in a colorful and diverse way, and for both pro-government and anti-government media outlets to produce and share their content as they please.
When talking about frames, one can distinguish between pervasive and issue-specific frames, as De Vreese points out in his study (2005). De Vreese gives a very insightful view into the difference between the two types of frames. Generic frames are frames that appear in most news reports and can be separated in five categories, as Semetko and Valkenburg (2000) point out: ‘attribution of responsibility’, ‘human-interest’, ‘conflict’, ‘morality’ and ‘economic’
frame. These frames are the most common ones to be found in news reports regarding different stories, as they are applicable to a wide range of topics. Issue-specific frames meanwhile differ from generic frames, they cover elements that are unique to a story and shed light on other parts (Entman & Entman, 2004; Van Gorp, 2007). For this study, a combination of generic and issue- specific frames will be used to narrow down the subject area as precisely as possible.
Relevant for this paper is the examination of newspapers from different countries, more specifically Germany and Canada. In both countries, sports play an important role in society, but there are great differences in preferences for sports. While football is the most popular sport in Germany and football clubs have the most active members (Piltz, 2022), ball sports do not play such a large role in Canada. Here, ice hockey takes the crown and attracts the most interest, while football is at the bottom of the popularity rankings, behind golf, tennis, lacrosse and
3 E.g., Turkey
curling (Das, 2022). The question that therefore arises is, how the newspapers from different countries present news that concern the global association of football, a sport with different degrees of fan love, to their audiences, and which frames they decide to use in the depiction of a story.
SQ2: How do frames differ between football and non-football countries?
Newspapers broadsheet and tabloid
Another central concept for this study is the inclusion of broadsheet and tabloid papers.
Both are essential forms of newspapers that differ in their way of transmitting news. While one difference appears here in the actual coverage of a story, the way that a story is written also affects who finally reads it. There are wide differences in the readership between tabloid and broadsheet papers, and some key features include the difference in social class, age group and ethnicity (Johansson, 2007). This is important to keep in mind, as the news read by people show different realities, which can lead to different perceptions and the change of opinion towards one side of the story or another. Similar as with framing, the approach that a newspaper decides to show of a story is important to the way that a story is later received and percepted by the audience.
Broadsheet newspapers originated in 18th century Britain. After the government decided to tax the number of pages in a daily newspaper, the publishers of various newspapers decided to reduce the number of pages and decrease the font size in order to fit more information on fewer pages. Due to the high journalistic standards that already existed at that time, these newspapers were associated with the highest levels of society (Bates, 2017). This association still holds true today, broadsheet newspapers generally have long and detailed reports, appealing to a particular clientele (Carvalho & Burgess, 2005). Tabloid newspapers were originally created to make information available and appealing to original non-readers, a target group mainly consisting of young people and women. For this purpose, font sizes were changed,
photos added, and headlines enlarged (Fiske, 1992). The communication of tabloid newspapers was considered more inclusive and democratic than that of broadsheet newspapers, because they appeal to a larger audience, and are seen as kind of resistant to the existing power structures (Johansson, 2007). While the concept of tabloid newspapers therefore did not initially have a bad connotation and was seen as a composite against the traditional and patriarchal powers of the press, the meaning of the term has visibly deteriorated in recent decades with the further creation of the term ‘tabloidization’ (Tulloch & Sparks, 2000). This is related to the sensationalizing of news and political processes, which gives the audience a partially distorted representation of reality (Johansson, 2007).
With the trend exhibited by young people and Generation Z, new problems are emerging that affect both tabloid and broadsheet newspapers. The mix of ever-faster consumption of content and ever-shorter attention spans means media outlets need to package information more compactly to make it accessible to readers (Sha & Dong, 2021). This proves particularly problematic for broadsheet newspapers, whose reports and features are fundamentally much longer than those of their tabloid counterparts. Due to the spread of the Internet and other media forms, newspapers have lost a large part of their readership in recent decades. However, the decline of young readers, who no longer use newspapers as a source of information, is particularly large (Huang, 2009). It is observable that intensive journalistic work is partly displaced by platforms such as YouTube and TikTok and instead of reading newspapers, many teenagers and young adults consume their news via Instagram (Vazquez-Calvo et al., 2020).
The question remains how newspapers adapt to this trend, which is also linked to reporting and the use of frames. A study by Semetko and Valkenburg (2000) has shown that sensationalist media outlets tend to focus more on the human-interest frame, while serious newspapers tend to rather use the conflict and responsibility frames. In a study published ten years later, Baker (2010) confirmed that tabloid newspapers tend to use more pronouns than broadsheet papers, hence implying a more personal style. A further goal of this study is
therefore to detail how these differences between broadsheet and tabloid newspaper will influence the reporting about the FIFA.
SQ3: How do the frames differ between broadsheet and tabloid papers?
Methodology Data Collection
For this study a content analysis was conducted. Via the website Nexis Uni it was possible to access the archives of the 4 newspapers and retrieve them. After the articles were downloaded, a systematic random sample was used to sample the articles. The 4 newspapers chosen for this are two from Germany and two from Canada, as Germany is a country where football is the most famous sport (Piltz, 2022) and Canada represents a country where football is further behind in the pecking order (Das, 2022). The German newspapers are Süddeutsche Zeitung and Kölner Express, the Canadian newspapers are National Post and The Vancouver Province. The time span is from 2006 until 2022, where 2010 represents the year in which the World Cup was awarded to Qatar. In this time span a consecutive content analysis was done that contains the years 2006, 2014, and 2022 to determine a possible change in the style of reporting.
In a first step, the archive of Nexis Uni was used to access the desired quantity of articles.
For each of the four newspapers, all available articles from the years 2006, 2014 and 2022 were downloaded. Nexis Uni was used for this task because it provides many archives of newspapers, especially the four newspaper that are relevant for this analysis. Two broadsheet daily newspapers (Süddeutsche Zeitung, The National Post) and two tabloid daily newspapers (Kölner Express, Vancouver Province) were selected for the study. Since all the work to create the sample can be done through Nexis Uni, this platform was chosen as the most convenient for accessing the articles and creating the sample.
After the sample was assembled, each article was named individually. For this purpose, each daily newspaper was assigned a number, which was then included in the name of the article. 2 items had to be removed from the original selection of 346 items. Both article number 0273 and 0406 were excluded because they were empty documents in which there was no information about FIFA. After exclusion of these two articles, a total of N=374 articles was reached for the final sample (see table 1).
Table 1: Sample Newspapers and Number of Articles
Newspaper Country Quality Number of articles
Süddeutsche Zeitung Germany Broadsheet 98
Kölner Express Germany Tabloid 89
The National Post Canada Broadsheet 94
Vancouver Province Canada Tabloid 93
For the creation of the codebook, the generic frames by Semetko and Valkenburg (2000) were the first point of contact for the construction of the codebook for this work. In order to achieve a precise selection of frames, a pre-study was conducted. For this purpose, the archive portal Nexis Uni was used, where articles of the 4 daily newspapers were downloaded. A total of 25 articles were used, which were downloaded randomly. This pre-study led to the conclusion that the use of the two generic frames "human-interest" and "responsibility" would be suitable, because they give two different facets on the topic of reporting about FIFA. While the responsibility frame can be interpreted more as assigning of blame, the human-interest frame serves to give a personal touch to a story (Johansson, 2008). In addition to the two generic frames, four further frames were chosen in order to cover the topic sufficiently and to represent all elements. The selection of the 4 additional frames happened after the extensive pre-study, in which a selection of representative articles was already examined. Here, topics were sought
which occurred with high frequency and offered added value for the analysis. Issue-specific frames are useful as a complement to generic frames because they are unique in that they apply only to a specific topic (Van Gorp, 2007). The following set of issue-specific frames was chosen, and a detailed description of the coding instructions was made (see Appendix A):
Leadership problem frame: This issue-specific frame covers an event that is related to problems in the leadership of the FIFA. However, problems do not relate to criminal acts, but rather to internal matters that lead to a dysfunctional public appearance.
Game frame: This frame refers to the side of the sports that does not contain political news or scandals. Here, the focus is put on concrete games that have happened or happen in the future.
Criminal activities frame: This frame refers to criminal activities from FIFA officials or partners of the FIFA. This can also refer to mere claims that have not been proven but are merely presented to the public and defame the football association.
Qatar frame: The Qatar frame concerns the hosting of the tournament and takes into consideration those elements that give further information about the hosting of the World Cup 2022 in Qatar. This does contain information about the construction of stadiums, the climate conditions, but also the local politics and its effects on members of the LGBTQ-community.
To ensure intercoder reliability, a reliability analysis was performed in SPSS.
Krippendorff's alpha coefficient was used for this purpose (Hayes & Krippendorf, 2007). For this purpose, a second coder was accessed. This is a person of the same age and with the same interests and views on FIFA as the first coder, so no further introduction to the topic was necessary. For the purpose of intercoder reliability, 10% of all articles were double coded by the second coder, with the selection of articles limited to English articles only, since the second coder is not proficient in German. The analysis shows that 3 of the 6 frames examined have a reliability score equivalent to or higher than the minimum threshold of α = .70 (Lombard et al., 2002). With one frame, the result is lower at α = .60, but still in the range where it can be considered acceptable. Only two of the 6 frames have a reliability score well below α = .70,
which means that they must be classified as unacceptable. Interestingly, these two results stem from the frequently used generic frames (see table 2). The reason for these low values is presumably the lack of training of coder 2, which only worked with the codebook and had no preparatory runs. The data can therefore still be considered acceptable, and the two frames will be treated with caution in the further course and analysis.
Table 2: Intercoder reliability test
Frame Krippendorff’s α Reliability value
Responsibility frame .10 Weak
Human-interest frame .25 Weak
Leadership problems frame .60 Fair
Game frame .71 Good
Criminal activities frame .80 Good
Qatar frame .72 Good
Once the codebook was completed, it was uploaded to Qualtrics, where the coding took place. Coder 1 was responsible for most of the coding and took over this process. To ensure that the results were not manipulated, the help of a second coder was relied upon. Coder 2 coded 10% of all items to ensure intercoder reliability. After coding was completed, the finished data set was saved and exported. Finally, with the help of the statistical program SPSS, the analysis was performed to find answers to the three sub-questions. The data set was checked for completeness and missing entries were eliminated.
In total, there were three independent variables (country, newspaper, years) and 6 dependent variables (the frames). Since all the given variables are nominal variables, it was decided to use the Chi-Square test for the analysis. For each independent variable, one analysis was made with each dependent variable to obtain the answers. For the human-interest frame a new variable had to be created, because there were two questions in the codebook for this frame.
For the new variable, it was determined that at least one of the two questions (see Appendix A, V2) had to be answered in the affirmative for this frame to be relevant for the analysis. This was decided because the reader can already identify the human-interest frame as such by answering a question in the affirmative. In cases where both questions were answered in the negative, the human-interest frame was marked as not present.
Results Change of presence of frames over time
Of the 6 frames that were examined, some occurred with high frequency, while others were rarely or almost never present. The most frequently found frame is the game frame, which appeared in more than half of all articles with 52%. It is closely followed by the generic frames;
the human-interest frame with 48% and the responsibility frame with 39%. The leadership problems frame was present in less than one fifth of all articles (16%). The two least frequent frames were the criminal activities frame (7%) and the Qatar frame (4%).
The first analysis showed that for the independent variable years, there has been relatively little change in the presence for the generic frames. The issue-specific frames, on the other hand, have a greater fluctuation in their attendance, which is particularly true for three of the four thematic frames (see table 3).
Table 3: Presence of frames in percentages for the independent variable “years”
Frame 2006 2014 2022 Total Chi2 p
Responsibility frame 36,8 40,9 39,3 39 .46 .79
Human-interest frame 44 50,8 50,4 48,4 1,46 .48
Leadership problems frame 10,4 18,2 18,8 15,8 4,1 .13
Game frame 56,8 46,2 53 51,9 2,97 .23
Criminal activities frame 2,4 11,4 6,8 7 7,98 .02
Qatar frame 0 4,5 6 3,5 7,14 .03
The results of the leadership problems frame are not statistically significant, but they show a considerable increase in presence that comes close to statistical significance, χ2(2) = 4,10, p < .13. The effect of the year of publishment on the presence of the criminal activities frame is statistically significant, χ2 (2) = 7,98, p < .02. This is a weak effect, Cramer’s V = .15.
The presence of the criminal activities frame is of least presence among articles published in 2006 (2,4%), while the presence was higher in 2014 (11,4%). In 2022, the presence was slightly lower again than in 2014, but still higher than in 2006 (6,8%). Moreover, the effect of the year of publishment on the presence of the Qatar frame is statistically significant, χ2 (2) = 7,14, p <
.03. This is a weak effect, Cramer’s V = .14. The presence of the Qatar frame is not present among articles published in 2006 (0%), while the presence rose in 2014 (4,5%). In 2022, the presence was slightly higher than in 2014 (6%).
Difference between football and non-football countries
As for the second sub question, the data analysis with SPSS led to a fruitful result with statistically significant results. For the independent variable country there are two frames that differ substantially, while the other four frames do not differ that strongly (see table 4).
Table 4: Presence of frames in percentages for the independent variable “country”
Frame Germany Canada Total Chi2 p
Responsibility frame 30,7 47,6 39 11,19 <.001
Human-interest frame 44,9 51,9 48,4 1,81 .18
Leadership problems frame 17,5 14,1 15,8 .82 .37
Game frame 49,2 54,6 51,9 1,09 .29
Criminal activities frame 7,9 5,9 7 .57 .45
Qatar frame 1,1 5,9 3,5 6,66 .01
The effect of country on the presence of the responsibility frame is statistically significant, χ2 (1) = 11,19, p < .001. This is a weak effect, Phi = .17. The presence of the
responsibility frame is greater among newspapers published in non-football countries (47,6%) than in football countries (30,7%). Furthermore, the effect of country on the presence of the Qatar frame is statistically significant, χ2 (1) = 6,66, p < .01. This is a weak effect, Phi = .13.
The presence of the Qatar frame is greater among newspapers published in non-football countries (5,9%) than in football countries (1,1%).
Difference between broadsheet and tabloid newspapers
The third sub question looked into the relationship between the independent variable newspaper and the presence of frames. There are two frames that show a statistically significant difference, while a third frame is considerably close to the threshold for statistical significance (see table 5). The effect of newspaper on the presence of the remaining three frames, responsibility frame, game frame and Qatar frame is not statistically significant.
Table 5: Presence of frames in percentages for the independent variable “newspaper”
Frame Broadsheet Tabloid Total Chi2 p
Responsibility frame 41,1 36,8 39 .74 .39
Human-interest frame 43,8 53,3 48,4 3,41 .07
Leadership problems frame 21,4 9,9 15,8 9,24 .002
Game frame 54,2 49,5 51,9 .83 .36
Criminal activities frame 10,4 3,3 7 7,32 .007
Qatar frame 4,7 2,2 3,5 1,73 .19
The effect of newspaper on the presence of the problem in the leadership frame is statistically significant, χ2 (1) = 9,24, p < .002. This is a weak effect, Phi = .16. The presence of the leadership problem frame is notably greater among articles published in broadsheet newspapers (21,4%) than in tabloid newspapers (9,9%). Even though the effect of newspaper on the presence of the human-interest frame is not statistically significant, the results come close to reaching statistically significant numbers, χ2 (1) = 3,41 p < .07 This is a weak effect,
Phi = .1. The presence of the human-interest frame is greater among tabloid newspapers (53,3%) than in broadsheet newspapers (43,8%). The effect of newspaper on the presence of the criminal activities frame is statistically significant, χ2 (1) = 7,32, p < .007. This is a weak effect, Phi = .14. The presence of the criminal activities frame is notably larger among articles published in broadsheet newspapers (10,4%) than in tabloid newspapers (3,3%).
Conclusion and Discussion
Interpretation of the results
In the following, the results will be further examined and discussed, and a conclusion about the relation between theory and practice will be drawn. For every frame there has been at least one significant change with the three independent variables country, newspaper, and years. As the analysis has shown, there are a few significant changes that have occurred over time, as there are changes in between the format of the newspaper and the country of origin.
The first sub question focused on the change of reporting over time and how the presence of the 6 frames shifted over time. For the responsibility frame, there is almost no detectable change. The most significant change is between 2006 and 2014, where the number rises from 36,8% to 40,9%. For 2022, the number decreases almost imperceptibly to 39,3%.
The human-interest frame shows a similar trend. From 44% in 2006, it rises to 50.8% in 2014, until the figure levels off at 50.4% in 2022. The leadership problem frame has a similar starting point, but in different percentage ranges. While in 2006 around 10.4% of all articles report on problems in the hierarchy, this figure rises to 18.2% in 2014. By 2022, it does not recover but climbs further to 18.8%. This increase of almost 100% is substantial, as it indicates that before the World Cup was awarded to Qatar, only about one tenth of all articles reported negatively on FIFA, whereas today it is about one fifth. It can be argued that news about FIFA became more negative and critical over time. The game frame also shows an interesting development.
In 2006, the year of the German summer fairy tale (Majer-O’Sickey, 2006), more than half of all articles contained at least one reference to a match that was to be played or had already been played (56.8%). In 2014, by contrast, this figure amounted to only 46.2%. It can be observed here that the coverage of individual games took on a high priority in 2006. More than half of all articles included at least one mention for one or more games, while this value is 10 percentage points lower in 2014 (see table 3). This value overlaps with the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar, and the focus during this period has been visibly less on the sporting aspect. By 2022, however, the figure had risen again to 53%. The criminal activities frame was present in only 2.4% of all articles in 2006. This may have been because FIFA was not involved in any criminal activities, or because media outlets were simply more favorably disposed toward the institution. In 2014, the number of such articles increases fivefold, with around 11.4% of all articles now reporting some form of criminal activity involving FIFA or its officials. As with the game frame, this pattern correlates with the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar, and an increased value shows that the media were very critical of FIFA during this period. In 2022, the number drops again to a relatively low 6.8%. For the Qatar frame, there is a development which is logical to fathom. In 2006, before the World Cup was awarded to the desert state, there was no talk about the tournament. In 2014, this number rose to 4.5% and in 2022, 6% of all articles contained information about the hosting of the tournament.
Sub question 2 asked, how the frames that are present in articles differ between football and non-football countries. The content analysis demonstrated that there are results that must be mentioned at this point. The two generic frames by Semetko and Valkenburg (2000) were, besides the game frame, the two frames that were most present, which confirms the hypothesis of them being generic and therefore vastly used. The difference for the responsibility frame between Germany (30,7%) and Canada (47,7%) was unexpectedly high. The human-interest frame also appeared more times in articles published in Canada (51,9%) than in articles that
were published in Germany (44,9%). For the leadership problem, game and criminal activities frame, there were no significant differences (see table 4). The Qatar frame, on the other hand, showed a significant difference. While only 1,1% of the articles published in Germany gave further information about the hosting of the tournament in Qatar and the surroundings of the event, 5,9% of the Canadian articles went more into detail regarding the tournament in the Middle East. This suggests that Canadian newspapers have a greater interest in covering Qatar as a host country than German newspapers.
The third sub question examined the relationship between the format of the newspaper and the presence of frames. The results of this study are even more significant than for sub question 2. While the differences in the responsibility frame and game frame are only of marginal nature (see table 5), the remaining 4 frames highlight the differences in the reporting styles. While only 43,8% of articles published in the broadsheet newspapers featured the human-interest frame, 53,5% of the articles in the tabloid newspapers contained at least one element of the human-interest frame. These results confirm previous findings who state that the human-interest frame is ostensibly used by tabloid newspapers because it has an entertaining character (Johansson, 2007; Van Gorp, 2007). When talking about leadership problems (21,4%) and suspicion of criminal activities inside the FIFA (9,9%), the broadsheet outlets were tellingly more critical in their reporting than the tabloid outlets, who featured less articles that covered leadership problems (10,4%) and criminal activities (3,3%). This is consistent with existing research that broadsheet newspapers place a greater focus on serious matters while entertainment is pushed into the background (Reese, 2003; Semetko & Valkenburg, 2000). As with the independent variable country, the examination for the variable newspaper has shown that the Qatar frame was of almost equally little presence in the broadsheet (4,7%) as in the tabloid newspaper (2,2%).
The results of this work build on and complement existing research. The regular presence of generic frames was confirmed, while the selection of issue-specific frames gave meaningful insights. On the whole, reporting in football countries does not differ greatly from reporting in non-football countries. Only the responsibility frame showed significant differences, being used significantly more often in Canada (48%) than in Germany (31%). This suggests that some form of attribution of blame or responsibility occurs more frequently in Canadian newspapers than in German ones. This may be because Canadian media do not have a strong cultural proximity towards football, as there are other sports that have a greater popularity. Due to this lack of proximity in comparison, a higher degree of blame may be placed in the present articles. Besides that, the presence of frames was similar, suggesting that overall, it makes little to no difference which sport is ranked first in a country, as the coverage is largely consistent. The differences between broadsheet and tabloid, on the other hand, were of a different nature and confirm the existing research. It is noticeable that tabloid newspaper put a greater focus on personal stories, which is intended to entertain the readership. The two broadsheet newspapers are more critical and present facts more clearly, which aligns with existing research (Bates, 2017; Johansson, 2007). There is more frequent assignment of blame and responsibility, problems in the hierarchy and criminal practices are, trough the usage of frames, discussed more often, which is intended to give the readership a picture of reality. While entertainment is the order of the day in tabloid newspapers, the focus here is more on hard facts and the sometimes unpleasant truth. Surprisingly, the game frame, which is also synonymous with entertainment, appears even more often in broadsheet articles than in tabloid articles (see table 5).
The most significant result is the development of reporting from 2006 to 2022. In addition to criminal activities, leadership problems in particular have increased noticeably. This means that the coverage of FIFA has clearly deteriorated in these two areas. On the one hand,
this may be because the 4 selected newspapers have taken a more critical stance towards FIFA, and other topics apart from sports have moved to the forefront of the reporting. On the other hand, it can also be because FIFA and its officials have been at fault for more incidents. While the latter option merely speaks to erratic leadership in the executive suite, the former would suggest that the sports departments of newspapers are indeed deviating from the lapdog role often ascribed to them and taking on more of a watchdog role. The findings of the frame analysis strongly underline this argument, as an increased occurrence of critical frames can be observed, while the rather uncritical game frame must note a stark drop in the numbers for 2014 (see table 3). These results are in contrast to the studies and findings of Rowe (2007, 2017), who argues that sports departments too rarely investigate the backstories and intricacies of sports organizations and are too uncritical, and give a new insight into the way newspapers are reporting on sports institutions.
Limitations and suggestions for future research
As with all studies, there is a number of limitations which must be mentioned here. First, the sample and its composition can be criticized. The division into football and non-football countries makes sense but would be even more meaningful if this list were supplemented by at least two additional newspapers per category. In its current form, the study has a high degree of internal relevance, as one is working with a relatively large data set (n=374, <85 articles per newspaper), but external relevance is not given, as only one country per category served as an indicator. Furthermore, the process of coding must be debated. Due to time and money constraints, only one coder was able to code the selected dataset for this study, which may cause problems. Intercoder reliability was attempted to be guaranteed by a second coder who coded 10% of all items. However, due to language barriers, he was only able to code the English- language articles, so the German-language articles were only examined by coder 1. More coders, which would turn to all articles, would lead to a higher internal reliability. Apart from
this, it is worth mentioning here that the results have relatively high internal validity. The intercoder reliability analysis showed that 4 of the 6 frames were recognized equally often by both coders. These 4 are the issue-specific frames. Interestingly, the otherwise frequently occurring generic frames, the responsibility and human-interest frame, were not recognized as such equally often by both coders. There were large differences here, which may have been due to the lack of training.
Another limitation is the choice of years to be studied. To determine a possible change in reporting, 3 years were selected, 2006, 2014 and 2022. The gap of 8 years between the three years is not significant here. It must be stated here that the selection of other years for the analysis would most likely have led to different results, which would give a different, eventually more accurate insight into the development of reporting. This is because the three years selected are all years in which World Cups are held. The coverage in these years may differ from other years, as in those years there is a greater focus on the organizing body, which is why a comparative analysis with deviating time periods might yield different results. Certain frames such as the game frame might appear with more frequency in the selected years, as a high number of international games is hosted and reported on, while others, such as the responsibility frame, may appear with less frequency. Similar to the first two limitations, the time aspect is also decisive here. With more time, a larger data set could be processed; under the given conditions, this was simply not possible. It would be desirable to conduct an analysis of the remaining years to obtain a more comprehensive picture of the reporting.
However, this study also provides an opportunity to conduct future research in this area.
Statistically significant results were recorded for all three sub-questions. However, this was only done on the basis of the two generic frames and the four issue-specific frames. For future research, it would be desirable to have a larger set of frames or to conduct a larger pre-study to ensure which frames are relevant and to select those. The Qatar frame used for this thesis was not found often and could be replaced by another frame, which would give the research another
facet. Furthermore, such research is also desirable in other media formats. For example, it would be useful to conduct a content analysis on the social networks Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram instead of in newspapers. Through such work, a detailed picture could emerge of how the users, the consumers, exchange opinions about FIFA and what their opinions are. Similarly, such a study could be made of other transnational institutions in football or other sports, either with this set of frames or with an alternative one.
Ultimately, the question remains what these findings really tell us. Given the investigations that have already taken place against former executive committee members (Gibson, 2011) and the investigation currently underway against former FIFA head Sepp Blatter (Kistner, 2022), it can be said that the media do have influence. When they want to, their role goes beyond that of a lapdog, and their insights should not be undermined or underestimated.
A look behind the scenery of any major sports institution will do no harm, and critical scrutiny should continue to be the endeavor of all journalists and sports departments in the future. FIFA relies on its universal appeal, major tournaments such as the World Cup are closely linked to the name of the institution and to build on this appeal requires legitimacy. With increasing reports of problems and criminal energy within the institution, this legitimacy is in danger, which should be a warning sign for the Swiss institution's top management. The fact that the press is increasingly reporting on these grievances is a positive sign.
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Appendix A: Codebook
Description of units
Registration unit: Everything written in the newspaper article.
Context unit: The complete newspaper article.
Coder ID 01 Emilio 02 Jonathan
Identification of news articles
The first and the second digit represent the newspaper.
01 – Süddeutsche Zeitung 02 – Kölner Express 03 – National Post
04 – The Vancouver Province
An overview of variables
V1 – Attribution of responsibility frame V2 – Human-interest frame
V3 – Leadership problem frame V4 – Game frame
V5 – Criminal activities frame V6 – Qatar frame
Qualtrics Link: https://uva.fra1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_0jJUv05R9aIh1ie
Part A: Administrative information
1. Who is coding the article?
1. Emilio 2. Jonathan
2. What is the item ID?
Please copy and paste the entire name of the document that you are coding. The ID consists of four-digit numbers, number one and two indicate the newspaper. Number three and four are the individual numbers for each article.
3. From which country is the news source?
1. Germany 2. Canada
4. From which newspaper is the article?
1. Süddeutsche Zeitung 2. Kölner Express 3. National Post
4. The Vancouver Province
5. What is the date on which the article was published?
Please note in the format dd/mm/yyyy.
Part B: Frames
V1 Attribution of responsibility frame
Does the story suggest that an individual (or group of people in society) is responsible for the event?
01. Yes 02. No
The coder should look for sentences that indicate a clear attribution of responsibility to an individual, the FIFA, or a different party.
[Süddeutsche Zeitung] “Who is partly to blame for the enormous stadium construction problems ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar: German companies have failed. The organization of work is poor. The big companies, especially from Germany and France, are responsible," the head of the world federation Fifa told us. Football, he said, was innocent.”
- In the article, the president of FIFA claims that his organization is not responsible, while he blames other parties for problems in the stadium construction. In this case, the coder should choose “Yes”.
V2 Human-interest frame
Does the story provide a human example or “human face” on the issue?
01. Yes 02. No
The coder should look for stories of individuals or groups that are told, as these stories bring a human face to an event.
[Süddeutsche Zeitung] “Between June 4 and August 8 alone, 44 Nepalese workers are reported to have died, often from heart failure or accidents on construction sites. In some cases, employers are said to withhold wages, confiscate passports or deny workers free water in temperatures as high as 50 degrees.”
- This article focuses on the fate of Nepalese migrant workers, who are the victims of the World Cup. They personalize the suffering and give a human picture on the subject, the coder should therefore choose “Yes”.
Does the story go into the private or personal lives of the actors?
01. Yes 02. No
The coder should look for information and details about the private life of the people that are mentioned in the story.
[Kölner Express] “FIFA President Gianni Infantino (51) has moved his center of life to World Cup host country Qatar. According to the Swiss newspaper Blick, the head of the world football association has been living "predominantly" in Qatar's capital Doha since October.
FIFA confirmed that Infantino had rented a house there and that his family had recently started living in Qatar.”
- The article delves into the private life of the president of the football federation and provides further insights. The coder should therefore select "Yes".
V3 Leadership problem frame
Does the article mention problems or conflicts in the hierarchy or the leadership?
01. Yes 02. No
The coder should look for elements that talk about problems in the leadership. These problems can be brought up by the media, or mentioned by a member of the football
[Kölner Express] “Rummenigge criticized Infantino for a poor communication policy with the ECA, of which he is honorary chairman: "That then sometimes leads to a defensive attitude in public. I regret that, and I don't like the fact that there is no positive thread of discussion between FIFA, UEFA and the ECA on this matter. That needs to be corrected."
- Here, the lack of communication between the football institutions FIFA, UEFA and ECA is pointed out by one of the honorary chairmen. This is a problem in the leadership, the coder should therefore select “Yes.”
V4 Game frame
Does the article contain information about a specific game that was played or is about to be played?
01. Yes 02. No
The coder should look for information about a specific game that is mentioned in the article. The focus can be on the athletic performance, the strategy of a team and the tactics, or the personal surrounding that match.
[National Post] “World soccer's governing body FIFA on Monday said in a statement that it will analyse reports on the suspension of Sunday's World Cup qualifying match between Brazil and Argentina and decide on potential measures. FIFA said it regretted the scenes preceding the suspension of the match.”
- The article thematizes the events surrounding a game. The coder should therefore select
V5 Criminal activities frame
Does the article contain information about criminal activities that are related to the FIFA or to one or various of its officials?
01. Yes 02. No
The coder should look for any type of criminal activity that is mentioned in the article and related to FIFA, its officials, or its partners. Criminal activities range from corruption to fraud to money laundering.
[National Post] “The 2022 World Cup in Qatar has become the focus of fresh FIFA
corruption allegations after the release of a new U.S. Department of Justice indictment which says bribes were paid to football officials to secure their votes for hosting rights. Suspicion and rumors have long surrounded both the 2010 vote by FIFA's executive to hand the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar. But on Monday, for the first time, prosecutors set direct, formal allegations down in print.”
- This article mentions corruption allegations in form of bribes towards football officials, which happened in the awarding of the World Cup 2022. These activities are illegal, and the coder should therefore select “Yes.”
V6 Qatar frame
Does the article contain detailed information about the hosting of the tournament in Qatar?
01. Yes 02. No
The coder should look for information about the World Cup in Qatar. This refers to aspects off the football field that have nothing to do with the sport itself. They include the choice of months in which the tournament will take place, the construction of the stadiums, openness to members of the LGBTQ community, and alcohol prohibition.
[National Post] “Expect average afternoon temperatures of at least 37 C, rarely dipping below 31 C in the evenings, they added. And, leaving absolutely no doubt, they warned: "The fact that the competition is planned in June/July, the two hottest months of the year in this region, has to be considered as a potential health risk for players, officials, the FIFA family and spectators, and requires precautions.”
- This article covers information about the temperatures that are expected in the months of the World Cup. This information can be assigned to the superset of information about Qatar, so the coder should select "Yes".