In a major embarrassment for Sky, subtitles attached to Morelos, who spoke in Spanish, wrongly accused Celtic supporters of racially abusing the Colombian at the Old Firm match on December 29th.
Sky’s reporters were not welcome at Celtic’s pre-match press conference for Wednesday’s game at home to Hearts, as had been the case before last Sunday’s Scottish Cup tie against Clyde. Such a move is not typical of Celtic and illustrates the scale of their feeling. The broadcaster faces a race to resolve the matter before its live screening of Aberdeen v Celtic on Sunday.
After Celtic’s initial complaint, Sky admitted “inaccuracies” in the interview and removed it from all platforms before making a corrected version available. It said in a statement: “After numerous steps undertaken by Sky to verify the interview thoroughly we can be clear that at no point did Morelos allege that any racial abuse was directed at him by Celtic supporters in the interview. We apologise to the supporters of Celtic football club for this serious error. We are reviewing our procedures for translated interviews to ensure this does not occur in future.”
There was, though, no detail offered publicly or privately as to how this situation arose. Celtic remain angry with what they regard as the unsatisfactory nature of Sky’s response and have reported the situation to Ofcom.
This fall-out is all the more notable because Sky will begin an exclusive, five-year deal to screen live Scottish Premiership matches next season. Sky did not comment on this on Monday when approached by the Guardian. It has also been approached on Tuesday in relation to its lack of access to Celtic’s media briefings.
Ofcom is looking through complaints from Celtic supporters as well as from the club. An Ofcom spokesperson said: “We are assessing these complaints against our broadcasting rules, but have yet to decide whether or not to investigate.” This analysis typically takes around two weeks, with any formal investigation then usually completed within 50 working days.
Celtic have specifically demanded to know who was responsible for the translation. “The use of mistranslation to convey false meaning is a dangerous form of fake news which must be condemned and sanctioned,” said the club’s chief executive, Peter Lawwell.
Rangers are yet to say anything specifically about the misrepresentation of their player by Sky. Morelos’s representatives, World in Motion, did not comment when approached by the Guardian. The club did, though, issue a lengthy statement on Monday evening after it emerged that a 12-year-old had been charged in relation to a racist chant directed towards Morelos at Celtic Park. Rangers took aim at what they perceive as unfair treatment of their leading striker by the Scottish media.
“Rangers had a duty of care not to say anything that might compromise a live Police Scotland investigation,” the statement said. “What none of us should ever do, however, is dismiss, or trivialise abusive behaviour as too many media outlets, journalists, and pundits have done in this instance.”
It added: “When a player is at the centre of an abuse claim he is treated with respect and sensitivity and given support. That is certainly the case in England, but not here and most certainly not with Alfredo Morelos, who is actually being demonised in many quarters of the media.”