Except for a few numbers of the kind you might find in a club's annual accounts, the rest is a combination of stuff they tell you, leaks from other sources (such as agents or rival clubs) and educated guesswork. The former could be simply made up to suit their purposes (yes, some of these guys lie most of the time and most lie some of the time) and the latter is, well, speculation.
So the announcement of Alan Pardew's mega eight-year contract extension is to be taken with a truckload of salt. Much like the extension given to Newastle's much ballyhooed chief scout, Graham Carr, who received a similar deal to see him through to 2020, when he'll be 75 years old.
Derek Llambias, Newcastle's managing director, put his own spin on things. "If you look at clubs like Manchester United and Arsenal, Sir Alex Ferugson and Arsene Wenger have shown that stability gives you the best platform to achieve success and that is the model we wish to emulate here," he said. "We're looking to build on the success we had last season and these new contracts are aimed at keeping the club progressing on and off the pitch, as we have done since returning to the Premier League in 2010."
Leaving aside the obvious point – that Newcastle aren't Manchester United or Arsenal (clubs with far more resources) and that Alan Pardew isn't Sir Alex or Wenger (both of whom had won significant silverware before arriving at their current clubs, unlike Pardew) – there's the fact that neither stuck around their clubs because they were shackled to them by long-term contracts. They stayed – turning down offers to go elsewhere on various occasions – because they were happy, professionally and financially, and because they did well enough that their clubs wanted to keep them.
It's common sense. If both parties are happy, you don't need a big contract. And if they're not happy? Well, on the surface, it makes it tougher for the two to break up. If Pardew does badly, Newcastle will have to pay him more in compensation if they sack him, which will make them think twice and, effectively, buy him time. And if Pardew does well and wants to move to a bigger club, Newcastle will receive more compensation because he has more years left on his deal.
In reality, unless Llambias and Pardew are fools – and they're not – this contract is packed with clauses to make a break-up that much smoother. What if Roy Hodgson screws up and England come calling? What if Newcastle are relegated? What if Pardew just wants to walk out, like he did a few years back when he ditched Reading – where he was duly under contract – for West Ham? No sane club are going to keep a manager against his will. So take this for what it is – a giant PR exercise. Pardew and his crew have done a tremendous job this far, but if Newcastle want long-term stability it will take more than eight-year contracts. It will take a well-run club that knows how to maintain success even as managers and players come and go.
A man was cautioned by police on Thursday after tweeting that he hoped Mark Halsey would get cancer and die. A number of media organizations commented on the distress that Halsey, a cancer survivor, faced after "being abused" via Twitter. In fact, the Press Association reported that the man, was "cautioned for sending abusive Twitter messages to a Premier League referee".
Let's get this straight. Halsey is not on Twitter. Which makes it impossible that the messages were sent to him. In fact, they were not. They were simply posted by at least two morons and then retweeted by their followers until they reached a journalist who does have a bit of a following and he drew attention to them. That's how Halsey found out about it.
Now, expressing the hope that someone's cancer returns and kills them simply because you don't like the way they officiated a football match is vile, twisted and sad. But let's be clear, this is not a case of harassment. They weren't bombarding Halsey with those messages. They weren't standing outside his house shouting at him. In fact, it's safe to say Halsey, like most referees, has faced similar, if not worse, abuse from real live human beings shouting at him from a few yards away.
So what makes this different? Simple. Someone told him about it, social media is involved and he decided to report the incident to the cops. Who, unsurprisingly, didn't arrest or charge anyone and rightly so.
Because what some – including, possibly, Halsey and surely those who freaked out over the vile tweets – don't seem to understand is that, except for a handful of exceptions, there is such a thing as free speech. We know – or should know – what the exceptions are. Stuff that is damaging to a person's reputation (this was not). Stuff that incites violence or racial hatred (this did not). Stuff that amounts to harassment (this was not, it was neither sent to him, nor intended for him). And stuff that is wantonly dangerous (like the prototypical yelling of "fire!" in a crowded cinema).
There's a game some mental midgets play on Twitter whereby they try to get banned by as many celebrities as possible, mainly by flooding them with abuse. You have a list of 100 celebs, you have one week's time, get to work. Boy, isn't that fun?
This is the same crap. It's an idiot cursing the TV, a fool talking to himself in the pub. All Halsey has done by reporting it to the police (other than wasting their time), and all the media have done by highlighting it is to encourage copycats to do the same.