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Football: FIFA World Cup Championship: Clanger rings all too true.

THE charm offensive finally arrived - after United had effectively ended their meaningful participation in the tournament.

It was all predictably too little, too late.

Suddenly, it was all smiles and bonhomie down at the Manchester United training camp.

Local kids were invited to mix with their heroes and the smiles on their faces were a wonder to behold.

But even with such a simple PR exercise, United managed to drop a clanger to complete a miserable week.

The British media entered the camp along with the international press and TV crews, but were ordered to begin their filming behind a wire fence.

Finally, Jobsworth officials relented and photographers were allowed into Camp Colditz.

So while the English champions put on a memorable session for the Brazilian children, the much-maligned press were still moaning about their shoddy treatment.

Unfortunately, there will be little sympathy back home in wintry England for any members of this ill-fated trip - regardless of which side of the fence they have worked on.

Flu-ridden, freezing Brits have been treated to pictures of sin-kissed beaches, beautiful women and magnificent training and playing conditions. And reporting games in this glorious weather is better than a wet afternoon at Grimsby.

So we can forgiven for wondering why, in this footballing paradise, Sir Alex Ferguson was reduced to incandescent rage at a harmless press conference.

But my vote for battle of the week was not the Fergie spat but the confrontation between the big hitters of broadcasting, Greg Dyke, the new BBC chief and a former Manchester United director, and Kelvin MacKenzie of Talk Radio and the Sky empire.

In the bidding war, Talk Radio won the radio rights for the Champions League matches, excluding Radio 5 Live.

But here in Rio the BBC's package of pounds 14million included the radio rights.

That did not deter MacKenzie. A Talk Radio reporter was dispatched to Rio and has been covering the Manchester United matches from his hotel room at the Sofitel Rio Palace as if live from the Maracana.

When Dyke heard about the cheeky stunt, he was tempted to make a personal call to MacKenzie.

It was an incident which summed up rather neatly this shambles of a footballing carnival.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Harris, Harry
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 10, 2000
Previous Article:Football: Fergie's Par-fect switch.
Next Article:Football: FIFA World Cup Championship: KEANE: WHEN THE HEAT WAS ON WE BUCKLED..; Vasco da Gama 3 Manchester United 1.

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