March 7, 2016
Sports PR specialist says clubs must take more responsibility for player behaviour
A former sports journalist turned public relations specialist says sporting clubs should look at themselves rather than solely blame the players for off-field indiscretions like the recent behaviour of rugby league player Mitchell Pearce and members of the Queensland emerging Origin squad.
Ben Dobson, manager of Mercer PR sports division which specialises in reputation management, media training and crisis PR for sporting organisations, said if smartphones and social media were around when some of our most respected sporting legends were playing, they may not be revered like they are today!
“I started in journalism in the 1980s and the behaviour and antics were no different. The only difference was the lack of scrutiny,” he said.
“In fact I’d go as far as saying that some of the people we look up to today would never have made it in the age of social and digital media, so I think we can be a little too judgmental and self-righteous sometimes when we talk about today’s sportspeople.”
Dobson said that many of the harshest critics are being disingenuous because they probably did the same things when they were younger, but the times were different.
He said while sportspeople clearly must take personal responsibility for their actions, it was the clubs that needed to better understand the new media age and change their training procedures accordingly.
“It’s quite clear that despite what they say publicly, some clubs simply don’t understand the dangers of the 24/7 digital and social media age, where anything can be recorded and shared and where even the smallest issue can be magnified.
“It’s time for clubs to get serious about the ramifications to their reputation and organisation and change the entire way they approach media training and the management of their players.”
He said it starts with a complete reprogramming of their players thinking, so that a zero tolerance attitude was accepted in return for the huge salaries players receive.
“Until there is a crackdown of great magnitude, we will see these issues continue, and the reputation of rugby league in particular will continue to be damaged.”