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Is social media really the enemy or is it ignorance? #RWC2015

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Social media the new enemy says Clive Woodward ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015

The BBC have reported that former England coach Sir Clive Woodward has warned Stuart Lancaster that the use of social media during England’s Rugby World Cup campaign could prove to be “the new enemy” with respect to the harmony of the England team.

The warning comes ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2015 with Woodward, commenting during his interview with the Radio Times that “we didn’t have to worry about it in 2003”, the year in which he led England to Victory.

Certainly, the research giants, Mintel would substantiate his position, their Social Media Report (published in 2014) demonstrated that people had little appetite for sharing content, particularly on social media, up until late 2007/early 2008 when as a nation we developed a passion for sharing everything from photos and data to music.

Woodward’s comments follow hot on the heels of the announcement that the RFU has issued social media guidelines to all players ahead of the Rugby World Cup. The 24 point guide is said to not only act as a social media policy but also a “practical guide” outlining scenarios during which it is ill advised to post. The RFU guidelines warn players not to post when in a bad mood, to avoid entering into arguments on social media and reminds the team to be cautious of the times of day they post (i.e. not past bed time) as well as emphasising the important of upholding their position as public role models.

Gavin Mairs, The Telegraph’s rugby correspondent also reports that the guide prevents players from writing newspaper columns or recording video diaries, two traditionally favourite past times of professional sports stars hoping to make their personal brand and sponsorship value stretch a little further than the main event.

Describes as a ‘gagging order’ by the Telegraph, the new rules have been seen as a dramatic departure from Rugby World Cup 2011, when as long as rugby players had the agreement of the National Governing Body they were good to go!

In the months leading up to the Rugby World Cup, there has been much discussion about the publishing and distribution of social media guidelines across Rugby, with increasing awareness by volunteer rugby committees, coaches and RFU officials of the challenges of managing public facing social media accounts.

The #MoreThanRugby campaign launched in May 2015, funded by the Area 5 RFU Legacy Board was created to support rugby clubs in using social media to engage with local communities. The campaign was shaped from the findings of social media research across 129 clubs. The findings of the social media driving legacy report can be downloaded here.

The research found that 63% of rugby clubs did not have a social media policy in place despite the growing number of issues that were being reported by the clubs.

The top 5 issues Rugby clubs & other sports clubs face in respect of social media include:

  1. Rogue accounts operating under the club’s brand
  2. Loss of access to social media channels when volunteers moved on or email accounts lost.
  3. Inappropriate language/ imagery posted on accounts
  4. Pitch side filming and commentary by supporters
  5. Trolling of players on social media by away fans

The challenges have led some clubs, such as Stafford RUFC, taking steps to safeguard their position as well as promoting the benefits to other clubs by sharing their own social media guidelines for other clubs to customise.

Michelle Leavesley, Marketing Director of CrowdControlHQ and project lead on the #MoreThanRugby campaign said:

“All eyes are on policy and policing of social media for the Rugby World Cup. However, the joy of projects like #MoreThanRugby is that they also focus on the education and support of those tasked to deliver the rugby voice across social media channels. How to implement a social media policy can always be a challenge and the more help people get with this element, the better.”

No doubt the debate will continue over the level of policy versus policing required but with the savvy sponsors starting to swing into action, engaging social media audiences like never before, it looks like we are in for the biggest Social Rugby World Cup the world has ever seen.

CrowdControlHQ is the UK’s leading social media risk management platform and supporter of the Area 5 RFU legacy project #MoreThanRugby. Please visit the website to find out more.


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Lewis Jones