The lockdown fallout: what happens next?

After the Lockdown, well done to the Premiership Clubs and BT who have got the show back on the road and given us some great rugby to watch. All fans are out of the habit of going to the game and that is an issue that clubs are going to have to get to grips with soon as restrictions on crowds attending are lifted (albeit slowly). Gaining the confidence of fans to attend and bring youngsters and those with vulnerable illness is going to be a huge ask. Opening the gates, sending out a tweet saying the ticket office is open won’t be enough and club staff will be tested to the best of their abilities when they go crowd chasing.

I was surprised and shocked during lockdown that several clubs dispensed with their media managers. I may be biased having held positions at Warrington, Wigan and Sale for 22 years but how do clubs expect to get the message out and keep good working relationships in tact without a point of contact. The role of media manager is a tough one and you have to be switched on 24 hours a day and be able to deal with all sorts of strange requests and be able to ring club officials for quotes and tip-offs. I have seen the most incredible appointments with people being put in place who have zero skills and are either cheap (salary wise) or it’s been a placement created by a family member or being leaned on by a sponsor.

I have spoken at several events where young aspiring students have attended and I have been really impressed but these people have problems kicking the door down and getting an opportunity.

I shake my head at times when statements are made, printed or spoken and then there is a huge U turn with the hand brake on and smoke coming off the tyres. At one time we committed everything to memory, these days there is Google! Say something and this search engine will log it and however you try to shake it off its impossible and helps create your DNA credibility.

The Rugby Union season finishes in October and then has the shortest of breaks before the 20-21 season starts and its going to be like a fizzy bottle of pop shaken for ten minutes –remover the top and the contents fly everywhere. We have Internationals, Premiership, Six Nations, Europe and the play offs followed by a Lions Tour. Let’s be honest the Lions is massive as it unites the whole rugby fan base of the UK and ex-pats.

If I was one of the Saracens players who stayed loyal to the club I would be rubbing my hands. They will not be playing in full on high octane games every week and used sparingly like the Celtic League players. They will be fresher, fitter and more focussed rather than the Premiership players who will have played 30+ games and approaching burn out. You also have the distraction of money where clubs, if they can’t fill stadiums will be looking at cutbacks in wages. There are only so many media/marketing/ticketing/photographers you can cut but in comparison to player wages its bobbins.

How it all comes together is going to be fascinating, sadly I believe the Financial Directors will have a huge say, guided by owners and the professional game at the current level will, unless things improve and covid goes away will change beyond all recognition by this time next year.

By Dave Swanson

This article appeared in the Autumn 2020 issue of Rugby Blindside magazine – Read the full issue here