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Real Response: Fake sideline abuse

It was revealed that the Wellington Rugby Football Union faked a video depicting an uncover “sting” operation by Hurricane players of sideline abuse at junior rugby.

BlacklandPR commented on the issue because parents and players were depicted unfairly and inaccurately, it deceived the public in the interests of a “good cause”, and because a video gimmick won’t solve a thorny niche problem.

Our strategy would be to empower people to work it out between them, where and when it happens. Our communication tactics would be at grass roots, raising expectations of coaches, managers and players to act, and giving them basic psychological skills to calm people down. This is more likely to work, but has none of the self-importance of a video.

Angry parents and media coverage about the issue persisted for four days before the WRFU commented, on its Facebook page and in a letter to junior convenors of the two clubs involved.

The letter vaguely acknowledges that the release of the video “could have been handled differently”. The Facebook post disingenuously welcomes the “overwhelming public response to the release of our video” and the “healthy debate.”

Generalities like these are deciphered by the audience to mean you don’t rate their concerns.  Even if you don’t have remorse, you get credit for showing you understand the problem.

The key statement in the letter was that “the behaviour of the actors in the video DID NOT reflect that of the parents and players involved on the day.” That recovers a little ground with those they harmed the most – the rugby community – but not enough to heal the sore feelings.

The failure to acknowledge what was wrong with producing an entrapment video that shames its own members signalled this is an organisation that will very easily do it all again.

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