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If you can’t be bothered to cover your event, then why should anyone care?

By Dan Palmer

Back in 2005, my university friends and I formed a football team in Sheffield.

In a move which would certainly raise a few more eyebrows in the current climate, we played in the kit of the Russian national team.

One of the squad mysteriously secured a job-lot at a knock-down price and we called the side CSKA 6G to fit in with the Russia-theme.

For the most part, the football was rubbish.

Matches kicked off at the Goodwin AstroTurf pitches at around 1pm and most of the team had only rolled out of bed an hour earlier following a hard night’s drinking studying.

We certainly lost more than we won. On one memorable occasion, our Irish playmaker was clean through on goal and looking certain to stroke home into the net.

What then happened was utterly ridiculous − a ball from an adjacent pitch flew over and knocked our ball from the Irishman’s path and out for a throw.

With obvious frustration, the offending ball was launched over the fence to the chagrin of the neighbouring game.

Players from the other two teams decamped to our pitch for what might have been the first cross-pitch fight in the history of sport.

Has there ever been another occasion when two completely unrelated games have intertwined into such nonsense? It happened to CSKA 6G.

I mention all this because, despite the farcical nature of this side, we were a team that was extremely well covered.

We had a website with match previews, videos and reports. There was a forum with pictures and discussion on the latest games and one player even provided tactical analysis.

Blurry footage shows star striker Dan Palmer in action for CSKA 6G ©ITG
Blurry footage shows star striker Dan Palmer in action for CSKA 6G

There was a wealth of information if you happened to be so interested. Nobody was, of course, but it was available all the same.

Now here’s the thing. That football team − the hard-studying, cross-pitch fighting rabble playing in Russian shirts − were better covered than some of the sports on the Olympic programme.

That being the case with the millions circulating in world sport is nonsense and in these times of attempting to pander to youth, and all of their newfangled technological devices, surely something has to be done about it.

It seems ridiculous that supposedly major events can pass by with little attention and coverage from the very organisations running them.

This does not apply to all sports as some provide fantastic coverage. But the number of governing bodies which do not seem bothered is something I find truly astounding.

The worst offenders don’t seem to do anything. It is not uncommon to log on to a website to find it has not been updated for days or weeks, despite it being the middle of the season.

In my colleague David Owen’s Big Read interview with International Equestrian Federation President Ingmar De Vos, the Belgian provided the interesting nugget that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) were monitoring website hits.

I would like to see this go further − if the IOC see a sparse web offering, then that should be a black mark against that sport’s chances of reaching the Olympic programme, or remaining on it.

To go back to youth, what is the point in trying to attract the kids if they log on and find absolutely nothing? They will not return and another potential fan will be lost to a YouTube “influencer” with 25 million followers who you have invariably never heard of. 

If coverage does take place, it is often sparse and lacking detail. It is surely not good enough to post a couple of pictures and a few paragraphs after a World Championships or World Cup.

Simply posting the official PDF of results, or an incomprehensible spreadsheet of names and numbers also doesn’t cut it. 

Making sure a sporting event is adequately covered is extremely important

I want to make clear that I don’t place any blame with the hard-working press officials and communications staff across the various sports.

During my time at insidethegames the vast majority of these have been outstanding professionals and as far as I understand it, this is not their fault.

I won’t single out any sports as the media people are often under-resourced and their attention is diverted to other things.

Having heard the story of a press officer who was doing the President’s dry cleaning, I know that these people can sometimes be acting as secretaries for an organisation’s top brass. They would like to provide better coverage but are not afforded the luxuries of time and resources to do so.

So I believe this should be a priority of the aforementioned top brass to fix. I imagine that when these people fly to meetings across the world, per diems clinking away in the back pocket, one topic which often comes up is “how can we get more people into the sport?”

Well, how about telling people about the sport?

Fans should be bombarded with information before, during and after a competition. Previews should start well in advance and continue regularly before the day of the event.

There should be constant rolling live blogs with information, interviews and numerous pictures and videos.

If there is television coverage, we need to be told again and again who is showing it and how we can access that channel. 

Social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram should go into overdrive. There should be no escape from the sport and from that event. Apps should buzz regularly with notifications and as many languages as possible should be used.

During all this, time is crucial. If something significant happens, or something interesting is said, it must be presented to the fans as quickly as possible.

This is particularly key when the action itself begins. It is amazing how many times an event has long finished but there is no way of finding out what has happened.

Results and reaction needs to be ready instantly as there is simply no point in updating people hours or even days later. This is a fast-paced world with a low-attention span and by then the story has moved on.

Interest wanes shortly after a sporting event has finished

Fans are constantly looking ahead. When the final whistle blows in a football match, the attention is immediately diverted to the next game. To repeat a cliché, a “line has been drawn”. If you send a press release out five hours after everyone has packed up and gone home, then the interest has already waned.

I am sure, also, that the workforce for all this exists. Every time a reporter’s role was advertised at insidethegames, where I served as Desk Editor, we received dozens of responses so it is clear a pool of talented young journalists exists who would be eager to contribute. If resources are tight, then give them a call.

These people should not work for free, so how about making the per diems a little less clinkier to pay for it?

This all seems relatively simple to me, although I’m sure some will tell me there’s more to it.

But at the end of the day, ensuring your sport is at the centre of attention while engaging with fans is surely a win-win situation.

Several sports are facing an increased battle to stay relevant these days with interest in decline.

Surely, shouting from the rooftops about what is happening is the best way to fight back?

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