Digital media, rugby and gutless management

First published on 4 Mar 2011 -

 If you don’t know anything about rugby, it is a team game with 15 players a side. Two are ‘centres’ (unless you are in New Zealand, which we are not).

In the 1980s, aeons before today’s digital media age, my brother played centre for England against Scotland. The other centre was Simon Halliday. I was there.

Neither of them was passed the ball all game, so neither had the chance to drop it.
Neither of them missed a tackle or made any other mistake.
England were thrashed.

The following week, Simon telephoned Jamie and said:

‘Have you seen Teletext today?’

‘No. Why?’ Jamie replied.

‘We’ve both been dropped’, said Simon.

‘Why?’ asked Jamie.

‘No idea’.

A few weeks later, Simon called Jamie again:

‘Have you see Teletext today?’

‘No. Why?’

‘We’re both back in the team’.


‘No idea’.

In those days, as you may gather from the above, rugby was an amateur sport. Rugby players had ‘proper’ jobs. Even so, as young men playing in front of large crowds and with mass media attention upon them, this treatment must have hurt. Could not someone have picked up the phone and spoken to them man-to-man?

More recently, Sir Clive Woodward was on Desert Island Discs. He said when he was centre for England, he could not believe the shambolic management he experienced. It was a complete contrast to his day job in the aggressive sales force at Rank Xerox.

Years later, as England manager in a newly professional game, Woodward resolved to develop a more professional management approach. His team won the World Cup. Arise, Sir Clive.

Anyway, last week, Jamie and I are having dinner and he has a very black and white view of how people communicate by email, text, Facebook and Twitter these days.

Indeed, as the only rugby player to have been capped for New Zealand and England (another story), some might think he is entitled to a black and white view of life.

Having been a television presenter, written a weekly national newspaper column and now working with a successful sports PR agency, Jamie knows the game.

And, perhaps because of his own heartless, hurtful experience as a young man, he feels very strongly that people should either meet face-to-face or at least pick up the phone and talk to each other more – especially when the business equivalent of being ‘dropped’ is the issue.

And I agree with him wholeheartedly.

In my view …

… if you are a client who fires an agency by email, text or other Faceless manner

… or

… an agency manager who fires an employee by email, text or other Faceless manner

… you are a gutless coward.

About Hugh Salmon

Business leader. Adman. Writer.
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