Am I the only one detecting a wee bit of media (and fan) hypocrisy when it comes to the (latest) reported Lions “player shopping spree”? It seems that every time the Jobrug unions receives a cash injection, the assorted rugby public and media gets worked up into a frenzy about who the Lions should buy.
Picture this, if you will. Bruce Dunlop (Executive Director of Tongaat-Hullett) and Stephen Saad (Group Chief Executive of Aspen Pharmaceuticals) announce, at a joint press conference with Brian van Zyl and Rudolf Straeuli, that they are buying a 49% stake in the Sharks for a total of R100 million. As part of the announcement, they declare that the chequebook is open and that John Plumtree must tell them exactly which players he wants and they will buy them, no matter what the cost. Their first target is said to be Jacque Fourie, notwithstanding the fact that he is already tied up in a contract in Cape Town. Dunlop and Saad fly to Cape Town to have a meeting with Fourie to discuss whether he’d be open to a move.
How do you think the media would spin that one? “Sharks Poaching Reaches Staggering New Heights”… how’s that for a headline? Now you’ll know I’m not necessarily the best writer of a catchy byline, but you don’t need too much imagination to predict that the general tone would be one of indignation, of outrage even. The shady Sharks doing their underhanded deals to once more subvert the natural order of South African rugby, rape and pillage other (read more deserving) unions of their talent and claim a measure of success that, by rights, should not be theirs. The one article that I wouldn’t expect to read would be one praising the Sharks for a bold new business approach, one that was going to forever “change the landscape of the game in South African” and “about time, because for SA to be strong, we need a strong Sharks team”.
I’m sure you all see where I’m going with this one… go and do a search and replace in the above paragraph – insert “Lions” for Sharks, “Beast Mtawarira” for Jacque Fourie, and so on) and suddenly, it turns into a pretty accurate reflection of what’s been going on over the last few weeks. Forgive me for being somewhat perplexed about the media’s obsession with the Lions… it can’t be because the Joburg Union treats the media any better than other unions in the country do (just ask Walter from Lionsworld how well they cope with criticism). Why is it that every man and his dog from the Supersport commentators down to supposedly neutral writers working for big papers all seem to be prepared to look over virtually anything if it comes wrapped in red and white?
Perhaps it’s time for the Sharks to launch an all-out charm offensive, in the hope that a few big lunches and soothing sound bites from van Zyl and Straeuli can try to change some of the perceptions. The only difference, after all, between a rat and a squirrel is good marketing.Tweet