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The whiff of rotting fish

For organisations such as British Cycling and Team Sky – who have both wallowed in the reflected glory of their supposed legendary attention to detail, pursuit of ‘marginal gains’ and savvy media relations all based around their avowed core principle of seeking to be a beacon of transparent anti-drugs and ‘clean’ competition – to have got themselves into their current mess borders upon the unbelievable.

To be frank, and I personally have no access to any evidence at all that anyone has done anything wrong so I’m not accusing anyone of anything, the current debacle stinks.

Given their ‘holier than everyone else’ public stance, the moment the first hint of a potential problem (there may have been rumours previously, but let’s pin the beginnings of the scandal to the issue of Bradley Wiggins’ three anti-asthma injections, coincidentally given just before three of the biggest events of his road-racing career) came to light, British Cycling and/or Team Sky should have immediately released all their records on every aspect of the issue as a matter of principle.

Certainly that’s what I’d have advised them to do if I had been in charge of their media relations, and/or indeed had been hired by them as a media relations consultant.

Unless, of course, there was something dodgy that they needed to hide – but then nobody’s suggesting that, are they? (Or are they?).

Back in the day, when I worked in an ITV company which was suddenly placed on the thin end of a scandal taken up by the media, there were two quite different school of advice coming in to those senior executive dealing with the crisis.

The first was effectively ‘Close it down!’, i.e. say no comment … or at the very least say little and keep it as brief as possible‘.

This was being recommended presumably on the hoped-for basis ‘Whatever you do, don’t be open, because – if you think about it – there’s no need to plead guilty, certainly not at least until you know what you’re being accused of, because there’d be nothing worse than making a completely clean breast of things, only later to discover that nobody had actually been accusing you of even the half of it …’.

In contrast, the second was ‘Plead guilty and if necessary apologise for everything immediately‘.

This was presumably recommended on the basis that (1) if you do this you’ll disarm everyone, and possibly even gain sympathy and respect for coming so clean right away; and (2) whilst there might be an instant huge explosion of unwelcome bad publicity, you know what they say (‘today’s news is tomorrow fish and chips wrapping paper’) – the furore would all blow over in an instant – and (as the alternative) there’d be nothing worse than an attempt at ‘damage limitation’ (i.e. saying nothing and/or denying everything), only later for a drip-drip-drip of revelations to slowly and gradually emerge via astute investigative reporting and/or whistleblowers coming out of the woodwork, thus prolonging the agony ad infinitum.

Here’s the latest position, courtesy of Peer Walker, reporting upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN





About Tom Hollingworth

Tom Hollingsworth is a former deputy sports editor of the Daily Express. For many years he worked in a sports agency, representing mainly football players and motor racing drivers. Tom holds a private pilot’s licence and flying is his principal recreation. More Posts