Judge Rinder sparks rugby league meltdown

The recent appearance by Leigh Centurions owner Derek Beaumont and his Salford Red Devils counterpart Marwan Koukash on the popular ITV programme Judge Rinder sparked plenty of debate in rugby league circles.

Beaumont and Koukash took centre-stage in the court room in a battle concerning Centurions’ signing of Gareth Hock from Salford and his subsequent appearance against his former club in the Challenge Cup in 2015.

Our Love Rugby League team watched the show followed by the subsequent fall-out across social media, and it’s safe to say they weren’t impressed by much of the reaction.

With the duo also currently engaged in a charity weight loss challenge, some people took their appearance on the show in the spirit in which it was meant – a bit of fun with a view to resolving a genuine issue in an informal way, while bringing some attention to the game of rugby league to a massive mainstream daytime audience.

However, many others took a different view, with comments such as “embarrassing for rugby league” amongst the milder outpouring of negativity hurled in the pair’s direction.

For a sport that needs all the publicity it can get as it battles for airtime alongside the likes of football, cricket and rugby union, some of the vitriol on display was mind-boggling yet unsurprising in equal measure.

Across the spectrum of sports, social media has sparked a culture of opinion and interaction never previously available to fans.

It has also opened the door for rising levels of moaning and abuse, with rugby league perhaps one of the worst afflicted if the LRL team’s observations are anything to go by.

There’s plenty of brilliant things in the game – whether it’s the spectacle itself or some of the great work done off the pitch by clubs in the community – yet much of this seems to get drowned in a sea of negativity.

Endless criticism of the RFL, berating of match officials and fans dubbing rival clubs “scum” do little to present rugby league in a positive light.

If the fans can’t bring themselves to be positive about the sport – and like others it isn’t perfect – then what hope does it have of marketing its good points to a wider audience?

While Beaumont and Koukash’s appearance on the Judge Rinder show was largely being derided by rugby league fans, another “fringe/minority” sport was getting some priceless extra exposure and the reaction to it was chalk and cheese.

Rod Stewart and Rachel Hunter’s son, Liam, recently represented Great Britain at a World Championship tournament in Belfast.

Stewart jnr scored his first international goal against Estonia during the competition, and both parents did their bit to shout about the news.

While Rod’s reaction had echoes of his “enthusiastic” involvement in the draw for the fifth round of the Scottish Cup, the fact that major news outlets picked up on this was embraced by ice hockey fans who cry out for their sport to reach a wider audience.

Clearly Rod Stewart and Judge Rinder are at different levels on the “celebrity” spectrum, but fans of rugby league would do well to note the impact these types of interactions can have when it comes to spreading the word.

If the sport’s own fans can’t extinguish what appears to be a self-created culture of moaning, what motive is there for the media or sponsors to view it in anything other than a negative light?

Hull KR top social media league table of British sports teams

Despite being relegated from the Super League at the end of last season, Hull KR have been ranked top of the fourth annual 146-team Sport Social Media Index which grades British professional football, rugby and cricket teams according to performance by their official club channels.

Hull KR climbed from 29th last year to take the top spot, scoring an impressive 75.5 out of a possible 100, narrowly nudging Sheffield Wednesday (75.25) into second. Data for the Sport Social Media Index was analysed up to 1st September, 2016.

Yorkshire County Cricket Club is the first cricket team to secure a position in the top ten of the overall league table, ranking 6th this year, up from 128th the previous year.

Scottish Premiership side Ross County continued its impressive rise, climbing to 18th this year, up from 75th last year and having being bottom in both 2013 and 2014.

The annual Index is compiled by measuring the social media performance of each team based, not just on an algorithm, but research from a team who looked at eight social media networks.

Four months in the making, the data was then analysed by a panel of three judges who presided over the final results, creating a league table which benchmarks social media success among professional British sports teams.

The Index, produced by social media agency Umpf – and partnered once again by William Hill – includes an overall table of all 146 teams ranked top to bottom, plus nine additional tables showing rankings based on each sporting league.

Rachel Clayton from Umpf, one of the Sport Social Media Index judges, said: “Hull KR achieved an excellent quantitative data score, largely due to high levels of on-page engagements in relation to the size of their social community.

“They demonstrated a tailored approach to both social media asset design and channel-specific content and produced excellent behind-the-scenes footage, such as exclusive Snapchat content. They are well-deserved winners of this year’s overall table.”

Michael Sheehan, Head of Social Media at William Hill, added: “Hull KR are a shining example of great community management. Through tailoring their content across all platforms, they have gained huge engagement scores when you consider the size of their communities.

“They clearly resonate with the local community and deliver more than just club news for their fans. They also engage with the local community both online and offline. A well-deserved winner of this year’s Index and great example for other clubs to follow.”

Rugby League media days: The inside scoop

Ever wondered what the state of play is at a media day for a Super League club?

I recently attended events for Salford Red Devils and the Widnes Vikings and thought it might be good to give an insight into what goes on.

Ahead of the Salford press day journalists attending needed to email the club with player requests.

This has been the case for the other press days which I’ve attended on behalf of Love Rugby League and it’s a good way of avoiding a frenzy on the day.

Once we arrived in one of the club’s meeting rooms we had to wait a short while before the first players we wanted to speak to were brought through.

As well as audio interviews my colleague and editor John Davidson also did a video interview with Kris Brining which ensured there was a bit of variety when it came to the content produced.

There was also a sponsor board set up at the end of the room with the Salford Red Devils brand on which offered a good background for video interviews.

Most of the other journalists from organizations such as the Press Association and the Sun newspaper were only doing audio interviews. This might mean the final content they put out is not that interactive.

After the press day had finished we did a Facebook Live rounding up key events from the day which was a fresh approach to sharing news with people that follow the page.

It is also a great way of increasing engagement because people can comment and also rate the content.

Super League were the only other organization to share content in this way – they decided to sit two Salford players down and let the public ask them questions.

This is another good way of increasing engagement and driving traffic which could be something loverugbyleague look to do in the future.

When it came to the Widnes media day there seemed to be slightly less organization because it was advertised as a 12.00pm start, but the players had some lunch first so it meant waiting around for a bit.

When they had finished it was left to the journalists to be able to recognise them and for some of the younger players that proved a bit tricky.

It might have been better to sit players down behind a table with their name on it so that everything was more organised.

In terms of the content people were producing, John filmed another video interview with one of Widnes’ new signings Tom Armstrong.

Again it is a different way of doing things and may help to attract viewers who don’t want to read text.

One of the good things about the Widnes event was the venue. It was held at the Parklands Club which had numerous round tables and chairs.

The media day also involved some players being photographed in their kit

When you did want to interview a player it was easy to make them feel at ease by offering them a seat and so they are likely to engage more about various subjects.

With both media days the journalists had to do a group interview with the managers, meaning there was no chance of breaking any exclusive news.

This is the case with a variety of sports and although everybody’s content can end up being similar it is a good way to make sure things run efficiently on the day.

One of the key things to take from this article is the change in the way content is being shared and consumed.

Facebook Live, which launched last April, is just one example of this constantly changing media landscape and is a definitive indicator for how things will develop in the future.

Finding that elusive first rung on the job ladder

Whatever field you aspire to work in it is very often a tricky proposition to get that break and secure your first job offer.

The sports journalism industry is no different in that respects and in an increasingly competitive market it is vital to try and differentiate yourself from the thousands of other people.

My journey to find employment in the industry started over two years ago when I secured a place on the Sports Journalism course at the University of Central Lancashire.

UCLan’s Sports Journalism course is accredited by the Broadcast Journalism Training Council. Photo credit: begstealborrowfilms.com.

This was really exciting news because it was the first crucial stepping stone which would lead on to plenty of great opportunities.

The university’s facilities are rated as excellent and the course has strong relationships with various sports and media organizations for example the BBC, Preston North End FC and Wigan Warriors. This filled me with a lot of hope ahead of my first semester.

During my first year I volunteered as a reporter for the university’s radio station covering the men’s hockey first team. I attended their home and away matches providing updates on key events. After each match I also wrote a report for the student newspaper’s website.

I was really grateful to be given this opportunity at the start of my university course. I was able to sample experience of both broadcast and print media whilst developing a variety of skills like time-management, research and working as part of a team.

Alongside my second year I was given another invaluable opportunity when I started helping out with Chorley FC’s media department.

I spent the whole season covering home and away matches providing live updates on the club’s Twitter account which has 15,000 followers, as well as writing match reports for the website and club programme.

I covered Chorley’s win against Lancaster City in the Lancashire Challenge Trophy final. Photo credit: boltoncentral.co.uk

As well as gaining invaluable experience in online media, I also got to sample a variety of press boxes including the one at Bolton Wanderers’ Macron Stadium which was a proud moment for myself.

At the end of my second year I decided it was time to try and diversify, because there are quite a lot of students who want to work in football. I felt like if I could gain some experience in another sport it would set me apart.

Initially I heard that British Ice Hockey were looking for people to help contribute, so I enquired but unfortunately I didn’t have the adequate experience.

Determined to broaden my horizons I asked if there were any other sports I could help write about and as it happened Love Rugby League belonged to the same company – JDG Media.

I contacted the editor, John Davidson, and was instantly given the opportunity to cover some rugby league matches on TV and write reports.

In the next few months I built up a vast amount of contacts and also provided a variety of content from in-depth features to match previews.

Looking back one of the best moments was receiving accreditation to cover the 2016 Four Nations final at Anfield Stadium. The ground is a spectacular venue and the media facilities are world class, so it was an amazing opportunity and one which I will remember for a long time.

JDG Media’s clients include sports governing bodies, professional sports clubs and marketing agencies. Photo credit: www.jdgsport.com

As part of my third and final year at university I needed to spend a week on placement and so I thought it would be a great opportunity to come to the JDG Media offices and meet the team.

Before I arrived I was keen to be given the chance to contribute and help out with a number of activities, including continuing to help provide content for LRL.

If I can further develop my list of contacts that would be another positive during my time on placement.

Looking ahead, when I finish university in a few months I would like to freelance for a sports website or the sports section of a newspaper.

I know freelance jobs are tricky to come by when first starting out, but I am keen to take my time and make sure my first position is one which I enjoy and offers the right working environment.

Why people must appreciate the business model behind the content

The sheer volume of accessible content in the age of social media and the world wide web is almost impossible to quantify.

Gone are the days where having your written (or spoken) word is limited to those successful few who have forged out a career in journalism or an equivalent profession.

In the modern age we’re all publishers – just a click away from getting our voice heard. And that is continuing to pose problems and blur the lines between the professional and the norm.

The young generation now expects content at its fingertips. It’s now the norm. They have no real understanding of where it comes from – they think someone like them is generating it.

Not an office full of journalists, content specialists or otherwise.

This poses a challenge for those heading up said publications, who have to consider the business model behind the content.

Back in October, we had our own experience of this first hand regarding this story about Scott Moore.

This story started actually started through a source of my own a few days prior. When an anonymous local newspaper story mentioned the incident, that made me decide that we ought to run a story, but that we should try and verify it as best as we could first.

Trigger numerous calls between me and the site editor, and eventual author of the story, John Davidson. He contacted the Wakefield club, the player and his agent for comment, and to make them aware of the story we were running.

After a variety of responses, that shall remain private, we made the decision to run with the story that night, Sunday October 16, after numerous edits and plenty of deliberation, knowing that we would want to try and beat the publication of the Monday trade papers.

Within barely 10 minutes, the crux of the story had been picked up by the excellent Facebook page, Rugby League Banter Page, in an image.

It didn’t credit us, and it got a lot of attention. It led to a Twitter exchange with the people who run the page, and to be fair, we ironed out the issue. The point was made that we had spent a lot of time sourcing the story, taken all the legal risk with it, and they had jumped on it and almost pinched the traffic.

While of course in this day and age, content is recycled on a regular basis, it was important that we made the point here, and the guys behind the page did understand. If we aren’t getting the traffic, we don’t generate the revenue, and that means we cannot pay the journalists who produce this sort of story.

In the grand scheme of things, our little experience doesn’t make a great deal of difference.

However, when a social media powerhouse the size of The Sport Bible gets involved, then it goes up a notch.

The guys at Squawka have (rightly) taken offence to their being blatantly ripped off by The Sport Bible, which boasts a phenomenal 9.2 million likes.

It’s easy to share someone else’s content. But if that someone else stops generating the content, then where do you go?

There are of course pages that are powered by volunteers – that’s the very nature of social. But clearly, a page like Squawka is reliant on professionals researching and generating its content.

Their business model, of which I have no inside knowledge, is surely to generate revenue through advertising and partnerships, which will be negatively affected should their traffic or engagement levels decrease as a result of their content being ripped off elsewhere.

The third example that I will draw from is more from a consumer level. People reading the content, who may have in the past paid for it in newspapers and magazines, want it for free and don’t have an appreciation that those behind the content have to make a living.

Unfortunately, that can mean some intrusive advertisements.

One I’ve noticed a few newspaper websites use of late is the Google poll, where users have to answer a minimum of one question before reading the story, just one click.

But this is too much for some:

I posed the question “would you rather pay to see the article or answer the question” and the answer was effectively do neither. Publishers can’t win!

So as content becomes even more bloated and regular, the business models behind the content become thinner and thinner.

There will be a tipping point eventually – here’s hoping that quality prevails.