A Sporting Success or a Social Saga

We’ve had a year to recover from last year’s tantalising finish and now with stamina levels refuelled and replenished, we’re ready. Ready to go through the passion, the heartbreak and the elation all over again. Two days and counting until the Six Nations 2016 kicks off! But as with all major sporting events, there is a fine line between a sporting success and a social saga.

Six Nations Super Saturday 2015 was one of the ultimate sporting successes. Three games, 221 points, 27 tries, one winner. Ireland. The ruthless men in green emerged victorious for the second year running despite high scoring thrillers from second place England and third place Wales. 10 tries at Twickenham between England and France – who would have thought it! A breath-taking day for rugby and one that went down in history.

Fast forward to 2016 and conversation around the games themselves will dominate social media as fans and viewers express their joy or frustration across various channels. With the digital sphere continuing to grow in popularity and influence - a reputation can be made or broken in as little as 140 characters. Seconds after England crashed out of last year’s Rugby World Cup, social media exploded with calls for Stuart Lancaster’s sacking and we all know how that story ended – a social saga indeed.

With rugby still basking in the halo effect of the World Cup, the expectation is higher than ever and this year looks set to be one of the closest fought Six Nations Championships we’ve ever had. There are new coaches, new squads, hopefully new tactics and most importantly of all… no southern hemisphere teams to steal our thunder!

With the hopes of a nation, still hurting from the cruel and early exit out of their own World Cup party, resting on his shoulders, an Aussie awaits his social fate. Witty, natural and understatedly confident, Eddie Jones appears to have the fans on side… at the moment.

I admire the decisions he has made so far – they show desire for change, hunger for taking risks and offer an injection of excitement into the English game but one false move, one bad result and that spark can fade oh so quickly. There will be a huge surge in mentions of ‘Eddie Jones’ across social media over the next few weeks, hopefully it’s due to England’s top class and exhilarating performances and nothing more sinister!

Players have a responsibility on social media during the championship - communicating with their fans in a respectable and diplomatic way knowing only too well the chain of events that will occur should they post something remotely controversial. But does this diminish the beauty of social media? Why have an avenue designed to allow the expression of real views if it’s going to be dictated by what is classed as ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ by the press?

Who’ll be the first person to fall short of this in the Six Nations this time around? One tweet, posted in the heat of a moment can come back to haunt you for months.

I sincerely hope we look back at this year’s championship and remember it for the moments on the pitch and not off the pitch. Social media has a part to play in this and we as consumers continue to fuel the fire. It’s all too easy to push out our emotions on the internet but, we often forget to praise the great passages of play and the talent shown by the athletes on the pitch. I recognise that this is the modern day reality but why do we feel this need to reach for our phone, rather than sitting back and enjoying a sporting spectacle?

With this year’s Six Nations being more open than ever, you won’t want to miss a minute. Ireland are looking for their hatrick, England searching for redemption, the Welsh, hit by a wrath of injuries in the RWC2015 will be back with a vengeance and can we really rule out the Scots? A team whose bravery captured the hearts of those globally in 2015.

Who knows, maybe Italy will surprise us all!

So buckle up and prepare for what is sure to be a belter of a Championship. Let’s make sure it’s a sporting success and doesn’t turn into a social saga.

 

Sophie Arundale

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search