“Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving.” – Othello, Act 2, Scene III
As is so often the case with Shakespeare, Iago’s comments to Cassio seem as relevant today as they were nearly 400 years ago.
Gone then is Sam Allardyce as England’s football manager as a result of “inappropriate conduct” and “a significant error of judgment”. After only 67 days in the job, but with a 100% win record, Allardyce will take time abroad to reflect on his actions and the repercussions they will have on his reputation within the beautiful game.
In the World of Sport and Celebrity reputation is king and can be lost in the blink of an eye or, it would appear, over the course of an Italian meal in Manchester.
Today’s 24 hour news cycle means every media outlet is looking for the next big story and how best to sell their product. If sales are the desired outcome this inevitably leads them to try and find the next big exclusive. The lengths (some would say depths) some organisations are prepared to go to are well documented and led to a full blooded Inquiry by Lord Justice Leveson into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press but this modus operandi is unlikely to stop anytime soon. Put simply – scandal and gossip sells.
It was only four England managers ago that Sven-Göran Eriksson also found himself the subject of a newspaper sting when he was filmed quaffing champagne on a super-yacht in Dubai and negotiating himself a supposed £5m a year contract to be manager at Aston Villa as part of a planned takeover – this only 5 months before the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Eriksson too was guilty of questionable statements claiming he could lure David Beckham away from Real Madrid because of his close relationship with the then England captain, that Michael Owen was only at Newcastle United for the money and that Rio Ferdinand was “lazy sometimes”.
Given the marked similarities with the Allardyce story, and similar perceived conflicts, it is noteworthy Eriksson remained as England manager albeit it was announced shortly after publication that he would leave his job following the World Cup later that year. Interestingly both parties denied this had anything to do with the News of the World story at the time albeit Eriksson did subsequently change his position on this.
Four managers before Eriksson, Glenn Hoddle was sacked as England manager, again because of comments made to a newspaper, this time openly, and again because of “a serious error of judgment”.
Whilst the allegations made against Allardyce and Hoddle may appear difficult to argue with others have found themselves in similar situations where the allegations are less clear cut. If this is the case what can be done?
The most likely cause of action will be one for defamation which arises when there has been a publication containing an untrue imputation against the reputation of the complainant – see for instance Chris Cairn’s claim against Lalit Modi.
Another common cause of action may result in the breach of an individual’s privacy where the allegations relate to an aspect of the individual’s private life, such as their marriage or sexuality.
All high profile individuals, companies and Governing Bodies should be prepared in the event they are caught in the public eye. Much as an athlete prepares to compete so should they be prepared to manage their reputation.
Those caught in the eye of a media storm need to be ready to act quickly and decisively to avoid lost endorsements, suspensions, both or general damage to their reputation. This is best done by ensuring you have a team of professionals ready to deal with any particular issue that may arise, whether this be a communications expert who can get the right message across to the right people or a lawyer who can stop a damaging story prior to its publication.
Whatever your ability to be able to hire such professionals, avoidance of putting yourself in a situation which would allow anyone to question your conduct in the first place will always be the best cure.
Advice that Sam Allardyce will no doubt wish he had taken.