Friday, 22 February 2008

Playing the media game

Tim Henman never made a secret of his frustration with the tennis press - and given some of the crap that was thrown at one of Britain's most succesful sportsmen who can blame him - but he was always smart enough to show willing in the post match press conference.

This blog posting from The Guardian's Simon Hattenstone, where he seems to take slightly too much pleasure in assasinating Andy Murray's character, shows what happens when you refuse to play the media game.

It also underlines why media relations is another discipline any top sportsman needs to master. PR is (or should be) as integral to what they do as nutrition or sports psychology - former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier once described the post match press conference as the most important hour of the week.

For many sportsmen the media is still an annoying distraction. What Murray and others need to remember is that the best and the worst parts of dealing with the media come with the territory. The media are the link to the fans, the paying customers, and a sport's media profile is key to its financial health.

In return, journalists need to remember what it is like to be 19 or 20, recognise how hard and daunting it must be for Murray and Co to deal with the media, and cut them some slack.

Because this sort of unnecessary personal criticism is precisely why Murray, and many others, are wary of the media, and why they either play safe, or don't play ball.

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