Boxing clever? Wayne Rooney and reputation management

Readers will no doubt be aware of the recent video showing showed Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney being ‘knocked out’ by former-teammate and Stoke City defender Phil Bardsley in a kitchen boxing match

And, yes that does all sound utterly ridiculous.

Filmed on a iPhone by an unidentified friend, the video shows the two sparring before Bardsley lands the apparent knock-out punch. I say apparent as Bardsley’s wife tweeted claiming Rooney was just acting.

Putting the real or fake argument aside, several things spring to mind following the leak of this video. Firstly the incident could have caused real damage, even if the fall was staged. Kitchen’s are hardly the place for any sort of sport, let alone acting as a makeshift boxing ring. Secondly, filming the England captain and the boxing itself, are two incredibly ill-thought out decisions. Rooney is of course entitled to his privacy so the leak is clearly a huge breach of trust by a friend or acquaintance. Clearly someone saw the opportunity to make some easy money.

Managing a client’s reputation

In addition, the release of the video would have caused a number of sponsors to prep their PR teams for potential comment. Those with significant investment in Rooney, Manchester United and England would have been well aware of the potential fallout and negativity that their brand might be exposed to. Rooney is no stranger to media intrusion and scandal, but as he nears 30 you would assume he would be wiser in spotting when something was a poor decision. Allowing this incident to be filmed in the first place was just that. Footballers’ reputation management is generally left in the hands of their agents and representatives as they aren’t able to do it themselves. These representatives are caught between a rock and a hard place as their clients are high valuable individuals, often regularly in the public eye, but they are adults who cannot be controlled every minute of every day.


This isn’t a new problem, sportsmen have done some pretty idiotic things over the years, on and off their field of play. Unfortunately, however it is exacerbated by the modern phenomenon of everyone carrying a camera in their pocket, with the ability to immediately upload moments like Rooney’s to the web. Even worse, with the intention of selling it to a newspaper or gossip website, breaching the privileged level of trust of their famous friend. Nevertheless, people like Wayne Rooney should be far more aware of this and consider the consequences of this activity reaching the public domain. That balance between trusting your circle of friends and knowing when not to do something in the first place is even finer. Managing that balance and his reputation is never going to be easy, but there ways in which to avoid needing PR in a crisis.

Despite all this, it’s difficult not to despair when you see the reaction from those ‘in the know’ in football. This comment from Ian Wright in his latest Sun column reveals a man out of touch with the rest of us:

Hats off to Wayne Rooney for putting a grin back on the face of football. There are plenty out there who think that players live in their little bubble and lie there on their chaise longue. So well done to him for proving that footballers are just normal people after all.

Why respond myself to that nonsense when Football365’s Mediawatch has done a far better job:

Because there’s nothing that screams ‘common man’ like two millionaires fighting in oven gloves in the kitchen of one of their mansions, before mocking it in front of 75,000 people.