Thursday November 2 2017


I imagine that Mark Zuckerberg lives in a pretty big house. He probably has a real flash sports car parked in a secret underground garage alongside a 1928 Bentley and a D type Jag. You’re not kidding me with that Prius stunt Mark.


I also imagine that pretty big house has lots of pretty big rooms. And in the corner of his favourite room sits a small desk. It’s empty except for a number counter. This counter ticks away quietly. Each tick is a fraction of a rotation of the second of two decimal points. It is a minute movement barely detectable to the human eye. Tick, tick, tick, day and night. There are a lot of digits to the left of the decimal point.


Every time the FIH, or anyone else for that matter, post something to Facebook and you see it: tick, tick, tick. That is just the nature of the new digital economy. As the great Arthur Daly once said ‘It’s a nice little earner Terry’. And in fairness to Mark, Facebook has been a very good tool for Hockey and has given the game a far greater feeling of the global community that it is.


That is a word that is often associated with social media, ‘community’. Another one is ‘engagement’.

Both of those words are crucial to both Facebook and Twitter. Without them they are nothing more than billboards.


And doesn’t business love the ‘engagement’ they get from social media. And the more they fall in love with ‘engagement’ the less it’s about ‘community’. This sadly seems to be the case in our sport.


I am aware that some would describe me as old (verifiable fact), grumpy (refer to ‘old’) and recalcitrant (subjective, but probably true), but I always thought that ‘engagement’ meant some sort of mutual unspoken contract to communicate. In a sporting context, when you engage the opposition you expect them to engage you back. If they don’t, you are at training and the fullback in the orange shirt is a traffic cone. Better hope the drug testers don’t turn up.


In a social media context, when you try to engage people, expect them to engage you back. And expect that they will expect you to engage back with your ‘engagement’. In the olden days we called this ‘answering’.


This is an important concept in building a ‘community’. It helps in creating a rapport, makes people feel as if they are being heard and are part of something. Not ‘answering’ is called ‘ignoring’, especially when lots of people are asking the same question.


News Flash to people who work in marketing, especially social media. People don’t like being ignored. Especially in a forum where you are actively asked to ‘engage’ and to be a part of.


We are not always going to be happy with the answers we get. Can’t please all of the people all of the time stuff. But to ignore genuine and legitimate questions is the antithesis of ‘community’ and shows up ‘engagement’ to be a shallow stream of meaningless press releases.


The thoughts expressed above came about on Saturday. I was settling back to write something for The Reverse Stick on something completely different, and hoping to watch plenty of live Hockey action via the web. And there was plenty to be had. But what was missing was the Women’s Asia Cup, an event I was keen to have a look at. That wasn’t to be, for reasons best left for another day. Disappointed? Yes. Thankfully there were alternatives.


What was most frustrating was trying to find out whether the competition was being broadcast at all. There has to be some cameras there, otherwise why appoint video umpires?  I was not the only one that used either Facebook or Twitter to ask the FIH or the AHF if the games were being streamed. Pretty simple question. Should be a pretty simple answer, either way.


When met by the deathly silence from the FIH & AHF, the many who were ignored that afternoon were undoubtedly reminded that this is another example of Hockey followers being treated as consumers and not stakeholders.  Turning consumers into paying customers is another matter.


Both made plenty of tweets and posts that afternoon. All sorts of stuff. My favourite was a group of officials at the Sultan of Johor Cup wearing a bunch of funny (?) shirts. But neither seemed capable of answering the question most people were asking, “Is it possible to watch the Women’s Asia Cup?”.


Several hours later, no reply. Big un-follow coming up. The FIH are in danger of becoming the fullback in an orange shirt. Next time I am in need of advice on dressing badly I will contact the FIH. Until then there seems to be no reason why I should expect the FIH to ‘engage’ in any meaningful sort of way. I can hear Mark now, dancing around the house shouting “Vive La Révolution!”.

 Please abide by our terms for this comments thread available HERE