Ian Monk: Football is champ of the PR game

In sport, as in PR and in life, there are winners and losers. However, sport's innately competitive nature makes it a uniquely ruthless arbiter of success and failure. There can only be one winner.

The same might be said of a league table evaluating perceptions of individual sports. Although not officially published, such a table informs the minds of third parties seeking brand associations to boost image.

Top of the current fantasy image league, by a mile, is football. England's national team is flying towards the South African World Cup Finals on the wings of dreams lent substance by talent and sportsmanship.

The Premier League is a major global entertainment brand with international queues for image rights, sponsorship and TV deals. Social responsibility is at the forefront of club and player thinking. Stadia are magnificent.

Just as the image of the beautiful game flourishes, so that of the 'gentlemen's game' of rugby union sinks into a mire of cheating and lying. The 'bloodgate' scandal - involving the Harlequins using fake blood to engineer the tactical substitution of a player - was characterised by textbook bad PR.

Initial half-admissions of guilt were confined to those at the bottom of the metaphorical scrum. Later half-hearted admissions of culpability from those at the top appeared to be drawn like teeth under the relentless pressure of media pliers.

Eventual resignations seemed bereft of remorse or apology. The damned spot of 'bloodgate' will take years to erase from the reputation of the game.

Meanwhile Formula One, still smarting from the Max Mosley affair, reels under allegations that a driver crashed his car to enhance the position of a team mate.

Athletics is plagued by constant suspicions of drugs irregularities. Now it is coming to grips with the challenges posed by revelations of the uncertain gender of an outstanding athlete competing as a woman.

Football currently scores on all fronts. It should cherish and prosper from its hard-won reputation.

- Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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