The impact of social media on sport – how to avoid a crisis 

The impact of social media on sport – how to avoid a crisis 

Social media and sport are inextricably linked. The globalised, commercial nature of professional sport means it now relies on social media to bring its products to new audiences and to communicate sponsored messages to fans. The relationship between the two is not always without disruption though. 

While online platforms have grown rapidly over the last 10-15 years, the impact of social media on sport has opened up possibilities for both opportunity and risk.  

On one side of the sometimes-troubled relationship, there are the negative effects of social media on sports. In particular, the endemic issue of fan abuse towards professional athletes. Our Director Ian Howard wrote previously of the growing problem – arguing for the use of open source intelligence (OSINT) to help detect, verify and punish those caught being abusive on the platforms. 

On another side are more positive effects of social media on sport – such as commercial opportunity. Social media and digital presence play an increasingly significant role in determining player, or even organisational value. More than ever, that value is determined by both sporting ability and global marketability. So what happens to that value when said player, athlete or club is embroiled in a damaging social media scandal? 


History Repeating Itself 

Scandals, or reputational crises, as a result of social media have become relatively commonplace in sport.  

Premier League strikers Andre Gray and Jarrod Bowen are among two recent cases. Both players apologised for their actions and while their respective clubs condemned the behaviour – they are often rendered guilty by association. As these types of incidents have no clear end-point, they are often prolonged and the guilty parties can be forced to carry it with them for years – as has Gray. 

Despite the regular occurrence of these incidents, sport continues to fall victim to social media fuelled crises. 

Before May 2021, many who recognised Ollie Robinson’s name knew him simply as a talented cricketer. Now, Robinson is embroiled in a reputation scandal. A selection of abusive tweets made nearly a decade ago surfaced shortly before Robinson was due to make his England debut. 

Now both Ollie Robinson and the England and Wales Cricket Board find themselves fighting a crisis management fire, a crisis that could so easily have been avoided.  


Social Media – Weaponised Threat 

One potentially alarming idea now is the prospect of a weaponised attack using historic social media posts, such as Ollie Robinson’s, to derail a sports team. While it may be hard to quantify the impact the scandal had on the England cricket team, when it unfolded, little public conversation was focused on the actual cricket being played. 

Shortly after the Robinson story reached its peak in terms of news coverage, another emerged of an as yet un-named player sharing damaging social media posts in their past. Although the reason for the timing of the leaks is unknown, it’s difficult to not establish a link between the two. 

While many in sport have a win-at-all-costs attitude, the idea of weaponising these crises is a distressing one. When the stakes are as high as they are in professional sport, not properly addressing all of the risks in front of you can have a seriously damaging impact on staff wellbeing, financial performance and public reputations. 

How to mitigate risks  – use the right tools 

Effective employee screening, using social media background checks, would have helped mitigate the risks of social media in all of the cases mentioned above.  

Social media screening uses open source intelligence to assess a person’s digital footprint against employment related risks only. It can be used to screen potential and existing employees, helping avoid damaging hiring decisions or future reputational damage. 

In the case of Ollie Robinson, the checks would have identified the tweets in question, as well as any other high-risk behaviours, using our natural language processing. Those insights would have been handed over to the ECB, who could then make an informed decision for how to move forward. In this scenario, the ECB would also have been prepared to deal with any future events based on the incident. This is proactive crisis management. 

These tools are used consistently in corporate recruitment to help employers, recruitment teams and HR personnel understand the risks more fully before making hiring decisions. They can also be used to help monitor and maintain culture within teams, identifying potentially dangerous behaviours within an organisation or team. 

For sports teams, whose position is so public-facing, regular screening of employee (including players) social media profiles can help minimise risks. 


Proactive Protection Against Threats 

When it’s so easy to prevent this kind of crisis, it’s hard to see why organisations wouldn’t learn from the mistakes of the past. Governing bodies, sporting clubs or any organisation with outward facing, high profile representatives should be embracing this technology and using it to proactively to protect their reputations from future risks. 

Due to their public persona, athletes are not always considered as regular employees but in this case they should be treated as such. Players and individuals may be the biggest assets for any team but they could also be the biggest weakness.  

Social media screening from Neotas is the perfect solution to this issue. It has a rapid turnaround time and is cost effective, especially when weighed against the damaging implications of an ongoing reputational scandal. 

The checks are GDPR compliant, use only public data and are regulated by third party associations like AFODD. Our technology processes data in over 200 languages so is perfectly placed to screen international employees like players, managers or staff. 

While the use of social media screening grows in corporate recruitment, sport, for now, is lagging behind in not vetting their employees as fully as they could. Such is the impact of social media on sport that reputations and financial value continue to be damaged in crises that could have been sidestepped. 

Whether competing for the World Cup, The Ashes or the Champion’s League, social media screening checks should be one of the first, most powerful tools in your risk management armoury. 

If you want to discuss social media screening or risk management, our team are here to help. Feel free to get in touch or schedule a call here. 

Guest Blog by Vero Screening: How Social Media Screening Benefits Our Clients

Guest Blog by Vero Screening: How Social Media Screening Benefits Our Clients

How Has Social Media Screening Benefited Our Client Base?

In a world that requires ever-increasing online due diligence, we are seeing clients’ screening requirements constantly evolve. As of 2019, and after much supplier comparison, we partnered with Neotas to provide our social media background checks.

The Need for Social Media Screening

On average, a quick Google search only shows you 4-6% of all data available on the internet. As the digital age progresses, HR Managers are seeking more information about who they are hiring, to paint a fuller picture of a potential employee, and whether they will suit their company culture.

Now more than ever, there’s an increasing focus on how a bad hire could potentially harm a business’ reputation. Tools such as  social media screening can help lower the risks involved with a bad hire.

We recently conducted a Social Media Screening Webinar in collaboration with Neotas where 46% of attending professionals revealed they had an experience of an employee with a negative online profile.  The results show the importance of pre-employment enhanced screening, with attitude and behaviour not always considered highly enough in the hiring process.

The Uptake

The interest from our clients has been clear and has been growing steadily in the first quarter of 2021. Clients undertaking these checks fell within Financial Services, Legal, Tech and Consultancy sectors, where regulation is stringent. Each month we’ve seen new clients sign up.

The Results

Upon conducting these searches for our clients, themes of negative findings fell within:

  • Inappropriate/undesirable content
  • Sexually explicit content
  • Hate and discriminatory behaviour
  • Violent content
  • Extreme views/opinions
  • Undisclosed directorship

As well as highlighting risk categories from prospective and current employees, Neotas social media screening reports also revealed positive indicators, such as an individual’s charitable work and volunteering roles.

The Outcome

For our clients, these findings can make or break the decision to bring a new hire into the team, or raise new information about a current team member.

Three per cent of red flags raised by Neotas’ social media screening resulted in businesses withdrawing offers from candidates due to concerns about their online behaviour. Although a small percentage, it highlights the reassurance that these searches can provide and enabled these firms to avoid  disruption to their workforce in the form of a dangerous or difficult employee.

More Information

To see how Social Media Screening can benefit your hiring process, get in touch – or find out more: Social Media Search & Screening Services | Vero Screening


Download our recent social media screening case study here:

Taking a future-proof approach to supply chain risk management

Taking a future-proof approach to supply chain risk management

Increased Risk

Change and uncertainty are breeding grounds for risk and the timing of Brexit alongside the global pandemic has seen the opportunity for risk to increase significantly.

The risk management lifecycle is familiar to many of us:

  • Risk identification
  • Risk assessment
  • Risk mitigation

But what about when the risks, and the dangers and implications associated with them, evolve? What about when well established procedures and risk management protocols are turned on their head by unprecedented global events?

KPMG predicted a “tsunami of fraud” in 2021 as the financial world catches up with the implications of the coronavirus pandemic. Our reports have signalled an increase in fraudulent activity so far this year and it shows no signs of slowing down yet.

Locking down a globalised world has brought with it intense challenges for risk management. Global supply chains have come under immense pressure as they deal with changing localised restrictions, the societal impact of the health crisis and the need for many businesses to adapt to survive.

So how do we solve the problem of increased risk? With uncertainty looking here to stay, the solution may be to supplement your supply chain risk management practices with a more agile approach.


Why have we seen risk increase?

Through both the pandemic and the changing regulations of Brexit, businesses have been forced to adapt in almost every way. Supply chains have been rocked by unforeseen vulnerabilities, often left exposed by the new pressures we have found ourselves under.

The globalised nature of many multi-tier supply chains has seen these challenges exacerbated from the top down. A single product could now have hundreds or even thousands of suppliers contributing to its delivery, with risk increasing at every stage. 

Travel restrictions have contributed to increased risk. Supply chain risk management becomes an even more difficult task when face-to-face assessments are limited and we become reliant on remote reporting and approval systems.

The typical lag in reporting and the uncertainty of the past 18 months means that it can also be difficult to trust financial data on the surface. Without further inspection, how can you trust that a supplier’s most recent statements are sound, when the pre-pandemic period may no longer be applicable and the during-pandemic period was so unprecedented?

Lastly, social media also has a part to play in reputational risk. Managing reputational damage can play a significant role in the overall health of a business and while financial data can lag, social media’s impact can be swiftly felt and unforgiving. Reputations can be tarnished by association so while it may not be your fault directly – it can still be your problem.

“You can insure against the failure of a customer, but how would you deal with the failure of a key supplier?” – Deloitte


Supply Chain ESG Risk

With an increased focus on ESG, comes greater scrutiny for the supply chain. The general public has never been more interested in knowing where their products came from, who made them and what impact their production had on the environment. The wrong decision could be catastrophic for industry.

In a modern multi-tier supply chain, the firm at the top of the chain remains at least partly responsible for the sustainability and societal impact of the suppliers at the bottom – at least in the eyes of the public. The larger the chain, the more difficult it can become to identify risks – particularly when subcontractors are introduced and when the only method of reporting is remote self-reporting.

We recently discussed the increased risks that ESG-specific investing can face, including reputational issues and corporate greenwashing, with FinTech expert Brendan Bradley.


Restrictions highlight self-reporting shortcomings

The self-reporting model has always relied on honesty and integrity from companies but with increased pressure brought by the pandemic, businesses have been forced to adapt. Are firms likely to divulge information that could harm their reputations? Brendan Bradley thinks possibly not: 

“Are firms likely to divulge information that could harm their reputations? I think there’s a grey area there with respect to what they will report and how much that’s actually being fully audited. If these assessments are being reduced to box-ticking and that’s never audited, you’re reliant on complete honesty from organisations whose number one interest will always be self-preservation.”

While self-reporting models were previously audited and punctuated by announced and unannounced site visits, travel restrictions have rendered those a thing of the past. As such, an independent, data driven, flexible auditing solution is required to help lower risks.

An ideal reporting model would no longer rely on self-reporting alone to assess the risks and credibility of a supplier and would also report data closer to real-time. 


Time to stay compliant

The disruptions to supply chains have brought with them increased risk of non-compliance. The need to improvise and adapt brought by the pandemic has led to increased likelihood of non-compliance amongst suppliers, as chains came under pressure to continue operating under heavy restrictions.

Personnel Today recently reported on a huge surge in umbrella companies being used to abuse the UK tax system, with suppliers taking advantage of reduced taxation loopholes. The potential impact for associated companies includes regulatory action, as well as the reputational damage of non-compliance within your supply chain.

An independent audit of suppliers, building a clear risk profile using public data can help highlight any issues in transparency and ensure the chain remains compliant.


Identifying the weak link

“Your supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link” – Deloitte

While tried and trusted supply chain risk management procedures continue to be effective, now more than ever it’s crucial to be agile in our response to risk. It’s critical that businesses can establish a clear risk profile for each of their suppliers, highlighting vulnerabilities and assessing a wide range of financial and non-financial factors.

Are your supply chain screening procedures up to date? Are they robust enough to identify modern risks including cyber risk, risks associated with the pandemic or modern slavery?

Identify the risk factors most appropriate to your business. Design a risk model that will allow you to identify which suppliers are the most important and which are the most vulnerable. It’s about making sure you have the tools, expertise and techniques to gain a high level of understanding of your key suppliers.


Using Open Source Intelligence To Lower Supply Chain Risk

The role that open source intelligence (OSINT) can play in reducing supply chain risk is clear. Using OSINT we can monitor risks much closer to real-time, highlighting potentially damaging events or actions that occur outside of the regular reporting period. 

Through OSINT, we are able to map supplier networks and analyse non-financial risks including those linked to adverse media, customer feedback, ESG and more. Adopting an enhanced, AI-driven model to supplement existing checks allows for deeper insights to inform your supply chain risk management strategy. 

Technology like Neotas’ proprietary advanced machine learning technology is capable of processing vast quantities of relevant risk data, lowering the reliance on the self-reporting model. Our enhanced risk & compliance solutions aren’t limited by global jurisdictions and harness natural language processing to analyse data in over 200 languages.

The time to adapt traditional supply chain risk management practices is now. Using OSINT powered EDD, businesses can harness publicly available data to help lower supply risks. Get in touch with our team today to discuss your supply chain risk management practices and how we can lower your risks.


Download our recent supply chain risk management case study here: