Mediawatch: Westerman saga, missing attendances and TV nasty

James Gordon
Joe Westerman

Who is Joe Westerman? What’s rugby league? As ever, when something bad happens, the national media are all over it like a rash.

Castleford found themselves between a rock and a hard place (no pun intended) when the video of Joe Westerman was released via social media at the weekend. The story, and its repercussions, have since gone viral and appeared in a range of national publications, with Westerman’s wife Lauren also interviewed by the Daily Mail and The Sun newspapers.

But could it have been handled better from a club PR point of view? Their Monday morning statement fuelled the flames, which until then had mere speculation over the identity of the man involved. Once Cas’ statement was issued, it virtually confirmed that the speculation was true and the story grew significant legs even before a further statement was released confirming punishment and Westerman’s apology. Maybe it would have gained traction regardless, but perhaps more could have been done to keep it internal for longer.

The last time LBC touched rugby league was the Israel Folau saga.

They’ve been boring their social media following with headlines like “woman filmed performing sex act with Joe Westerman sacked from job”, “rugby ace Joe Westerman kicked out by wife” and “Joe Westerman’s wife vows marriage is over for good” which has prompted several comments on their Facebook page – “who’s Joe Westerman?”

In the Daily Mail, it’s “revealed” that the married estate agent caught in Gregg’s alleyway sex act” has been sacked – though they stop short of identifying her. They even manage to create a graphic mocking up the text messages Westerman has reported to have sent to his wife and have a photo of the front of the said Greggs store. The pile on continues in the Daily Star, Daily Express and others.

Westerman meanwhile was of course the big topic of conversation at Castleford’s press conference this week. As someone stated on Twitter, the former Cas media man’s decision to move on to St Helens and jump straight into three weeks in Australia and missing this chaos at The Jungle might well be the greatest move of 2023.

Lack of respect

There’s no denying that the social media has led to a significant change in approach to sports reporting and ‘journalism’. Respect appears to have gone out the window too. Someone who should count themselves quite fortunate to have been invited in the first place, riled others at a recent press briefing with RL Commercial chair Frank Slevin by munching through a big bag of crisps throughout. It’s no wonder two senior figures from the game were overheard recently lamenting ‘rude journalists’.

Some rugby league clubs are becoming increasingly tardy when it comes to reporting attendance figures. Gone are the days where they are routinely announced over the tannoy or the figure is shared in the press box.

Chasing clubs for the figures is becoming a weekly task and rugby league’s only remaining newspaper, League Express, regularly has to go to print with attendances missing which adds to frustration. It also prompts questions about transparency and creates negativity, when in fact some of the missing figures are actually quite good.

Sadly, one hipster Championship club is going out of their way not to reveal figures – saying that they won’t be publishing them and that instead, we would have to go through the RFL to find out.

The season hasn’t even started yet and the disciplinary is stealing the headlines with a seven-match ban handed to Warrington’s new signing Josh McGuire.

Cue comments from irate Wolves fans, branding the RFL corrupt, bent and in favour of Wigan and Saints (amongst others).

If only the chair of the match review panel could have been a Warrington club legend.

Warrington included in their statement that McGuire reserved the right to appeal a single line which prompted a whole article on it being a hint that they were appealing. Fortunately, that simple question was asked, with a simple answer provided. No appeal.

One comment on the McGuire piece, which also has some relevance to the Westerman saga, was the punishment.

“required to undertake mandatory education” That sounds chilling. What “education” will he receive and by whom?”

Answers on a postcard. What is clear, is that derogatory terms and actions go very much against the current priority of rugby league to sell itself as inclusive, particularly off the back of the success of the wheelchair, PDRL and LDRL versions of the game.

TV nasty

Rugby league’s ongoing search for the golden bullet continues, but even the basics are disappointingly lacking.

Of course, this sloppy error is the fault of the partner broadcaster – it shouldn’t happen, period. Standards have been allowed to slip for too long, and that is partly down to no one of authority holding them to account when errors occur.

On the TV theme, it seems Sky Sports have deleted the much-derided Super League promo video they shared earlier this week. Probably better to let the action do the talking – they have got 11 live games of rugby league to broadcast this weekend.

Time for a bit of self-deprecation. Upon submitting an interview request for a third tier player this week, we were met with a “tell me in a few words what Love Rugby League is please (for <insert player name>)”. We have sponsored said club in the past!

Check back next month for more mediawatch, and don’t forget to share us your tip offs – news@loverugbyleague.com