Screwing your brand in a crisis: Bloodgate

Harlequins sorry story of crisis-handling is almost the exact opposite of Renault's that we saw yesterday. And again, the story is too mad to be a movie

Getting it wrong: Bloodgate and Harlequins rugby team

April 12 this year, Harlequins brought off Tom Williams with a blood injury in the quarter final of the European Rugby
Cup, to get their star kicker, Nick Evans, back on the pitch. In the
end we loose anyway, 6-5. The opposition, Leinster, protest that the
injury has been faked.

On April 17 the ERC launch an enquiry. The club protest their innocence
at the hearing on July 20. The ERC fine the club £215,000 (a
lot for a rugby club). Williams is
banned for 12 months.

Things get worse, much worse, when Williams
appeals his ban. In doing so, reveals he used a blood capsule from a
joke shop, under the orders of Director of Rugby Dean Richards. Finally
on August 8, Richards resigns.

Picture 2

Harlequin's result

the August 17th appeal hearing the club's fine is increased to
£258,000, all payable immediately. Richards is banned for 3 years.
Williams' ban is reduced to four months. 10 days later Harlequins
chairman resigns.

This means the club's brand has been dragged
through the dirt for four whole months, with newspaper headlines filled
with Bloodgate stories, leaking lurid detail after lurid detail.

Harlequin's response: what they screwed up, big time
Fail to investigate the accusation: the club's management, including
CEO Mark Evans, took Dean Richards' word as the truth, instead of
launching an immediate investigation

2. No action: it took almost four months for any action on Harlequins' part, when Richards resigned

Piss off the prosecutors: by protesting innocence, and trying to use
legal loopholes, Harlequins pissed off the ERC big time, and paid the

4. Act slowly: by sticking their head in the sand for
months, the club allowed the flames of scandal to be fanned, with more
fuel being thrown on the fire each week.

And surprize, surprize.
In the first three games of the new season a team who came 2nd in the
league last year are… bottom of the table, loosing 3 out of 3 game,
and 1 point out of a possible 15.

In conclusion, if you face a crisis, get to the bottom of the problem quickly, then act hard and make big, bold actions.