Sunday, February 26, 2017

How to score an own goal in ice hockey - the Cardiff Devils 'Shirt Off His Back' prize "draw"

I went to see the Cardiff Devils play last night. They drubbed the Coventry Blaze 8-0. The new ice arena was a sell out. The crowd got behind the team all night and thoroughly enjoyed a well-played, good-spirited contest with only 4 players sin binned all game.

However, the talk on Twitter after a comprehensive eight goal shut out victory was all about something completely incidental to the game - the much-hyped 'Shirt Off His Back' promotion, which last night was giving away all 23 squad shirts. That's 23 chances to win, they said.

At the end of the game the winning numbers were displayed on the big screen.

Here's a close up. See if you spot anything.

How about some sequences?

Yes, that's right. The first five numbers were in sequence. Then there were another four winning tickets in sequence. Given that people tend to buy tickets in bulk (because there is a discount) it seemed very likely that one or two people were winning multiple shirts. There were some boos and I heard one guy shouting "Fix". As we left, there were people talking about the draw being dodgy.

I tweeted about my "scepticism" about the draw and soon discovered there were a lot of angry tweets from other fans about it. Words like "scam", "swindle", "cheats" and "fix" were being used. Rumours started that corporate sponsors had been guaranteed shirts, or that people connected with the club won, and that someone did indeed win five jerseys and had sold one online for £2,000 within a couple of hours. Regardless of whether the rumours were in any way true, in this environment of fake news, you could see people would be willing to believe them. The Devils official account meanwhile just retweeted happy tweets about the victory and said nothing in response to the angry comments.

This is a huge PR own goal. Reading the tweets, the people who are most annoyed about this are the really loyal fans. I admit I'm a part-timer. This was only the second game I've been to this season. But when people who have chosen to use the club's logo as their avatar or a hockey related picture to represent themselves are blisteringly critical of the club then the damage is really done.

To give you a flavour of the anger, here are some of the tweets I read last night (quoted anonymously):

“@cardiffdevils great game but utter shambles and scam for the SOHB draw...”

“Any chance of a refund? @cardiffdevils this is total garbage. Who shuffled this? Stevie wonder.”

“@cardiffdevils sohb rip off swindle! Loads in a line what draw is that! 9k potential numbers.. The great swindle”

“@cardiffdevils you should be utterly ashamed of your selves. SOHB was a fix. Total loss of respect for the club!”

Anger soon spilled over into suspicions and accusations:

“I'm no statistician but this many consecutive numbers isn't far off the first 5 lottery numbers being 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5.”

“the problem is they are more than a little fixed” 

“How much did some corporate sponsor have to pay @cardiffdevils today to guarantee 5 Jerseys in the Sohb draw? #randommyass #fix”

“and the guy who won 5 just sold the Kearney shirt for 2k”

Shirt Off His Back and the other draws the Devils operate are a way for the club to make some extra money. I don't know how important an income stream it is to them, but I hope they aren't relying on it, given the reactions of some fans:

“There will be a lot of people refusing to pay again, including us! I actually feel for whoever won 5, they've got to feel bad.”

“first time in months I bought thinking better odds!  It's a lot cheaper to buy a jersey than the ticket money I spent weekly”

“Think a statement needs to be made regarding that SOHB draw tonight @cardiffdevils you will lose a lot of buyers after that”

And for some people, it confirmed their feelings of mistrust about the draws and their decisions not to take part:

“I never buy SOHB and this is why. Not down to luck it's down the highest bidder. We are a money grabbing club now”

“And it seems I made the right decision a couple of months ago to stop buying SOHB (and 50/50) tickets.”

There were some suggestions about how the Devils could regain the trust of fans after this debacle.

“SOHB raffle would have been so good if each player had drawn their own number live on the ice at end of the game. #justsaying”

 “the draw should be on ice after chuck a puck no cheats then”

I will still go to the occasional game. It's a fun evening out and I enjoy watching ice hockey. But as quite a few other people have said, I am very unlikely to bother with these draws again. I have no problem with not winning draws that are drawn openly and fairly. But if it feels like there is no chance of winning, then I've got better things to waste my money on.

This isn't the worst PR disaster of all time and could quite easily be fixed. The club should acknowledge the anger and that the draw could have been done differently and better. There should be a commitment to greater openness and transparency for all future draws.

The bottom line is this is about reputation. Do the Devils want to be known as a club that organises a prize draw so incompetently it kills off its revenue streams by alienating its fans? The club needs to do something to rebuild trust with its supporters.

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