Not all Sport PR has to be rich in money and exposure. Normally it is those heart-warming stories that would help a professional club escape controversies and seek the public’s hearts and minds.
Whilst major sports clubs work hard covering controversy about racism and training ground spats – most notably Chelsea and Liverpool – Championship side Middlesbrough FC have showed a sign of humility and pulled off a fine piece of PR.
Gary Parkinson, an ex-Middlesbrough right-back, who played 258 games for the club has been appointed a talent scout.
Although this sounds nothing out of the ordinary, 14 months ago Parkinson suffered a huge, probably stress-induced, stroke in the stem of his brain and the result: it has left the 43 year old a terrible victim of locked-in syndrome.
A terrible condition indeed and the only method of communication he has with his wife and three children and the rest of the world is the ability to blink.
Really puts some of football’s petty troubles in perspective.
Middlesbrough’s manager Tony Mowbray played with Parkinson in ’86, alongside current coaches Colin Cooper and Gary Gill, and the sense of togetherness and the eagerness to help a mate in need will give ‘Boro much credit in the eyes of the public.
The scouting team takes the 220-mile round trip to deliver DVDs for Parkinson to watch. He communicates by blinking between one and four times to state whether he thinks a player is any good with four being ‘I like him’ to four being ‘steer clear’.
Louise Taylor, in the Guardian, writes a wonderful piece speaking of the ‘Boro team in ’86 and how Parkinson was a vital member of that side, and how he inspired his old teammates to participate in fundraising events.
Mowbray insists “Parky’s one of us, a Teeside lad”. This valuable connection works wonders and gives something back to those players who previously served the club very well.
‘More than a year ago his wife said “no” when doctors asked if she wanted her husband’s life support machine switched off. Mowbray’s inspired initiative is offering vital hope. “You can see Gary’s mood picking up when he works in the DVDs,” she said.’
Sometime football coughs up some really moving stories.