It’s probably fair to say that football hasn’t been one of the industries to have come out of the COVID-19 crisis with its reputation enhanced.
Despite the laudable efforts of Marcus Rashford and Harry Kane and doubtless many others, multi-millionaires refusing pay cuts while the rest of the country struggles to make ends meet is never going to be a good look.
But not all British football inhabits the rarefied air of the English Premier League, and North of Hadrian’s Wall many players lead more normal lives.
It was this that led Livingston’s third-choice goalkeeper, Gary Maley, to visit his home ground last week to assess a drainage issue (in a professional capacity due to his day job as a civil engineer).
While there he bumped into assistant manager David Martindale and began discussing the issue of his soon-to-expire contract.
The Big Idea
Aged 37, Maley had been fully prepared to step down in order to give a chance to a younger keeper.
But Martindale had other ideas.
To decide whether Maley was worthy of a contract extension, Martindale opted to “put up a vote on Twitter”.
In return, Maley pledged to donate £1 to a local charity, the John O’Byrne Foundation, for every vote cast.
What They Did
Sure enough, shortly afterwards Livingston FC’s official account issued a poll to its followers to decide Maley’s future.
Fans initially didn’t know what to make of it.
Some railed against the club for letting a pro’s future be decided on such flimsy grounds, while others saw it is simply another example of social media’s inevitable encroachment on the beautiful game.
But within a few hours the poll had attracted more than 200,000 votes, sparked think-pieces from football writers across the country, and Maley had had to cap his charitable offer at (a still generous) £500.
Although it was originally intended as a bit of fun, Livingston stayed true to their word.
The people had spoken – and overwhelmingly decided that Maley should be awarded a new contract.
✍🏻| The people have spoken – @Maley1Gary stays!— Livingston FC (@LiviFCOfficial) May 27, 2020
With almost 200,000 votes cast on our twitter poll & over 1 million impressions worldwide, the fans have spoken and as a result, goalkeeper Gary Maley has today signed a one-year extension at the club.
🔗 https://t.co/tiNhaJGiuX pic.twitter.com/I5AGFiYvQG
Of course, this idea isn’t going to be featuring on a podium at Cannes any time soon.
But it’s a lovely example of everyday creativity, and proof that you can generate massive engagement and talkability with something that’s new, funny and (whisper it!) completely free-of-charge.
Let’s just hope agencies don’t start employing the same technique to decide on the futures of their creatives!