In a society where we are trying to ‘be kind’, why are we still hounding sports stars and celebrities?

After last year’s tragic news that Caroline Flack had taken her own life, following a whirlwind of press hounding and police investigations, people started to respond and become ‘kinder’.

High profile celebrities and close friends of the 40-year-old pleaded that things must change within the press and social media after she paid the ultimate sacrifice in taking her own life. Those friends and celebrities joined hundreds of thousands of people campaigning for ‘Caroline’s Law’. The law they were proposing was to look at the way that tabloid journalism reports on celebrities.

The TV presenter’s former boyfriend and close friend, Danny Cipriani took to social media to express his sadness and show his raw emotions. In the video he hoped to encourage everyone to be more sensitive and kind, but especially those in the public eye.

Following the fly-half’s social media post, Gloucester Rugby launched their ‘be kind’ campaign in the hope of raising awareness for mental health within society and rugby. The quick response by the club was praised throughout the rugby community as they tried to help people understand the importance of having good mental health. They also spread information on how to help those suffering from mental illness and the importance of understanding general mental health issues.

On Friday 28th February, Gloucester Rugby players carried the be kind message with them for their fixture against Sale. Printed across the back of all their shirts was one important message, be kind.

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The mental health conversation isn’t just lacking within the game of rugby, it is lacking across society and in all sports. In a year where the world has been hit by a pandemic that no-one could have comprehended, the mental health conversation and positive message should be something happening daily. Sadly it is not.

How many times over the last few months have you seen nasty, spineless comments across social media directed at the Prime Minister, his cabinet and various MP’s?

Mental health in numbers

  • One in 10 children will suffer from a mental health issue
  • One in four adults will suffer from a mental health issue
  • One in six people are reporting they are suffering from a common mental health issue (depression or anxiety) every week
  • An average of 20.6 people out of 100 have had suicidal thoughts
  • In 2018, 6,507 people in the UK committed suicide
  • In the UK men are three times as likely to commit suicide than women
  • Suicide is the highest killer of men between the age of 45-49

If you type into the search bar of twitter, #bekind, thousands upon thousands of posts appear encouraging people to start to be kinder in the hope that less will suffer in silence or suffer at all from mental health.

But how can we continue to spread awareness for mental health and encourage people to start being nicer if tabloid press still produce celebrity gossip? Typically on how much weight someone weighs, whether they are wearing their wedding ring, or what they eat during the day.

Take a look at some of the tabloid headlines below that criticises a person for the way that they look, for what they are doing or may have said… These are the ‘normal’ headlines, not ones that have particularly been dug up to showcase my point. These are actually quite mild to some headlines that have been used in celebrity ‘news’.

It is easy to see how being in the public eye with so much pressure to do things ‘right’ that celebrities can often feel trapped, especially when these tabloid headlines coincide with internet trolls.

Take a look at some of the sports stories that have been printed by the British press. Ask yourself, what could these headlines do to the readers perception of these athletes and how could that effect not only a players mental health, but how it can provoke online abuse directed at that individual.

So what needs to happen?

If COVID-19 isolation can teach us one thing, it would be to start being nicer. Thousands of us have thanked the NHS, donated to care workers or phoned a friend to make sure they are ok.

One of the only ways for mental health illness figures to drop, or for suicide rates to decrease is if society starts excepting that no one is ever perfect. Being kind shouldn’t be something we strive to do, it should come naturally.

This relates back to rugby and every sport in many ways. Before you start shouting at a player because he has thrown a poor pass, missed a kick, given away a penalty or lost a match point, sit and think. This person is someones son, daughter, sister or brother. Would you like it if someone shouted abuse at you or your relation?

If you write abusive, racist, condescending messages on social media, sit and think again. If someone took to their keyboard the way that you do telling you that you are not good enough and should die, would you like it?

However, the public cannot take all the responsibility for deteriorating a public figure’s mental health. There needs to be a change on how tabloid media reports on sports personalities and celebrities. If this change doesn’t come, then we are in fear of living in a society that will never understand the effects that words can have on our mental health.

What is the NFL free agency and which players do you need to know about?

Arguably, American Football is the closest sport to rugby, so whilst there’s no rugby being played let’s go across the Atlantic and find out how the NFL is getting on.

Not many sports are continuing during the COVID-19 period, but the NFL free agency is booming and becoming very interesting with many players switching between franchises. This free agency has been marketed as the craziest in NFL history. So what is the free agency and who are the players we need to know about?

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What is the free agency?

The free agency is the movement and signings of players across the NFL. Essentially, their version of the football transfer window.

For a player to become a ‘free agent’ they have to be legible to sign freely with any franchise, i.e. Is no longer under contract with any club.

What happens during the free agency?

As we already know, the free agency allows players to move to different franchises (clubs) once their contract has expired. There are many ways that a player can sign for a new franchise.

Released

Being released is the same as any other sport. The player has been released by his current club and his contract is terminated. This usually comes with a small punishment to the salary cap and allows movement within a clubs budget.

Traded

Trading players in the NFL means that two clubs trade a player for a player OR trade for picks in the upcoming draft or future draft. Trading draft places usually indicates that the team will get a better draft pick if they trade their current player.

Contract Expiration

The player has come to the end of his contract and will now be known as a free agent. He can be picked by any franchise for the upcoming season.

Franchise tagging

Tagging can become a little confusing, but once you understand it, you start to realise how important it is.

Franchise tagging means that when a player is reaching the end of his contract, his club can keep him even if the player wants to leave for an extra year by paying him the average salary of the top five players in the squad.

Who are the players you need to know about?

Now that we understand the various ways a player can move during the free agency, lets look at some of the big names and what method they have used during this free agency.

Derrick Henry – Franchise tag

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The Tennessee Titans have placed a franchise tag on Derrick Henry for a 2020 salary of $10.278 million. The Titans have until July 15th to sign Henry to a long-term deal or he will be payed the $10.2 million during 2020.

Henry has led the NFL last season with a career-best of 2,540 rushing yards, as well as 303 carries. Not only this, but he was the only running back in the NFL to average more than 100 rushing yards per game throughout last season. Not only this but Henry single handily carried the Titans to the AFC Championship (one game before the Super Bowl) and ended the New England Patriots 20 year dynasty.

Tom Brady – Free agent

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After a poor season for Tom Brady the Bill Belicheck and the Patriots announced that they were not going to extend Brady’s contract any further. Following this news, he has now signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Brady is known across the NFL as the G.O.A.T. At the age of 24 he won his first Super Bowl with the New England Patriots and went on to win six throughout his time with them and playing in nine. Not only this, but he has won four MVP awards for Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII, XLIX and LI. He has helped Patriots win 249 games and going to more Super Bowls than any other team in NFL history.

The 42 year old Quarterback has signed a two year $50 million contract with Tampa Bay. Given his age, and already impressive record within the NFL it is most likely that he will end his playing career with Tampa once his contract is up, however, the the Quarterback has previously said he wants to continue playing until he is 45.

Philip Rivers – Free agent

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Philip Rivers is another free agent big name, however his lengthy career with the Los Angeles Chargers is over. It was mutually agreed by both the club and the 38 year old quarterback that he would enter the free agency and not return to the club for the 2020 season.

After spending 16 years with the LA Chargers, Rivers has chosen that he will play his football with the Indianapolis Colts next season, signing on a one year contract.

Nick Foles – Traded

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The winning Super Bowl Quarterback, Nick Foles has been traded from the Jacksonville Jaguars to The Chicago Bears for a fourth-round draft pick. Foals has had 48 starts over eight seasons with four different franchises and has completed 61.8% of his passes for 11,901 yards and scoring 71 touchdowns.

The Bears received the pick based on a net loss of free agents in 2019, meaning it is the 34th selection in the fourth round of the draft. With Foles departure, Gardner Minshew will step up and replace him as starting QB.

DeAndre Hopkins – Traded

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Houston Texans have traded wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth round pick for Arizona Cardinals Wide Receiver David Johnson and a second round pick this season and a fourth round pick in 2021.

Hopkins is one of Houston’s most valuable players so the trade came as a shock as he was traded with the often injured running back.

Cam Newton – Released

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The Carolina Panthers have released Cam Newton, who was the teams No 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft. Newton is currently still in rehab following his foot surgery.

It is not known where the quarterback will be playing his football next season, but he says he is ready and hungry for whoever will take him.

Todd Gurley – Released

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The Los Angeles Rams have released their running back star, Todd Gurley. When he signed for the Rams, his four-year deal of a $60 million contract extension with a staggering $45 million in guarantees made him the highest paid running back at that time.

Due to the timing of his release his former club are left with $20.15 million ‘dead-cap’ meaning, that the moment will still go to Gurley despite him not playing for the team anymore.

The running back will play his football with the Atlanta Falcons next season and decided on the move, just a day after he was released.

2019/2020 TV showreel

Presenting and reporting has always been a passion of mine and one that I am hoping to pursue following the completion of my degree.

I strive to bring excitement in my tv work, engaging with the viewer and ensuring that they can gather all the information they need from the stories I am reporting on.

From studio work, PTCs and post match interviews, I am happiest reporting and sharing my work.

Please find my 2019/2020 showreel below.

When Katy met Harry

I have finally had time to reflect and take in the experience of presenting my first, and hopefully not my last, ‘In conversation with.’ I could not have asked for a better first guest in, Mr Harry Redknapp.

It is times like these when I realise how fortunate I have been to have received such amazing opportunities throughout my time studying Sports Journalism at University of Gloucestershire. 

Myself, Harry, the other panellists and my lecturer before the show

If you regularly read my posts, then you are aware that football is nowhere near my speciality. So, when an email entered into my inbox looking for people to audition to interview Harry Redknapp I was, to say the least, slightly apprehensive. 

I decided to push myself to apply and hoped for the best. If it wasn’t for my lecturer reassuring me in my ability and that despite my football knowledge being limited I would still have a very good chance, I don’t think I would have applied. 

Next thing I know, I am reading every book ever written on Harry Redknapp, every article published and watching a magnitude of TV shows that the former Tottenham manager has appeared on. I got through the first stage of the process and then the auditions and finally, I had been selected with three other students to take part in the event. 

At this point, I was still under the impression that my lecturer was going to be presenting the event until he informed me, that I was now the presenter. I don’t think I have ever been so nervous or shocked. 

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The scripts were written and rehearsed, much to the delight of my housemates who had to listen to my opening paragraphs every night until the morning of November 6th arrived… 

There was definitely a buzz when I got to university, everyone involved was excited and high on adrenaline. We went through the sound and camera checks, as I hoped that my ear piece wouldn’t fall out mid question. To avoid the latter happing, some fabric tape from the first aid box became very useful!… Note to self, purchase your own ear piece before going into a presenting career!  

To eat or not to eat, that was the question. We had a lovely lunch prepared for us in the green room, but neither me or my fellow students could bring ourselves to eat a sandwich until Harry came into the room. We were too scared at the thought of being half way through a cheese sandwich when the reigning I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here champion came in. 

Final version of the scripts ready to go

Of course, we had nothing to worry about. Harry is, just like you see him on I’m a celebrity or at the side of the football pitch – lovely. “Ask me anything” he said when we were introduced to him as the four students about to quiz him about his life. 

Everyone was in their seats; the stage was set and all we needed was our guest. As I recited my introduction, I caught the eye of my housemates who, after hearing the script over 100 times were mouthing the words back to me. After a quick smile and deep breath, we got the show on the road.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Harry Redknapp”. Just like that, Harry waltzed into the room and chatted to us for the next hour. What did I ever have to be nervous about? 

And we are live!

The whole experience was such a privilege. Whilst still at university finishing my Sports Journalism degree, I was able to interview one of the most recognised people in Britain. 

The team I had around me were brilliant, the Television Society who filmed the show were outstanding. It was wonderful to see a group of students across a variety of courses putting on such an impressive event.

The production and presenting team after the show

Throughout my time at university, my lecturers have always emphasised the importance of taking opportunities and making the most of them. 

Presenting ‘In conversation with Harry Redknapp’ helped me to understand that even if the sport is out of my comfort zone, I have the ability to push myself to do the most that I can to achieve the best in me.   

Watch ‘In Conversation with Harry Redknapp on Youtube’

MotoGP isn’t just about the rider and the bike

I stepped completely out of my comfort zone this weekend and experienced the MotoGP for the first time. I was lucky enough to be given access all areas for the Moto3 free practice races learning about rider sponsorship within the sport.

Every sport has sponsorship, regardless of how big or small. Sponsorship is fast becoming a vital part of modern sport. Paid Instagram posts, clothing items and league matches are all areas where companies can capitalise on promoting their name through athletes, but what about the personal sponsorship for those athletes that aren’t necessarily always in the spotlight? 

Jakub Kornfeil is a Grand Prix motorcycle racer from the Czech Republic currently racing in Moto3 as a rider for Prüstel GP. Along with the team sponsors, Kornfeil is sponsored directly by various companies, one of which is Cushing IP and Co Ltd.

I attended Silverstone with the company director, Peter Cushing to learn more about the impact that his sponsorship has on both him and Kornfeil. 

Walking around the paddock it is clear to see the impact that sponsorships can have, especially with the riders from MotoGP having every inch of their bikes and hospitality logoed up.

As I learnt more about the sport, I started to understand the importance of rider sponsors as Mr Cushing explained how his sponsorship could help Kornfeil as much as “ensuring he has more leg room on the plane and time to relax on his journey to the races”.

At 26, Kornfeil is surprisingly the oldest rider on the grid for Moto3, nonetheless his personal sponsorship is just as important to him as it is to anyone as he tells me after finishing his first practice race: 

Every sponsor is very important, we appreciate every sponsor that comes to our side and tries to help us, and for sure without the sponsors it cannot be possible to make the whole year. I am incredibly happy for every single sponsor that I have to help me.” 

Jakub having a team talk during one of his pit stops

It was interesting to learn about the big variation between team and rider sponsorship and how the money is used, when I spoke to team principle Florian Prussel: 

“Rider sponsor means that riders handle them themselves, but the team sponsors have different contracts and the money goes directly to the team. Whereas personal sponsors, the rider feels the direct benefit. The other thing is the management of the rider to handle all of the sponsors as one which is very different to the team.”

Before FP2 I learnt first-hand how focused Kornfeil is as I watched him go into his preparation phase in the pit just moments before he mounted his bike. The bike tyres were getting warmed and the air was filled with a distinctive petrol and leather smell, but Kornfeil sat quietly in the corner gathering his thoughts.

Jakub gathering his thoughts before FP2

During this time, the final alternations and checks were being made to the bike and I started to realise the importance of a good relationship between the bike and rider, something that Kornfeil elaborated on after his race:

 “It is the most important thing to have confidence with the bike, there are some riders who don’t care if they have a good bike or a bad bike, but me, I am very sensitive so I need a really good bike for being fast.”

I ventured out onto the service track to watch the second practice and was totally in awe of the rider’s fearless attitude as they slide around the various bends and head onto the Hanger straight at over 200mph. When you start to think about it, it is probably one of the most dangerous sports out there, however, like any sport, this is their life and sponsorship helps to make their dream a reality. 

What you don’t learn before you become a sports journalist

All of a sudden you’re no longer sat in the stands with a multi-coloured team scarf wrapped around you, but in a press box surrounded by the sounds of fingers tapping on various keyboards. I very quickly had to adapt from an excited rugby fan to a professional journalist however, I do miss just watching a game of rugby. 

At the start of my second year at university I posted a tweet saying that I could no longer watch a game as a fan and how I was constantly thinking about what I would write or say if I was covering the game or how the game will influence my upcoming journalistic week. My lecturer replied saying, “haha, that’s made my day! Welcome to my world”. I smiled and laughed off his response but as I only have one academic year between me and holding a sports journalism degree I completely understand what he meant. 

Being a sports journalist is something truly amazing, working with sports, writing or presenting about it and being engulfed by the sporting world 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But sitting back on the sofa with a cup of tea in slippers watching rugby is something I took for granted. 

I am just starting out on my journey in a world I still know very little about and last year one of the best journalists in the sporting industry, Henry Winter came and spoke to us about his outstanding career and what to expect. One thing that stood out from his talk was when he jokingly but in full seriousness informed us all to pack a sleeping bag in the back of your car for the journeys that require you to be in opposite ends of the country over a 24-hour timeframe. 

It made me stop and think that I am no longer a fan of sport, I am an employee of sport. 

There is nothing I love more than going to a ground on Friday night, turning up nearly two hours before kick-off ensuring that my preparation is perfect, watching the match and then staying over an hour after the final whistle to gather interviews and ensure that my match repot and other articles are perfect. The adrenaline buzz that surrounds you is astonishing, pushing yourself to get your report finished by the time the final whistle goes and thinking on your feet to quiz directors of rugby afterwards and then thinking about how tonight’s result is going to impact your content in the coming week.

I am sure I will look back on this article in a year’s time and think how I could have written it differently, just like I am doing now with some of my older blog posts. Nevertheless, if studying sports journalism at university for the last two years has taught me anything, it is that we are allowed to make mistakes and everyone is still learning. The amount of times I have recorded introductions to TV packages over and over again or memorised a team sheet until I know every letter on the piece of paper in fear of mispronouncing a name is uncountable. 

The sports journalism and journalism industry has changed drastically over the last decade with the impact of multimedia journalism and today it is one of the most faced paced industries in the world. It is such an exciting prospect to be stepping into an industry that is moving with the technology, however, now more than ever, everything is under scrutiny and for someone starting out in the field of journalism that is something both extremely daunting and exhilarating. 

I do miss going to Twickenham or my local club as a fan and just being able to watch a game of rugby without thinking of what happens next. However, the passion that I have for becoming a professional rugby journalist pushes those fan thoughts to one side to focus on something that has the possibility to take me places I never dreamed of. 

Nevertheless, if you ask me what advice I have to anyone about to go to university to read sports journalism I would say one thing:

Enjoy a game of sport as a fan one last time, because as soon as you learn about on the whistle match reports and solo match commentary sport will never be the same again. It will be even better than you thought it could ever be. 

About me

I am a rugby journalist about to complete my BA Hons degree in Sports Journalism at the University of Gloucestershire.

My main passion is rugby union and I can often be found on the touchline during a grassroots match or on the press bench at a professional game.

I have had a love for rugby my entire life and have been lucky enough to attend numerous matches across many levels of the game and have written a range of articles from match previews to analysis, sharing my opinions and providing readers with the facts of the game.

Since starting my university degree, I have found a passion for presenting, feature writing and writing opinion pieces on vital topics surrounding sport and the game of rugby.

My love for writing has grown, and with this, I have a desire to write interesting articles relating to sport that also can hold a deeper societal meaning.

I am also interested in bringing match content to readers in the form of player ratings, talking points from the game and match reports.

My long-term career plan is to secure a role in presenting but I understand how difficult this. Therefore, I hope to reach this goal in the next 10-15 years after establishing myself as a written journalist first.

I was fortunate enough to present ‘In conversation with Harry Redknapp’ when he visited my university in late 2019. It was a fantastic opportunity and has reiterated my desire to go into the broadcast sector.

For the duration of the 2019/2020 season I have been working alongside Gloucestershire Live as an assistant match day reporter for Gloucester rugby fixtures. For this, I am producing player ratings, live in game tweets and transcribing the post match press conferences, as well as writing the occasional additional article about the game. The experiences I have gained from my internship have been invaluable and I will use them throughout my journalistic career. I have truly loved every second of the rugby I have watched and reported on and have been heart broken that the season ended early due to COVID-19.

I am also fortunate enough to be working alongside @FABrugby to bring you all the latest rugby news and content. They are a social media company promoting rugby for a younger audience and since they launched in the 2018/19 season they have received over 30 million social media impressions.

Some of the work seen on this blog has been published on various websites, such as Gloucestershire Live, Last Word on Rugby and the University of Gloucestershire’s student newspaper – UniVersal, of which I am Sports Editor for.

For the 2018/2019 season, I worked alongside Worcester Warriors U18’s team covering their fixtures, both home and away games and gave in match twitter updates. This was a fantastic experience that gave me an insight of the runnings of a professional rugby club.

I have covered my university’s XV, writing match reports throughout the BUCS league and for their varsity fixtures. Reporting for a university rugby team has taught me so much about myself as a journalist and has given me the confidence to grow my journalistic and interviewing techniques.

My dream job would be travelling the world following, writing and presenting rugby wherever it takes me! Whatever the level, whatever the weather I’ll try and be there.

I’m always tweeting away so why not give me a follow?

@_katyhomewood 

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