So, this past weekend (May Day weekend 2021), British professional sports leagues & teams took part in a boycott of social media channels. The reason for this boycott was to draw attention to the perceived lack of action taken by these social channels against racist behaviour perpetuated by their users.
And everyone took part: Football, Rigby, Cricket, Speedway, Basketball, Ice Hock… Oh, wait a second…
You see, the UKs sole professional league, the EIHL, actually didn’t bother. Now, the EIHA and SIHL both tweeted that they would partake (even if the EIHA did use a sub account to keep tweeting). And a few rogue clubs (Such as Widnes Wild) carried on as normal. But the UKs leading lights, the top level of the sport, the UKs “best attended indoor sport”? Nothing. Nada. Not a peep.
Indeed, if you only followed the EIHL on socials, then you could be forgiven for saying “What boycott?”. The EIHL not only continued to tweet all weekend as if nothing unusual was happening, but at no point did it even reference the boycott. Not even in the lead in to the weekend. See, the EIHL clearly reached the decision that shilling it’s “Elite Series” finals was more important than being seen to be taking a stand against racism.
Yes, There wasn’t even a release in the build up saying something like:
We understand and support the move this weekend to take a stand against racism. However, with our most important games of the season taking place we won’t be suspending our social accounts.
Not that a release like that would have justified the ignorance. But at least it would have been an admission that they were aware of the boycott happening. Instead, we got a normal service of hype tweets, and game updates. Now, if I were being cynical for a second, I could believe that this was done because they knew that with no football tweets, then there was the potential for more sports fans to see the EIHLs tweets and bring eyes onto the league. But surely the EIHL wouldn’t be that crass, would they? Well, I’ll let you decide on that.
What made it somehow worse was the scrabbling about done by some fans to justify the EIHLs decision. I’ve read excuses such as “We are a small sport, it won’t make a difference”, “I don’t care, it isn’t important”, and other similar themes. This of course is utter nonsense. For example, the BBL (Basketballs pro league in the UK) is a small league. Attendances are lower than the EIHLS. Yet they still took part, even as they began their play off series. They “got it”. They saw the bigger picture.
As for “It won’t make a difference”? Utter rubbish. The idea of the boycott wasn’t to silence racists for a weekend. It was to hit Twitter, Facebook, etc in the pocket. Fewer tweets, means fewer adverts shown. And that lowers revenues. Now, on it’s own, the EIHL wouldn’t make a difference. But as part of a collective? Yeah, there is a difference to be made.
And all this is before we get on to the individual clubs. Now, given the league was tweeting, you’d expect the clubs involved in the “Elite Series” (all 4 of them) to be tweeting. And they did. But so did some of the clubs not involved. Cardiff Devils, normally one of the more forward thinking and progressive clubs, certainly did. They spent the weekend shilling their equipment & merchandise sell off.
And the worst of the bunch? Glasgow Clan. In a spectacular display of tone deaf behaviour they actually posted a tweet encouraging people to follow their social channels:
Because that’s the right thing to do during a social media boycott, right?
So, ultimately, the EIHL stood alone as the only professional league in the UK to not take part. This is quite possibly one of the reasons the sport is stuck where it is. I’m tired of hearing how the press doesn’t cover the sport. But why would they? It places itself outside the space occupied by other sports, seemingly on purpose. The unreal bubble it exists in is frankly, ridiculous. It lurches from one PR gaffe to another, oblivious to the cumulative effect this has on it’s image.
Indeed, there has still be zero acknowledgement that the league even knew the boycott was taking place. They haven’t responded to any requests to explain their ignorance. And this doesn’t surprise me one bit. The people at the top of the EIHL are arrogant. They don’t think they need to explain anything they do to anyone. As long as a select group of clubs get their league to play in and dominate every year, they just don’t care. And short of a strong, independent governing body, they will continue to do so.
So, once more, the EIHL stands alone for all the wrong reasons.