You can never quite predict what will catapult your club into the world’s media. Right now, three Rovers players (Jamie Coppinger, James O’Connor and Mark Wilson), along with members of the club’s backroom staff and a couple of supporters are in Peru, giving up their time in the off-season to walk the Inca Trek as a fundraiser for the NSPCC. Sadly, in terms of Rovers related press coverage their efforts have been eclipsed by a woman who normally wears a dog suit, wearing little more than her birthday suit. And given the spread of the latter story, chances are the Rovers currently high at South American altitude have probably already been greeted by the words; “Ah Doncaster Rovers… Donny Dog, sexy mascot”.
For those who have been fortunate enough to miss the story, here is the synopsis. On Doncaster Rovers matchdays Tracy Chandler plays the role of club mascot Donny Dog. Of a Saturday afternoon she dons the suit voluntarily and does what mascots do… wanders round the pitch, waves at fans, goes in goal for junior football penalty shoot-outs and so forth. Of a Sunday though she chose to do something a little different, and posed in the Sunday Sport; wearing not a lot and draped over and around the mascot suit. The club discovered this, and duly sacked Tracey.
To me, despite all the press coverage (which began with the Doncaster Star), this story seemed straight forward enough. Woman does distasteful photoshoot which carries obvious links to the club, without first seeking the club’s permission, and is quite rightly dismissed. All the counter arguments of her subsequently offering to donate her fee to the NSPCC and, the fact that players from the club posed for a charity calendar back in November are, despite all the column inches they have generated, irrelevant. Personally, I think there is something inherently creepy about posing in your underwear with the club mascot (aimed at children), and then donating the money received to a kids’ charity. “If I want to do something for charity, why shouldn’t I? It’s my body,” Tracey told the Star, and whilst that’s true… the comedy cartoon dog suit she’s draped over isn’t hers. The shoot was inappropriate, and as such its somewhat rich to be going to the press and complaining about being wronged.
So that’s that; case closed. Only that’s not quite it, as it transpires the shoot for the Sunday Sport wasn’t the first time Tracey had posed in her smalls in the company of Donny Dog, and the first occasion may give some indication as to why she saw no moral obstacle in doing a similar set of pictures for the tabloid. Donny Dog first derobed in a portfolio shoot for Steve Uttley Photography. Nothing wrong with that, you may think, only alongside running his photography agency Steve Uttley is also Head of Media and PR at… Doncaster Rovers. You can’t quite slap your palm to your face quick enough can you?
Unsurprisingly the pictures were pulled from the Steve Uttley Photography site pretty sharpish, but not before Viking Supporters’ Co-operative forum member ‘Sif’ had managed to capture this screen grab (look away now children). I actually contemplated not raising this on Viva, primarily as Steve got in touch with me last week about writing a column for the Rovers matchday programme, and also because he is one of the aforementioned members of club staff currently trekking the Andes for charity. So, I have no doubt that Mr Uttley’s heart is in the right place, nor that he is committed to the club and its standing, but unfortunately his extra-curricular endeavours have edged the club into a hole they could have easily and morally escaped. As such, this story can disappointingly not simply be dismissed as an error of judgement on the part of the former Mrs Donny Dog, because it has also highlighted a significant one made by the club itself.
Finally on this, a quick nod to the other failures in this storm in a D cup, namely the nation’s sub-editors. This story is pun-gold and yet all they can come up with is “Mascot Tracy given the boot for getting kit off”. Even The Sun only mustered “Club bosses blow whistle on saucy soccer Mascot” Come on people… Ruff Justice… Cavalier Approach… Mascot Asks Fans to Retriever. Wasted, each and everyone. An insult to their profession, the lot of them.