When England fans were filmed brawling on the streets of Marseille's beachfront just hours before the England team kicked off its Euro 2016 offensive earlier this month, the actions of a few sadly reinforced the stereotype of the English football hooligan abroad.
Thankfully, it's not something we see at home during the domestic football season. But sadly, the damage was done within minutes of the footage being filmed and broadcast around the world.
UEFA estimates that two billion viewers - that's 29% of the world's population - are tuning in to the tournament, with an estimated 130 million people tuning in to each match. With such huge audience, it is disappointing that there are a lack positive images of the real England fans enjoying themselves, mingling with fans from other countries and enjoying French hospitality.
The image of England fans is in stark contrast to Ireland's fans who are being shown to be making the most of the craic at Euro 2016. Twitter and Facebook is awash with footage of them enjoying the experience of the tournament, including a fan serenading a French woman, singing Our Father to a nun on the Eurostar, singing a lullaby to a baby on a bus and having a dance off with the Swedish fans ahead of their 1-1 draw.
It seems there isn't anything they can't do and it’s positive reinforcement of the Irish as happy go-lucky abroad prepared to be friends with anyone and everyone and it's being transmitted across the world, which is, sadly, in stark contrast to what’s being shown of the England fans in France. Where are the equivalents from the England fans?
It strikes me that the real England fans, and the Football Association, could learn from the Irish fans and start their own positive social media offensive. Buoyed by their success at the Group stage, the Welsh fans are also turning to social media to get home fans behind them and help them to further success in the competition.
In the legal world recently we have heard a lot about the negative side of social media and we all know the consequences of getting it wrong - read my colleague Neil's blog on Baker Small for example. Although it’s right to be cautious, the positive image portrayed by Irish fans reminds us of what a powerful medium social media can be. For firms who are prepared to embrace it, social media can be a positive way to connect with clients, influencers and suppliers and to broadcast positive developments within your business. It's just a matter of dipping your toe in and having some positive stories to tell!
A French woman who was unexpectedly serenaded by a large group of Irish football fans has described the experience as “magical”. Carla Roméra, a 19-year-old lifeguard living in Bordeaux, France, became the subject of a viral video when she was serenaded by a hundreds of Irish football fans in the country for Euro 2016. The fans sang a rendition of Frankie Valli’s ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ clad in Irish football shirts and waving flags.