Friday, May 26, 2006

26 May 2006: Insider

Oh. My. Goodness.

So the Rupert Lowe/Michael Wilde EGM battle for control of Southampton Football Club rolls into its next phase, with the current board saying they'll stay and fight, and preparing to name a date for the meeting at which Rupert and his cronies could very well be voted out as board members, to be replaced by Wilde and his team. And how Rupert's team are fighting. Not content with leaning heavily on the normally semi-independent Graham Hiley on the Saints Official Website, he has now hired a PR company to go 'under cover' and post pro-Lowe propaganda on the SaintsForever fan site.

The problem is, they've been found out. A Telegraph article yesterday revealed that Rupert had hired PR 'expert' Shimon Cohen, and stated: "in the past, Cohen has made effective use of fans' websites to get his message across". This set SaintsForever regulars on the edge of their seats. Had they been duped before? Would Cohen and his company "The PR Office" now be attempting to infiltrate SaintsForever? Were notable pro-Lowe posters such as 'Jonah' actually plants from Rupert's side of the fence.

Later on yesterday, a thread titled "Face it, Lowe is staying!" appeared, started by a new poster named 'undercoversaint'. Immediately the regulars jumped on it as potential 'PR Office' stuff, including 'Saint Joe' who called it a "pathetic attempt" (which it was). Could such a highly-paid PR firm be quite this blatant and crude?

The answer is yes. This morning, at 12.27am, SaintsForever owner and organiser Keith posted the results of some investigation he and the board moderators had conducted into 'undercoversaint' and a few other suspicious-looking posters. All users leave a little trail behind them, called an IP address, which can be traced: I've done this a few times with posters on messageboards I've run. Normally it traces back to an Internet Service Provider, like Nildram or BT or whoever (or Bulldog, about whom we speak quietly) - this is because when you're at home, you connect up to one of their computers, which is then connected to the internet itself. However, companies such as 'The PR Office' tend to have their own servers, or at least static IP addresses linked to their domain names, and yes indeedy, the 'whois' trace threw up the details of Shimon Cohen and his little company. They hadn't even had the brains to use an internet cafe or a dial-up account. And they were caught red-handed.

The fallout on SaintsForever this morning is quite entertaining, and is very strongly pushing the opinion even further anti-Rupert. Quite how he can even contemplate staying after trying such a trick as this is beyond me, but it seems to be the death-rattle of Rupert's reign more than anything else. Whether the press will pick up on this, I don't know - won't be until tomorrow at the earliest I'd have thought - but I thought it was worth flagging it up here for those who don't know about it. Hard to believe it's actually true: who can imagine Dan McCauley doing this with Plymouth Argyle? Rupert is a businessman, and has had some eccentric moments in the past, but this is the strangest, the funniest, the most damning.

And soon he'll be gone.

Addendum: At 9.24 Keith reported that he's already been contacted about this by both national and local press. Maybe something will come of this...

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Oh. My. Goodness. This is truly shocking and I look forward to seeing what the papers do with this story tomorrow. A good scoop from Mr Saints Forever Administrator...