For all of the good that Andrea Radrizzani has done off the pitch, Leeds United keeps making obvious mistakes in public relations.
First, the “new badge” fiasco. The club announced that it was unveiling a new crest in a “rebranding” scheme that was an unmitigated disaster. The club suffered a groundswell of negative attention, with football clubs from all over the world getting in on the “fun” of making fun of Leeds for the stupid design. Even an MP got involved.
Leeds binned the plans within a short amount of time, and while they announced they would hold a fan contest to design a new badge, even that’s been put on hold. The club created a firestorm out of nothing, and a lot of the goodwill that was earned by Radrizzani for buying back Elland Road and being a good member of the community was consumed in the subsequent backlash against the badge.
And now the club has announced “Player of the Year” award nominees, and have included the young cancer patient Toby Nye as one of the choices for the award. And it’s not sitting well with the fans.
a personal view but I also think any award for Tony Nye should have been separate to POTY— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) April 16, 2018
Toby's cause is noble. Pablo deserves a Player of the Season. #lufc— Rob Foote (@realrj80) April 16, 2018
I'm not denying that at all. I personally just don't think adding the lad to a player of the year vote is the right thing to do. It's just my opinion it seems to have split the support again so club pr machine rolls on!!— Damian Staniforth (@Damo_1983) April 16, 2018
This seems like a goodwill gesture gone awry. Toby Nye’s cancer treatments were horribly expensive and the club raising funds to cover them has been one of the good stories of the season. Cancer truly knows no colours, and for Leeds to hold a fundraiser for the boy against Sheffield United, and to have the boy get to go onto the pitch and see the players up close, was absolutely a wonderful thing to do.
Having Samu Saiz pledge the final £25,000 to get the fundraising effort to £200,000 was already a tad cringe-worthy, as it was part of the Saiz “apology” tour after getting a six-match ban for spitting at an opponent during the loss in the FA Cup to Newport County. And while it was great that the club raised the final 25k themselves, having tied it to Saiz and his rehabilitation after getting banned seemed a bit forced.
Last Monday Toby had some Tests to see if treatment is working as it should. We have recieved some fantastic news today. Tobys ultrasound is normal & shows no signs of regrowth of his tumour & his Bone Marrow Aspirates have shown that his bone marrow is now clear of disease pic.twitter.com/B3ohENwF8r— Toby Nye (@TobyNye4) March 27, 2018
And now that Toby Nye is getting treatment and is on the mend, having him announced as a candidate for “player of the year” just seems like the club is taking all of this a bit too far.
Almost none of us know what’s like to go through cancer treatments as a child, and none of us can say for certain what the family has gone through. I have 5-year-old twins and it was tough when one of them was hospitalized for pneumonia almost four years ago. She ended up being okay and we didn’t have to go through surgery, but it was awful. I can’t imagine the horror of going through what Toby Nye’s family has gone through.
And that’s just it. Cancer isn’t a game. It’s literally life or death, and as much as we fans live or die with the success of our football teams, to put a brave young boy who faced cancer in the face and is on the mend in same category as grown men who kick a ball for a living seems wrong. Toby may not “win” player of the year in a fan vote, after all, he’s not a player. And then what? Tell a small child he didn’t win?
If the club wanted to honour Toby Nye at the end of season awards, there are were many choices that the club could have taken. They could have created a special fan award for him, renamed the POTY award after him, etc. But to have him included in the Player of the Year award voting seems either that the club doesn’t want to give it to any of the players after this dire season or as a publicity stunt to garner goodwill from the public by including a child cancer patient who is on the mend. Either way, the club messed up again.