Is Wayne Rooney a great public speaker? or does his Scouse (Liverpool dialect) accent prevent him from speaking to a room full of people? This is, in essence, what England football manager, Roy Hodgson implied when he said “Everyone knows Wayne is not the sort of person with his Liverpool accent who is going to be able to stand up in front of a lecture room of people. But he doesn’t need to. All he has to do is make certain the players he is talking to understand where he is coming from.”
So was Hodgson accurate in making this remark? Or was he being terribly rude? Here is a video of Wayne Rooney speaking from 2010 and in 2014. It is clear Rooney has had some media training and also some ‘accent calming’ training. But the crucial point is that the interviewers KNOW how to interview a footballer like Rooney: they feed relevant questions and almost answer the questions themselves.
Football is an industry with its own characteristics and values. I am not a football fan, but I watched the first England match from the Rio world cup this year. I was struck by the very poor commentary of the game (Phil Neville trended on Twitter with some excellent results about his voice and comments). The British experts had, in my opinion, a poor command of the English language, with a limited vocabulary, use of cliches. Their grammar was appalling; yet the experts from overseas, who were speaking English beautifully, correctly, and intelligently. Radio 5 Live on a Saturday evening: the 606 show, is also uncomfortable listening to, if you value intelligent discussions. If my husband is listening, I will scream at the radio when “He done good” and “We was great” is uttered AGAIN.
BUT I am not the targeted audience of football. The valued audience of football don’t mind that the communication is cliched and basic. It is part of the appeal for many fans and part of the culture.
However, Roy Hodgson touched on two important skills a public speaker needs: being understood by the audience and having the ability to ‘stand up and lecture a room full of people’: in other words the ability to deliver a speech. As speakers we have to make it as easy as possible for people to understand us. I am someone that celebrates the variety of accents we have in the United Kingdom, as well as the excellent people that live in this country, who speak english as a second accent. However, I do believe that if you have an accent of any kind that others are unfamiliar with – and that includes the “RP” accent, you need to speak more slowly and watch your diction. I personally have real problems understanding Rooney and his predecessor, Gerrard, because I find it challenging to ‘tune into’ the Scouse accent and they speak a dialect with different vocabulary.
Public speaking also requires (among other things) skills in engaging with an audience; delivering some quality information and having presence. I have lost count at the number of speeches I have heard by exceptional sportspeople, who don’t have any public speaking skills. Some have the presence of a damp jockstrap – and that’s just the women. I am certain they have great stories to share, but unless they can deliver these with confidence, and so people can understand them, it is disappointing for the audience.
So returning to my first question: is Wayne Rooney a great Public Speaker. I haven’t seen him live; clearly he is an exceptional sportsperson who motivates his team. But in order to become a public speaker, he will need to develop a number of skills, in order to be successful. Alternatively, he could just to ‘appearances’ when he retires.
What do you think? Do leave a comment below.