Can There Be Progress With Access?

There was an article that gave some insights to behind the scenes of a documentary.

The documentary gave an account of the England football manager over a two decades ago. It was made in a bid to highlight the manager’s confidence that he could get the team to qualify for the World Cup. The manager did it with the best intentions and once he committed to it, he felt the need to go through with it all the way. For the documentary to be done with integrity, the camera crew required access to the manager and the team.

Unfortunately for the manager, the qualification campaign proved to be a treacherous one and ended in abject failure. A failure that was aggressively reported by the media at the time and a failure that would lead to the dismissal of the manager. When the documentary was broadcast it highlighted aspects of the game that the public had never seen before. It showed characters in a raw light, sometimes jovial, but often fairly grim, blunt and brutal. It was meant to be one of integrity, but some of the language was a bit too graphic for certain viewers.

What was all the more intriguing was that for the 76 minutes that was broadcast, there were hours of footage that never made it to air. Footage that the manager – who had some editorial input – felt would be too damaging for the individuals involved. What was intriguing about it was that the perception of one or two individuals in the broadcast left them as figures of derision.

It was a brave act to allow such access and many years after the documentary, the manager said he had no regrets about doing it. This said a lot about his character.

Unsurprisingly, since the documentary was broadcast, there was not a rush of clubs, players and managers offering to be a part of similar projects. They sought to reinforce the commitment to limiting access to what goes on behind the scenes. What happened on the training pitch or the dressing room would remain there.

What I was left to consider, though, was how healthy is it to limit access? What could be learnt if some had the bravery to open access to others to have an insight? When is it right to withdraw the access? When it it right to keep things away from the observation of others?

Sometimes I understand the desire to be informed about things has been for the purpose of gossip and dissension. There have been times though where a secretive approach that might appear to be wise and discrete has actually made matters worse, so that by the time help has been needed or things could have been improved the opportunity was missed because of those decisions not to allow access.

It is an issue of wisdom, yet even in the light of failure, could progress be made when there is access?

(Photo by Martin Brechtl on Unsplash)

For His Name’s Sake


C. L. J. Dryden


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