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by Viya Nsumbu 11th September, 2018
3 min read

Via-no show: A lesson in how not to do a Select Committee

In perhaps the biggest act of self-sabotage since Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic scored an own goal in the 2018 World Cup final, ticket reselling company Viagogo refused to attend a select committee hearing for the second time.

With an eleventh-hour letter to Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee Chair Damian Collins, Viagogo have done irrevocable damage to their reputation; in Parliament and further afield.

The company cited legal restrictions due to the proceedings brought against the company by the Competition and Markets Authority for the no show. However, this did not stop Collins from describing the move as ‘gross discourtesy’.

Ultimately, the refusal to engage betrays a lack of understanding of the significance of the select committee. They are a powerful part of the policymaking and accountability framework in Parliament.  Select committees have become important vehicles in holding businesses to account. This is especially important at a time when public trust in businesses remains consistently low. For example, the Public Accounts Committee’s inquiry into the collapse of Carillion has highlighted a series of failures at government and corporate level.

Another reason for the rise of the select committee is their ability to break stories and generate coverage audiences want to see. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a bit of corporate schadenfreude?  Just think back to Mike Ashley and Aaron Banks’s memorable appearances in Parliament.

It is tempting to refuse an invitation to appear before a select committee. They are a minefield. MPs are out for blood. This is due to them genuinely wanting to hold companies to account. However they also want to achieve the key soundbite that will get them in the press.

However, failing to engage in the process altogether calls into question a company’s values and commitment to transparency and accountability. It is counterproductive and a missed opportunity to decide to not be a part of the process. By ghosting the committee, Viagogo have done far greater reputational damage to themselves. They have ruined any chances of having a constructive conversation with politicians. Equally, they have missed an opportunity to get their messages across. Now, they have left it to external players to fill in the gaps.

Committees are an opportunity to present the best possible account of yourself. They provide a coherent narrative account of what a company or individual does. With proper and robust preparation individuals can avoid pitfalls and turn a potentially difficult session into a chance to get key messages across.

GK are specialists in preparing leaders and representatives for this unique and challenging experience – whether they have been hauled in front of a select committee and need to protect their reputation or if they have been called to advise the Government on a policy area.

For further information on select committee training, please contact Viya Nsumbu on viya@gkstrategy.com

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Interested in the ticket resale sector? Read our blog post on how Ticketmaster successfully navigated the highly regulated space.

See more articles by Viya Nsumbu