Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Ferguson delivers media masterclass

Friday, March 8th, 2013 by Mark Perry


The wily old Sir Alex Ferguson has today shown that he knows how to play the media and at the same time stop the media frenzy of rumour and speculation about the future of striker Wayne Rooney.

Since Rooney’s omission from the team to play Real Madrid this week, the media and twitter has seen this as an indication that Ferguson’s relationship with him is broken and that he would be leaving the club in the summer.

This morning football journalists speculated on twitter about the weekly press conference and who would ask the first question.  Ferguson’s reputation for being taciturn and banning journalists for asking difficult questions is legendary.  Indeed it transpired that he has imposed a ban on two newspapers – the Mail and Independent – because of the speculation this week.

Ferguson has shown how to take back the agenda from the media. He started the press conference by putting his points across before any questions were asked.

“The Wayne Rooney nonsense first? Or do you want to talk sense? The issue you’re all going on about is absolute rubbish. There is absolutely no issue between Wayne and I. Rooney will be here next season you have my word. To suggest we don’t talk to each other on the training ground is absolute nonsense.”

Having done that he was able to put across the positive messages about where the club goes from here.

Some of the sceptical football journalists who have seen it all with Ferguson even acknowledge a solid performance. The Sunday Times’ Jonathan Northcroft tweeted:  “SAF in prime form, all in all. Joking, grabbing back the agenda.”

Ferguson’s performance has shown that in the whirl of a media storm that addressing the issues up front and being prepared to stand by your convictions enables you to put your side of the story across in a much more strident way than responding to questions.

With Rooney however, only time will tell if his omission was the beginning of the end of this time at Manchester United as Ferguson is known for, sometimes, giving the media the wrong steer. But for now for him it is mission accomplished.

About Mark Perry

Mark has more than 25 years’ experience in PR and corporate communications. He is a founding director of B2B consultancy Melville PR.

Football’s lost reputation

Thursday, October 11th, 2012 by Mark Perry


It seems every day that football’s reputation is afflicted by one controversy or other – tweeting, accusations of racism, diving and even the England manager discussing team selection to strangers on the tube.

While, on one hand, the clubs seem to be all-controlling in their dealings with the media by limiting access to players and managers or even banning journalists from press conferences because of something they may have written, there are occasions when it seems that issues are not closed down.

As an industry which is under the media spotlight 24 hours a day, seven days a week I cannot help but feel that the sport is in need of some reputation management.

Liverpool belatedly admitted earlier this year that their handling of the ‘Luis Suarez affair’ was not as effective as it could have been and there has been relative silence from Chelsea in response to last week’s infamous Ashley Cole tweet about his thoughts on the FA.

If a football club was a corporation that was in crisis management mode there would be calls for immediate action. It just seems that in football things are left to fester while there is a chipping away of the hard-won club brand.

It may be time for clubs to see themselves just as any other company would and manage their reputation with their different stakeholders and ensure that any indiscretions of their employees – the players – don’t cause long time damage.

About Mark Perry

Mark has more than 25 years’ experience in PR and corporate communications. He is a founding director of B2B consultancy Melville PR.

Football’s reputation rescued by sponsor?

Monday, February 13th, 2012 by Jon Clements

Once upon a time, a week was a long time in politics. Now football – seemingly unable to get a grip on racism, scandal and all-round bad behaviour by players and managers alike – is experiencing the same fate.

But the latest action by a major sponsor may now bring some sense to the shambles and place reputation at the heart of what Premier League football clubs should be thinking.

First, the now-former England manager, Fabio Capello, completely misjudged the sentiment surrounding John Terry and the FA’s decision to strip him of the captaincy for Euro 2012, so paying with his own job.

Then, the latest chapter in an already dire story concerning Liverpool player, Luis Suárez and Manchester United’s Patrice Evra began with another handshake-that-wasn’t and ended with a rush of apologies from player and club.

As for Suárez, his brains – as Guardian football writer, Daniel Taylor rightly sums up, “are all in his feet”. But for Liverpool manager, Kenny Dalglish – Liverpool legend and, you’d think, a much savvier professional football manager – his post-match response to “handshake-gate” was woeful. And by alluding to the media as culpable in whipping up the story, he should have seen the abyss widening beneath him. Call me naive, but the manager is more regularly the face of the club than even the players or the management. Therefore, its reputation is firmly in his hands.

Now, the latest twist is that Liverpool shirt sponsor, Standard Chartered, has weighed in with the following (c/o The Guardian):

“We were very disappointed by Saturday’s incident and have discussed our concerns with the club.” A person familiar with the matter said: “It was a very robust conversation.”

Money talks, and a sponsor pumping in serious amounts of cash to a club doesn’t need a player at the heart of the most high profile racism row in UK sport carrying on like a spoilt child while bearing the company’s logo.

It’s taken until now for Liverpool managing director, Ian Ayre, to take a stand by criticising Suárez. But what about Dalglish?

Maybe the “robust conversation” with Standard Chartered may get Liverpool – and other clubs – to wake up to the equal value and fragility of reputation and the very tangible (i.e., pounds and pence) damage that can potentially be inflicted.

Reputation management in top flight football can’t be entrusted to players and managers if they believe their singular responsibility at the club is to kick a bag of air, or instruct others how to.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

Does reputation get a sporting chance?

Friday, January 20th, 2012 by Jon Clements

Does anybody care about having a good reputation in football?

Any casual observer of the so-called “beautiful game” would presume that football or footballers have as much connection with the notion of corporate reputation as an earth worm does.

After years of attempting to kick racism out of the UK game, high profile players for major league clubs are becoming associated with that most repugnant of behaviour. Is it unrealistic to expect respectful on-pitch relations from our footballers, or are they simply too stupid to recognise as acceptable what the bulk of society did long ago?

And, this week, the match between Iberian titans, Madrid and Barcelona – a fixture that’s become predictably ill-tempered – outdid itself for pointless, farcial, reputation shredding bad behaviour.

Spanish sports commentators labelled the performance by Madrid as “treason against their own history”, saying that manager Jose Mourinho “threw away all Madrid’s history and instead insisted on a lamentable match from which he got no benefit for Madrid. It was all bad: the result, the play, the violence.”

What does this matter, in a sport where – despite money and scandal overflowing in equal measure – fans continue to show up and sponsors back the big teams?

Trusty Twitter friends came forward with their own views:  asked whether it mattered if football clubs had a good or bad reputation, veteran communications professional, @NigelSarbutts, opined “To the fans, sort of; to sponsors, more so, but it’s still trumped by pragmatism. Brands queue up to sponsor any Premier League side I’d say. It’s just ad space.”

Corporate communications expert, @domburch, felt reputation fundamental, even in football: “Of course. Attracting new talent (back office as well as players), new fans, sponsorship – all dependent on your reputation.”

Former Staniforth colleague, Ghida Basma – whose Masters degree dissertation focused on reputation in football, says that the reputation of players can’t help but have a correlation on the reputation of the club.

Interestingly, a 10-year-old piece of research suggests that clubs with a reputation for foul play tend to be penalised by referees more, based on a predisposition in the official’s brain that players for a notoriously “dirty” club must be up to their usual tricks. Yorkshire PR man, Anthony Devenish, says: “Leeds takes flack as ‘dirty Leeds’, thanks to the 70’s team. Their rumoured motto? ‘Let’s get blood on our boots’.”

In other fields – business, politics, the military and, more recently, in tabloid journalism – taking a reckless attitude to reputation has a variety of tangible effects, among them imprisonment, loss of trust, collapsing share price, corporate closure and so on.

Surely, the workings of  world’s most popular sport and building and maintaining a good reputation are not mutually exclusive concepts?

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

Some football clubs more social than others

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011 by Rob Brown

I saw two turf-braking stories today about football clubs putting the social into soccer.  The first was about Manchester United appointing an agency to design and build a digital platform to provide a social network for fans around the world.   The club has identified a target of more than 500 million fans – more than double the number of registered twitter users – so why not have a network just for reds.  FlickedIn anyone, InOfftheBlogPost, OnMeHeadBook perhaps?

The slight problem is United’s reputation for real engagement.  The club has looked at Facebook and Twitter bans for its players more than once. What is United”s motivation?  “Social network? I think they mean fan club or more accurately, sales database” quipped Nigel Sarbutts of BrandAlert.

Step up to the spot then Jaguares de Chiapas, a club in the Primera División de México.   They’ve registered all of the players on twitter and they’ve added their twitter handles onto the back of the players shirts.  In social media terms and as a PR story in general; “back of the net”.

It doesn’t always take big names or big budgets to reach your goal.  Innovative ideas and real creativity have no substitute.  As they say in the in the Estadio Victor Manuel Reyna in Chiapas “in football as in life, 140 characters are enough to decide which side you’re on”.


About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).