Posts Tagged ‘football’

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.

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 ''

The social media world of football

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011 by Jo Rosenberg


90% of football fans have decided who their favourite football club is by the age of 10.

No question then that football fans are fiercely loyal and, unlike the average consumer in most other walks of life, they want to know everything about the club’s supply chain and voice opinions about decisions, whether it’s an on or off the pitch matter.

Yet despite the fact that social media provides a global forum in which a club can engage with every single fan and as a result, improve and develop club fan relationships, it is still, in many cases, practised with caution, and rightly so.

Fans don’t want to be talked at via social media channels, or fed useless, second hand information. They want exclusives, they want debate and interaction with the club and its players and if there’s an opportunity to win money-can’t-buy, club-related prizes then all the better.

To design and host an effective social media platform requires time and effort; yet once a resource is in place and a strategy agreed, the benefits to both the fans and the club can be considerable.

Content is king, relevance is critical and the tone must be friendly and engaging and appear to be opening the door of the club to its fans. It must also provide a two-way conversation, hence a designated role should be created to ensure the content is well-managed and well-timed.

Like many industries, the use of social media in football goes way beyond being simply a communication vehicle; it can also provide revenue driving opportunities. Big sponsorship deals can only be justified if the club reaches a bigger audience and this means international markets which are not easily reached by traditional media.

And when social media is well established, there are potential opportunities via affiliate marketing by adding value to sponsorship deals, cross promotional activity with sponsors, or through direct sales of official kit or unsold tickets.

And let’s not forget how instrumental social media can be in a crisis situation by providing the club with the opportunity to set the record straight.  It might be a player scandal or a controversial boardroom decision. Either way it’s an instantaneous channel to fans which can’t be obscured by journalists.

Manchester City FC is one of the most proactive clubs when it comes to social networking, utilising the obvious Facebook and Twitter networks along with Flickr, in which they encourage fans to share photography, which the club admits has helped inspire new PR and retail campaigns.

But a football club can’t just dip in and out of social media. Fans will feel cheated and will quickly retort. A key and critical point to including social media within a marcomms strategy is to build virtual relationships with fans which must then be maintained. New fans must feel welcome and existing fans must feel valued.



Twitter and football – a beautiful game?

Monday, May 16th, 2011 by Ghida Basma

Recent years have seen football transform into a multimillion dollar business and footballers become multimillionaires and celebrities in their own right. One of the main consequences of this modern dynamic of the sport has been a breakdown in relationships between football fans and players. The common perception among fans is that footballers are wannabe superstars who are not worthy of their salaries and have been so overshadowed by stardom that they have lost their real identity.

Interestingly, Twitter, is helping bridge these gaps as an increasing number of footballers embrace the social media phenomenon. The micro-blogging site is allowing footballers to voice their opinions and communicate with the public on a more personal level.

Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5), for example, recently reached the landmark of one million followers on the social network, making him the most followed footballer in Britain and a major source of sports news. The player has managed to cement himself as one of the social website’s most celebrated athletes and has smartly utilized the power of Twitter to promote his own brand and reach his fans…and many footballers are following suit.

Among those recently joining the site is Wayne Rooney (@WayneRooney) who managed to get over 300,000 followers in less than a week. However, not all footballers enjoyed a positive reception from “Tweeps”. Another Manchester United player, Darron Gibson, was forced to close his account just two hours after he opened it, following a series of attacks and abuse from fans for his poor performances on the pitch.

Regardless, the relationship between Twitter and football is growing, and Twitter is proving to be crucial in reviving the lost relationship between fans and football players. It is increasingly seen as a reliable source of news and fans are rejoicing the fact they can tell footballers exactly what they think of them.


It’s just not cricket…

Friday, October 2nd, 2009 by Chris Bull

Williams - bit of a winker

The word sportsmanship has traditionally had warm, positive connotations. However, recent indiscretions by the Harlequins rugby team and the Renault F1 team have put this into question. The reputation of Harlequins and its former Director of Rugby, Dean Richards, along with the Renault F1 and former Team Principle Flavio Briotore are firmly in the gutter and if things continue in this vein, the term ‘sportsmanship’ may become a synonym for deception, injustice and cheating.

For those who are not avid followers of sport, the ‘Bloodgate’ scandal as it has become known, involved a Harlequins player, Tom Williams, faking a blood injury (by inserting a blood capsule into his mouth) in order to allow specialist kicker Nick Evans onto the field for the crucial final few minutes of the match. William’s mouth was then purposely cut afterwards to make the injury real.

Renault’s deception involved former Renault driver, Nelson Piquet, who after being dropped from the team admitted that in last years Singapore Grand Prix, he was ordered to crash on purpose in order to give team-mate Fernando Alonso a slight advantage after the safety car was deployed.

Perhaps the seriousness of this latter incident is not immediately apparent, but it came to light shortly after Formula 2 driver Henry Surtees was killed, and F1 driver Felipe Massa very nearly so, by debris on the track from another car. When Piquet was ordered to crash, he was not only being ordered to put his own life in danger, but those of every other racing driver on the track – not to mention those of the stewards who are charged with clearing the debris.

These two incidents are appalling and frankly disgusting demonstrations of the lengths some are willing to go not even to win, but to fractionally increase their chances of doing so.

It is enough to make one question whether the spirit of fairplay and sportsmanship is still alive within sports at the highest level, such are the pressures placed on those who take part. However, whilst watching England play Sri Lanka in the ICC Champions trophy recently, my faith was restored somewhat.

During a critical part of the game, Sri Lankan batsman Angelo Mathews collided with an England player while attempting a run. As a result, he failed to get back to the crease in time and was ruled out. A little unfair maybe, but out nonetheless.

However, Andrew Strauss, England’s Ashes-winning captain immediately called his team in a huddle. Consensus was quickly reached that Mathews would have made his ground if it was not for the unfortunate clash, and Strauss informed the umpire to rule Mathews not out and allow him to continue to bat. Why? Because as Strauss commented afterwards “it was the right thing to do.” Strauss chose not to take advantage because it was not sportsmanlike, not proper and quite simply, not cricket.

So if Harlequins and the Renault F1 team want to do something about their flagging reputations, they could do a lot worse than watching a few games of cricket and taking some notes on the spirit in which it is played.

About Chris Bull

Account Exec for Staniforth PR, based in the TBWA\ Building in Whitfield Street, London. Areas of interest include politics, the car industry and sport.

News Channels Close the Gap on Twitter

Friday, July 31st, 2009 by Rob Brown

Around the middle of the morning the words Sir, Bobby, Robson and RIP started to trend on twitter.  It seemed that once again the social web had broken the news of the sad demise of a celebrity.  There have been several instances where this happened, a phenomenon first identified by this blog in October of last year, with the most notable occurrence being with the recent departure of Michael Jackson.

An analysis seemed to confirm that twitter was first to the news if only by a few minutes. At 10.18am (BST) @RobertMNHarvey was the first to tweet ‘RIP Bobby Robson’.  The Yorkshire Evening Press website was hot on his heels with an article timed at 10.22am, the first of the so-called conventional media to publish the story.  Four minutes later the news was on Bobby Robson’s Wikipedia entry but there was still nothing on Google News.    

I contacted the author of the twitter scoop.  Was he a hospital worker, a friend of the family, a football agent with inside knowledge perhaps? No, he had seen the story on the TV, Sky Sports News to be exact.  The crowd are are on the twits and they think it’s all over.  If you think it is time to blow the whistle on conventional news media, think again.

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).