Football’s Super European PR own goal has exposed shocking stakeholder engagement

By Matt Stott, Account Manager at PR and Digital Marketing agency, Genesis.

They think it’s all over…

The flawed, fraught European Super League was always destined to fail before a ball was even kicked – literally in anger judging by player vitriol which has smashed through the prosaic wall of media training in recent days.

Was it all merely a sabre-rattling exercise designed to extract further concessions from governing bodies, and we should have seen through the smoke and mirrors? Or had the ‘dirty dozen’ genuinely moved beyond a power play? Perhaps reality lies somewhere near the half-way line.

But either way, the PR exercise has spectacularly backfired. Fan backlash has been rife. The government made a volley of threats. Broadcasters questioned its morals. The front pages mirrored the damning verdict of a nation on red alert.

The bitter taste, or worse, the bitter realisation, of untouchable, unchallenged ownership and the gulf between turnstiles and turf, has been exposed and will linger for a long time.

What fires have been lit? The return to local non-league support? Needham Market in our backyard of Suffolk has already offered a lucky Manchester City fan an all-expenses paid trip to Bloomfields – a bastion of civility, innocence and full-blooded football where you can chat with the combatants in the clubhouse over a drink afterwards.

Let’s examine this a bit closer through PR lens. In fact, a lot of PR can be found in this twisted tale of avarice and deceit: PRemier League. PResidents. PRotests. PRoject Big Picture. PRoposals. PRide. PRoduct. PRize.

But there was no PRoper stakeholder engagement. Were fans sent a link to an online questionnaire to give their thoughts? Did they hold webinars or online Q&As for members? What about broadcasters? Gary Lineker tweeted that he wouldn’t work for it. James Corden’s impassioned rant in the US in which he claimed it would “kill hundreds of other football teams” scored over five million views.

On our website, we define stakeholder communications as developing a positive two-way relationship. Was this achieved? No.

We say strategies begin with understanding the people whose opinions and perceptions will affect your company or organisation’s reputation. Was this considered? No.

Their approach to stakeholder comms was tone-deaf at best. Its complete absence is a shocking indictment of unchecked ownership. It’s a puzzle that may never be solved. But it won’t be forgotten.

So, surely we have witnessed football’s worst-ever PR own goal. A suspicious stunt that has sent shockwaves through sport and society. A sliding tackle that failed to take either the ball or the player. Where will it end?

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