Super league, dreadful comms
One of my most disappointing moments as an Arsenal fan was the Champions League final in 2006. One nil up with just 10 men, our talismanic striker Thierry Henry was one-on-one with the Barcelona keeper and hit the ball right at him. They then scored two goals (one of which was offside but not flagged) and the heavens opened to literally rain on our parade.
As a football fan you recognise disappointment goes hand in hand with success, so by implication the idea of an European Super League which Arsenal (along with the other founders) cannot be relegated from simply goes against the grain. You can argue all day and all night about the rights and wrongs of this proposal (as many are) but I’d like to focus on how badly the announcement was handled.
Here are three key ways that ESL got its communications wrong:
1. It just leaked out on a Sunday. I know they had a statement but they didn’t really make the most of it, giving the impression of a shambles. If I’d been advising I’d have given an exclusive to one media outlet, offering an interview with a spokesperson delivering the key messages of justification, followed up by an aggressive briefing programme in the morning of the announcement. This neatly brings me to…;
2. No spokesperson. This made the ESL look like a bunch of faceless tycoons ruining the fans’ game. Eventually Florentino Perez, president of Real Madrid and chair of the ESL, gave an interview to a Spanish newspaper. This was after everyone - from Gary Lineker to a Burnley fan struggling to be heard through her mask – had slated the plans. The ESL needed a good spokesperson (ideally an ex-footballer) in each key territory – UK, Spain and Italy – to spread their messages on the day it was announced;
3. It’s being funded by a US investment bank. Or as someone on Twitter put it “from the folks who brought you the financial crash”. Massive own goal!
When you have every politician – including Boris Johnson who probably wonders why the ball isn’t oval – 80% of fans, the sporting bodies, the vast majority of former and current footballers and managers, Uncle John Cobley and all, against you, the assumption is the ESL will fail.
However nobody thought Arsenal could beat Liverpool 2:0 at Anfield to win the league in 1989.