FA comms team under spotlight, warns sports PR executive

The way the Football Association handles PR around the 2010 World Cup could make or break England's chances of hosting the tournament in 2018, a leading sports PR executive has warned.

Described as the team's '12th man': England supporters
Described as the team's '12th man': England supporters

As the 2010 World Cup gets under way, the FA's PR team is camped out in South Africa, along with the England squad and hundreds of English journalists.

As with previous World Cup tournaments, a key task for the team will be overseeing the presentation of England's travelling fans - often described as 'England's 12th man'. But this year, there could be more at stake than usual because of the bid.

Andy Sutherden, Hill & Knowlton's MD sports marketing and sponsorship UK, was confident the FA would be ready for any eventuality related to England's travelling support, 'whether they be perpetrators of crime, or indeed victims of crime'.

He added: 'The FA's presentation of our own passionate fan base is always delicately poised between advantage and liability. The new and all-important ingredient this time is how any negative headline impacts on the nation's hopes and dreams of successfully staging this tournament in eight years' time.'

Sutherden warned: 'With a decision due this December, the behaviour of the FA's top brass, Fabio Capello and his backroom staff, players, their WAGs and, of course, the fans, could help us win - or indeed lose - the right to host a FIFA World Cup in 2018.'

Weber Shandwick head of sport Fiona McLachlan, who leads the international comms team supporting the England 2018 bid, insisted the FA had performed well so far and suggested that the team's display on the pitch would overshadow PR initiatives.

She said: 'The FA will be judged on the field, but cannot control that now. What the FA has managed to create is stability for the team following Capello's confirmation that he will remain as England manager after the World Cup. The FA has also delivered a fantastic base camp in Rustenberg and is actively engaging with the public through events such as the one earlier this week where 10,000 local children attended a warm-up match.

'The FA has managed to deliver a warm, friendly exterior with a focused football mindset. The reality is - as history proves - that a poor tournament for England means the FA will be attacked on all fronts.'

KEY DATES

11 June: First World Cup 2010 group matches take place

12 June: England play first group game against the USA

18 June: England take on Algeria in second group game

23 June: England play Slovenia in last of the group matches

11 July: World Cup Final will be played in Johannesburg

December 2010: Decision expected on host of 2018 World Cup

 

2013: Final decision over host cities and stadiums if England wins 2018 World Cup bid

3,000 - Number of accredited press and online journalists

900 - Number of accredited media photographers

15,000 - Number of accredited radio and TV personnel

179 - Number of separate broadcasting licences for the tournament

Source: FIFA.

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