Top journalists and consultants show support for FA comms machine

The England team and Football Association have come under sustained fire after the country's lacklustre exit from the FIFA World Cup, but media insiders argued the FA's comms operation should not take the brunt of the blame.

Fractures began to appear in the messaging coming from the England camp after the side's goalless draw with Algeria on 18 June. Wayne Rooney criticised booing England fans only to retract those comments, then John Terry held a controversial press conference (see below).

Last weekend, Reuters weighed in, castigating the FA and incoming Club England MD Adrian Bevington for marginalising the international media during press conferences and labelling England 'arrogant'.

But Henry Winter, football correspondent for The Daily Telegraph, told PRWeek criticism of the FA's media operation was wide of the mark.

'This is the one tournament for which the FA shouldn't get any criticism,' he said. 'This is the first tournament I've been to where the players and the press have not fallen out.'

Martin Lipton, chief football writer for the Daily Mirror, echoed this sentiment. 'Without the FA media team the tournament could have been a complete disaster for England. Off the field, they couldn't have done more.'

Paul Mace, MD of Macesport, pointed out that other countries in the World Cup had issues with the press, but the FA was fully compliant with FIFA rules on providing coaches and players for the media. 'Several other countries faced sanctions for not making management and players available,' he noted.

Bevington led the FA's comms in South Africa. He will now take up his Club England role full-time and hand the comms reins over to Julian Eccles. Winter noted Bevington 'played a blinder', pointing to his ability to get a reluctant Capello to engage with both print and broadcast media.

Nevertheless, the tournament was a crushing disappointment for the England team and English football, leaving the FA with the task of communicating positive messages in the wake of this failure.

'The last thing the FA wants is a public bloodbath,' Andy Sutherden, MD of H&K Sports, said. 'The FA has to try to keep a lid on the inevitable divide-and-conquer mentality that will rear its head.'

Will Oscroft, head of Lexis sport, said the FA needed to tackle head-on issues around structural change to the game, while Mace agreed the FA must take 'a share of the blame'.

 

ENGLAND'S PR WORLD CUP

27 June: Capello declines to resign at a press conference after Germany defeat

21 June: Terry reportedly apologises in the Daily Mail

21 June: Fabio Capello condemns Terry for making 'a very big mistake'

20 June: At a press conference, John Terry calls for the England squad to challenge the management

19 June: Wayne Rooney apologises for things said 'in the heat of the moment'

18 June: Rooney blasts supporters for booing after 0-0 draw with Algeria

9 June: Fabio Capello shouts at photographers ahead of a training session

 

£6m - Fabio Capello's reported annual salary

2 - Years left on Capello's contract after break clause was removed

£5m - Annual sponsorship of the England team by Nationwide

4 - Headcount of England's media team in South Africa.

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