CAMPAIGNS: Trade Unions - PFA steps up PR to soothe funding row

Client: Professional Footballers Association

PR Team: PFA chief executive and chairman

Campaign: Income negotiations with football authorities

Timescale: July - November

Budget: Undisclosed



The Professional Footballer's Association, the footballers' union,

receives funds every year from the Premier League and the Football

League.



Used to run community and educational initiatives, the cash is also

targeted at players who have fallen on hard times and used to pay the

medical expenses of retired professionals.



Negotiations between the PFA and the football authorities over the

funding have a torrid history and this year were the subject of a

prolonged public dispute.



With no resolution in sight, the PFA called a strike before a deal was

finally agreed.



Objectives



The PFA's objective was to secure £36m a year in funding from the

football authorities - up from £8.8m in previous years, and in

advance of the £10m a year on offer.



To secure a good deal, the PFA needed to highlight the work it did at a

grassroots level and for poorer players - while playing down the fact

that many of its members are multi-millionaires.



Both sides sought the moral high ground and wanted public opinion on

their side, but more important for the PFA was that its members - the

footballers - were kept onside.



Strategy and Plan



The PFA has no PR agency or PR expertise in-house. The PFA executives

say their strategy was to make themselves available day-and-night to

answer press questions, but that there was no proactive PR activity.



Crucially, they described the funding they sought in terms of a

percentage of the leagues' combined TV rights revenues, which have

increased since the last deal.



The authorities, which each have in-house PR expertise, also decided

against a proactive PR campaign, preferring to keep details of the

discussions secret.



But when faced with disaster, in the form of an imminent strike, this

strategy was reversed and a press conference was called to put details

of the dispute in the public domain.



Measurement and Evaluation



The authorities' decision to call a press conference led to the

emergence of stories hostile to the PFA.



The Sun picked up on alleged inaccuracies in the letter which had been

sent to players with the ballot. It also emerged that footballers only

pay the PFA a flat £75-a-year subscription, regardless of their

wealth, that its CEO Gordon Taylor has an annual salary of £458,000, and that the organisation had recently bought a £2m Lowry

painting as an investment.



Opinion began to turn against the PFA and the idea of a strike.



Within two days of the press conference, a deal had been done at £17.5m a year for three years.



Results



As we have all learnt in recent weeks, the PFA is well-funded enough to

have its own PR expertise. Aside from keeping public opinion onside

during acrimonious funding negotiations, this would also help with its

core work of looking after footballers' interests.



For their part, the authorities launched their PR campaign just in time

to avert a damaging strike; they might reflect on the benefits a more

proactive PR approach would have had on the climate in which the

negotiations were taking place.



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