Opinion: The FA's triple communications cock-up

August, wrote Edna O'Brien, 'is a wicked month'. It is shaping up to be that for just about every senior official - PR and otherwise - at the Football Association. Future editions of textbooks will be hastily updated to include the FA's triple communications cock-up, which began with a tabloid revelation about England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson and an alleged affair with secretary Faria Alam. Over the course of the past fortnight, the situation was handled hideously badly by the FA to end up, as the News of the World put it, 'a sickening catalogue of lies and deception... a cesspit of sleaze'.

Not only was it unethical to ask Sven whether the allegations were true, but, reportedly having delivered a three-word explanation - 'It's all nonsense' - the FA did an incredible thing: it issued a complete lawyer's denial to the press.

Even the dirt-digging News of the World understands that publishing false information is costly, so it is not surprising that by the time the emails (it had to be that or text messages, didn't it?) emerged to contradict the FA story, it was panic stations at Soho Square.

By the middle of last week, it was clear the FA was planning to professionally castrate its top coach at an emergency meeting due to be held ten days hence - time enough to cook up even more speculation and scandal. Every paper was briefed that Sven was on the ropes.

But that wasn't all: the coach was being lined up to spare his boss, chief executive Mark Palios, apparently also involved with Alam.

And then came the real PR bombshell. The News of the World produced transcripts of a cringe-worthy exchange between FA comms boss Colin Gibson and one of its reporters. 'I'll give you places, phone calls. Everything,' he pleaded, offering the heads of Sven and Alam in return for 'the pay off' - to leave Palios 'out of it'.

Oh dear, oh dear. Even assuming Gibson felt his job was too much on the line to do anything other than toe it, both he and his bosses comprehensively discredited their communications, and with them their organisation.

The question now is whether the resignation of Palios, and Gibson's offer to fall on his sword, can help to repair the damage, which was entirely self-inflicted through shocking PR.

Julia Hobsbawm is professor of public relations at the London College of Communication.

Kate Nicholas is on maternity leave.

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