OPINION: Why are some football clubs so bad at PR?

As a keen football fan, I never cease to be amazed by just how incompetent many soccer clubs are with their public relations – and none more so than my team, Tottenham Hotspur.

OPINION: Why are some football clubs so bad at PR?
OPINION: Why are some football clubs so bad at PR?

What is even more upsetting for me is that our ­rivals, Chelsea, seem to have got their PR spot on. Even worse is that their comms set-up is run by a Spurs fan, the unflappable Simon Greenberg. Manchester United are another club that take their PR seriously. Having lost Paddy Harverson to Prince Charles a few years ago, they replaced him with Phil Townsend, a well-respected former spinner for the UK sports minister.

So why do Chelsea and Manchester United care about good PR? It’s simple really – they are multi-million-pound businesses run by multi-millionaires who would rather like to get a good press. Of course, that can’t always happen – especially if you sack your popular manager, as Chelsea did recently. But at least communication with the media was good, as Greenberg mounted a damage limitation job. He has also been helped by the fact that the team are winning again and playing decent football, too.

So what of Tottenham? I know they must think PR is relatively important because, shortly after leaving the Government, I was approached by a third party to see if I would be interested in doing a PR job for Spurs. I didn’t fancy the job at the time, so I declined. Probably a good thing, too, because I’m not sure anyone could deal with the incompetence of the Tottenham bosses – and I don’t mean former manager Martin Jol. He had led the team to winning a place in Europe by finishing fifth in the league for two consecutive seasons – the first manager in their history to do so.

So what does the investment company that owns Spurs do? It seeks to replace him. Fair enough, you may think, but it did this after just two games and got caught by the press holding secret talks with a potential replacement in Spain.

If this wasn’t a bad enough PR disaster, it denied any contact with a potential new manager, thereby adding lying to the treachery. Next, of course, came the ‘vote of confidence’ in the manager, but worse was to follow. As results deteriorated, the board ­finally decided to sack Jol, who was to be told following the team’s next European game. This, of course, leaked out to the press, so the crowd knew what Jol did not as he tried to coach the team from the touchline.

So think carefully if you’re about to throw your hat into the ring – ­although, given that their new manager is being paid £4m a year, there may be a big salary to go with the job.
charlie.whelan@haymarket.com

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