PROFILE: Alesha Goodenham, Ipswich Town FC - Aussie Goodenham flying high at Ipswich - Alesha Goodenham has boosted PR at the Premiership's surprise team

The most striking evidence of English football's glamour status can

be found in the perhaps unlikely setting of Portman Road, home of

Ipswich Town Football Club.



It comes in the form of blonde Australian communications director Alesha

Goodenham, who greets burly national football hacks with a very

luvvie-esque peck on each cheek. Goodenham is the first woman to become

an executive director of a Premiership club.



Interviewed by PRWeek at Portman Road an hour before an important league

match against Liverpool, Goodenham is a whirl of energy and

bonhomie.



Watching her sweep through the media room dispensing the aforementioned

kisses, it is easy to believe her later claim of an 'excellent'

relationship with the press.



'I am incredibly fortunate to see my press contacts every week. You talk

through ideas with them, you become friends ... in a way, they are

extensions of colleagues,' she says.



The view is backed up by Sun football correspondent Charlie Wyett: 'It's

fair to say that Ipswich are one of the best, if not the best, team to

deal with in the Premiership. Alesha has had an enormous part to play in

the improvement of the club's attitude towards the press as well as

developing some of the best media facilities in the Premiership.'



Five years after becoming Ipswich's first press officer, Goodenham finds

her players are in demand. With the season's end just weeks away, they

continue to frustrate big city rivals, such as Liverpool, by threatening

to edge them out of a top three finish - and the resulting lucrative

place in the next European Champions League.



Goodenham appears to have effortlessly outmanoveured Liverpool manager

Gerard Houllier, who had berated Ipswich for refusing to reschedule the

fixture. 'There is no war of words, but no-one should complain about

being successful,' she says sweetly.



It is a very different sort of problem to those encountered when a

recruitment agency referred the London-based press officer at

Inter-Continental Hotels for an interview in Ipswich. 'They wouldn't

tell me what the company was and I thought 'right, this is really

dodgy',' Goodenham remembers.



Asked at that interview what she knew about football, she acted the

proud Ocker and responded: 'Well you kick a netball around don't

you?'



Her Australian enthusiasm shone through however and she got the job. It

did not take long to persuade chairman David Sheepshanks of the role PR

could play and a job initially combined with admin work was swiftly made

full-time. She now runs a communications department encompassing

activities such as community work. A year ago she was elevated to the

board. 'My title is director of communications. It sounds so grand

doesn't it?,' she laughs.



Sheepshanks is clearly her number one fan, bursting into her office to

declare: 'You're interviewing the Wizard of Oz.'



Asked what she thinks of PR and management generally in British sport -

with the World Cup bid and Wembley fiascos in mind - Goodenham seems

loathe to criticise her adopted country.



She claims that 'many other football clubs', Leicester City in

particular, are 'superb' in their press relations. Frustratingly, she

declines to name those she is less impressed by.



On a recent Australian holiday she was struck by the positive,

unsensational tone of sports coverage in her native land: 'You often get

the sensational stories in English football and not the good stories and

there are a lot of good stories.'



Leaning forward, genuinely excited, she speaks of a 'mini world cup' the

club is organising around Ipswich's housing estates. 'The power of

football is phenomenal in this country and sometimes I wonder if true

credit is given to the game for the good work that it does.'



The Aussie netballer is well and truly smitten with the game played by

the club employees she regards as her '22 sons'.



'What amazes me in this country is that I am not in competition with any

other club even though we are in the same market. Once you belong to a

club you can't get it out of your blood. The sport is unique - when it

comes to the national team you all unite but when it comes to club

football, the passion blows my mind,' she says.



She dismisses comparisons with the hitherto most high-profile woman in

the game, Karen Brady, who emerged from the soft porn empire of

Birmingham City owner David Sullivan to run the club as chief executive,

marrying a player on the way.



'I think she (Brady) has done a superb job but each person will go about

their career in their own way.



I am not the champion of women in football. I have a great job that I

enjoy doing.'



One suspects that a few male football journalists rather hope that she

will continue to enjoy it for some time.



HIGHLIGHTS



2000: Director of comms, Ipswich Town FC



1996: PRO/administrator, Ipswich Town FC



1994: Sales and PRO, Park Lane Inter-Continental Hotel.



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