PRWeek podcast: Liverpool made 'ultimate mistake' in handling of racism in football

Liverpool football club's comms strategy around the incidents involving Luis Suarez has been 'naïve', 'weak' and 'too little, too late', according to sports comms professionals.

Race row: Luis Suarez refused to shake Patrice Evra's hand (Getty Images)
Race row: Luis Suarez refused to shake Patrice Evra's hand (Getty Images)

Racism in football was tackled in the latest PRWeek podcast with Gavin Megaw, a director at Hanover and former director of marketing and comms at the Football League, and Adam Raincock, director of comms at Synergy.

Both were quick to criticise Liverpool over the handling of striker Luis Suarez being charged for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra and of Suarez’s refusal to shake Evra’s hand when the two teams met last Saturday.

‘It was a case of too little, too late from Liverpool,’ said Raincock. ‘As soon as the incident tipped into a wider issue, the club needed to take a firm stance – which they never actually did.’

Raincock admitted that if Suarez had told the club before the match that he was to shake Evra’s hand there was not a lot Liverpool could do, adding that the power is with the players.

However, Megaw refused to believe that ‘player power’ was to blame and said that often clubs hid behind this excuse.

‘The players are employees of the club, they have contracts to hold them to account. If Luis Suarez hasn’t done what he should have done in a week where he could have killed all this for good if had just shook the hand, then I hope the club punish him and take significant steps against him, not just make him apologise.’

Megaw said that it took Liverpool’s principal sponsor Standard Chartered to weigh-in before the club started to communicate with the press. He said: ‘Once it became a commercial issue the club stepped in to deal with the matter.

The club’s decision to look to its fan base to guide their response to the Suarez affair has been the ‘ultimate mistake’ added Megaw. ‘Throughout, Liverpool have been very, very naive. You need to look at a wide range of stakeholders when you’re checking whether a strategy is working and it clearly wasn’t working.’

Top watch the full podcast click here

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