FA urged to commit to more 'open approach'

Sports PR professionals have called on the Football Association to retain the more open approach to comms it has taken around the Euro 2012 tournament.

More visible: the England team's visit to Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz (FA/Getty)
More visible: the England team's visit to Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz (FA/Getty)

Eddie May, Threepipe MD and Adam Raincock, director of comms at Synergy, discussed the Football Association’s decision to engage with the local community in Poland during Euro 2012 in the latest PRWeek podcast.

Both May and Raincock believe this change in comms stance could mark a fundamental shift in the way the FA and the England football team engages with the public.

Raincock said: ‘Arguably, the England brand is at its lowest in terms of global profile. If you look at the so-called ‘golden generation’, some have either gone or are on their way out. The squad is now made up of a lot of younger players who are not established yet, so now is a good time to set a benchmark.’

The FA has said the more open approach has generated favourable headlines, including widely positive coverage of the squad's visit to Auschwitz last week.

During the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the team suffered a backlash against their decision to decline a visit to Robben Island, the prison that held Nelson Mandela for 18 years, as well as an on-camera outburst against fans by striker Wayne Rooney.

May said of the change in comms tactics: ‘The FA’s approach has gone from one extreme to the other, from the total isolation of the 2010 World Cup to staying in a boutique hotel in the centre of Krakow and being out and about and visible. The change is working and it’s projecting a more positive and relaxed image.’

Raincock believes the change is needed. ‘The year 2010 was a real low point and you almost have to hit the bottom before coming back up,' he said.

‘The code of conduct that the FA has introduced is long overdue and a really positive step. Players, like anyone, need to know their boundaries and what’s expected of them, and by the sounds of it they didn’t have that before.’

Although Raincock warned the FA to keep public appearances during the tournament to a minimum and not to suffer the PR disasters of the England Rugby team at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

He said: ‘You don’t want to see the England players out every day. If you remember the Rugby World Cup – we had the England team bungee jumping one day and racing 4x4s the next. The public doesn’t want to see that in a competitive tournament.’

The FA was also praised for its use of social media during the tournament and its release of behind-the-scenes content.

May said: ‘This is wise, because the FA has to give the media something between the games otherwise it turns into the press creating stories where there might not be any – such as divisions in the camp or issues with players, for example.

‘The FA needs to create diversion along the way to feed content to the media by making the team do non-football things – but they can’t over do it because it gives the impression the players are not focused – it’s a difficult balancing act.’

Both agreed that if the results start going against England the FA must avoid reverting to a more defensive comms stance.

Watch the full podcast here

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