BEHIND THE HEADLINES: PFA's PR tactics fuel Premier League action

Ballot papers were sent out to the Professional Footballer

Association's 4,000 members on Thursday as the union continued to

threaten strike action over its share of Premier League TV revenue.

Reams of column inches in both sports and news sections have been

devoted to the often rancorous dispute over what the PFA believes is a

right to five per cent of the three-year £1.1bn deal.

PFA chairman Barry Horne said this week that, having won over the

players through a series of visits to clubs, the support of fans is

crucial to the union's cause.

'It's very important to get our message across that it's not about

making players today wealthier but helping those who have fallen on hard


The penny seems to have dropped and there are only a few isolated

pockets of people who don't understand our arguments,' he said.

The PFA's PR tactics have, according to Horne, been 'repeatedly telling

people why we're doing this and trying to counter the accusations put

across by the other side.'

A senior Premier League spokesman said his organisation took a different

stance: 'We had an agreement with the PFA that we would not conduct our

negotiations in the press. We were certainly not concerned about scoring

a few PR points through a public slanging match. Our only concern is to

secure a deal that provides an appropriate level of funding to the PFA

to look after the interests of those players in need, nothing more,

nothing less.'

The League opted to let the PFA have its say before responding: 'What

did begin to concern us was not the rhetoric but the level of

misinformation being reported - so we took the strategic decision to

make our position clear and set the record straight to dispel a few

myths,' he says.

The PFA has relied entirely on its in-house PR resource, using a steady

stream of ex-professional players for media appearances. It has also

benefited from the support of today's star turns, though a source at the

PFA insisted the intervention of players such as Manchester United's

Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy was unsolicited.

The League has reacted with scorn to this suggestion, and said that even

the presence of big names does not guarantee support. A League source

pointed to the lack of public support for Hollywood actors when they

went on strike earlier this year.

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