Client: Professional Footballers Association
PR Team: PFA chief executive and chairman
Campaign: Income negotiations with football authorities
Timescale: July - November
The Professional Footballer's Association, the footballers' union,
receives funds every year from the Premier League and the Football
Used to run community and educational initiatives, the cash is also
targeted at players who have fallen on hard times and used to pay the
medical expenses of retired professionals.
Negotiations between the PFA and the football authorities over the
funding have a torrid history and this year were the subject of a
prolonged public dispute.
With no resolution in sight, the PFA called a strike before a deal was
The PFA's objective was to secure £36m a year in funding from the
football authorities - up from £8.8m in previous years, and in
advance of the £10m a year on offer.
To secure a good deal, the PFA needed to highlight the work it did at a
grassroots level and for poorer players - while playing down the fact
that many of its members are multi-millionaires.
Both sides sought the moral high ground and wanted public opinion on
their side, but more important for the PFA was that its members - the
footballers - were kept onside.
Strategy and Plan
The PFA has no PR agency or PR expertise in-house. The PFA executives
say their strategy was to make themselves available day-and-night to
answer press questions, but that there was no proactive PR activity.
Crucially, they described the funding they sought in terms of a
percentage of the leagues' combined TV rights revenues, which have
increased since the last deal.
The authorities, which each have in-house PR expertise, also decided
against a proactive PR campaign, preferring to keep details of the
But when faced with disaster, in the form of an imminent strike, this
strategy was reversed and a press conference was called to put details
of the dispute in the public domain.
Measurement and Evaluation
The authorities' decision to call a press conference led to the
emergence of stories hostile to the PFA.
The Sun picked up on alleged inaccuracies in the letter which had been
sent to players with the ballot. It also emerged that footballers only
pay the PFA a flat £75-a-year subscription, regardless of their
wealth, that its CEO Gordon Taylor has an annual salary of £458,000, and that the organisation had recently bought a £2m Lowry
painting as an investment.
Opinion began to turn against the PFA and the idea of a strike.
Within two days of the press conference, a deal had been done at £17.5m a year for three years.
As we have all learnt in recent weeks, the PFA is well-funded enough to
have its own PR expertise. Aside from keeping public opinion onside
during acrimonious funding negotiations, this would also help with its
core work of looking after footballers' interests.
For their part, the authorities launched their PR campaign just in time
to avert a damaging strike; they might reflect on the benefits a more
proactive PR approach would have had on the climate in which the
negotiations were taking place.