‘Politics, coronavirus, why me?’ Was Jurgen Klopp’s response to a journalist spot on, or just grumpy?

I know literally nothing about football – there, I said it – but I like to think I know quite a bit about what we do, and that’s why Liverpool FC’s famed manager Jürgen Klopp’s comments caught my attention.

It's better when celebrities declien to comment on matters of international importance, argues Samantha Losey (pic credit: Manu Reino/SOPA Images/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News)
It's better when celebrities declien to comment on matters of international importance, argues Samantha Losey (pic credit: Manu Reino/SOPA Images/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News)

Earlier this week at a post-match press conference, Klopp was asked by a reporter if his club was worried about the spread of coronavirus, and his response has been widely talked about.

He said: "Look, what I don't like in life is that a for very serious thing, a football manager's opinion is important. I don't understand it. I really don't understand it.

"It's not important what famous people say. We have to speak about things in the right manner, not people with no knowledge, like me, talking about something. People with knowledge will talk about it. Politics, coronavirus, why me? I wear a base[ball] cap and have a bad shave. My opinion is really not important."

My immediate reaction was that his response was refreshingly honest and on point, and was a bit of a masterclass in how to respond to difficult or unreasonable press questions.

It feels great to see a celebrity admit that being famous doesn’t mean we should care about their opinions on everything.

However, when I mentioned it to someone very smart, it sparked an unexpected conversation.

He suggested to me that the root of the question is whether this is good PR, or is it not PR at all – and he’s just being rude and grumpy after the defeat of his team?

So, is he being a smart-ass and effectively abusing the English media as they ask him a perfectly legitimate question about how he sees the crisis?

Or, is his tacit response about a major international epidemic fitting for someone who essentially “moves balls” for a living?

As PRs we used to have really good relationships with the media, for the most part, and then came the digital age black death that saw journalists inundated on all channels, and PRs consigned to Public Enemy Number One.

Don’t get me wrong; our business is still based on relationships, and we maintain some excellent and longstanding friendships with media.

But on the whole, between the influx of agencies, rise in the ways to reach journalists, and cuts in numbers on media desks, it’s created a perfect storm of overexposure.

We were loved, we were hated, and of course we are needed, whether they like it or not.

So was my wry pleasure in Klopp’s grumpy answer actually a response to the number of times my team have been unfairly belittled or shamed by media?

I certainly didn’t consider the journalist when I air high-fived Klopp for staying in his lane.

However, at the moment, we have far too many unqualified people sharing their unqualified opinions about pretty much everything, all the time (thank you fake news) – and particularly when it comes to coronavirus, often spurred on by the hysteria-inducing media coverage on the topic.

So, on reflection, I stand by my initial reaction.

Klopp was right to say his opinion didn’t matter on this topic, and I applaud him for refusing to spread more misinformation from his position of influence.

But I am delighted to be reminded there are always multiple interpretations and views on any situation, and taking the time to see them is crucial.

Samantha Losey is managing partner at Unity

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