Opinion: Portuguese show how good PR is done

As I sat in the magnificent Stadio Da Luz on Sunday - three quarters full of England fans, with 20 million more back home cheering on England - my mind momentarily turned to thinking about what I could write for PRWeek the next day.

Thanks to England's bad luck in the last few minutes of the game, I needed to take my mind off football quickly and it occurred to me to ask how it is that virtually the whole country goes completely potty over something that has such awful PR?

The game in England is run by greedy Premiership bosses who don't seem to care what anyone thinks about them. Many clubs are technically bankrupt, yet operate as if they had limitless credit, paying mediocre players more for a week's so-called work than many of us earn in a year.

All the clubs appoint PR teams whose function seems to be to lie to the media. Chelsea recently hired a headhunter to find a new spin doctor and appointed a journalist from London's Evening Standard, a fanatical Tottenham Hotspur supporter, on a big six-figure salary. I hope he will do the job a little better than the team he follows.

Manchester United may be the best-supported club in the country, but when it comes to PR they adopt the Millwall approach: no one likes us - we don't care. Well, they should. Good PR doesn't cost a fortune and Manchester United should do more to project a good image.

England are, of course, in an entirely different category. They simply can't afford to get the PR wrong and, mostly, they don't. The football press are treated like gods, even though some of their fellow hacks do their best to undermine the squad.

The PR team even makes Sven give separate briefings to the TV and press because hacks 'hate the telly mob'.

Given that many England fans are not exactly ambassadors for the country, the PR team also has to go out of its way to please the locals. Here in Portugal, the local kids get to meet Beckham and the boys and the TV pictures ensure that England are most people's second team.

My football PR award from Euro 2004 goes to the Portuguese, who have been kinder to the English than even the Japanese at the World Cup. The owner of my hotel spent half an hour on my mobile 'talking in' to Lisbon a mate who hadn't bothered to buy a map. They know the English may not be the nicest people to have in your country, but without us, tourism would be dead. I pray the good Portuguese PR rubs off on their team and they beat Spain on Sunday - they deserve it.

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