Judge and Jury: FA fails to win any points with its reaction to Marseilles - The English Football Association has scored own goals off the pitch in its handling of the football violence at the World Cup, says Andy Green, managing director of Green PR

England’s performance in the World Cup can be described as uninspired, lacking any sense of real commitment, and not learning the lessons of recent campaigns. I refer of course to how the football authorities have handled the PR aspects of the recent English football violence.

England’s performance in the World Cup can be described as

uninspired, lacking any sense of real commitment, and not learning the

lessons of recent campaigns. I refer of course to how the football

authorities have handled the PR aspects of the recent English football

violence.



’The same old cliches’ was how one leading sports editor described the

response of the FA at its press conference immediately after the rioting

in Marseilles. Certainly, the FA has sharpened up its media relations

skills in recent years. Witness its handing of the decision not to take

action against Alan Shearer after a pitch fracas. A potential major

story was considerably defused by timing its announcement, at 7.30pm in

the evening- just as the nationals were being put to bed, and on the day

before Chelsea’s European Cup Winner’s Cup Final appearance, when half

the country’s leading sports writers were out of the country.



Yet predictable were the scenes in France ’98, of riots, tear gas, and

the St George tattooed chests dragging down the reputation of England

abroad and its chances for hosting the tournament in 2006 were

predictable.



The key to any crisis management is planning-identifying the problems in

advance and trying to pre-empt them, being aware that actions speak

louder than words, and dealing with the emotional current of a

situation.



No one is underestimating the difficulties faced in dealing with the

football violence, and the need for positive relations with the French

authorities, even though in private they may feel aspects of the

security have been poorly handled.



Yet, contrast the English performance with the Germans. Sickened by the

actions of their countrymen, the German authorities re-acted swiftly,

appearing better briefed on the problems they were talking about,

showing they cared about the condition of the French gendarme injured in

the violence, and even putting forward the suggestion their team might

pull out of the tournament.



The English response, however, was characterised by the FA’s head of

security Sir Brian Hayes - he unwisely took a holiday in Spain at the

height of the crisis.



Where was the FA with potential bridge building activities between the

fans and local people? Instead, the face of England on the streets of

Marseilles before the riots was represented by the Sun newspaper’s

promotional bus peddling its patriotic fervour with give-aways of

plastic England hats. However England performs on the pitch, it seems

that, sadly, the result off the pitch will be a poor one.



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