Alec McGivan is the brain behind the Euro 96 public relations machine
If England fans are on the edge of their seats during the next two weeks
of the Euro 96 championships just think how Alec McGivan feels with
6,000 sports hacks and photographers to look after.
The glut of stories about potential hooliganism and alleged ticket fraud
weeks before the pan-European tournament kicked off last Saturday
indicate Euro 96’s media relations manager is facing his toughest career
But just like England coach Terry Venables, McGivan is not letting his
nerves show as he sits upright behind a tidy desk in the Football
Association’s regal Lancaster Gate headquarters. The former SDP national
organiser and ex-chief political assistant to David Steel MP is no
stranger to months of preparation and dealing with the huge scale of
public interest and media speculation. ‘One of the most exciting parts
of the job is dealing with the rollercoaster of issues which come at
you,’ he says of his 18 months with the FA.
‘You can plan a PR strategy as much as you like, then be swept away by
the sheer volume of newspaper reaction to a story.’
McGivan and his team of four have spent months talking to the media who,
he is well aware, could make or break the tournament.
Sunday Telegraph football columnist Patrick Barclay, who has attended
McGivan’s regular media consultative committees over the past year is
appreciative, although he still has gripes about the FA’s lack of
openness and press access to players. ‘I was impressed with the
exhaustiveness of his consultation with journalists,’ says Barclay. ‘He
was determined to identify mistakes before they happened.’
The FA’s director of public affairs David Davis recruited McGivan on a
two-year contract so he himself could focus on the England team. He is
acutely aware of the ‘unbelievably high number of variables’ involved in
football that can throw the most well planned PR strategy into confusion
and required a calm organiser for the position.
‘The moment I met him I knew he was the right person for the job. He has
a formidable reputation in political circles for his capacity as an
organiser. Although it’s been a big challenge as I’m sure he would not
deny,’ says Davis.
Lord NcNally, former MP and now vice-chairman and director of public
affairs, Shandwick Consultants, describes McGivan as a ‘formidable
organiser’. ‘He has one of those minds that’s extremely well ordered,’
adds McNally, who gave a reference for the Euro 96 job.
‘He was one of the best political organisers, masterminding two of the
SDP’s most spectacular successes: Rosie Barnes’ by-election victory at
Greenwich and Shirley Williams’ by-election victory at Crosby,’ says
But is McGivan just a little too serious? ‘He is not a flamboyant figure
or a headline grabber but academic in demeanour and quietly spoken,’
replies McNally. ‘I’m not saying he’s a killjoy but the raucous kind of
boys’ humour is not to his taste.’
McGivan’s sombre side is noted by another sports reporter who says
diplomatically: ‘let’s just say he’s not gonna be confused with Jimmy
But the father of two who, I am told, spends weekends lovingly tending
his Oxfordshire garden, has been known to loosen his tie and have a
flutter now and again. Not on his home team Bristol City but on the
outcome of elections.
Whether Euro 96 is judged a success is a much harder call but if it is a
winner McGivan is planning to put all his money on a future in the
football industry as a tournament director and knows where he wants to
be in 2006. ‘I recognise Euro 96 is a hard act to follow,’ says McGivan.
‘But I’d love to stay in football for the right opportunity. The World
Cup would be a dream come true.’
1981 National organiser, SDP
1987 Chief political assistant to Sir David Steel MP
1988 Events director, City of London
1990 Chief executive, Shakespeare Globe Trust
1991 Head of communications, Chapter One
1994 Media relations manager, Euro 96