There seems to be a glaring omission from the training curriculum for football managers.
A useful session for would-be Special Ones might be ‘How to keep your cool with the local media and not look like a prat’. I suggest interactive bits where they could practise how to avoid a media crisis.
Newcastle United’s Alan Pardew’s current spat with the Sunday Sun would make a good case study. See if you can complete the following exercise.
‘Your team has a run of disappointing results. The local Sunday newspaper, reflecting the views of some fans, criticises your actions in a way you find offensive.
‘Should you a, Ignore the criticism and get on with your job or b, Explain your decisions and enter into a discussion or c, Tell the editor to go to hell and ban the newspaper from all matches? Describe the likely repercussions of each option.’
Anyone who chooses option c would be following a well-trodden path taken by managers since time immemorial. It starts as a molehill and ends as a mountain.
What happened in Newcastle was this: Mr Pardew’s ban on the Sunday Sun generated more hostile publicity (surprise, surprise). He then appeared to blame the paper for recent defeats when he said, by way of an explanation: “ I don’t think the local press have helped.”
. . .which is all highly entertaining for anyone with nothing better to do than watch alpha-male elephants crashing about in the bush trying to knock seven bells out of each other, but is no help to Newcastle United fans desperate to see their side improve.
Managers would argue that they know more about football than sports editors (which in most cases is true) and that local newspapers need football clubs more than the clubs need newspapers (also true).
But the clubs employ press officers to disseminate favourable publicity and it is quite wrong to expect football writers to follow the official line. In fact it’s essential that journalists demonstrate their independence. It is arrogant of managers not to recognise this and disrespectful to the thousands of fans who read the sports pages for their alternative opinions.
- GARETH WEEKES, Deep South Media Ltd.