New plans for a European Super League have set the football world ablaze over the past 36 hours – with clubs from Bayern Munich to Barnet fearing being damaged by a revolutionary proposal for the beautiful game in Europe.
This is not the place for me to give my views as a fan (not of one of the 12 clubs), particularly as the word count might break Camargue blog records, but as a communications professional one thing in particular has struck me. Sky’s initial news piece about the proposals noted that the six English clubs involved had been contacted for comment, and at the time of writing two had declined while the others had not responded. For me, battening down the hatches so soon after the announcement highlights the speed at which they, and in particular those leading the consortium, have lost control of their own story.
Ahead of any major announcement the organisations involved have an opportunity to shape the messaging and control its release without feeling the pressure of outside enquiries. This stage, more often than not, determines the success and public reception of a launch. After years of rumours the clubs involved will have known the controversy surrounding this proposal and the response it was certain to generate – and undoubtedly would have prepared themselves for a backlash. They would have been ready to brazen it out: early stakeholder engagement, consistent reactive lines to take for media that emphasised the positives and an overall strategy to win over fans would have been part of the planning process. However, central to all of this would have been a first announcement which they controlled, something which they ultimately failed to do. The robust plan they must have had in place makes this failure even more surprising.
The clubs would have hoped that a calmer launch could lay the groundwork for a more civilised debate in which they’re able state their case. Widespread condemnation from players and pundits – Liverpool fans promising to remove their banners from the Kop – not to mention the arguably panicked timing of Spurs’ Jose Mourinho sacking, certainly won’t have been part of that vision. As is often the case nowadays this has quickly spiralled out of control on social media, with everyone from supporter groups to central government and at least two national leaders falling over themselves to condemn the proposals and pressurise those involved to withdraw.
The ‘big six’ clubs and their counterparts in Spain and Italy have clearly lost the first battle in what should have been a carefully curated comms-led process. The job they have to do if they’re serious about these plans has become exponentially more difficult as a result.
It’s a lesson in what not to do for anyone planning a major announcement. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Get it right, or you’re sure to find yourselves 1-0 down early on.
Chris Tutton is an account manager at Camargue