How Arsenal could have avoided its pre-season own goal8th August, 2017 by Nathan Nye
Premier League football clubs are often masters of bad PR. The next scandal is always right around the corner, yet football clubs continue to provide weak responses to crises that infuriate and alienate their supporters – time and time again.
The latest debacle at a football club is unfortunately at my beloved Arsenal. Owner Stan Kroenke has just launched his new television channel ‘My Outdoor TV’, which broadcasts angling, blood sports and trophy hunting – in other words, killing animals for what some might call sport. When questioned by the media, Arsenal FC responded with: “This is nothing to do with the football club so we’ve got nothing to say.”
The response from fans has been damning, with high profile Gunners such as Jeremy Corbyn and Piers Morgan both condemning the club for ignoring the issue. This separation of church and state is endemic in football – why has Arsenal chosen to offer no comment when a response was clearly required by the fans? And how can PR help avoid this in future?
Building your response:
Defining clear and concise key messages that will help spokespeople tackle difficult questions with confidence is the starting point. Arsenal didn’t need to apologise on behalf of the owner – that’s his job – but they did need to assure fans that they didn’t condone blood sports. In the majority of cases, ‘no comment’ looks weak and evasive.
Choosing the right spokespeople & media training:
An essential for any company or organisation that needs to field spokespeople, good media training can help identify who your best spokespeople are for different occasions. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger may be a master PR man when it comes to deflecting flack away from his players, but it’s not his job to do the same for his club’s owner, which leaves the question about why Arsenal had no one else to step up to the plate.
Ensure you’ve got the right counsel in your corner:
Before sending a company spokesperson into the lion’s den it is vital to carry out due-diligence by having media relations experts construct a full brief before the interview. Furthermore, there should always be someone on-hand to step in if a journalist asks a loaded question and to provide a source of knowledge in case your spokesperson forgets a vital piece of data. And if you’re putting someone before the cameras or microphone, then make sure they are bomb proof. Just ask Diane Abbott if you want to know how it feels when it goes wrong – and the subsequent consequences.
Should only be considered if you are asked to comment on a wider issue, such as if Arsenal FC were asked to comment on a Manchester United player being accused of gambling on football games Arsenal were not playing in. There is no need to make yourself part of the story when you are not directly involved.
Arsenal have millions of fans who have a perfect right to know what the club thinks about its owner’s unsavoury hobbies. ‘Nothing to do with us, gov’ simply doesn’t cut it, at least it certainly didn’t for me on this occasion.