Crisis Communications & Lessons to be learned, The Ill Fated Announcement of a European Soccer Super League

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European Super League

The announcement of a new Super League for the top European soccer clubs, was one of the key news stories breaking this week across Europe and here in Ireland, even overtaking pandemic media coverage – a very welcome distraction for most!

It was an emotional issue for soccer fans and pundits across Europe – and a textbook communications disaster unfolding on a global stage.

Here in Ireland, even though the issue didn’t relate directly to Irish soccer clubs, most UK clubs would have Irish supporters clubs and reactions from spokespeople from these organisations was in line with fans across Europe – and all Irish soccer pundits and journalists were also uniform in their condemnation of the concept.  

It was very difficult for Irish media to find anyone that was in support of the initiative.  Even our Taoiseach Michael Martin expressed solidarity. 

In a Tweet he posted “I will engage with other EU governments about possible common action against this Super League Proposal. “

The reaction came as no surprise as so many people in Ireland have a strong affiliation for soccer – Irish soccer fans may have their own home team they support, but most would also have a close affiliation to an English or Scottish team as well. 

The announcement of the Super League was doomed as there was no consideration for their internal audience and when managers and players were not in the loop, the concept came across as flimsy, arrogant and ill-considered.  

In Ireland we love to forgive the repentant sinner – which is why Liverpool FC’s owner, John Henry’s apology directly to the fans “I let you down”, has dampened some of the flames at Anfield – if not elsewhere.  

“I’m sorry” – are such powerful words in a crisis.

This episode has shown once again how effective people power can be and the power of communications. 

From now on every step the football club owners, directors and football authorities take and any communication they make, must be seen to be with the fans in mind. They must be seen to be listening to fans and acting on fans wishes.  Grass roots communications and activity will be so important going forward and will help heal the wounds.

What lessons can other people in power take from all of this? 

Bring your internal audience on the journey with you. Test sentiment towards the change and adapt your messaging taking in these learnings. If making changes that will have a great impact, start with a grassroots approach and a very soft launch. Have relatable spokespeople using relatable language.

And, very importantly if you get something wrong, admit to it, communicate how lessons will be taken from the mistakes and move on.

Deirdre Waldron

Deirdre Waldron is the founder of Fuzion Communications, a full service PR, Graphic Design and Digital Marketing agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

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