One little word that is football PR suicide…

Only an avid fan of international football will have heard of Mauricio Pochettino until he arrived in the UK this week amid a minor furore. He is the new manager of Southampton FC, following the sacking of Nigel Adkins, a controversial decision given his popularity and achievements. One quote I read from the new man has stirred me to write this.

Now I’ve stopped being surprised at the decisions made within football these days. Like the majority of people, I feel it’s become a largely poisoned sport, put to shame by the Olympics in 2012. Like some of that majority, I still watch and follow it because it’s in my blood.

The big point for me is one word. One totally foolish, inappropriate word that was uttered by this new guy. He is not the first. I’ve heard it from new managers and players at several other clubs in the last five years, mostly at Chelsea and Man City. That word is “project”.

This guy is Argentinian and by all accounts can speak barely a word of English – so I presume it was made in translation. It’s a PR disaster of the highest order! Does he think beloved fans of the Saints, who hand over much of their hard earned cash to follow them around the country, want to be referred to as a “project”?! Football for these fans is love in its purest sense. In fact you could liken it to a marriage. Do you hear the groom speaking of his new bride as a “project” in his wedding day speech? Not if he wants to get through the day without a black eye he doesn’t!

football PR project

I hereby take this woman to be my lawfully wedded "project"

The word project takes on a variety of meanings across different areas of life. But it has no place in football outside of the Board room. Could you imagine Harry Redknapp talking about QPR as a project? Of course not! To all true fans it is an insult. Yet time and time again, football managers and players who take on a role at a club with new money use the same vernacular when introducing themselves to the fans. It’s suicide.

They themselves are partly to blame. Pochettino claims to have done research on his new employers. What research was this – studying the statistics? Football management is about managing relationships as much as tactics. He’s lost 25,000+ with his first interview.

The greater blame must go to the Head of PR. Let’s be under no illusion – every Premier League football club will have one. Well frankly he/she should be joining Nigel Adkins in Job Centre Plus on Monday. Tell the new chap that under absolutely no account does he ever use the word “project”. And remind the translator that if he forgets, they must map it to “wonderful club with great history”. I’ll give you six months Senor Pochettino.

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