Political philosophy and football may not make the most obvious of bedfellows but an appreciation of Machiavelli, Aristotle, Plato and Cicero may have prevented the mistakes our award winner made this week. While the majority of political philosophers through history have focussed on the leaders they also appreciate the role effective consiglieri - or advisers - have in helping leaders to lead.
While being a trusted adviser means avoiding the flashbulb of publicity it also needs regular empathetic sense checks to put yourself in the shoes of your client. This needs to be strategic as well as tactical; longer term not just looking to next week or next month. As someone often called in to deliver a change in opinion in a short time - particularly in a crisis situation - I have seen first hand the demands those in the public eye might put on their advisers to forget the long term and concentrate on the next day’s headlines. What though if the pressure is coming not from the ‘leader’, or public figure, but instead from the individual in the shadows?
This is what has happened this week as Liverpool and England footballer Raheem Sterling secured headlines positioning himself for a big money transfer rather than his exploits on the field of play. Specifically Sterling gave an unsolicited interview with the BBC confirming an impasse in negotiations over a new contract. It is alleged that this interview was carried out on the recommendation of Sterling’s agent, Aidy Ward. As Sterling’s manager, Brendan Rodgers, commented “this is a young kid who’s been advised to do something. A 20-year old doesn’t pick up the phone and ask to speak to the BBC”.
This would be bad enough but the level of preparation and support given to Sterling was equally unprofessional. The interview itself was poor, with Sterling looking ill-prepared and struggling to remember the lines he’d been given. The headlines Ward was aiming for are not immediately obvious but “I’m not a greedy money-grabber”, “Sterling interview PR disaster” and “Sterling’s interview offensive” are not exactly reputation enhancing for his client.
It is difficult to guess what message Sterling was supposed to be communicating in his BBC interview but discussing massive salaries, interest in playing for other clubs and in other countries undermined Sterling’s standing in the eyes of Liverpool’s supporters and many others. Furthermore it piled immense pressure on Sterling to deliver on the pitch and prove his own assessment of his value. The last few weeks of the season could be miserable for Sterling all because he was poorly advised by his agent. This is why I make Aidy Ward my Mis-Communicator of the Week.
Communicator of the Week is written by Ed Staite.
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