Our benevolent footballing overlords have shown us mercy. After the generous climb down from Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City over plans to form a breakaway European Super League, the healing process with the public can begin. It turns out that the ‘Big Six’ will not be stealing football after all (for now).
Following football’s PR equivalent of the Roman massacre in Teutoburg Forest, each club has been forced to perform an about turn and release a statement. They vary dramatically in magnitudes of contrition, and surely the best way to analyse each response is by ranking them, in a brand-new, closed-league format.
After 48 hours of chaos, please find below the final standings of the European Super League of apologies.
Sixth – Manchester United
In a perverse way, this was probably the most honest statement put out by any of the clubs involved. Manchester United’s spin kings cooked up a paltry 52 words, included no quote from a club owner or figure (despite Joel Glazer being quoted when the ESL was announced), and basically gave the impression that while they’re ducking out, they could not care less what anybody who is not a multi-billionaire thinks of their proposal. They score highly for authenticity, but the absence of any contrition whatsoever places them last. Happily, they won’t be relegated, as we’ve done away with promotions and relegations in this brand new, very exciting, totally-not-a-sell-out PR Super League format.
Fifth – Chelsea
Again, brief and impersonal. Hard not to enjoy them dropping the line in that they only joined ‘late last week’, to absolve themselves of a bit of accountability. They don’t appear to have been ringleaders in the way that United, Liverpool and Arsenal were, so we will cut them some slack and ensure they aren’t bottom of the pile. Played with a straight bat, so can’t be accused of being too inauthentic, but again, would it kill you to say sorry?
Fourth – Manchester City
‘Manchester City Football Club can confirm that it has formally enacted the procedures to withdraw from the group developing plans for a European Super League.’ Not exactly Keats or Coleridge from City’s comms team, but they were the first to drop out of the ESL, which scores them valuable bonus points. Also, did an excellent job of briefing their reluctance to join the ESL from the start, which has proved to be savvy, and assures them of a top four finish.
Third – Tottenham Hotspur
Spurs fans will likely be thrilled with this. For a club proven to be allergic to winning anything for more than half a century, a podium place in the PR apology league may be as close to silverware as they can hope to get. Daniel Levy’s commitment to the classic ‘I am sorry that you were offended’ apology is quite funny, in a stroppy sort of way. ‘Sorry for conspiring with my pals to try and ringfence all of the power and money for ourselves’ might have been more apt. A shame we didn’t get a season two of All or Nothing to watch the carnage of the last 48 hours in beautiful Amazon Prime HD, but this will have to do.
Second – Arsenal
Jekyll and Hyde stuff from The Gunners. Comically disingenuous to suggest that joining up was to ‘protect Arsenal and it’s future’. By all accounts Arsenal were very much at the forefront of this plan, even if they are happy to do Olympic-standard mental gymnastics to avoid admitting it. And didn’t your billionaire owner sack your dinosaur mascot a few months back? But authenticity aside, Arsenal do actually bother to apologise. They say they made a mistake, and they say sorry. And in the context of this list, incredibly, that makes them almost the most contrite of all.
First – Liverpool
Liverpool’s original statement was cold and unempathetic. But so visceral was the reaction to the two sentences that appeared on the club website that Liverpool were spurred into grovel overdrive. Remarkably, John Henry is the only owner on this list to front up and record a video message to camera, which is as close to an interview as we are ever likely to get from any of the ringleaders involved. Again, the justification for this shambles disintegrates at the most minimal of critical thought, but the fact that he fronted up and said sorry himself puts Henry and Liverpool top of the table. As Pyrrhic a victory as you will ever see. Congratulations to our Super League Champions!
Written by Peter Jackson Eastwood, senior account manager at PR agency The PHA Group
If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our twice weekly event and subscriber alerts.
Currently, every new subscriber will receive three of our favourite reports about the public relations sector.