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New goals: The changing face of media relations in the Premier League

A study into the communication practices of 25 current and former Premier League football teams found that just seven were still pursuing professional relationships with the mainstream press.

The rise of social media has shifted the focus of clubs away from traditional media channels and instead towards in-house publications, such as magazines, television channels and online.

In a series of interviews with Premier League club employees, Dr Elisavet Argyro Manoli, a lecturer in Sports Marketing and Communications at Loughborough University, found the goal of communications departments was now to increase their own publicity, media and news production – giving them a more “direct, prompt and accurate” connection to their fans.

Of the 25 teams involved in the research, three considered the in-house approach as a way of limiting their associations with the traditional media – keeping it at a minimum – describing the relationship as a “lost cause”.

Dr Manoli reported her findings in the book, Contemporary sport marketing: Global perspectives, earlier this year.

She said the in-house approach was one of four basic strategies for marketing and media relations identified during the interviews.

The policies were:

  • Developing the clubs’ own media to increase the directness of the communication
  • Actively building formal relations between the club and traditional media
  • Actively building formal relations between the club and local media
  • Sustaining informal personal relations between clubs’ employees and members of the media

Dr Manoli said: “A combination of these four strategies is followed in all clubs interviewed, with the interviewees suggesting that their efforts to develop the clubs’ own media and social media accounts has assisted them in regaining control of the communication process in a cost effective and direct way, while potentially excluding traditional media from the communications process altogether.

“At the same time, the focus appears to be often placed on local rather than national media, while informal relations between members of the press and football club employees tend to be the preferred approach in the overall media relations landscape.”

Clubs reported receiving more interest and less criticism through local channels compared with the national press.

Dr Manoli also found that clubs did not follow any kind of general communications structure, but instead relied upon the skills of individuals maintain efficient departments.

In the paper, she wrote: “As an overview of the findings of the empirical investigation, the complexity to generalise communications in football has to be underlined.

“As it was presented above by the current practice in the sport, communications do not follow a pattern or norm within the industry.

“On the contrary, differences exist in various elements, from the structure of the departments to the media relations practices applied.

“Another key element of the findings, as presented by all the interviewees, is that currently communications in football are not based on a proper business structure, but on very capable communications practitioners.

“Since guidelines on various aspects are absent, it is often the employees’ initiatives and abilities that assure the well-functioning of the industry.

“Consequently, it is the human assets that enhance the efficiency of communications in the football industry at the moment and not its business structure and processes.”

The data was collected through in-depth interviews with individuals employed in the Communications or Media departments of 25 out of the 30 clubs that participated in the English Premier League over the following seasons: 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15.

The interviews took place between April and September 2014, with the duration varying from 20 to 40 minutes.

The full study can be read here.

ENDS

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 17/116

Loughborough University is equipped with a live in-house broadcast unit via the Globelynx network. To arrange an interview with one of our experts please contact the press office on 01509 223491. Bookings can be made online via www.globelynx.com

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines. It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world to study sports-related subjects in the 2017 QS World University Rankings and top in the country for its student experience in the 2016 THE Student Experience Survey.

Loughborough was ranked 6th in the Guardian University League Table 2018 and 10th in The UK Complete University Guide 2018 and was also named Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017. It has been awarded a Gold rating in the Teaching Excellence Framework, which recognises institutions that deliver consistently outstanding teaching that is of the highest quality found in the UK.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

 

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