Friday, 29 April 2011

FA set to deny QPR promotion?

The Sun has carried a story which has caused uproar among QPR fans and the punditry the day ahead of a match with Watford that could see the team qualify for the premiership automatic promotion spot with a point.

Listen here to Neil Warnock talking about the story, about which he is clearly furious, on TalkSport. He points out that the Sun are only using a claimed "source" and not offering any other evidence to back up their story - he says that the story will lead to people "adding up 2 plus 2 and coming to 7".

I have to say this looks to me like classic media management. The FA have cynically chosen the day of the Royal Wedding to sneak out what PR people call a "softener" - a means of giving the story a good airing before the announcement to take the sting out of what is inevitably going to be a controversial decision. (The press reaction is " expected, we were right all along" rather than "Shock decision!") However - having aired this opinion on Twitter today I was sternly rebuked by some of you who think it's just the Sun making things up out of thin air. I still think I'm right, but I hope I am wrong. After all I assume they haven't hacked into any more telephones.

But QPR are also, in my humble opinion, guilty of some pretty dirty media work recently as well. What I really found depressing about the TalkSport interview was that the interviewers asked Warnock whether he actually thought he'd still be manager or would be sacked in favour of a more "high profile" manager as the press reported last week. To me, that story looked like the higher echelons of QPR adopting another well known PR tactic - which is sometimes known as "flying a kite". This means you throw something out there using anonymous briefings to the press to see what the public reaction is - if it's not too bad, then you know you can get away with doing it. If it's too negative then you don't but you haven't lost face. Warnock's answer to the question was that he simply didn't know.

Either way I think this is all - from both the FA and QPR - a very depressing display of the dark arts of PR with briefing and counter-briefing going on at a time when people should be focussed on the football.

Welcome to the modern world of football.

1930 UPDATE - The FA has issued this statement in which they deny all knowledge. Sorry - don't believe you.

2200 UPDATE - QPR have formally asked the FA to investigate the Sun's "source" and to confirm that they were speaking without authority

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