Monday, 21 June 2010

PR Blues - The Fall of the French Football Team

Yesterday the problems for Les Bleus continued to escalate with the team refusing to participate in a public training session. The expulsion of one of their players, Nicholas Anelka seems to have been the last straw in an already tenuous situation.

The entire debacle does nothing for the image of the French and has attracted the scorn of global onlookers who have labelled the team as "recalcitrant, indignant whiners".

But it seems that this was a disaster waiting to happen, with a total lack of teamwork, communication and consultation off the field - the retention of an unpopular coach, the retention of players caught up in another, even more unsavoury PR disaster, the unwillingness to deal with contentious issues head on before they grew from mounds into mountains and ultimately into volcanoes which have now erupted. The subsequent fall out has now further undermined the once glorious image of French football, created by the 1998 World Cup champion team. Les Bleus are quickly becoming Les Ughs with their antics and fail to recognise that their selfish actions are not only impacting their World Cup performance but also their entire country. I would think that the honour of wearing the national colours would mean something and trump personal ambitions and feelings, but clearly this is not the case with this team.
Economy Minister Christine Lagarde, formerly a member of the national synchronised swimming team, slammed the boycott, telling a French TV channel: “I am appalled because I have worn the French national colours…and when you wear the French national colours, you have added responsibilities”. - France24.
Clearly noone spoke to them about their role as brand ambassadors for the tricolour and all it represents and how their actions could positively or negatively brand over 65 million people.Clearly noone mentioned to them that they were the role models for the little boys who aspire to be part of football history one day and be catalysts for the development of sporting programmes in communities across the country and the injection of corporate sponsorship to support this development.

Instead, they have chosen to make themselves the laughing stock of what was supposed to be a great tournament. Their statement to the media does not reflect the reality of the situation at all and is incredible at best.
"Out of respect for the public who came to attend training, we decided to go to meet the fans who, by their presence, showed their full support. For our part, we are aware of our responsibilities as those wearing the colours of our country. Also for those we have towards our fans and countless children who keep Les Bleus as role models."
It is a total reputational disaster for not just the players on the field but the supporters and nation which they represent and for the sport of which they were king 12 years ago. Perhaps, one of the biggest losers in all of this is probably the Irish national team who was denied a place in the tournament by yet another French PR disaster - the infamous Thierry Henry hand ball. I would like to assume that had they qualified instead of the French, they would have been committed to representing their country and the sport in more honourable fashion. But we will never know and are instead left with the ongoing fallout from a poorly managed situation on the part of all the parties involved, not just the players, who though are the ones left smack dab in the public eye and the ones making a bad situation worse.

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