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Managing Your Profile

By Rupert Sullivan :  05/07/2007 :  Comments (8) :

In the modern game of football it seems that a large part of any team’s success is down to one thing and one thing only: money. The search for ever more money in an ever cynical market may well ruin the game, but in the meantime clubs will have to compete in this in order to be successful. The cycle is something like:

Football ‘Money Cycle’
money = better players = success = higher profile = more fans = money

This is clearly a vicious circle and for my mind represents the problem with the modern game: once you start having success you should be able to continue having success and never be out of the above circle. Of course, we all know that it doesn’t happen that way, occasionally a ruling body with a backbone may do something (Italian FA; Juventus), or a bad manager may make some really bad choices or have bad luck (Rangers), but generally those at the top get to stay there (ManU, Barcelona etc).

Assuming that the above representation is accurate, one would think therefore that every club around would be trying to break into this circle — the obvious starting point being money. So where does the money come from?

  • Prize Money — This one is easy, you get money for winning things, to win things you need a better team than your opposition
  • Sponsorship — Money paid by a large corporation for your level of visibility, the more you are in the news, the more competitions you win the more you are worth to a sponsor
  • TV Money — Paid on a combination of games televised and final league placing, the better teams and the popular teams are televised more
  • Merchandise — This is fan money but based on products, the more fans you have the more you are likely to sell
  • Fans — Gate money etc, all based on the number of fans you have and the facilities that you can offer

The most obvious thing to identify here is that the more fans you have the more money you are able to take advantage of through ticket sales, merchandising etc. TV money and Prize money are all capped at a certain point, as are ticket sales — which leaves Sponsorship and Merchandising as the only two limitless areas of income; both of which are dependent upon a team having as large a fan base and as high a profile as possible. This would lead me to conclude that the area upon which any football club should be concentrating is the raising of their profile — towards the increasing of their fan base.

As is proposed in the football ‘money cycle’ above, success is a very good way of raising your profile, but there are other ways also and the management of the media surrounding the club is an excellent way of controlling a club’s profile. This is precisely why it was important that last night when Everton signed the first new face of the summer a picture of Torres and Liverpool was posted on the BBC website as their main headline. For Everton not to delay the news or the capture of Jagielka until they had a clear spot was a very poor decision. It is not as if the event (Torres) was unforeseen, it had already occurred and was already news.

If anyone at Everton really thought that the signing of a £4 million utility player for Sheffiled Utd will compete on story levels with the signing of a club record breaking £26 million player then Everton’s media relations are worse than I thought. Not being a football manager I am in no position to say how important it is to have a player for that extra day of pre-season or not, but I would put money on it being less important than getting an extra 12 hours of worldwide press coverage!

So what do Everton need to do to raise the club profile? Success in competitions would be a great (and popular) way of raising the club profile, but would require substantial improvement to the squad.

  • Qualification for the UEFA cup is the second chance in the last three years that Everton have a chance to show themselves on a truly international stage; but will only work if EFC actually progresses more than a stage
  • The FA cup is the most watched cup competition in the world, yet for the last 5 years Everton have failed to progress very far in this — thus losing out on both profile and prize money
  • Finishing in the top 7 of the EPL for prize money and a spot in Europe

Better manipulation of the media is the other method. The current media environment is starved of meaningful stories, the majority of the information around is rehashed rubbish, self-publicising articles or speculation. This is a situation which can be exploited by Everton football club to their advantage.

The recent example of Everton’s signing of Phil Jagielka is a perfect example of how not to manage (or how to fail to manage) your media relations. Everton have waited weeks to sign this guy, an extra day is hardly going to make any difference in footballing terms, but would have in media terms.

Tottenham and West Ham are examples of clubs which have taken better advantage of this than Everton. Tottenham paid stupid money for Bale, for Bent and have now signed an £8m central defender. All of which headlined the BBC website when announced with added speculation columns. Media impression “Spurs gearing up for Europe”.

West Ham have splashed £7m on Parker and another £6m on Faubert. Both of which headlined the BBC website when the stories broke. Media impression “Hammers ready to spend big to stay up”

Everton, couldn’t be arsed to pay for Nugent, couldn’t afford Fernandes and finally stumped up £4m for Jags, a story eclipsed by a Liverpool FC story! Media impression… who knows but I doubt it is that Everton are gearing up for Europe!

This article is not intended as a direct criticism of the transfer policy of David Moyes (although I am at a loss to understand it), nor am I trying to recommend that Everton buy a highly priced player just to gain a headline. What I am trying to say is that the actions of EFC and the information released by them will govern the way the world sees them. If Everton are truly serious about competing in Europe and for Cups next season then releasing an article on the Everton Website saying that Moyes wants to take Europe seriously is not good enough.

The fans who visit the EFC Website already support the club, they already give what money they have for shirts and for tickets and for baby clothes. Everton need to target the ever expanding market of non-Everton fans. Building a fan base is probably not a rapid activity, even for clubs with sugar daddy-bought success like Chelsea, but you do have to start somewhere. The clubs in the premier league which are now considered large clubs all have very strong media profiles, some assisted by having some prima-donna players such as Ashley Cole who get married in public.

The move by Everton last season to bring Sylvester Stallone to Goodison was a good idea which partly backfired due to some bad mouthing by people like Alan Green, but it was a step in the right direction. Media coverage alone will not serve our purpose however as success on the pitch cannot be replaced, but positive coverage of positive events will help EFC become the force it would like to be. Everton will have to start thinking ‘big’, since thinking ‘small’ will only keep us small.

It is my belief that this season will prove to be a watershed season for Everton. The influx of even more TV money has raised the stakes of the game and the prices and wages of players even higher – which means that standing still is no longer standing still: this year, standing still is jumping backwards. If all Everton do is to buy a player like Jagielka and a couple of other also-rans then our profile will surely only sink lower – unless David Moyes can manage another miracle season from nowhere…

Now the close season is not finished and Everton could buy Riquelme next week, but at the end of the day Everton have just announced to the world that they have captured their number one priority for this transfer market and that player is a journeyman from a relegated side: what does that say to you?

Reader Comments

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Karl Masters
1   Posted 06/07/2007 at 21:36:59

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Eveton’s manipulation of the media is pretty poor although you could say that the exception has been Kenwright manipulating it to suit himself with Fortress, Joseph etc.

They say that any publicity is good publicity and for an example of a Club maximising that look at West Ham. In the news every day for anything other than football itself. In amongst all the Tevez, Sheffield Utd, Reo-Coker, moving to the 2012 Olympic stadium, Egghead pronouncements, threats to sue the Premier League and corrupt ex Board members bullshit can you remember one single thing to do with actually playing the game since the season ended apart from signing Scott Parker and Calamity Wright?

They may be a laughing stock to some, but they attract interest and therefore will attract fans. Sadly, Rupert - you are right. Wise up, Everton.
David Haimes
2   Posted 06/07/2007 at 21:59:53

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The money circle you show is a gross over simplification. Look at how some clubs continue to toss money off on over priced flops to rais their profile, grab headlines and shift a few extra season tickets and shirts (yes you Newcastle). Then Everton and Bolton have spent very little in comparison but have had good success.

I am more concerned about Everton getting value in the transfer market, this means a young player who is likely to increase in value over time - e.g. Lescott, Johnson, Cahill, Arteta. Rather than spending big on something of little value (either to the team or for re-sale) e.g Diouf, Cissee, Luque.

We get more money an headlines from finishing in sixth, or fourth place and beating so called big four teams than we do from 12 hours of signing a player.
Mike Dolan
3   Posted 07/07/2007 at 02:55:52

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I totally agree with Rupert. We are in the information age, our club does a really terrible job at controlling the flow of information. I would suggest that Everton next big signing is an ace public relations firm. We must never forget that Everton is so much more than what happens on the pitch. It is a brand and almost a religion. In a very real way I am saddened to have write this because it endorses the manipulation of what should be a natural process. But think about it playmates the only real public relations coup that has occurred with our present PR set up over the last five years was David Moyes calling Everton ?The Peoples Club?, it still resonates today. Come on Everton bring in the best PR in the country and begin to cash in on our brand.
Bill Goodall
4   Posted 07/07/2007 at 04:36:49

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Money does make a huge difference to a football club, it does not mean success but allows you more opportunity to chase it.
One of the main ways that EFC can increase revenue is as rightly pointed out merchandise. EFC have a large and mostly loyal base in the UK. The area that other clubs have an advantage is overseas i.e Asia and N & S America. One way to increase our profile is to sign players from those regions thus gaining media exposure which turns into international fans who will pay good money to support their club.
I live in Australia and for years when i wore my EFC top out people would have to ask what club it was. With the signing of Tim Cahill EFC are in the papers and on tv every week. I now have people coming up saying they also support EFC. I bet the same happens with Tim Howard in the US. I am not saying sign players just because they are from Japan or China or some other mad football nation. But if we were to sign someone like Riquelme our profile would increase in S America which would turn into revenue and also have an world class player on our books.
Jon Livesey
5   Posted 08/07/2007 at 13:09:37

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I agree with the majority of what you say Rupert, except that I wouldn’t describe Jagielka as a ’journeyman’. He’s 24 and had one club since leaving Everton as a 14 year old.
Eric Myles
6   Posted 09/07/2007 at 02:06:59

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Bill Goodall makes a good point about profiles being raised in the Asian market by signing players from those countries.

When I lived in Seoul there were only 3 teams matches shown every week, Reading, ManU and Spurs, teams that have Korean players. Everyone in Seoul supported one of those 3 teams (mainly ManU) and the RS were unheard of. All supporters wanted original fotball shirts from these teams.

Now I’m in Thailand where fake shirts abound there’s not much marketing scope for merchandise, the official ManU shop closed down from doing no business. But a few years back I remember a lot of publicity was generated in Thailand when a Thai player signed for a league team (Premiership I think but he later ended up at Huddersfield? or Halifax?).

Maybe now the Thais will shift their allegiance to Man City with their ex Prime Minister being teh new owner?
John Patrick McFarlane
7   Posted 09/07/2007 at 08:33:34

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I don’t believe that Everton Football Club has even if it wanted to much influence on how the media portrays the club. In an area which arguably contains two of the most publicised clubs in the world i.e. Man U and Liverpool plus the fairytale news value of Bolton and Blackburn as well as Manchester City, it is difficult to gain column inches. Even when Everton were successful they were not always the headline act. An example being when we won the ECWC in 1985 , what did the headlines say? Blues triumph? Cakewalk? No! The headlines were all about Bryan Robson cutting his fingernails or some such story. Editors and media moguls influence the headlines and always will do. Everton for whatever reason have never been considered fashionable or sexy in the eyes of the media. The best we can hope for is a patronising rub of the head for punching above our weight. This is not new and has been going on since the mid-seventies.
Chris Masey
8   Posted 09/07/2007 at 13:38:19

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You can’t buy success unless you are Roman Abramovich, and you are seriously deluded if you think so. I have studied football from a financial perspective, and Moyes’s wages to point ratio is the best in the division, and we are not in danger of doing a Leeds. We are making steady progress, and Jags is a great signing, solid and can play in a variety of positions. We operate in a league that is geared towards the top 4 clubs, its the sky revenue that is killing the game and prventing us from winning trophies. And stupid meaningless models like this, push us towards the financial suicide that Leeds, and soon West Ham will go through.

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