Time for Millwall to show some Authoritative Leadership

It’s been a tough weekend for sport: so many statements and apologies, and not enough sporting action.

These mindless idiots above need to be sanctioned, sentenced and slapped, but unfortunately, Millwall, the club, will no doubt get caught in the cross fire.

In the Guardian today, in Barney Ronay’s piece, the club was summed up rather perfectly:

“And for all its urban location this is still a strangely isolated club, buried in the industrial inner suburbs, hard to get to, detached from gentrified new-build London. It must also be said there was a sense of isolation, almost a weariness to the club response immediately after the game. The manager, Kenny Jackett, claimed not to have seen the incident and stopped short of condemning anybody for anything. Millwall’s media officer made it clear, in not so many words, that there are those who might point the finger at the police for not intervening quicker. The Millwall chairman, John Berylson, mused that you can never be sure who’s sitting where on these occasions. Perhaps proximity to such things frays the nerves and dulls the reflexes, but given the genuinely shocking nature of the violence, something more is required. There will be calls for fines and bans. A greater show of backbone from those in authority at the club would be a good place to start.”

Nail on the head.

Communication is the biggest factor, and this blog has mentioned it before, true leadership is needed. Perception and reputation has followed Millwall everywhere, and they lived up to their battered stereotype.

It’s understandable that the club is not directly responsible, but more needs to be done to investigate who comes to games. Imagine these marred events every weekend in the Premier League when Big Brother’s eyes are constantly watching. It would horrific. These people are Millwall’s cancer.

Having Millwall in the Premier League is probably the FA’s and League’s biggest worry. The PL is the most watched league in the world, and imagines of in-fighting, blooded noses, and shoes flying everywhere would cause colossal damage.

Groups of 30 men of varying ages throwing punches and kicks is not an image of football and is certainly not condoned in society. The absence of police is almost as laughable. The ‘stewards’ are not bodyguards and if they were expected to get involved to split up the trouble, I would expect the FA to pay them more than the £7 per hour they currently get.

The problem needs to be prevented. A big issues management brainstorm needs to be sanctioned. There are ways these troublemakers can be found, and if the right tools were used, and the right messages displayed, the trouble would certainly cease  – somewhat.

Social listening is one method. Look to social media to find out who these people, the repeat offenders, are and ban them immediately and make examples of them.

Those in the club can pick up trends, find out who the key troublemakers are and pass them over to the authorities. Simply working with the police is not enough, those in-charge at Millwall need reputation building and to be seen as authoritative leaders of condone such scenes and not stand for it. It may cost Millwall fans, and money, in the short-term, but longer-term they will reap the benefits.

Their run to the FA Cup semi-final is a remarkable story. But it’s all ended in blood, stolen police hats, and young girls crying. The shame.

It is no good the FA fining the club, banning them from games, but they need to work together and come up with a plan to cut the problem at its root and not simply firefight.

What a strange, and awful, occasion it turned out to be.

By the way, congratulations Wigan Athletic on a fine win.




PR Can Put Football Into Perspective

Not all Sport PR has to be rich in money and exposure. Normally it is those heart-warming  stories that would help a professional club escape controversies and seek the public’s hearts and minds. 

Whilst major sports clubs work hard covering controversy about racism and training ground spats – most notably Chelsea and Liverpool – Championship side Middlesbrough FC have showed a sign of humility and pulled off a fine piece of PR.

Gary Parkinson, an ex-Middlesbrough right-back, who played 258 games for the club has been appointed a talent scout.

Although this sounds nothing out of the ordinary, 14 months ago Parkinson suffered a huge, probably stress-induced, stroke in the stem of his brain and the result: it has left the 43 year old a terrible victim of locked-in syndrome.

A terrible condition indeed and the only method of communication he has with his wife and three children and the rest of the world is the ability to blink.

Really puts some of football’s petty troubles in perspective.

Middlesbrough’s manager Tony Mowbray played with Parkinson in ’86, alongside current coaches Colin Cooper and Gary Gill, and the sense of togetherness and the eagerness to help a mate in need will give ‘Boro much credit in the eyes of the public.

The scouting team takes the 220-mile round trip to deliver DVDs for Parkinson to watch. He communicates by blinking between one and four times to state whether he thinks a player is any good with four being ‘I like him’ to four being ‘steer clear’.

Louise Taylor, in the Guardian, writes a wonderful piece speaking of the ‘Boro team in ’86 and how Parkinson was a vital member of that side, and how he inspired his old teammates to participate in fundraising events.

Mowbray insists “Parky’s one of us, a Teeside lad”. This valuable connection works wonders and gives something back to those  players who previously served the club very well.

‘More than a year ago his wife said “no” when doctors asked if she wanted her husband’s life support machine switched off. Mowbray’s inspired initiative is offering vital hope. “You can see Gary’s mood picking up when he works in the DVDs,” she said.’

Sometime football coughs up some really moving stories.