Don’t Forget Your Fans: The Importance of Communication

When you ask people what they think its the most important thing to maintain good relationships and keep them stable enough to last, it’s not unusual that the answer is; good communication.

Relationships don’t happen over one night. Long-term relationships built on trust take time to build. But to destroy them, can only take a second.

Women’s football has grown rapidly in the last decade with England and the Barclay’s Women Super League is an example of how good marketing and great investments can help the growth of the relationship with the game’s audience, fans and the supporters. WSL has earned its position in the spotlight, women’s football has earned it and other leagues around the world, but mostly in Europe try to keep up and follow.

The last week the WSL has been in the spotlight, making headlines and creating a buzz on social media among fans. But this time, for the wrong reasons.

Covid-19 made its cruel entrance into our lives one year ago, and nothing has been the same since. We had all had to adjust to things that we never even could have dreamt we had to adjust to before this nightmare started. With countries, organisations and individual having tackling this differently we suddenly found ourselves in different realities. All of us.

The last few days events in the English top-flight with women’s football about players going abroad to Dubai and then coming back, and appeared to have tested positive for Covid-19 is one of the reasons on why the WSL has ended up as trending topic on Football Twitter such as other social media platforms. Fans raging towards their idols and role models, going at them, not only for the fact they these players have been in Dubai but also to forcing them to apologise in public. On top of that, when games for this weekend started to announced as postponed due to positive Covid 19 tests, women’s football fans have also turned their raged toward the clubs involved and the FA for not being harsh enough, banning and fining players who appeared to have broken the rules that came along with the Tier-system.

When games are being postponed, it’s informed, not only at the Women’s Super League’s own platforms but also on the club’s channels such as their official websites and on their social media channels.

And it’s here, somewhere down this messy road, that it is causing and creating problems. Why? Because it is a big difference between information and communication. The first does leave room for questions if the information is not good enough. As a communication and press manager, I’m well aware of that.  Working with information, communication, press and media you have to let go of the prestige every time something creates more questions than answers. Because when this happens, the information is simply not good enough. It is NOT up to the one that has created the information or has been deciding on what it is that is going to be informed if it is good enough for the target group to understand the way I, as a communication manager wanted it to be understood. If my target group’s feedback tells me otherwise I have to listen.

...even if the players wanted to apologise, they might not be able too because of their employers’ views on how to act in a crisis.

It is quite obvious in this WSL mess, Dubai or not, that poor information and the lack of communication have been a huge factor to instead of helping the situation, has in fact made it worse.

This has led to a crisis within the WSL and is not good for women’s football. We live in a world where the biggest profiles in the sport have their own media and PR agencies hired to help them build brands around them as athletes, where football clubs have communication and media departments but also, where The FA is there to provide the players, the clubs and the game with support in the same areas. You could only imagine the money and investment are being done when it is coming to communication.

Still, it becomes tragically obvious that clubs and the FA have a lot to work on when it comes to creating good communication. When a crisis appears, from what seems to be out of the blue, you have to use your well worked through communication strategy for these occasions, and the if the strategy is well known for players and clubs, it’s not often a problem to handle the crisis.

We can shout all we want after personal apologies from players that have taken wrong decisions, official apologies from the clubs involved, and for the FA to act. Nothing is ever that easy when it comes to good communication. People involved have to agree on what’s should be done.

With this text, I just want to put the spotlight on the fact that even if the players wanted to apologise, they might not be able too because of their employers’ views on how to act in a crisis.

And also, footballers are humans and humans make mistakes. Humans are allowed to make mistakes. That doesn’t make it legal to start witch huntings on social media where not all of us know the difference in how to criticise constructively when declaring our disappoint to abuse the ones we are disappointed at.

We are used to the fact that many football clubs are acting very secretly about what is going on with players and within a club regarding injuries and new signings for example. It appears to be many football clubs strategies when it comes to communication.

Dealing with Covid-19 related crisis is just as new to them as it is for any of us. With everything going on around the world right now, we have to believe that people work their best to not do things that are wrong or show lack of poor judgement.

Even so, it is going to happen, and our job as supporters of the game is of course not to accept everything. We are entitled to call things out that we think are wrong. But while we do it, we have to remember to be kind along the way.

Sometimes, we have to stop and remind ourselves that it is fairly possible that we don’t know everything around an event, that we don’t have all the facts that are needed.

Women’s football is on an incredible and exciting journey and it will not stop here. Communication can not stop. Communication can only be better. Good communication is everything.