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5 Oct, 2021 14:45

Stop pathetic social media safe spaces created by insincere PR firms for footballers’ egos. It’s dishonest and embarrassing

Stop pathetic social media safe spaces created by insincere PR firms for footballers’ egos. It’s dishonest and embarrassing

The attempts from PR firms to create social media safe spaces for prima donna footballers so their egos don’t suffer should be stopped

Woe to be a Premier League footballer: earning thousands a week living a jetset lifestyle, reveling in the admiration of millions and living out the childhood dreams of millions more, life seems to be rough for the world’s sporting elite.

The worst the cream of England’s footballing crop have to worry about bursting their billionaire boys' club bubble is the wrath of the average fan after a sub-par performance, usually in the form of throwaway tweets from faceless trolls.

But surely the world’s most competitive, highly-tuned and successful athletes have the mental resilience to withstand the admittedly voracious and incessant, but ultimately ephemeral ire of the average man on the football terraces? Wrong.

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Molly-coddled modern footballers are now shielded from the slightest niggle of negativity by their multi-million dollar social media spin doctors hired to airbrush their internet presence and create online safe spaces for their clients so their egos remain unaffectedly enormous.

Bad performance? Missed penalty? Not to worry. Moments after the final whistle, the social media smoke-and-mirrors merchants will work their magic to deflect attention from and restore a nice guy rep with a good old sympathy-searching post.

When Manchester United were awarded a penalty in the 95th minute of their recent match against lowly Aston Villa, a game in which they were trailing 0-1, up stepped Bruno Fernandes – whose penalty record is almost perfect – to try to rescue a point in the dying seconds which, by all accounts, would have flattered an emphatically flat performance. 


Instead, the usually sound right foot of Fernandes blazed the ball over the bar with the last kick of the game, taking any hope of salvaging a result with it in its meteoric rise high into the stands.

Abject disappointment and dejection followed but, within minutes of the final whistle, the PR cogs were turning to churn out the inevitable apology essay on Fernandes's social media platforms.

“Nobody is more frustrated and disappointed than me for missing the penalty and the consequent defeat,” the soul-searching script began, continuing for a whopping six paragraphs.

“Thank you for all your support after the final whistle! Hearing you chanting my name in the stadium was very emotional… I will come back stronger for me, because these are the standards I hold myself to, but most of all for my teammates and our fans who have always supported us,” it concluded, buzzwords aplenty, with United itself posting a sickly-sweet tweet of Fernandes' fellow pros rallying around on their own third party-controlled accounts to offer support to their stricken teammate.

There might be nothing wrong in saying sorry for making a mistake, but there's nothing sincere in it coming in the form of a convoluted cacophony of empty platitudes penned by a money-hungry media 'mogul' pushing a persona for their own personal gain.

The reality is not that footballers need validation after a bad performance, but that PR companies can't afford the slightest notion of negativity towards their customer, meaning they must grovel at the fans' feet to claw public opinion back onside and keep that all important earning power afloat.

Pundit and ex-United captain Gary Neville called the current trend of literally begging for public pardon a ‘diversion tactic’ to detract attention from a subpar performance.

“The apology culture that’s engulfing football would be ok if it came from a genuine place," he said. "However, more often than not it’s a smokescreen and diversion tactic designed to mask a crap performance by experts. ‘Lose a game [means a] crisis comms meet! 'How do we spin this one our way?'

“Final message of the day on the apology stuff and strong advice to players: if you’re going to say something after a game, either go on TV (I accept players don’t always want to) or post a video on social media where everyone can see it’s you.”

Neville, who has made his post-playing career name as the antithesis of the run-of-the-mill mouthpieces in football, would be right: the entire charade is nauseatingly narcissistic, downright disingenuous and disrespectful when it's not even written by the player in question.

Incontrovertibly the most prolific propagators of PR pretense are the goons at the helm of the Twitter account for Fernandes’ Manchester United teammate Marcus Rashford, who were recently caught out when they mistakenly posted a tweet intended to be sent by the England forward from their own company account.

The tweet was swiftly deleted but moments later re-appeared published word for word from Rashford’s ‘personal’ account.

In a desperate effort to cover their tracks, D N May Sports Management, the firm run by the player's brothers who control Rashford's account after their sibling's $2.7 million deal with Jaz-Z-headed publicity firm Roc Nation ended during the Euro 2020 tournament this summer, deleted their account.

The damage, however, had already been done and the gaffe was screen-shotted, with the two tweets published side by side and quickly going viral.

The Rashford mask had slipped and the authenticity of the English forward's entire archive of tweets offering apologies and his versions of events were subsequently called into question. 

It was now evident that a movement that began as a young athlete earnestly attempting to hoist a good chunk of the UK population above the poverty line had been hijacked by a media team who created a do-gooding caricature for the purpose of lining their pockets.

Inexplicably, the use of Rashford’s social media was recently included in the UK national curriculum.

It's not the first gaffe from the Rashford clan: back in August, with the start of the Paralympics on the horizon, the account enquired on Twitter as to when the event began.

"Guys when does the paraolympics [sic] start? Real life superheroes," the account tweeted. 

In one sentence, the PR firm had managed to spell the event wrong, imply it is of such little importance that fellow athletes don't know when it begins or can't be bothered to check via Google, and ignored an article published the same day by Paralympian swimmer Liz Johnson titled 'Paralympians are athletes, so please don’t call us heroes'.

But the latest opportunity to push the Rashford persona about watching the Paralympics was – unlike a Euro 2020 final penalty shootout kick – too good to miss.

The insincerity is a by-product of the social media era of sports, where players' main medium of interacting with fans is through a series of likes and posts on Instagram.

If a footballer’s saintly persona remains intact with Joe Public, his earning potential increases, and that is why general consensus must be clawed back onside as soon as any negativity arises, which can all be wiped out with a simple, but often long-winded, sorry.

So, footballers: spare us the apologies and get on with the only thing we can be certain you're doing with any real sincerity – playing football to such a standard that you feel the need to excuse yourself afterwards.

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