Former FA communications chief Adrian Bevington discusses relationship between players and media with UCFB students
There’s perhaps no one in the football industry that has seen the change in dynamic of the relationship between the media and the dressing room more than Adrian Bevington.
The PR and communications guru, whose established career saw him oversee five World Cups with England at The Football Association, has worked with the biggest names on the pitch and in the media pack. He’s seen players openly share a beer and stories with journalists, to now observing players hide behind their agents and assembled media teams to avoid speaking to reporters.
Bevington, a valued member of UCFB’s Employability & Enhancement Panel, doesn’t lay the blame with player or reporter, but wishes to see clubs deal with media more efficiently so there isn’t such an established boundary.
Speaking to UCFB Etihad Campus students during his recent Executive Guest Speaker Session, Bevington said: “It’s not about blaming the media, it’s not about blaming the agents and it’s not about blaming the players, but I think there has to be an element of maturity where clubs and federations have got to engage with the media. Media, in whatever form, is not going away and you (players and managers) shouldn’t always see them as opponents.”
His dealings with the press at major tournaments means Bevington has seen first-hand, on many occasions, the intensity that is the English media. There perhaps isn’t another press pack in world football more demanding and critical. It seems unfair, but many fans feel the pressure put on players at tournaments by the press is one of the major factors in England’s poor showings at recent summer events.
Bevington said: “If you’re a young player going into a press conference, certainly with England, it’s daunting. It’s daunting to some young players to walk in and find that, especially with a small written briefing, there are 30 people stood around them in an intense environment and it can be very intimidating.”
The likes of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard were praised by Bevington, who now runs his own firm, Adrian Bevington Sport & PR Ltd, and is a consultant to clubs, associations, owners and sports rights companies, for the way they embraced and dealt with the press when on England duty. He’s critical however of players who, following a match, walk straight through the ‘mixed zone’, often placed outside the players dressing rooms.
Media officers will often liaise with the manager as to who is going to speak to the press after a game, but the mixed zone offers the chance for all players to say something to waiting reporters.
Bevington said: “I really don’t like it when players just put on their head phones or pretend to be on their phone, it’s disrespectful. You have people going through and saying ‘not tonight guys, I don’t really want to say anything’. That’s being respectful. Usually you’ll find the players who stop and speak are the ones who’ve had a good game, scored a good goal or been man of the match.”