Protecting the golden goose.
Sven should pay for a better defence against intrusive journalism if he is to stay out of the tabloids
Coughing up his Swiss-style premium muesli on Sunday morning, Sven-Goran Eriksson surely might have considered his consistency in making gigantic PR blunders on a scale few professionals have ever seen before.
If the current England manager has a fatal weakness for falling into the tabloids’ hands, then who stands by to protect him against editors who see his scalp as a legitimate trophy? His loyal agent Athol Still has escaped the blame, despite seeing his client being duped by the News of the World’s wily “fake sheik” Mazher Mahmood. Listening to Still’s defence of his client’s entrapment by Mahmood on Gary Richardson’s show on BBC 5 Live on Sunday morning, clearly demonstrated that the man is a dinosaur in the modern media game.
Does he think that newspapers are focused on supporting an England manager in the run up to the World Cup that is still five months away? Here was proof that the agent thinks Fleet Street gives a damn for a manager who earns millions from the FA. Perhaps Eriksson should pay for a better defence against intrusive journalism.
Still’s job description is to steer the good ship Eriksson through the stormy waters, cut deals and keep the media at bay. But his media toolkit is lacking some key implements. Make no mistake, Still is not alone; the legions of agents that surround the game fail to be accomplished in the battle with modern journalism. In my experience, I have had the pleasure of meeting a number of football agents, men who have found a position of trust in a significant footballing person’s life. These individuals are always on hand to calm a furrowed brow or to cut a deal; but few have the sophistication to forge an expressive ongoing media strategy.
There is no excuse for an England manager to bitch about his players behind their backs – Eriksson has a duty to remain aloof. The fake sheik’s supposed wealth was just too tempting for the Swede to be enigmatic.
The myth is that there is so little time to be at the top of the modern game, that the agents have the mission to squeeze as much cash as possible before a career is cruelly ended by some unknown force of misfortune. But if the agent’s job is to feather the client’s penthouse with the trappings of Mammon, then surely the star should have sound media counsel.
Sven has the honour of making the headlines on a regular basis since the Ulrika gaffe. Surely at that point, Still should have paid for a consultant to be part of Brand Sven. Perhaps Stuart Higgins, the able tabloid editor turned poacher who manages the media images of some of the key Premiership names, could have been considered.
Asking someone like Higgins to help would have cost money, and here hangs the paradox: the agent’s first law of survival is not to let someone into the inner sanctum. But instead of a few euros being spent on PR skills, all-consuming avarice will lead more golden gooses to be slaughtered by the tabloids.