The FA is slowly riding out the media storm that it created with Neville’s appointment – a storm that will probably end up working in its favour
Florence Lloyd-HughesFlorence Lloyd-Hughes joined Sportcal as a news reporter in 2016, having previously spent time working with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and IMG Golf.
A week ago, Phil Neville, the former Manchester United and Everton footballer, was named head coach of the England’s women’s football team despite not having any experience in women’s football.
England’s Football Association claimed that it ran a global search to replace Neville’s predecessor, Mark Sampson, who was dismissed for inappropriate behaviour at a past job.
The FA said it received 147 applications, but it has since been claimed that several qualified (female) applicants that applied were not even asked to be interviewed.
After the controversial and embarrassing saga that led to the sacking of Sampson, who was initially investigated over allegations that he made racially discriminatory remarks to England players, it seems that the FA has once again put its foot in it.
My congratulations to the FA - because you’ve secured yourself some commercial investment and a lot of media exposure for at least the next three and a half years
So, my congratulations to the FA - because you’ve secured yourself some commercial investment and a lot of media exposure for at least the next three and a half years.
Neville has been handed a contract that runs until after the 2021 Uefa Women’s Euros, conveniently a tournament that England is bidding to host. The FA is slowly riding out the media storm that it created with Neville’s appointment – a storm that will probably end up working in its favour.
Women’s football in England is, unsurprisingly, in desperate need of media coverage and money. Yes, it’s better than it’s ever been but the game is still not self-sufficient and is relying on financial support from the FA and men’s clubs.
As the top domestic women’s sports competition in England, the FA Women’s Super League has a lot of pressure on it to achieve mainstream success. The average annual salary for a player in the top-tier WSL 1 is around £26,700 ($37,715). This compares to £38,300 in France’s D1 Feminine and £33,600 in Germany’s Frauen Bundesliga.
In a recent interview, Marzena Bogdanowicz, the FA’s women’s football commercial chief, admitted to Sportcal that the controversy surrounding Sampson and his eventual sacking had led to increased interest from sponsors.
Now, the FA has created a new media frenzy with the appointment of Neville, which has been followed by non-stop commentary (this column included).
Since the FA’s announcement on 23 January, Neville’s name has been trending multiple times on Twitter, the same platform on which Neville happened to post some rather untasteful and unfunny jokes widely regarded as sexist, in 2012
Since the FA’s announcement on 23 January, Neville’s name has been trending multiple times on Twitter, the same platform on which Neville happened to post some rather untasteful and unfunny jokes widely regarded as sexist, in 2012.
Dozens of opinion columns, television debates, podcasts and radio segments have been dedicated to Neville and the England women’s football team in a seemingly endless discussion over whether he should have been appointed.
To take the cynical view, that all counts as pretty incredible media coverage for a sport that normally only commands a short space in most publications and a small segment on television or radio outside of the Euros or World Cup.
Earlier this week, Neville took part in his first media day as head coach and Twitter was awash with journalists claiming that they had never seen so much interest in, or seen so many attend, a women’s football media day.
In the days that have followed, Twitter has been flooded with articles praising Neville for his “impressive” and “positive” performance in front of the media, especially the television cameras.
The FA got two new sponsorship enquiries during the tumultuous Sampson saga - so you might expect it to have received even more with this latest hiccup.
At the moment, the FA’s women’s football-only sponsors include SSE, the energy company, Continental, the tyre brand, and BT Sport, the UK pay-TV platform.
BT Sport and public-service broadcaster the BBC also provide television coverage of major tournaments and cup competitions, while Channel 4, the UK commercial broadcaster, aired last summer’s Euros.
The Neville era has arguably opened up women’s football to a new array of brands that never would have considered aligning themselves with the sport
The Neville era has arguably opened up women’s football to a new array of brands that never would have considered aligning themselves with the sport.
Having a former England (men’s) footballer at the helm who, since he retired, has carved himself out a juicy media career is invaluable. The power that men’s football wields over the women’s game is significant, so even having a fairly mediocre international player like Neville (sorry, Phil) makes a difference.
Could the FA have squeezed out multiple trends on Twitter with the appointment of Italy’s Carolina Morace as the head coach? Probably not.
The extra scrutiny that will be placed on Neville will result in even more media coverage for the team. It seems as if the England women’s team is slowly transforming into the men’s. Neville is expected to craft a team that will win the World Cup. It all sounds very familiar….
He will now sit on TV’s Football Focus and Match of the Day sofas discussing women’s football and the England team as well as the latest VAR disaster.
For the FA, it seems there really is no such thing as bad publicity.