Like Times journalist Ann Treneman, I feel the Sarkosy-Wenger-Brown meeting at Arsenal was “a very strange event”.
In PR terms, all sides seem to score an own goal – not least for pretty poor media relations, where everyone seemed more intent on superficial photo-opportunities than communicating anything of merit.
It appears rather odd that a commercial football club wants to closely align itself with particular political parties (especially ones not doing so well in the opinion polls) – and possibly pick up a red card in crisis management through the wrong associations being drawn between football and these two problematic politicians.
And, for a showcase visit, why wasn’t Wembley, the national stadium, selected? What’s the point in the likes of the London Development Agency spending millions “to give the nation’s football, rugby leagues and athletic teams a world class stadium that everyone can be proud of”, if apparently that pride doesn’t extend to Number 10 Downing Street?
How does Sarkozy benefit from the connection to Arsenal? The entire visit seemed to be about stunts.
Of course, there was a token social responsibility side to the PR efforts with announcement of “a joint initiative to equally fund education for 16 million children in Africa by the time of the World Cup in South Africa in 2010” scrapping into the bottom of press coverage.
The 10 Downing Street press release on the scheme seems light on detail, such as level of funding and how this will be realised – but plenty of long balls delivering political rhetoric.
“That will mean that there are opportunities for children who are denied them at the moment, it will mean that we will be training teachers for the future, we’ll be building schools with the different African Governments and with charities and other organisations who want to do this and I’m delighted that France, which has led the way in so many different ways in development aid for Africa, is joining us and that we together are going to be able to say that sixteen million children will get the chance of education.”
And, where were the African footballers who could be real role-models for this campaign? Certainly not allowed to upstage those making capital (yet again) by promising more charity for Africa.