Leicester City FC: Putting reputation before performance

Star performers can sometimes earn a reputation for wild behaviour and nowhere more is this apparent than the world of sport – whether it be players spilling out of nightclubs in the early hours or FIFA officials alleged with their hands in the till the back page stars are no strangers to the front pages.

However, in a business that puts results above all else the playing staff at least seem to remain in high demand no matter how they behave – Manchester City’s pursuit of Liverpool’s Raheem Stirling illustrates how a player cannot even turn up to training yet still demand huge sums.

Despite this, Leicester City Manager Nigel Pearson has found himself out of a job. Pearson was highly praised towards the end of last season which saw Leicester go on a long unbeaten run and retain their Premier League status against the odds. However, during the season the manager had found himself embroiled in several controversies – including scuffling with opposition players, calling reporters names and getting involved in verbal disputes with fans.

This appeared to culminate in Pearson being sacked in February, and while this seemed premature many in the industry claim that he was fired and then re-instated.

Then seemingly out of the blue six weeks after performing the great escape, Leicester announced that Pearson was no longer manager of the club. According to David Alexander, Managing Director of Calacus Public Relations, this is a sure sign that in today’s game reputation is still important.

Alexander believes that Pearson’s behaviour as an ambassador for the club could be seen as compromising in terms of the acquisition of new corporate partners.

He said: “The Premier League is the most popular domestic football competition in the world and the manager is an ambassador, therefore anything that he does is deemed to have an impact on his club’s reputation.

“On a purely commercial level, a club such as Leicester is trying to establish itself as a permanent fixture in the Premier League, so corporate partnerships are the best was of gaining a competitive advantage because of the increased funds and profile that they provide.”

Though it isn’t purely for commercial sponsorship reasons that Pearson was removed.

“At the end of the day, rather than just at a corporate level but even just reputationally, if the club is associated with a manager who wrestles opposition players to the ground, gets in disputes with the media because he doesn't like their questions or starts being abusive towards fans then clearly it’s an embarrassment,” said Alexander.

Despite him believing that Leicester took the right decision, Alexander feels that the club could still review its processes as there were several stories which painted Pearson as the victim after his sacking.

Rumours that he was fired via text message or that he had not been warned of his conduct made it appear that the club was not in control of the flow of information.

Alexander concluded: “I think the fact that Leicester released a statement as soon as the story broke was a good thing and clearly they don’t want to have to go in to comprehensive detail as they will still be in complex negotiation regarding pay-offs or severance or what have you.

“However, a review of how they manage the outflow of information in general would be a good idea as it’s something they could improve upon.”

This article first appeared on the Chartered Institute of Public Relations website. You can read it HERE