Matchday in the life of a press officer


This is an article by Claire Harrison.
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Claire HarrisonMy year working in Arsenal Football Club’s press office has given me an insight into what could be the next step: global media relations.

Arsenal has a large and loyal fan base from all over the world, with over 60,000 seats being sold in the new stadium for every home fixture. While there have always been small pockets of supporters abroad, Arsenal’s fan base has widened considerably with the growth and development of media channels, and there are now significant supporters’ clubs worldwide. 

The success of the club and the Premier League grabs local, national and international attention and has given me the opportunity to network and build relationships with a large number of journalists. I have not only made good contacts with sports desks and journalists in the UK, but with those writing for newspapers including Aftonbladet in Sweden, Hochi Shimbun in Japan and Le Monde in France.

I have had the chance to work with local broadcasters such as BBC Radio 5 Live based in London and Today FM in Ireland, but I also have a good working relationship with Radio Italia and Radio Gaucha through accrediting the stations for Champions League fixtures against AC Milan.

The press office at Arsenal pushes to be the best in the Premier League and Europe for effective communication.  This is achieved through good working relations with all media, no matter who they are or where they are from. 

The build-up

One of my main roles through the year was handling the media accreditation for fixtures. Whether it’s a local Premier League clash with Tottenham Hotspur or a Champions League match against Slavia Prague, the club still catches the attention of a worldwide audience.

Media accreditation is about issuing passes that allow TV broadcasters, radio, written press and photographers to attend and cover a particular fixture, with the access they require to do so. 

The press box at Emirates Stadium seats up to 112 journalists and radio broadcasters. TV rights holders are seated on the gantry. The club can also accommodate up to 50 photographers pitch side and in the photographers’ workroom.

All media must either fax or email an official request through to the club at least 48 hours before the fixture. I processed these requests and replied to every application with an answer either way via email, telephone or fax. I had to check that the media applying were on the correct licenses, that they were an official publication or broadcaster and what they intended to do if accredited, for example to write a match report or a column.  

For important fixtures and Champions League matches, I would receive over 200 media requests. So to prioritise passes for journalists I had to research circulation and number of pages dedicated to Premier League football in that particular publication. For radio I would look at what commercial rights they have and what their main subject focus is on the station. For example, are they a sports station or a regular music radio station.

Communication to confirm or decline requests is vital as there will be journalists making plans to travel thousands of miles to London solely to cover a particular Arsenal fixture. 

Kick-off

In the press boxOn a match day the media would begin filtering into the stadium from three hours before kick off. I would greet each journalist and photographer at the media entrance, and hand out the relevant passes. I also answered any queries they may have on arrival, and if it is their first game being accredited, I explain where they need to go and where I will be if they have any further queries.

Combining the accreditation process with face to face communication on a match day, gave me a great opportunity to build relationships with the media for the club and myself. As I was on hand for every home fixture, the regular journalists, broadcasters and photographers became familiar, and friendly, to me. 

Press must be seated in the press box fifteen minutes before kickoff, to ensure they do not obstruct other journalists’ view of the game. I usually made my way into the press box on kick off when I had finished sorting passes and sending the relevant forms and lists to the Premier League.

Throughout the game I was on hand to answer any general queries, for example a journalist might want particular statistics on a player. I was also on hand for any technical problems such as if a press screen was faulty, I would contact the communications team to make sure it was fixed efficiently.

After the match

Around five minutes before full time, all press officers made their way back to the office, to collate requests we already have for player interviews. At full time we separate to different areas of the stadium. I usually made my way to the press lounge to hand out passes for post-match radio access or journalists’ access. I would take the radio reporters into the room they have been allocated. I then take requests for players they wish to speak to, and pass these onto my colleagues.

For the next hour or so, as the players leave the dressing room the press officers put the requests to them.  We constantly communicated via mobiles and walkie talkies so we knew which players had left the dressing room and what requests had been made. If a player agreed to speak to particular media, I would accompany him to the interview and jot down what was asked and what he said in reply. I was also on hand to step in if any inappropriate questions were asked about the player’s personal life.

After all requests had been put to the players I would make my way back to the press room, to ensure the journalists do not have any other queries or issues before leaving. By this point there would only be a handful of journalists still working, depending on their deadlines.

Comments

  1. Two comments deleted: we’re a public relations magazine and can’t help players with their careers in football.

  2. I would like to know what is the duty and obligation of football team media officer.
    Cos I want to be football team media officer.That’s why if you want to share of your experience .I will wait your reply.

    With best regard
    Wai Linn
    One of the Arsenal fun from
    Myanmar (Burma)

  3. Hello Wai Linn

    I hope Claire’s article helped you to understand the press office role within a major football club.

    Now for my request to you: We’d be very interested to learn more about the state of public relations and social media in your country.

    Please contact me: editor@behindthespin.com

    Richard Bailey

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