Cords’ Commercial World of Sport - Part 3.

  • Steve Cording reflects on the conversations he had last week with Melissa Reddy during the 11@11 virtual series

THE new season started this weekend with football in a very different place to when the last campaign kicked-off in August 2019.

Back then when we’d never heard of Covid-19 we were looking forward to a bumper 12 months that would culminate with Euro 2020. Of course it never happened.

Fast forward and Champions Liverpool beat Leeds 4-3 in an opening day thriller. But there were no fans in the stadium and families and friends were able to watch on television in groups larger than 6 for the final time for the foreseeable future.

The way that football is covered has also changed – probably for good. I was struck last week when I interviewed Melissa Reddy for the third virtual event in our 11@11 series, how different life as a football writer has become.

The mass probing of managers pre-match and similar huddling of writers around players in the mixed zone after matches are gone. The confrontation that was created by the tension of defeat or the desire to find a headline is missing and Reddy believes that the media industry is at a ‘crossroads’.

“We have seen a lot of the big broadcasters changing their rotas,” the Senior Football Correspondent told me. “They are trying to find the balance between what has always worked and what is going to work going forward. But what we are losing sight of is that whatever direction you take the people that are shaping the future have to be good at what they do and you cannot sacrifice quality just because you want something edgy and something new.”

This crossroads also applies to the way that brands associated with football market themselves. The era of ‘flash marketing’ is now over, according to Reddy, with the way Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford has changed perceptions over food poverty with the creation of his new Taskforce showing the way forward.

“Throwing lots of money at making a glitzy video or lots of money at doing some big billboard that looks really good is just lost now,” she said. “Society needs change and is looking for change and if you have the money to make meaningful change and are aligned to brands and people who want to see that happening, you should be using it to spread messages of awareness.”

Zoom and the digital landscape is clearly going to be an important part of raising this awareness and the ability to be flexible and create content across multiple platforms is a key part of the strategy at the Evening Standard and Independent.

Under-pinning all this still though is the quality and insight that writers like Reddy can provide. A great uplifting, in-depth story rather than sound-bites and screaming headlines, will always serve as a better antidote to the inner turmoil we’ve all felt during the pandemic.


If you missed last week's 11@11 virtual session with myself and Melissa Reddy, you can watch the session here.

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