Special Olympic Experience Spurs Grech To Push For Higher Targets

Paul Grech Friday, December 19, 2014 , , , ,
There are innumerable great athletes who owe much to the Olympics, not only since their legend was forged there but also because it was whilst watching the games as children that they were inspired to pick up a sport.

The Olympics also inspired Andrew Grech although his story is quite unique.  For one thing, he was an adult when inspiration struck.  For another, it wasn’t the summer Olympics that inspired him.

[Featured Article] Times of Malta: Paralympic Experience Spurs Grech to Push for Higher Targets


What Goes Into Developing a Coaching Philosophy

Paul Grech Tuesday, December 16, 2014 , , , , ,
If you were to list the brightest managers currently working in English football off whom a young coach could learn, you'd assume that Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers would be among the first names to be jotted down.

Having spent four years at Wigan, Tim Lees was fortunate enough to learn from the former whilst he is now ideally placed to see how the latter works after moving to the Liverpool Academy this summer.

Inevitably, all of this has helped shaped the beliefs of one of the most highly rated young coaches in England.  No coach, however, can succeed by simply copying others and so it is with Lees who developed his own ideas, his own philosophy.

It is about that process of developing a philosophy that he talks about in his recently publishes book, aptly titled 'Developing an Elite Coaching Philosophy in Possession',  and it is about how that has fitted into his development as a coach that he talks in this interview.

The full interview can be read on Blueprint for Football.

[Book Review] Love is a Mixtape by Rob Sheffield

Paul Grech Monday, December 8, 2014 , , ,
This book is about music, but it is also about much more than that.  It tells a sad story, but also one that you'll enjoy.  It is a beautiful book that can elicit emotions that only good writing - and good music - can.

The story is told through a series of mixtapes that the author either made himself or someone prepared for me.  Each one of the mixtapes reminds the author of different moments in his life and through them he can talk of his experiences and emotions.

Through them we get to see him meeting, falling in love with, marrying and, sadly, mourning the death of his wife Renee.  The latter is, inevitably, the hardest part to read - it is truly hearthbreaking - but eventually music helps him find a way out and leave th reader with a geniune feeling of satisfaction at the end.  And the overwhelming desire to offer thanks to the author for sharing such an intimate story.

The element of nostalgia, not because he talks of the now defunct medium of tapes, but also as most of the bands mentioned are ones that I grew up listening to helps make it all the more special.


The Future of Football Lies in Universality

When one starts to foster an interest in coaching, one of the most obvious things to do is to look at what books there are on the subject.  At that point they’ll discover hundreds of books that focus on every aspect of football coaching.  Most of those books, however, tend to focus on current trends; trying to explain the prevailing tactics of the moment making them accessible for other coaches.

That however, was never going to be the case with Matt Whitehouse.  The author of The Way Forward – a book that offers a vision of how football could and should be improved in England – has built a reputation as an outspoken coach who is not afraid to make predictions, regardless of how controversial these might seem.

That’s because he feels confident in his ability to analyse what’s going on and use that analysis – plus his own tactical experience - to gauge what the possible outcomes could be.

That is precisely what he has done with his latest book, Universality - The Blueprint for Soccer's New Era.  After looking at the way football has developed over the past three decades, he has charted where the game is likely to go next; which is where his concept of universality comes in.

The full interview can be read on Blueprint for Football.

[Football] Blueprint According To...Stephen Fraser

Paul Grech Friday, November 28, 2014 , , ,
One of the first changes that Bill Shankly brought about as soon as he became manager at Liverpool FC was to revolutionise the way that his players trained.  Out went the long distance running that had previously been the daily occurrence – as with most clubs across the country at the time – and in came training with the ball.

“We never bothered with sand dunes and hills and roads,” he later said, “we trained on grass where football is played.”

At the time it was a revolutionary move, as were most of the practices he introduced to the club, but nowadays they are accepted wisdom.  What Shankly had done was to look at how things were being done and questioned whether they were fulfilling their purpose.  Framed that way, it is easy to conclude that spending a morning running up and down a hill isn’t going to result in a better football player.

“Everything we do here is for a purpose” Shankly used to love to say.  And so it should be for any coach.  Doing a training session simply because that is what you are used to doing or it is how you yourself trained simply isn’t good enough.  You have to know what it will help you achieve and how that fits in your overall training plan.

Stephen Fraser is someone who strongly believes in this.  A young coach who is currently working at St Mirren’s Academy – one of the finest in Scotland – he argues that “activity alone is not sufficient to develop talent.”

“It has to be focused practice and always have a purpose to improve the players as individuals.”  As he explains when talking about his blueprint, football takes place in a very dynamic environment so why do players train in a static environment?

The full interview can be read on Blueprint for Football.

[Football] Why Coaches Need To Look Within To Develop a Football Philosophy

For some time last year, it was impossible to escape from philosophy in football.  Every other coach seemed to be talking about it and how his way of playing had been shaped by it.

Whilst the idea of a philosophy is in itself a straightforward one, how one arrives to it is rather complex; it isn’t simply a case of claiming that you want to play with the ball on the ground.  Different situations force coaches to adopt different ideas and their philosophy must be adaptable enough to follow suit.

“Philosophy has become a bit of a buzzword in coaching, and is sometimes either very generic or very unclear.”  So say Ray Power, a youth coach who has devoted time  to  look at what is meant by a philosophy and how one – anyone, irrespective of level they’re coaching – can develop a philosophy.

Those thoughts are contained in his book In Making the Ball Roll  -  a must for any budding coach - and we’ve spoken to him to learn more about the various elements that coaching should encompass as well as about the most recent tactical innovations.

The full interview can be read on Blueprint for Football.

[Featured Article] Times of Malta: Injury Setback Fails to Derail Richard's Year


[Featured Article] November 2014 Twitter Feedback

Paul Grech Thursday, November 27, 2014 , ,

[Featured Articles] Twitter Feedback

Paul Grech Friday, November 7, 2014 , , ,
The article on Emiliano Mondonico and his run to the UEFA Cup final with Torino that was featured on the Inside Left site elicited quite a lot of positive feedback, including the following tweets.

[Football] The Birth of Zemanlandia

Paul Grech Friday, October 24, 2014 ,
Caution: for years that was how clubs reacted upon their promotion to the Serie A. The big clubs, those with money and power, were simply too strong for them, so naturally they did their best to limit the damage.

It got worse once foreign players were allowed back into the Italian game. Those same big clubs - and even the not so big ones - could attract some of the world’s best talents widening the gap even further. Lacking similar resources, the small provincial sides that found themselves in the Serie A often reacted by trying to put up the barricades; by placing their faith in an organised and well-manned defence in the hope of limiting the damage as much as possible.

That is how Foggia were expected to play once they won the Serie B in 1991. After all they were a small club managed by an unknown and with a squad full of inexperienced players, none of whom was even a remotely a familiar name. But instead of doing what many others had done before them and cowered when put in front of the mighty elite of Italian football, Foggia went on the attack, blowing everyone away with a cavalier style of football the likes of which had never been seen before.


[Athletics] The Man With The Starting Gun

There are moments during an athletics meet where the crowd falls silent and all their attention is focused on the half dozen or so athletes waiting to kick off an event.  During that moment, even though no one is looking at him, the most important person in the stadium is the one standing next to the athletes; the official calling out the orders one of which will be that the race can begin.

Alan Bell is one of these men.  When injury cut short a promising career as a high jumper, his local club asked him to help out officiating a youth event.  “I don’t know what I have to do, I told the club secretary who had given me a gun to start off a race,” he recalls with a laugh.  “To which the club secretary replied: don’t worry, they won’t know if you get it wrong either!”


[Featured Article] Times of Malta: The Man With The Starting Gun

Paul Grech Friday, September 26, 2014 , , ,


Fitz Flying On Confidence

Paul Grech Tuesday, September 23, 2014 , , ,
Often, when Maltese athletes travel to compete abroad, sceptics and armchair critics will complain over the futility of it all; arguing that the money spent to finance such trips would have been better utilised on some other endeavour.  What is the point of incurring these expenses knowing that success is next to impossible and embarrassment a distinct possibility, the argument goes.

What those who hold such opinions fail to appreciate, however, is that for most sports people the possibility facing better athletes – which competition abroad often provides – is what drives them on.

[Featured Article] Times of Malta: Interview With Rachel Fitz

Paul Grech Monday, September 15, 2014


Introducing Il Re Calcio

Paul Grech Friday, September 5, 2014
As fans, people tend to view matters through a very narrow and focused lens that is trained on their chosen club.  It is all us and them; black or white; right or wrong.  The fine detail, that which enriches the tapestry of the game, tends to be lost to them.

It is only when their attention is directed to these stories that they get to notice and appreciate them.

And those are the stories that I've tried to tell in Il Re Calcio.  Discovering and then bringing back to life the story of a player whose achievements had been forgotten or that of a manager whose reputation has diminished with the passing of time is, for me, the writing that really matters.

I felt that it was important to tell the story of Emiliano Mondonico, a truly great coach not because of what he won but because of his humanity, passion and utmost belief in the value of hard work.  So too for Osvaldo Bagnoli, a man who worked a miracle in taking an unfashionable side like Verona to the title.

Other stories are probably slightly better known.  Dario Hubner defied expectations by finishing top scorer alongside David Trezeguet whilst Jair scored the winner in a European Cup Final.

As the name of the book suggest Il Re Calcio,  football truly is the king of all games because only it can provide so many stories from individuals with such diverse backgrounds.

The stories contained in this book should help illustrate this.

Should you be looking for a pattern in the stories featured, don’t.  Most of the people I talk about in this book are men whose achievements and actions had made a lasting impression on me.  There is no common thread linking the ten stories other than that each one of them seemed to me as being worth telling.

I’ve been lucky in that for some of them I got to talk to the individuals involved or else someone close to them.  For those stories where this wasn’t possible, I tried to read as many interviews as possible to retell the story as faithfully as I could.  In all cases the ultimate aim was the same; that of bringing these stories to life and to an audience that probably wouldn’t have gotten to know about them.

If you’re in that audience (which is something of a given if you’re reading this), then I sincerely hope that you enjoy what you’re about to read.

One word of warning however:  this isn’t a long book seeing that it features just ten stories (and approximately 20,000 words) but the price of this e-book reflects that and, I strongly believe, the quality more than makes up for the lack of quantity.

Where to find it?
For those who read their books on Kindles, Il Re Calcio is available in all Amazon stores, particularly the US and UK ones.

Those who would like to get a PDF copy or have another reader can buy Il Re Calcio for the same price from Payhip.
Paul Grech Sunday, August 31, 2014 ,
Paul Grech Friday, June 6, 2014 , ,

Blueprint According To...Jason Withe

Paul Grech Wednesday, June 4, 2014 , ,
It is never easy when you’re trying to make a name in your father’s world, especially when your father was a legend.   This is true in any walk of life – how many have taken up a profession because that is what their father did, only to find themselves crushed by the expectation? – but perhaps even more so in sport where one’s abilities and achievements are so public.   Often, these comparisons end up crippling one’s development and killing any chances of their own achievements being judged on their own merit.

At least that is how it looks from the outside.   Because I’ve rarely found any bitterness or resentment when talking to sons of famous players.  Instead there is an appreciation that their upbringing gave them an insight into the world of football that others were not privy to.

That is also the case with Jason Withe, the son of European Cup winner - a scorer of the winner in the final - Peter Withe.   Indeed, he’s had a career with which he’s very satisfied and has managed to build on the experiences that he’s had in order to forward his coaching career.   He’s looked at every coach he’s had and taken from them the lessons that he felt were valid to him.

Now he’s paying it back by being on an FA Mentor, the role created to provide upcoming coaches with guidance should they feel the need for it.   Surprisingly, there are many that feel that they don’t need such assistance just as there are many coaches who do not feel the need to constantly educate themselves.

Not Jason, however, for whom education has been a constant throughout his professional life and for whom this is a cornerstone of his blueprint for the game.

The full interview is available on Blueprint According To...

Malta ready to host European Under-17 Championship

Paul Grech Tuesday, June 3, 2014 ,
"An opportunity to watch the stars of tomorrow" is the fairly typical pitch used to generate interest in any age-category football tournament. So the possibility of catching a first glimpse of a future Thierry Henry or Luís Figo is being used to attract fans to the stadiums hosting the European Under-17 Championship in Malta for 12 days starting today.

The draws of the early rounds of European competitions used to provide similar opportunities for Maltese fans. Those games almost invariably ended with heavy defeats for the local sides but that mattered little if it meant getting to watch Manchester United (1967), Juventus (1971 and 1987) or Barcelona (1980).

There are still Euro and World Cup qualifiers too but this may not be for much longer. Whenever a minnow gets thrashed there are calls for a restructuring of the qualification process and it looks like the recently announced Nations League will be doing just that, albeit in a subtle manner.

All this while interest of the Maltese in European football – particularly the English and Italian leagues as well as the Champions League – has continued to explode. With practically all games from those competitions being screened live on local television, attendances in domestic football have been hit hard.

That is not to say that the increasing commercialisation of the game has been all bad. The past decade has completely changed Maltese football with artificial pitches replacing the gravel-covered ones that used to be the norm. Much of this has been achieved largely thanks to the aid provided by both FIFA and UEFA with the latter’s competitions also offering bigger financial returns for local clubs.

The pressure will now be on the Maltese FA to show it can handle staging an international tournament but everything is in place for it to do so. Both the Hibernians stadium in Paola and Gozo Stadium have hosted international games in the past while the Ta’ Qali National Stadium in the centre of the island where all of the national team's home games are played. (There are no stadiums in the capital, Valletta, as you would expect in a walled fort-city built in 1566.)

Regardless of whether the tournament actually does witness the birth of a future star or not, it promises to be quite an entertaining competition. Spain, such a dominant force in youth football, failed to qualify but Holland, England, Portugal and Germany will all be present. Recent editions of the tournament have also seen some surprises – Slovakia and Georgia finished third in the past two years – and it will be interesting to see whether any of Turkey, Scotland or Switzerland will be able to match that or perhaps do even better this year.

When this tournament was held in Lichtenstein in 2010, the host nation opted against fielding a team as they was felt that they wouldn’t be competitive enough. Malta could have done the same but a lot of work has been carried out to ensure that the players at least get the best preparation possible. Hopefully their results won’t end up validating the arguments of those who want to bring to an end any games between the stronger and weaker countries.

This article originally appeared on the online version of the magazine When Saturday Comes.
Paul Grech Friday, May 23, 2014 , ,
Paul Grech Thursday, May 22, 2014 ,


Book Review: Il-Barumbati ta' Betta Trombetta

Paul Grech Wednesday, May 21, 2014 ,
There is always a little bit of trepidation when you’re revisiting something that used to delight you when you were younger.  Whilst nostalgia might trick you into believing that every book you read (or film you saw) as a child was great, in far too many cases the truth is much more disappointing.  Often when you get back to them after a gap of a couple of decades you fail to understand what made them so special.

So it was with a fair bit of trepidation that I opened a copy of the recently republished edition of Il-Barumbati ta’ Betta Trumbetta.  I wanted to revisit the stories that accompanied me during my childhood but, at the same time, I didn’t want to sully the memory.

Fortunately, I shouldn’t have worried.  There is an ageless quality to these stories whilst the (innocent) humour transcends generations.   That said, most children reading this will need the help of an adult to understand what a cassette player – which features prominently in one story – actually is.

For the uninitiated, Betta Trumbetta is a spirited, mischievous but ultimately kind-hearted girl who gets into all sort of trouble.  She’s the act before thinking type and seems to get into all sorts of trouble as a result.  When she does get to do some thinking, Betta is actually quite clever often finding ingenious ways to try to get out of trouble or else come on top when someone else is needling her.

Little wonder that children love her

Whilst it is great that this book has been republished, introducing Betta Trumbetta to a whole new generation of fans, it does make me wonder whether books of this sort are still being written (judging by what I’ve seen, no).  Is it because children no longer enjoy reading those kinds of story (again, my feeling is no) or because there aren’t the authors who are comfortable writing such stories?

Either way, it would be a pity to lose this form of storytelling because when I was growing up these stories fired up by imagination and were a portal to a familiar yet all too different way of life.  Here’s hoping that the re-issuing of this book will inspire not only a whole new generation of young readers but also an army of new writers.

Connect to Paul on Facebook or on Twitter.

Full disclosure: review copy of this book was supplied by Merlin Publishers.


[Featured Article] The Football Pink Magazine: The Other Schillaci

Paul Grech Thursday, May 1, 2014 , , ,


The Blueprint According To...Dan Wright

Paul Grech Wednesday, April 30, 2014 , ,
“I work with people to help them fulfill their potential.”   As far as opening statements in a CV go, there are few more ambitious and impressive than that.  It is also intriguing, incentivising readers to look into it in more detail so, in that sense, Dan Wright’s is certainly a success.

There is, however, more to him than just the easy promises of a CV. Wright is someone who has worked himself tirelessly; rising through the ranks until he made it as the main person in charge at the Eastleigh academy.  He has since left that job and is looking for new challenge, planning his next move.

In the meantime, he has kept himself busy by scouring the internet for the best coaching manuals and documents which are then retweeted.  It is a great source of information, one that whets the appetite making you determined to find out more.

The full interview with Dan Wright can be found on Blueprint for Football.

Guide to Public Relations for Sports Organisations

Paul Grech Thursday, March 13, 2014 , , ,
This article is aimed largely at Maltese entities but the underlying concepts are, I think, universal.  Connect with Paul Grech on Facebook.

Often it is the last role to be handed out when a new committee is elected and the one where responsibilities are the vaguest.   Everyone knows what a treasurer should be doing and what a secretary has to do but the public relations officer?  Clearly, he’s the one who has to be sending out press releases to the local media but what else?

Indeed, such is the lack of clarity about the role that many are happy with a mention in the papers or in the sports news.  It is also a role that tends to be marginalised, with the most junior member of the committee often being lumped with it.

Yet, in an era where there are so many things jostling for people’s time and money, being able to communicate with the general public – and do so effectively – is a must.  To do this there must not only be a capable PRO but a strategy that provides the framework in which whoever is chosen can work.

Reality Check
Unless you’re one of the sports with a sizeable following – mainly football and waterpolo – the reality is that media outlets won’t be sending reporters to cover your events.  This might not be fair, it might not reflect what’s being done to deliver success on an international level, but that’s how it is.  Resources at newspapers, radio and television stations are limited which means that they’re always going to focus on what attracts the largest number of people.

This, however, does not mean that they don’t care about other sport or that they’re not willing to give them publicity; it means that you have to help them a bit more.  How?  Essentially by doing their job: make sure that they get the results in time, send in good write-ups and make sure that you make it as easy as possible for them to make room for you.

The Start: Clear Objectives
As with any other task, in order to be successful you must know what you want to achieve; where do you want to be.  Would you be happy to have a report appear in the newspaper a few days after it is held or do you want in-depth coverage of that same event both before and after?  Is having a photo in the paper important for you or do you want to get your sport on television as much as possible?

Those, and similar, questions have to be asked in order to get what you need from your public relations activity.  The temptation is to decide that you want everything but, in that case, the strategy would be of little use because clearly that isn’t achievable.  Targets have to be ambitious, true, but also achievable.

Once you know where you want to be you can set about determining a time-frame by which it has to be achieved and also what you need to do in order to get there.  For instance, if you want that any articles submitted to a newspaper also feature a photo if they are published, then you need to make sure that there’s a good photographer (and by good I mean good: someone who knows what he’s doing and not simply anyone who has a camera) at hand during the event and that they’re willing to let you use their photos.  And yes, this can mean having to pay them for it.  It is another reason why it is so important for you to know what you want to achieve because you can also determine how much money you need to get there.

Elements of a Good Write Up
As someone who has received more than a fair share of press-releases I can safely say that the number one reason for which they end up heavily edited or not used at all is that the quality of writing simply isn’t good enough.

The first rule is one that is rather universal: keep it simple.  Determine what it is that you want to report and then build your report along those items.  Remember the three elements that are taught to children learning to do compositions: introduction, body and conclusion.

Devote a couple of sentences for introducing the event, then write what actually happened and finally wrap it all up.  Always whilst making it as easy for people to read as possible.   Remember, this is not a novel that you’re writing and this is not the place to impress people with your writing skills.

A good knowledge of the basic rules of diction is just as vital.   This might seem rather obvious but you’d be surprised how often press releases are sent out with no punctuation marks or with everything dumped into one paragraph.  Even a quick spell check is sometimes beyond those writing the releases.  

That of checking the piece that you’ve written is particularly important when it is in a language other than English.  This might come as news to a surprisingly large number of associations but, if you’re sending a release to a Maltese language newspaper, then the article has to be written in Maltese.  Having edited the sports pages of one such paper for a number of years that of receiving a press release in English has to rank as one of the most frustrating experiences I came across.   

It could be that you feel uncomfortable writing in Maltese because you aren’t as proficient in it but that is why I said that the first thing you do has to be deciding what you want to achieve.  If one of your objectives is having reports in all papers then you have to find someone who can translate it for you.  Otherwise, the message you’re sending out to the Maltese language newspapers is that they’re not as important as the English language ones.

Always, the basic thing that you have to keep in mind is to try and help the person at the newspaper.  If you’re expecting him to do the corrections or translation for you, you’re asking for the piece to be heavily edited and risk having some important parts – such as names of sponsors – removed.

Talking of sponsors, personally I do not understand what benefit there is from including them in a report.  Does anyone truly believe that a statement like “this event was sponsored by XYZ Ltd” will get people buying more from that particular company?  

Even worse, there are situations when the event has a whole list of sponsors and the report tries to include every one of them; as if anyone will read them all.  For me, there are much better ways to brand your event and give the sponsor better exposure.  

That said, I understand that there are companies who still retain the mentality that if they are sponsoring an event they expect to see their name in the paper.  If that’s the case, then it is simply a case of trying to make the best out of a bad situation and don’t overdo it: describing what each sponsor does – it has happened – is one (very) bad example.

One final rule for a good write up is this: make sure it is sent as close to the event as possible; ideally on the same day as the event itself.  There’s no guarantee that it will be published the next day or even the day after but you’ll have done your bit and in most cases it will be published soon enough.  Again, a surprisingly large number of people doing the PR of sports associations don’t seem to grasp this concept and instead send reports days or weeks after the event itself took place.  If you’re not bothered to try and send it in as quickly as possible, why should the person editing the newspaper be bothered to use it?

Whilst most of the press releases that are sent in do get published by the newspapers – albeit some get edited – the same cannot be said of photos.  The fact of the matter is that people editing the newspapers have to deal with a limited number of pages and sometimes there simply isn’t the space to put in that photo.  Again, this might be frustrating and seem unfair but that’s the reality of it.

What you, as the PR officer, can do about it is ensure that you’ve done your part as well as possible.  That means sending in a good quality photograph which doesn’t simply mean that it is good to look at but that it is of a good size as well so that the quality of the image does not suffer when it is printed.

It is also a good to send in a combination of photos that are in a landscape and portrait orientation, thus giving more choices for the editors and thus increasing the chances of one being included.

Whatever photos are sent have to be clearly captioned with the names of those who are being portrayed.  Also, if the image has to be credited to the photographer, make sure that you include his details as well. 

As for the image itself, personally I prefer action shots as these are more dynamic and better to look at.  Many, however, opt to send in photos of presentations partly because they are easier to take and partly because they can include an image of a sponsor’s logo in the background.   Yet with good planning  and a good photographer (again, the objectives you want to achieve will dictate the resources that you need) you can get great action photos and include sponsors’ logos in the background as well.

It is good practice to keep a library of photos.  That way, if you’re sending a release advertising an upcoming event you will have a photo to attach with that as well.

Build Relationships
Often you’ll hear from some PR person when they need something: an article appearing in the newspaper, attendance at a press conference, getting an event covered on television.  Otherwise, you don’t hear from them.

Even worse is when you’re pestered to do something for them and, when this happens, you don’t hear anything.   Wouldn’t the decent thing be that of getting in touch with your contact to thank them for their help?

It is essential that a PR person knows as many of the writers, editors and sports casters as possible.  That way you know who they are and have a good enough relationship with them to ensure that when you need anything you’ll find them willing to help.

That relationship has to be built over time.  Talk to them not only when you need something but also on other occasions.  Let them know of good stories that might be of interest to them.  Tell them how the event went.   Invite them at least once a year so that you can socialise a bit with them.  The strategies that you can adopt are endless.

Keep Track
It is always good to keep a file where there are copies of any stories which have been published in the media.  For one thing, having such a file can be of great use if you approach someone to be your sponsor because you can give them an indication of what kind of coverage they would be buying into.

It is also a good tool for assessing what works and what doesn’t.  If you sent out something that doesn’t get published, compare it with something that was published and try to determine why it is that one was published and the other.  As a self-help tool, it can be great.

Ask Not What Others Can Do For You…
One aspect of the PR strategy that is often overlooked is what the organisation itself can do to deliver its message to those who might be interested.  In truth, we are getting ever closer to a situation where the traditional forms of media won’t matter as much (particularly if they are hidden behind a paywall).

Thanks to the internet, associations can get as much exposure as they ever did in the past without relying on anyone else.   Here are the prime examples:

This is an absolute must.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy (then again, try to give it a modern look) and it doesn’t have to cost much.  Indeed, apart from the domain name, you can do everything for free and without needing any particular IT skills.

What is important is that you update it as often as possible.  This means uploading information before any particular event and then after the event; putting in any interesting photos as well as any other news that there might be.  There is nothing as off-putting as going to a website and finding that it hasn’t been updated in months.  The message that comes out is “we don’t really care…”

Similarly, make sure that any contact information that is made available is up to date and so that if someone tries to reach you, they will manage to do so.  Does the e-mail listed there still work?  And is it checked regularly so that any message received can be replied?

Social Media
Social media – sites like Facebook, Twitter and eve Youtube – provide great platforms for putting out your message.  There is the potential for any post to be seen by a large number of people but, perhaps more importantly, there is the possibility of establishing personal contact.  If someone has a query it can be answered in real time; if there is something that needs to be clarified then you can do so without any difficulty.

As with any other form of PR, however, they have to be done well.   There must be a plan of how often you update it, what kind of posts you put up, how to use photographs to get links and how to promote events.  The good thing about social media is that you often get a lot of analysis which allows you to determine what worked and what didn’t.

For instance, from personal experience items posted on Facebook in the evening have a bigger tendency of being read then those posted in the morning.  Such insight can be invaluable.

There is the additional factor that you must learn how the social media you are planning to use works.  Is it better to have a page or a group on Facebook?  What is a hangout on Google +?  What is an #FF on Twitter?  Each platform has its own individual characteristics and even though they try to mimic each other as much as possible, you have to understand how to get the best from your chosen social medium.  

Of course, you can opt to use a number of different social media but if you do so you should be aware that, unless there is a big team with different people taking care of different platforms, there is a huge risk of burnout where within a few weeks you will be so overwhelmed with the work involved that you won’t be able to update anything.

Most importantly, however, having a presence on social media should never – NEVER – come at the cost of your own website.  You might think that, given Facebook’s popularity, there is no need to maintain your own website if you have a page on there.  Yet, up till a few years back, the most commonly used network was Hi5.  There is no guarantee that within two / three years Facebook will be anywhere as popular as it is today.  So if you’re going to send people somewhere to learn about your sport, make sure that it is to your website.

If you want to communicate with your members then there is no better way than through a newsletter.  Traditionally this was printed and sent to people’s homes but now you can avoid all those expenses and send it via e-mail.  Indeed it would be best to collect as many e-mail addresses as possible because it gives you the opportunity to keep in touch with them.

As with any other aspect of the PRO’s work, this has to be planned for in detail well in advance.  Who is going to contribute articles, what are the deadlines, how many adverts can you get and so on?  All of these are questions that need to be asked in order to gauge what can be done and what cannot.

Be warned, however, that newsletters can be extremely time consuming.  Be it chasing contributors, looking for photos or sorting through any grammatical errors; there is a lot of work that needs to be done and has to be done quickly if you want to issue it when the material is still fresh.


Learning from Tragedy

Paul Grech Monday, February 24, 2014 ,
When I was starting out blogging, the most popular articles would invariably be those looking at young players.  There seems to be an insatiable desire to get to know of prospects before anyone else; to be able to make predictions about a player’s place and future in the team.

As the years progressed, however, I stopped writing such articles.  Partly it was a decision that came about out of a desire to write pieces with more substance to them.  But there was another equally as powerful motivator: the realisation that these were kids that I was writing about.  Any criticism of them, even the most innocent, might have a disproportionate impact on them should they get to read it.

That view was reinforced when I recently read “A Life Too Short”.  This biography tells of the life of Robert Enke, a goalkeeper who had battled back from a misjudged move to Barcellona early in his career and returned from obscurity to the national team where he was to be the German number one at the 2010 World Cup.

Blueprint According To...Pedro Mendonca

Paul Grech Tuesday, February 11, 2014 , , ,
Ambition.  There are still some people who see that as a dirty word, particularly for coaches involved in youth football.  These should be content with the age category they are assigned to look after and not aim to achieve anything more than that.

For some that works and there are indeed coaches who feel most comfortable coaching particular age groups and whose effectiveness would suffer were they to be moved to a different group.  Many others aren’t like that, however, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Just as any player should have a target to work towards, so too should coaches.  Unless they have an ambition that drives them forward they cannot progress.  And, for some, that ambition might be of working at a higher level than the one they’re currently in.

Pedro Mendonca is one such coach.  At the moment he is working with the Real Madrid foundation but he is aiming to achieve much, much more than that.

The rest of the article can be read on Blueprint for Football.

[Featured Article] Pickles Magazine: Jose Germano de Sales

Paul Grech Saturday, February 1, 2014 , , ,


Whatever Is God's Will: Juary

Paul Grech Monday, January 27, 2014 , , ,
Back in the early eighties Italy was the centre of the world of football and would remain such for the best part of a decade.  The richest clubs in the world played in the Serie A and, in turn, these attracted  the best players.  Juventus had Platini and Boniek, Napoli played to the tune set by Maradona whilst AC Milan had the trio of Van Basten, Gullit and  Rijkaard.  Even a small club like Udinese could attract a player like Zico.

If the Serie A was the cream of world football, then Avellino was the curd.  Promoted to the Serie A for the first time in 1978, they had defied expectation by staying there year after year despite being billed as relegation favourites at the start of each season.

The architect of their elevation was  owner Antonio Sibilia, a stereotypical Southern Italian with a pencil thin moustache, ferocious distaste for anything other than a conservative look in men – he hated long hair, ear-rings and tattoos – and alleged links to the camorra.  The city of Avellino itself was a typical Southern Italian city, with its fair share of social problems but also a football mad population that ferociously supported their local side.

It was in this environment that Juary arrived in 1980, finding heightened expectations given the highly restricted number of foreign players that a club could register at the time.  “It was every player’s dream to play in the most beautiful league in the world,” he recalls.

"We Offer the Best Coaching, Best Staff and Best Way to Develop Players"

Whenever there is a wave of despair that periodically seems to grip English football, particularly when the national team does poorly, the country’s youth system is proclaimed broken.  It is a knee jerk reaction that generates attention grabbing headlines but which doesn’t necessarily reflect reality.   Whilst the problems are highlighted, all the good that is being done is glossed over.

The big mistake made is that what is happening at certain big clubs is deemed as being symptomatic of what is happening all over the country.  Clearly, that isn’t the case.  Southampton are as good an example of a florid youth system as you’ll find all across Europe.  So too are Aston Villa and neighbours West Bromwich Albion.

And it is those clubs that Brentford are trying to emulate.

The full article and interview can be read on Blueprint for Football.

Sport Book Chat: Daniel Gray

One of the questions that I was asked during my Italian ‘O’ Level oral was to locate ‘Lazio’ in Italy.  Given that most of my knowledge of Italy was based on what I had read in the various football magazine, it was somewhat obvious that my reply would be “in Rome”.  After all, the Rome derby was played between AS Roma and Lazio.  Thankfully, I met a somewhat lenient examiner who guided me into providing the right answer (for anyone interested: Lazio is the region in which Rome is located).

Time has afforded me the luxury to learn a bit more about the world but, even so, a lot of my geographical knowledge is linked with my knowledge of football.  When I hear the name of a city, my thoughts instinctively turn to that place’s football team and what I know about it.

I know that I’m not the only one who does that which is why it is somewhat surprising that it has taken so long for someone to come up with a book that mashes together travel and football writing in one book.

That someone is Daniel Gray who, in writing his book ‘Hatters, Railwaymen and Knitters’, has taken  a journey around England looking at a number at football clubs and the cities that host them.  In the process, he manages to piece together a picture of England, its beauty and the inherent importance of its most popular sport.
Copyright 2010 Paul Grech: Writer