• Sat
  • Nov 1, 2014
  • Updated: 7:12pm
Column
PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 9:32pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 9:32pm

Alan Pardew's apology a PR patch-up job

Crisis managers move to make the Newcastle boss appear contrite after a headbutt worthy of criminal prosecution

BIO

Peter Simpson is a China-UK based journalist and the SCMP’s former Beijing 2008 Olympics news editor. He has covered major international news and sporting events, most recently the London 2012 Olympics and Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. Peter is a Premier League season ticket holder at newly promoted Southampton FC.
 

Not so long ago a football club's first response to a PR disaster was to keep shtum or confront the sneering finger-pointers and holier-than-thou critics.

Here in the touchy feely 21st century, English Premier League clubs spend vast amounts on PR whizz-kids to crisis manage blunders big and small, such is the price of reputation and having so many sensitive sponsors.

Clubs, like conglomerates and governments, see grovelling and humility as the best form of attack.

He must therefore be banned from football grounds for a minimum of a year - possibly longer
Peter Simpson 

The strategic thinking is to immediately admit the mistake, promise to change all wicked ways and apologise profusely (and relentlessly) until the story or controversy drops off the 24/7 news agenda.

As a result, we have become desensitised to apologies; to many they've become meaningless, the shallow request for forgiveness insulting.

When Newcastle manager Alan Pardew headbutted Hull City's David Meyler last week, he was instructed by the PR gurus to ooze contriteness.

Pardew's attack was shocking and appalling - up there with Eric Cantona's kung fu kick, though at least the then Manchester United star could argue he used a hard-learned martial art originating from an ancient civilisation to attack his protagonist.

Pardew's was straight from the Neanderthal tundra and his apologetic explanation fell well short of the finesse of Cantona's Jean-Paul Sartre-esque existentialist seagulls.

What the PR honchos clearly forgot to whisper to Pardew was that his atonement had to at least appear sincere, if he (as was made patently clear) was not. Rewatching his casual almost blokey-jokey apology is a blood-boiling experience.

Pitifully oblivious to the gravity of his criminal act (and that is in the eyes of the law), he tried to deconstruct headbutts as only an arrogant, guilty man can.

"I did not mean any damage to the guy, but I have moved my head forward. I tried to push him away with my head," he ventured.

"I apologise to everyone. I should not have got involved. I don't think it was a headbutt. It wasn't a motion that was quick."

Cleary, Pardew does not do apologies well, but then what thug that heaps shame on football with violent conduct does?

He went on to offer reasons for his violence, saying he was the passionate type and claiming the fire in his belly too often takes over his head - and that he really must "sit down" during games and not wade into the maelstrom of the technical area.

Newcastle's board fined him £100,000 (HK$1.3 million) - a week's wage - and gave him a formal warning.

The financial penalty will not hurt and a warning is a redundant deterrent for a serial offender.

Pardew has a track record of transgressions.

He verbally abused Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini this season, was given a two-match touchline ban for pushing assistant referee Peter Kirkup in a game against Tottenham Hotspur in August 2012, and he was handed a £10,000 fine for an altercation with Arsenal's Arsene Wenger when he was manager of West Ham United in 2006.

This suggests his apologies and promises to change are little more than an act to win amnesties between one physical or verbal assault and the next.

Some pundits blamed Pardew's behaviour on the technical area and suggested they be scrapped. What a ridiculous idea. Technical areas are part of the theatre and most managers behave themselves despite being gripped by the on-pitch battle. Why should they be sacrificed to save the reputation of an already-tarnished manager?

Most are united in their condemnation of Pardew's behaviour. For a manager to show such a lack of discipline and self-control is beyond the pale. For an experienced one to continue to show such aggression is unacceptable.

His authority - not just with his own players but to all involved in football - is now undermined and he is not fit for purpose.

It is odd that local police said they would not take any criminal action.

Imagine if a Newcastle fan had come down from the stands and headbutted Meyler. A life ban from all EPL stadiums, a fine and a custodial sentence would be handed down. He would likely be sacked from his job and lose his livelihood.

That the FA found Pardew guilty of misconduct went without question. He did not appeal the charge, but he had the gall to request a hearing.

What is there to discuss? There are no ifs or nuzzling buts about it.

If the FA is serious about ridding football of such behaviour by the very people in positions of influence - those who should be the epitome of good conduct - it must pass a meaningful sentence.

Pardew also has a duty, whether he likes it or not, to English football. He needs to understand his conduct shapes behaviour elsewhere.

He has a duty to our sons and daughters who play, watch and believe in the power and good of football.

He must therefore be banned from football grounds for a minimum of a year - possibly longer.

That would make his position as Newcastle manager untenable and result in his resignation.

After all, it is Pardew who should lose his dignity. Not our game.

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