The biggest PR & partnership disasters in Premier League history

15 April 2021 07:00

There's nothing wrong with a bit of light-hearted social media jostling to get people talking.

Using Twitter and Instagram in a fun and innovative way is something football clubs and brands alike have become pretty good at. It can humanise corporate entities, and make fans feel involved in conversations they would otherwise be excluded from.

Dulux, though, maybe read the room next time.

The UK's favourite international paint brand were announced as Tottenham's latest commercial partner on Thursday. Within minutes - literally minutes - they were on Twitter giving it large about the club's lack of silverware.

Obviously, they didn't realise just how much of a sore point that is for supporters, or how seriously the posts would be taken. Intended as a bit of light-hearted fun, it's been universally panned by Spurs fans, and there are already questions being raised about the viability of the partnership going forward.

Still, cute dog though.

While the first few hours of the Spurs-Dulux collaboration have been a bit of a bin-fire, it's worth remembering that it is by no means the worst PR misstep in Premier League history. Oh, far from it.

1. Newcastle & Wonga

Ayoze Perez: not a fan of Wonga, apparently | Michael Regan/Getty Images

Newcastle's shirt sponsorship deal with payday loan company Wonga was announced in 2012 to almost universal outrage.

There were moral concerns: this was a company that profits heavily from high-interest, short-term loans, and striker Papiss Cisse initially declared that he would not play with the Wonga logo on his shirt.

There were also aesthetic concerns: Newcastle would literally have to play with the word Wonga displayed on their chests. In vibrant blue.

The club promised the Wonga money would help them compete at the top of English football. Four years later, they were relegated and the partnership was ended.

2. Portsmouth & Ty

Sebastien Schemmel sports the Ty brand | Dave Etheridge-Barnes/Getty Images

Who'd have thought a Premier League club teaming up with a company who made most of their money from a children's toy line called 'Beanie Boos' would not have gone well?

It's safe to say Ty missed their target audience with this one.

They pulled out all the stops to make it work: they even released a special 'Pompey Bear' which hardly anyone bought, before the two went their separate ways in 2005.

3. Paolo Di Canio

Di Canio did not go as Sunderland hoped | Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Paolo Di Canio was once pictured doing a Nazi salute while playing for Lazio. He has described Italian dictator Benito Mussolini as a 'deeply misunderstood individual' and has been quoted by press in Italy declaring himself a fascist.

So yeah, his appointment as Sunderland manager was.divisive.

The Italian kept the Black Cats up in 2012/13, but the negative PR emanating from his management style - described as 'brutal and vitriolic'
by CEO Margaret Byrne - was soon too much to bear.

He was dismissed five games into the following season, six months after being appointed.

4. West Ham & XL Leisure

Those shirts only came in one size | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

When West Ham teamed up with XL in 2007, things initially looked promising. They were the third largest holiday operator in the UK, and a three-year deal worth £7.5m in total promised to boost the coffers significantly.

Then, just days after Gianfranco Zola was appointed manager in 2008, the company went into administration. West Ham terminated the agreement soon after, and were left having to patch up the front of their shirts so they were no longer advertising an old sponsor,

Things get even messier when you realise that West Ham's owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson was also the main shareholder of of the banks that financed XL Leisure.

Just not a great look all round.

5. Furloughgate

Back in April 2020, as the full weight of the coronavirus pandemic was beginning to be felt, the UK government announced a furlough scheme designed to keep workers in jobs while the country shut down.

The idea was that the government would pay 80% of the salary of any non-essential staff who companies couldn't afford to pay themselves while operations were paused.

You'd think top end Premier League clubs, and their multi-million pound profit margins, wouldn't have to take advantage of that.

But Liverpool and Tottenham both did.initially.

Both clubs were slammed from all sides, with fans and pundits alike blasting a lack of solidarity and a reluctance to take responsibility for ensuring their ground level staff are paid.

It was the definition of a PR catastrophe and both clubs soon reversed the decisions.

Source: 90min