Euro 2016 – More than just a game

Logo of Euro2016 football

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it will be impossible to have missed the major international football tournament in France.

The 24 countries that made up the finalists for Euro 2016 operated at a frenetic pace. With almost hourly telephone conferencing between the respective international camps and their home bases to cover every eventuality the schedule over the tournament’s duration was be punishing for all involved.

While the spotlight will always fall on the playing squad and immediate backroom staff, the enormous support teams left back in the home nations may have drawn the less glamorous straw, their contributions were no less vital to the success and smooth running tournament of their nations.

Tasked with the logistical and administrative support necessary – the travel arrangements, accommodation, scheduling media appointments and the hundreds of conference calls that are part and parcel of international tournaments – they also needed to mitigate for the unforeseeable as the violence which unfortunately marred the early stages of the proceedings – and of course booking early flights home for the England team.

Looking at every situation and seeing the myriad of potential problems, they were responsible for ensuring that nothing, no matter how unlikely, interfered with the tournament.

Portugal won on the pitch but we salute all the teams’ back-room staff for their efforts behind the scenes.

Taking your eye off the ball

As the modern game of football demands so much more to fill the incessant demand from an expectant media, the burden on the players and staff has reached heights that show no sign of leveling off.

Sponsorship and media commitments take a punishing toll over the course of the tournament and in many cases serves as a dangerous distraction.

At the past two Rugby world cups, during the inquests to determine why England failed to reach their potential one of the resounding complaints from players was the unrelenting pressure to comply with their commitments to sponsors and media.

One senior England rugby player said that in the immediate run-up to the tournament he was working a six-hour day just to meet his media commitments set out by England rugby.

The days running up to the tournament are crucial for getting players both physically and more importantly, psychologically ready for a major international tournament, something which is surely impossible when players have such constant distraction and packed schedules.

Feeding the beast

The appetite for constant content during international tournaments does not only adversely affect the international squads, it also has changed the shape of reporting for the huge journalist teams that now dominate tournaments.

Long gone are the days when each squad would have one or maybe two journalists embedded with the teams, filing their stories at the end of the day on a conference call.

Now, in an effort to cover every angle and to fill the constant need for news, enormous teams of journalists descend on tournaments driven by enormous pressure from their respective organisations. This has led to a situation where there is undoubtedly a lot more content for media outlets to publish but the quality is incredibly thin, sanitised and controlled.

The embedded journalists of old may only have filed once a day but their content had substance and carried the raw truthfulness that came with trust, time and access.

What was once seen as a glamorous and envious posting now carries with it a sense of dread amongst sport journalists. While the chief sports writers and key anchors most likely have an incredible time, the support staff and journalists spend very little time watching the actual sport, if any.

In an effort to understand the pressures the media are under, the England Rugby inquiry into poor performances interviewed a relatively senior writer at a national newspaper.

The full weight of the predicament hit home when the journalist revealed he had managed to only see 20 minutes of live rugby during the entire tournament, his time being spent interviewing, filing and telephone conferencing back to his office.

Regardless of the pressure and pointlessness of it all, the need for content shows no sign of abating. In a world where clicks and ad views drive media organisations, fresh content, regardless how vanilla and thin is the number one priority.