Memo to A-league coaches Treat the media with contempt and you treat the fans with contempt

Memo to A-league coaches

Treat the media with contempt and you treat the fans with contempt

by Carlos Alberto Diego

Dear Coach,

I hope you are sleeping well and that the nightly dose of Mylanta and lather of Paw Paw cream has sorted out your ulcer and rash, not to mention the rash that’s on your ulcer.  

I know that you are all in the last year of your contract (it’s just that some of you don’t know it) and things can be a bit testy at times but what I’m about to tell you could well one day save you from having to rummage through a garbage bin to feed your family.


‘What? Those parasites’, I hear you say.

‘Those vindictive little people who know as much about the game as Rebecca Wilson’, you spit out.

‘Those mean spirited, smug nobodies whose sense of importance is only rivalled by their serial need to see someone sacked’, you continue to hurl.

Yep they’re the ones and here’s why.

It’s really not a difficult concept. As much as you might despise it the media is merely a conduit between you and the fans.

If you show contempt to the media by dishing up a bogus interpretation of how your team played you are in fact showing contempt to your fans. If you are terse, dismissive and defensive towards the media you are in fact being terse, dismissive and defensive towards your fans.

When you are winning this might not be a problem but when things go pear shaped it is tantamount to committing football suicide.

Whether you are Gold Coast United coach, Miron Bleiburg, who treats every press conference as if it’s his very own Tonight Show or Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick, whose meetings with media are akin to a black hole filled with inertia from which journos awaken not knowing what the hell just happened, there are some general Diego media rules you should abide by if you want to earn a semblance of respect from your fans:    

Rule No.1 Don’t pretend to be Arsene Wenger

Don’t say you didn’t see a controversial incident perpetrated by one of your players that everyone in the stadium and TV has seen and has been condemned worldwide as an act of thuggery.

Break Rule No.1 – You are treating your fans and supporters of the game with contempt. Expect to be slaughtered on talkback radio, social media forums and at office water coolers.

It’s about this time your board goes to the filing cabinet marked ‘Coaching CV’s from Holland and Czech Republic’ and starts putting together a shortlist for your replacement.

Rule No.2 – Don’t create your own reality

Don’t insist that your team was the better side and played brilliant football when they clearly didn’t.

Break Rule No.2 – You are treating your fans like idiots or worse, giving them the impression that you are clueless.

This is when they start chanting, ‘You don’t know what you are doing’.

Rule No.3 – Don’t trot out excuses  

Don’t say that you won’t use injuries as an excuse and then proceed to use injuries as an excuse.

Break Rule No.3 – Injuries and suspensions are part of football and using them as an excuse for not winning is a cop out that fans won’t tolerate.

It’s about this time when you become a Dead Man Walking and the board starts agitating to sack you for breaking Diego Rules 1 and 2.

Rule No.4 – Don’t complain about how hard things are  

Don’t complain about the long travel and fixture congestion involved with playing in the Asian Champions League unless you have the intestinal fortitude to withdraw from the competition and give another team who wants to be part of it a go.

Break Rule No.4With lives lost in floods around the globe, droughts, cyclones and mining disasters, not to mention the GFC and its destructive effects on families and communities there’s no sympathy for footballers who say they are tired or jetlagged. Get precious and you are gone.

It’s about this time fans start ripping up memberships and jumping ship to your cross town rivals.

Rule No.5 – Don’t pretend to be Sir Alex Ferguson

Don’t bully the media. Just because you’ve read Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography on how, throughout his career, he intimidated and used the media to meet his own ends doesn’t mean you can.

Break Rule No.5Big mistake! I wrote earlier that the media are conduits between you and the fans. Just remember a conduit scorned is the worst type of conduit.

It’s about this time when unbiased newspaper commentary about your performance has a decidedly unfavourable vibe about it and the media take ‘off the record’ calls from trigger happy board members who are more than willing to leak your imminent demise.

Rule No.6 – Don’t pretend to be Jose Mourinho

Don’t defend the indefensible ala The Special One. Do not deflect attention from your player’s actions by regurgitating free kick and red and yellow card stats perpetrated by the opposition. Jose gets away with it but he is a master. You and thousands of coaches worldwide are not.  

Break Rule No.6 – Again you are treating your fans with contempt.

It’s about this time that they’ll be standing outside your house and chanting, ‘You’ll be sacked in the morning’.

Rule No.7 – If you have a personality show it

Being a comedian doesn’t work if you can’t coach but if you can it can give you a lifeline – just ask Harry Redknapp.

In press conferences smile, laugh, crack a joke, show you have a personality and the fans and media will give you more time if your team is on a losing run. 

Break Rule No.7Pretty straight forward really - if you are not fired with enthusiasm you will be fired with enthusiasm.

There you go – seven Diego rules on how to better use the media.

The strain of having your future in the hands of 11 daft lads with varying intellect, preciousness, nocturnal endeavours and levels of integrity can be relentless, and I know it’s hard to sometimes find joy in the fine art of imparting the 4-4-2 on others but when you speak to the media remember you are actually speaking to the fans.

You are only in your job temporarily; the fans are there for life so treat them with respect because a winning run won’t be able to help you when the grim reaper of sacked coaches arrives.  

Copyright Four Diegos Media 1993