Whether it be direct to the supporter base from the club social media channels, controlling the narrative via press releases or fielding questions from journalists pre and post match day, the Media Manager provides the official voice on all matters relating to their football club.
In most leagues around the world, clubs will have a whole media department, composed of a number of professionals, each with their own roles dedicated to press liaison, digital media, videography and more.
Due to the financial situation in the A-League, all these disciplines are combined and placed in the hands of just one excellent multi-tasking media personnel.
For this latest feature, Kick360 spoke to two of these multi-talented individuals to help pull back the curtain on the realities of life as an A-League Media Manager.
“A regular day could see me cover anything and everything” says Newcastle Jets media man, Nathan Ryan.
“From organising a media opportunity, filming content, editing video and uploading that to our website, writing articles for our website, writing press releases, dealing with some sort of crisis management, keeping across all our social media platforms and curating those, liaising with the governing body when it comes to team lists or speaking to producers about information for upcoming games, it’s kinda a varied role and you’re a jack of all trades, at least I am at the Jets.”
Having previously worked in journalism and digital content production, Ryan arrived at the club just seven months ago following a spell as Head of Media and Communications at NRL side, the Newcastle Knights.
“There’s a misconception that clubs have more staff than they do. Prior to being at the Jets, I was at the Knights and in charge of their media department and I had three staff that would report in to me, which made life a lot easier in terms of delegating tasks and having different people across different things.
“In the A-League, for the most part it’s one or two people doing everything and there’s only so many hours in the day. When you consider most clubs have an A-League, W League, some sort of Academy or youth set up, those hours get snaffled up pretty quickly. It is a pretty consuming job.”
Since arriving at McDonald Jones Stadium, Ryan has revolutionised the clubs media output across the board.
“There was an untapped potential in video [when I arrived], outside of a typical press conference” says the Jets Media and Communications Manager.
“Across the A-League, the standard form of video content would be a question and answer player probe style, but I think we’re seeing with the Netflix documentaries that are popping up, like Michael Jordan’s The Last Dance, people want to see fly on the wall, behind the scenes.
“For me, if we could bring the supporter base closer to things they can’t see day to day then that’s going to add value not only to supporters but our website and socials. Changing the approach to the type of content that we do, is it something people are going to be in to? Is it going to be something that is engaging? Is it different? That’s been the the approach across the board.”
The biggest challenge he’s faced so far, is improving the clubs bruised reputation, especially with their own fanbase.
“Changing perceptions [has been hard]. Any time there’s any baggage or burnt bridge, it doesn’t heal over night. This fan base has been hurt and worried many times, and they have every right to be a bit cautious over the clubs future.
“It’s exciting. There’s so much potential for this club to grow and do something special. We’ve got a wonderful supporter base and an incredible catchment. We’re a one team town and when the supporters get behind us, they’re out in full force.
“For us we’ve got to show it and live the change.
“It’s exciting that I get to get to play a part in showing we are genuine.”
One person who is all too familiar with those challenges is David Jordan, the recently departed Media Manager for the Central Coast Mariners.
During his two year spell in Gosford, he witnessed the club go from perennial strugglers to a first finals appearance in seven years.
“The first season was obviously tough and it’s a fanbase that had been dealing with tough for the last three, four, five years. They didn’t just want to hear the same old stuff and if you trotted out a piece of content that was the same old stuff, you would get told about it.
“That first season, I had to pretty quickly learn the vibe of the fan base and what our voice was and get in to that and you had to keep up your content and output, because you can’t just turn off the lights and act like nothing was wrong, but you also have to not pretend everything was fine and dandy. Your supporters wouldn’t buy that.”
While the ins and outs of the job didn’t change much, the upturn in the club’s fortunes were certainly felt in both a personal and professional capacity by Jordan.
“The biggest thing for me this past season was not dreading looking at the comments every day.
“Last season you’d log in and you’d see people spouting s**t about people in the office or your boss, and the things some people say can get to you when you’re reading some of the comments every day. The biggest [change] from last season was that I didn’t dread opening up our socials each day.”
“It can get difficult. Especially when it’s just non stop. I think, at one point, we lost like nine or ten on the trot [in my first year] and you could put out the best piece of content you’d ever made and no one would care and would just receive the same negative responses.
“Some names you recognise, and you recognise them as genuinely entrenched fans who follow the club and genuinely care and they’re not attacking you and you understand where their frustration is directed, but it’s often other names who you do recognise that really only pop up when things are going bad, to attack individuals and say some really nasty things. That’s part of the conversation we’re having about social media…”
As the mood on the Central Coast improved, it opened up a new range of media opportunities for the club.
“Your output changes. The voice and what we were able to do, in terms of what we were putting out and what the players could be doing changed so much during the season. It was a lot of fun.”
The Mariners squad was filled with different characters, all with their own fascinating stories to tell, but few captured the imagination of the nation like breakout star Alou Kuol.
“He was just a lot of fun” said Jordan when asked to give in an insight in to working with the young star.
“He was, not unpredictable, but… not clichéd. You know, everyone saw his first interview, and he was spoken to after that and we kept him out of the limelight for a bit, but he was the sort of player you didn’t just put up every other week for interviews… he just wasn’t the sort of player that you’d but up for a normal preview of a game, you put him up to be himself and to show who he is as a character.
We did a really cool interview with him and Vince Rugari sort of early in the season that perfectly captured who he was and it was just so great to see this larger than life character who already had a cult following before the season after about 100 minutes of football, just break out in such a way through the season to achieve so much for himself, but also to give everyone a new face to follow.”
Fellow striker and club legend Matt Simon was another.
“They all react differently to things. Matty is more of a traditionalist, he’s not on social media and isn’t really fazed by all the media stuff, but once you got him in front of a camera or for an interview or a fun piece of content, he’s just perfect. He knows what he’s doing and he’s a really fun guy. They’re such opposites.
“It makes for some really cool stories, like Alou’s one with Vince and Nizzy’s one with Vince, [those stories] just went so far. We picked up an interview with the BBC World Service out of that. Stories like that can really go a long way.”
The highs and lows experienced at either end of the Pacific Motorway are ones that will be instantly recognisable to media professionals throughout the A-League and beyond.
The long hours, the bearing the brunt of fan backlash on official social media channels, the inability to switch off, these are the prices those working in sports media, the media managers, the broadcasters and journalists, often pay to work in the game that they love.
But when they come, it is the memorable moments and the historic wins, the improved engagement and positive change, the sharing of incredible stories and the friends you make along the way, that make it all worthwhile.