Footballers v Politicians; the battle for public engagement

With the amazing success of outsiders Leicester City Football Club this week in being crowned champions of the Premier League, the whole of Leicester has turned blue in support, with shops displaying blue windows and the streets literally awash with excitement. Even non-football fans in the town have turned out to join in.

Support for the big teams has always been there, despite the barriers of cost and distance. Even during losing streaks, support remains and people continue to show up.

So why is it that government elections fail to pull in the crowds, when the overall impact on people is far greater than the result of a football game?

I would suggest there is one main difference, and that is behaviour.

The behaviour of politicians is often worse than tired children. In-party fighting, abuse of expenses, tax avoidance, shouting and arguing in the House of Commons; all of this leads to a perception of negativity, distrust and dishonesty. The actions of MP’s are rarely seen in a positive light, with cloudy campaigns and commitments that never seem to get delivered. What does this do for engagement and motivation? What messge is this sending to the electorate to say ‘support us, we are working for you to improve your lives’? Why would people give any of them their vote?3500

Politician’s behaviour is a turn off and does not inspire support.

In contrast, Footballers give the public something to aspire to; a lifestyle of success, glamour, money. In the main, they create trust and honesty through their sport and many have contact in the local community. They engage with fans and create a positive image. When negativity arises it is well-managed and explained, not covered up and brushed off. Players and Managers are accountable to the fans and respect them, recognising the role the public play in supporting them. They work as a team; they have each other’s backs.

It is therefore of little wonder that turnout is expected to be low at today’s local elections. Politicians should be working harder to engage in a more honest and transparent way, and give the voting population inspiration and motivation to engage back. They should be clearer on their messages and more factual, rather than talking around a question. Voters are not forgetful, a mistake political parties seem to continuously make, and long to be able to vote with confidence for a party which resonates with them, just like that of a football club. After all, people died to achieve voting freedom; how disappointing it is to have a vote but not have a good range of honest candidates to vote from. Perhaps it is about time Politicians start behaving like team players and give us all something better to turn out for.

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