If you were watching BBC2 late on Sunday night (and let’s be honest, why wouldn’t you be?) you may have stumbled across The Four Year Plan, a rather entertaining piece of film highlighting the unmitigated disaster that was Flavio Briatore’s tenure as part-owner of Queens Park Rangers.
The documentary, which was commissioned by the Formula One tycoon, doesn’t really fulfil its presumed purpose as an ego trip come PR ploy but instead acts as a check-list of all the things you really shouldn’t do or say (at least not publicly) if you’re the owner of a football club.
Whereas much of the shock comes from what we see going on behind the scenes (Briatore’s constant interference in first team affairs, his predilection for sacking people and the fact he’s seemingly unaware that his words can and will be translated by the film makers) the way in which fans are dealt with is also rather unnerving. At one point Briatore, after being heckled by QPR supporters, threatens to sell the club unless the names of those booing him are handed over. There’s only so much that the put-upon press office can do to play down altercations such as this, presumably because they’re too busy drafting club statements regarding the most recent hirings and firings.
I imagine The Four Year Plan will be forever thought of as the Spinal Tap of sporting documentaries, but beyond the obvious entertainment value it does pose some serious questions for PR professionals. I mean, how on Earth would you handle a man like Flavio Briatore? At what point do you tell him that allowing a film maker to record the owner talking about texting his manager instructions from the stands isn’t brilliant for the club’s image? And how long after you suggest he tone it down would it be before you got your P45 in the post? It’s a tough one.