TUESDAY 17 JUL 2018 10:01 AM


Last night, football fans around the world enjoyed a stimulating World Cup 2018 final between France and Croatia. Emerging victorious after a six-goal strong match, France lifted the trophy at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, the second time for the European nation.

And although the England team lost in last Wednesday's semi-final against second-place Croatia, the Three Lions have returned home with heads held high - and a newly-revered manager in Gareth Southgate.

The second youngest squad to play at this year’s tournament, what the team lacked in experience it made up for in enthusiasm, likability and humanity. Southgate recognised this, honed it and worked with it, producing one of the best World Cup performances since 1990, as well as update England’s broad public image.

And such has the admiration for Southgate grown over the past month that London’s public transport body, Transport for London (TfL), has teamed up with the British branch of financial services firm Visa to rename a London Underground station after the manager.

Southgate station, located on the northern branch of the Piccadilly line, will be renamed Gareth Southgate station until tomorrow at midnight. Reflecting England’s pride in finishing fourth at the World Cup, a feat few believed possible prior to the tournament, the partnership between one of England’s largest transport service providers and the payments giant is a creative way of celebrating England’s success.

Mark Wild, managing director of London Underground at TfL, says, “The great performance of the England team this summer brought people of all ages together in celebration. We’re delighted to be able to show our appreciation to Gareth and the team by renaming the station in his honour. This is another great example of how we, and brands, can work creatively together.”

“Gareth and his team are back after doing a fantastic job in Russia and making the whole country proud,” says Sundeep Kaur, head of UK and Ireland merchant services at Visa. “We’re really excited to be able to celebrate their collective success alongside TfL."

“Visa has a long and successful relationship with TfL, including working together to introduce contactless payments across the entire network. It’s fantastic that through this collaboration, we have been able to make a small gesture to demonstrate the nation’s pride and support for Gareth and his team. Thanks, guys, you’ve made us all very proud,” says Kaur.

This year, there was no victory parade for England. But such an impressive World Cup 2018 performance by the England team can be attributed to the skill and attitude of the players, and the new approach to play employed by Southgate. Perhaps in 2022, 'it' will finally ‘come home.’

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England’s waist-coated wonder has earned communications’ Golden Boot, writers Katie Perrior

England arrived at the World Cup largely unburdened by expectation. For many, they return to the UK – irrespective of the fact the trophy won’t be with them – as heroes.

Before the World Cup kicked off, the country was haunted with the memories of tournaments past. Of over-reliance on superstar players, stories of discontent and difficulties within the camp, and of a succession of managers angrily dealing with the media before and after matches – only to ultimately have to explain an almost-expected failure. The change over the past month has been seismic. The country is gripped with optimism and firmly behind the team. It gave us something else to talk about other than Brexit and opened up conversations among strangers in the street.

That is largely down to England’s star of the tournament, who hasn’t scored a goal nor made a save or delivered a crucial tackle. Rather, manager Gareth Southgate has been a constant, humble, vital presence on the touchline. Such has been his influence that he has become the country’s waist-coated icon – a media darling who has not just coached England unexpectedly to the latter stages of a tournament, but engendered a step-change in the culture of the national team and coached us back to being enthused supporters. In a time of fake news, we take deep joy in a man who is anything but fake.

Southgate has rightly received huge plaudits for his influence on the team and indeed over the country over the past month. His success has been years in the making, and in establishing himself as a leader he has sought inspiration not only from football from across the piece. Southgate has looked to other sports and even the business world to hone his approach, in a nod to strategies favoured by Sir Clive Woodward when England won the Rugby World Cup in 2003.

It’s rare to see an England manager being praised for his handling of the media and communication skills. Consequently, there is much that business leaders and the C-suite can take from Southgate’s example. The danger for many chief executives is that while the buck stops with them, sometimes the credit can to. And as we’ve seen with the England team, sharing plaudits has emboldened his players, who know they have the trust and respect of their leader.

That in turn has enabled the players to serve as role models and influencers themselves. By trusting them both on and off the pitch, Southgate has built a community atmosphere extending beyond the squad and into the British population. Four years ago, we were complaining about players’ performances and attitudes. Now, we respect their efforts and commitment – and the talk is about Harry Maguire’s funny memes or Kyle Walker wanting to send England shirts to the children rescued from the cave in Thailand.

Taken a step even further, Southgate has turned the sense of unity he’s created into something of a weapon against England’s opponents. There is no sense you have to nullify a single player – you have to defeat all of them. And you have to overcome what the players know is the deafening roar of the support in the stadium and back home.

What senior communications professionals and executives can learn from the England manager is the importance of the personal touch. Of taking responsibility but sharing glory. Of being approachable while retaining authority. All of which helps build reputation and engenders loyalty.

Gareth Southgate has taken years of study from all elements of society to grow into a tremendous communicator just by being his open, modest self. The challenge he now faces is how to manage the inevitable expectations for success at the European championships in 2020. However, be in no doubt there is much that the business community can learn from this real leader of men.

Katie Perrior is chair of iNHouse Communications