Introducing our first panellist for our Euro 2020 event: The FA’s Jim Lucas

On the 28th January, Digital Sport will be hosting our first event of the decade, looking at Euro 2020 and the digital challenges it faces in this unique year as the tournament is being held in 12 cities in 12 different countries.

This one-off competition set-up is designed to celebrate 60 years of the Euros and gives 12 countries the chance to play “mini-host” to this grand event, the second biggest in international football. England and Wembley will be hosting all three of England’s group-stage games, as well as the semi-finals and the final.

So how will this all work from a logistical stand-point though? Event organisers, media outlets, broadcasters, teams and fans will have to venture from country to country to follow, support and report on teams. Is this practical? Is it possible for this sort of event to run smoothly? What have UEFA put in place to ensure this can work for everyone involved? Is this design just a silly and ultimately impractical way to host a tournament of this magnitude? Or, is this a brilliant way to share the load and weight of a major tournament?

With the help of our panellists, we’ll answer all this and more at Howard Kennedy on the 28th. But ahead of our event, we caught up with our first confirmed panellist Jim Lucas, Managing Editor at the Football Association, who gave us the insight and perspective from one heavily involved in content creation and managing social channels. Before delving into this summer’s hottest footballing topic, we got to know more about Jim himself.

“My current role sees me look after a team of producers who create content for our web and social channels,” said Jim, who has been with The FA since early 2016.

“That runs across a variety of brands: The FA itself has its own channels, such as TheFA.com and a Twitter account as well; the England national teams, who have our most-followed channels on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube; and also the Emirates FA Cup, Barclays Women’s Super League, the Women’s Championship and a few others as well.

“So there’s always something going on. There’s lot of different brands and channels we cover under the FA umbrella, all with different tones of voice, different objectives and different target audiences so my job is to sit above the guys who do their day-to-day to make sure it all adds up to an overarching set of goals, ensure they’re constantly innovating and also encourage them to try new things and stay abreast of new trends and changes.

“Before managing the team of producers I was a bit more hands on than I am now and was doing a lot of that content creation myself, but thankfully I’ve been able to move into that leadership position in the last couple of years and drive others forward.

“Prior to this I was at Southampton Football Club for almost four years. I joined in March 2012 and at that point football clubs’ communications and content departments were all very much one thing. So you’d be moving from acting as a press officer and taking players for interviews after matches with the media to then turning around and putting a microphone under them yourself and writing something for the club website.

“It’s an interesting change that a lot of clubs have gone through in the last five to six years. What once might have been one team once doing all those functions is now starting to split out and clubs like Arsenal, Liverpool and others are developing very impressive media organisations within themselves – and The FA is going through that same change.”

Jim has fulfilled many roles since completing a degree in journalism, and his initial work as a sports journalist at print newspapers will have developed his skills and understanding of the industry to help him in his role today in an industry that’s so important in mainstream sports coverage.

With Euro 2020 now fast approaching and Wembley Stadium set to host six games – with at least three involving England – sees it as a unique opportunity for other mini-host countries as well as the Three Lions themselves. He states: “Right from the very start of my time at The FA, it’s been something that’s been very much on the calendar.

“It’s a unique opportunity for the 12 national associations who are hosting games this summer, some of which may never have had the opportunity before to host a tournament like this. To be able to take international tournaments like the Euros to countries like Azerbaijan and Hungary is fantastic, but it’s equally fantastic for us and for Wembley.

“It presents some challenges too, as we’re having to wear two different hats: one as a host and another as a participant in that we manage channels for the England team, but we also manage channels for Wembley Stadium and The FA itself, so that’s given some challenges.”

He explains that these accounts come good when talking about Euros but knowing England didn’t officially qualify until last November, so they used the Wembley and FA accounts to post about it.

Jim pointed out the importance of having separate accounts run by him and his team as they can portray different messages and different tones to different audiences. For example, the England national teams will have a different voice to that of the official Wembley account or that of The FA, and it’s important that the difference in followers is recognised. The Wembley account could build up excitement for the Euros from day one, but the England team’s account would rightly wait till after they’ve qualified.

Jim elaborated on this point: “It’s been a real positive thing breaking our channels up into those different brands and different audiences. If I go back to around 2013 or 2014 we were often operating just out of one handle, which was @FA, but the position we’re in now with lots of different communities, lots of different audiences across all those channels has helped us tackle the potential challenges of Euro 2020.

“And it is only a slight challenge, because we’ve all got our heads around the different people and different communities that are impacted by something like a European Championship, but I would say that that was one of the learnings along the way – that we have to talk to different people at different times when part-hosting a tournament and competing in it as well.”

Jim isn’t worried about the logistical complexities that come with Euro 2020, and believes there is a strong plan in place for both UEFA and the individual countries for managing this unique competition.

“I think it brings with it some complex travel arrangements,” he admits, “but if you think back to 2018’s World Cup, getting from one side of Russia to the other was complex in itself. I think the way UEFA have organised the tournament by pairing host countries together to minimise the necessity for travel during the group-stage is a good move.

“I don’t think there are too many massive journeys for fans throughout the group stage, and the teams can base themselves in other countries as well. So I think all of the provisions have been made to minimise travel, but this issue is one of the most interesting things about this tournament as you will be able to see more countries than ever before.

“You may get to go to countries that, unless you’ve played there in a qualifier, you’re unlikely to have seen your country play in too often. Equally, those countries could be blessed by some fantastic football matches – not just for their own teams, but also between two potentially very high performing European countries. With a slight increase in travel and logistics comes opportunities to take these brilliant matches around Europe.”

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