Pedro Pinto - Chief of Press, UEFA Share PDF Print E-mail
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Pedro_Pinto

By Tariq Saleh

Pedro Pinto has been the Chief of Press at UEFA since January 2014 and is responsible for the communication of UEFA President Michel Platini. His duties also involve being an official spokesman for European Football's Governing Body.

Pedro was previously a journalist for almost two decades, most notably spending 15 years as a sports presenter and correspondent for CNN.

You’re a former broadcast journalist, you made your move over about 18 months ago now, what have been the major challenges you have faced coming into such a high profile role?

There were many challenges; the environment was certainly one of them. I spent 20 years as a journalist and in a media environment it’s quite fast, dynamic, quick thinking, quick acting, focused on a product, always trying to produce something to deadlines and very quickly I realised that this new role was going to be very different and the environment was completely new.

This was a very corporate environment, a very political environment and these are aspects that I have never really dealt with to this level.

Obviously I always had a responsibility as a journalist to be serious and to obey a certain amount of rules and regulations as a journalist normally does, but it was a really eye-opening experience finding out how much work was done behind the scenes by the president, the general secretary and the executive committee and then absorbing a lot of that work and information and knowing how to digest it and how to hopefully communicate it in a positive and productive way to the media.

From the outside a lot of people say there’s too much politics involved in sports and look at the wrangling’s and situations that have happened at FIFA and other federations and being inside it do you see now how much of that politics is integral to the running of such a big organisation?

I think there’s politics at every level, of any organisation close to the top, where there’s power, there has to be politics and working so close with the president it’s normal that I would be exposed to more politics than someone who’s working directly with competitions or events. From the perspective of football, I’m very proud to say that the level of transparency in governance in UEFA is very high.

Football recently was rocked by the story that happened in Zurich, I believe that it shows that there are processes in some organisations that need to be reformed and hopefully that will be the case.

As far as my experience is concerned, I appreciate that when you deal with people from so many different parts of the world and talking about UEFA, so many different parts of Europe, with so many different backgrounds and so many different cultures and beliefs and ways of working, that there needs to be an element of diplomacy to that, so I would call the politics of UEFA more diplomacy in reaching the decisions that are the best for European football rather than anything else and that’s why I say that I’m proud of what UEFA does in its own processes and hopefully we can continue to be a benchmark for other organisations.

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Having crossed the divide so to speak, do you put greater emphasis on transparency and say that is a fundamental part of what UEFA should be doing?

I think transparency is incredibly important from a governance standpoint. From dealing with the media standpoint, I’ve tried to develop a relationship with people who we trust and who we can give off the record briefings to and who we know will treat the information carefully and who we know will report the information carefully.

Since I joined I’ve noticed that people also trust me and trust me to tell them what I know and how I know it, sometimes people think that since I work so close to the president that I know everything and that’s many times not the case.

However what’s important for me to do is be honest with the journalists, not to lie to the journalists and say if I don’t know that I don’t know and if I can’t tell you, I can’t tell you, rather than pretend there’s nothing going on or make up a story. For me that image of UEFA has to start with me and has to start with the communications department and therefore that’s why transparency is important.

A flagship policy of UEFA has been Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations in the past few years, they’re very difficult to summarise, how difficult is it to get that across to people, who aren’t sports business reporters or members of the media who are coming into this fresh, as succinctly as possible?

It’s a challenge and it’s been a challenge. FFP has been crucial to increasing the amount of responsibility involved in the running of European clubs and the aggregate losses have dropped from £1.7bn to around £800m and now we’ll release figures showing around £500m, so it’s been very successful in that model. The ownership of clubs has understood that it’s important to have a sustainable model and that’s what we will continue to encourage.

From an information standpoint, I sit in many meetings where the executive committee might discuss FFP, club licencing committee might discuss FFP, but a lot of the information is very technical, so its then my job and the communications department’s job to try to make sense of it all and try to present it to journalists in a digestible way and in an understandable way.

There needs to be a narrative that happens, even if journalists can’t report anything on the record with a quote on what is happening regarding FFP, because the Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) is an independent body so it’s not as if I know, or a lot of people know or even the president knows what some of the decisions will be.

But these are the kind of things that we need to explain to people, so that they know what’s going on in the internal processes of UEFA and they respect that as well, not thinking that these decisions are made with a snap of the fingers and not thinking that this whole process has been something we take light-heartedly.

We don’t at all, its something very serious that we believe in and the president believes in dearly and that’s why the information needs to be treated in a valuable way so that it is credible and journalists can understand the process behind it.

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How do you manage to prioritise in situations such as being in UEFA and having such a huge continent where you have stories popping up all over the place, for example you have something that is very important such as the issue in Kosovo or Israel, but then at the same time you have the things that have happened in Zurich, how do you go about managing these huge areas?

It’s very difficult to manage the communications of UEFA because it’s so unpredictable and it involves so many different markets. You might wake up one day and you have an issue in south Europe, the next day it’s the north of Europe, the next day it’s Eastern Europe, you never know and there are so many different markets with so many different reporters that it’s impossible to have a relationship with all of them.

With social media it’s impossible to be across all the accounts of all journalists that are opinion leaders in the various countries, but we do our best, we have key people in various markets that are constantly monitoring all the news that pertains to UEFA, so that is a service that helps us greatly to know what the trends are and what could be happening and what could come next, but you’re absolutely right, it’s a daily challenge to figure out what the priority is.

I would say that ultimately, for me, my priority is what pertains to the president, the general secretary, the decision making elements of UEFA and how I can promote them and protect them in the best way, in a balanced way as well and making sure that we look out for our interests while informing the media and informing fans in the best manner possible.

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