• ‘Silent’ communications director feels the heat
• Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre apologised
Liverpool have issued a written apology to Sean Cummins, the fan responsible for creating the now notorious spoof journalist Duncan Jenkins, for the actions of their communications director, Jen Chang, in trying to persuade him to desist from his tweeting and blogging career.
Cummins invented “perspiring journalist” Jenkins through a series of blogs which contained many more giveaway innaccuracies – he liked to describe himself as a member of the blogging paternity, for example – and quickly built up a following, helped not a little by inside information that usually managed to be spot on.
Cummins/Jenkins correctly forecast that Nuri Sahin would join the club, even though he looked certain at one stage to join Arsenal, and was accused by Liverpool of inflating the price of Fabio Borini by making the club’s interest public. When the self-styled FalseNo9 began to successfully predict teamsheets the club decided a mole was at work and attempted to put the squeeze on Cummins.
Enter Chang, recently installed as Anfield communications director after working as a football analyst for ESPN’s United States operation, and keen to make a positive impression after the sorry PR saga that was the Luis Suárez affair the previous season.
Chang set up a meeting with Cummins in a Manchester restaurant – despite being a lifelong Liverpool fan Cummins works as a copywriter in south Manchester – where he proceeded to spell out what might happen if he did not reveal his sources. Events become a little hazy at this point since there were no witnesses to the conversation and it is only one man’s word against the other’s, but the detail that emerged to embarrass the club was that Chang had allegedly suggested that if Cummins’s address became known then enraged Liverpool supporters would soon be posting dogshit through his letterbox.
Cummins dropped the Jenkins act at that point and reported the conversation under his own name, leaving Liverpool with quite a lot of explaining to do.
They still have quite a lot of explaining to do, but the fact that Liverpool managing director, Ian Ayre, met Cummins on two separate occasions, handing over a written apology on the second, suggests they accept his version of events and recognise that their own behaviour was questionable.
That in turn puts the spotlight directly on Chang, who originally described the Cummins account of their Manchester meeting as “total nonsense”. Liverpool have declined to comment on whether Chang will face disciplinary action – some say he has already had a dressing down from the chairman – but they clearly no longer swallow the “total nonsense” line.
“Based on everything I have heard and seen,” Ayre writes in his letter of apology. “I acknowledge some of the elements you highlight were not appropriate.”
Chang has remained silent on the matter so far. Cummins says he his happy with his apology.
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