COVID COMMS #20: Liverpool City Council and their video response to football fans gathering at Pier Head

When Liverpool won the Premier League after a 30 year wait the red part were happy, the blue part were sad and public sector people held their breath.

In pre-COVID-19 days the win would have been greeted by a huge outpouring of emotion on the streets. Three quarters of a million supporters greeted the Reds’ European Cup win last year.

But with restrictions there was an anxiety that people would forget the public health advice.

Media reports and social media saw smaller gatherings at Anfield and elsewhere when Chelsea beat Manchester City 2-1 on the Thursday evening and gave the Reds and unassailable points total but it was to Pier Head that thousands turned to celebrate on Friday.

The afternoon saw the Pier Head turned into the site of an overly indulged festival with beer cans and other debris strewn.

Jennifer Bruce, Liverpool City Council’s video journalist, joined the weekly Zoom session of Public Sector Comms Headspace where she shared key learning.

I’ve blogged some of the key points with her permission.

While Liverpool FC’s title win was good for the city the Pier Head celebrations and their aftermath threatened to be deeply damaging. Celebrations for some supporters were also a public health nightmare in a pandemic. The council in its response was faced with a difficult challenge.

Jen shot footage of the celebrations from the city council’s offices in the Cunard Building. But when the celebrations started to get out of hand she retreated.

She then shot footage in the morning of the state of Pier Head to help explain the challenge the city council now faced. The fans’ litter made the city look a mess.

Look for the heroes. Jen shot footage of city council staff who were clearing up but also individual fans too who had come down to clear away the mess. They were the individual heroes and by telling their story she could tell the wider story. That’s such a brilliant piece of advice and chimes with the idea of looking for a human face.

By mid-morning the next day, Liverpool FC, the council and Merseyside Police released a joint statement condemning the behaviour at the Pier Head. The council speaking alone wouldn’t have cut through. All three together were needed and the statement text here was picked up by the regional and national media. The move served to help head off any future celebrations. The swiftness of the statement was as a result of good working relationships built-up over months.

There is a value to creating and posting content swiftly. Footage of the celebrations and the morning after were posted quickly. A long sign-off process would have hindered this.

Video worksThe footage was widely viewed on the council’s own social media assets. More than 2.5 million people saw the footage on Twitter and there were 23,000 engagements.

Team work works. It was heartening to hear how the Liverpool City Council team all rallied around to help.

Subtitles work. Even in a short turn-around the council put subtitles on their video to extend reach and make them more accessible.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi Dan,

    Great as usual. It would be interesting to find out, and I don’t if you are still in contact with Jennifer, if the joint statement could have been put out before the Premier League win. Therefore, pre-empting this level of celebration and hopefully reducing it even slightly. Is that something Jennifer would consider in future?


    Graeme Crawford
    Senior Communications Officer (T)
    Renfrewshire Council

    Mob: 07817 063 593 (primary contact number)
    Work: 0141 618 6745

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