Former sports editor Greenberg to leave Chelsea

Simon Greenberg, the former sports editor of the Evening Standard and head of sport at the News of the World, has resigned from his high-profile job as Chelsea’s director of communications.

The award-winning former Mail on Sunday sports reporter has worked at Stamford Bridge since July 2004, when he was appointed at a rumoured annual salary of £200,000 by the club’s newly installed chief executive Peter Kenyon, soon after Roman Abramovich’s £120 million purchase of the club.

Greenberg, 40, has now decided to leave the Premiership football club within two weeks of the resignation of Kenyon.

In his eventful time at the club, Greenberg has had to steer Chelsea’s reputation through a series of media frenzies: the illicit approach to then England boss Sven Goran Eriksson, the “tapping-up” of Ashley Cole, Adrian Mutu’s positive drug test, Jose Mourinho’s mercurial management of the club and back-to-back Premiership titles, a string of multi-million pound transfers, the hiring and firing of Mourinho, Avram Grant and Felipe Scolari, and most recently, the fall-out from UEFA’s sanctions against the Londoners over the signing of French teenager Gael Kakuta.

In recent months, Greenberg appeared to be being groomed for a more senior position at Stamford Bridge, having been sent to Harvard business school for a management course while also being allowed by the club to take on the chairmanship of London United, the committee charged with organising the city’s potential venues as part of England’s 2018 World Cup bid.

Although Greenberg has already been linked to top jobs in the United States and with England’s 2018 World Cup bid, he is said to have resigned without having another job lined up.

Those reporters who have worked at Chelsea over the past decade will be in general agreement that facilities and access at Stamford Bridge have been transformed since Kenyon and Greenberg’s team replaced the regime run by the former chairman Ken Bates, who would often blacklist and ban journalists.

In an interview with a Chelsea fanzine last year, Greenberg characterised his tasks at the club thus: “What I can say is that we have cut out a lot of the non-football/off pitch related issues that caused many problems in the past and therefore impacted on our reputation greatly and I hope that continues.

“I can tell you that media access has increased, which I think the media generally is appreciative of, and that our standing in places like UEFA and amongst key decision makers and abroad amongst global media is extremely high.”

But the media poacher-turned-gamekeeper also made some interesting observations about the “hysterical” way football is covered today.

“I think there is a tendency to get hung up on what the British written press and Sky Sports News portray and I would ask the fans not to pay so much attention to that,” Greenberg told the fanzine. “PR is not just about what appears in the papers.

“Increasingly both these media treat the smallest issue in terms that border on hysteria, there is little perspective anymore… This is not a Chelsea phenomena, all the big clubs feel this. One day Chelsea is in crisis, the next day Liverpool, the next day Arsenal. ‘Crisis’ is a serious word, and I can assure you that we are not in crisis.”

Greenberg was speaking soon after Chelsea’s England left-back, Ashley Cole, had been involved in his latest controversy, for apparently being disrespectful behaviour towards referee Mike Riley during a game at Tottenham.

“The treatment of Ashley by the media as a whole over the Spurs incident was riddled with double standards and hypocrisy, which is not a surprise.

“If we have an issue with a particular media and we take action, we do so on the basis that once we receive an apology, the matter has a line drawn under it. The media want that type of relationship and that’s fair enough.

“But the same standards do not apply to Ashley or any footballer who realises he is wrong and apologises for his actions very quickly, there is no line drawn.”

Reports suggest that Chelsea’s chairman Bruce Buck, with whom Greenberg had a close working relationship, had told his media director that he wanted him to stay at the club. But Greenberg confirmed his decision to leave in what has been described as “entirely amicable talks” this week with Buck and Kenyon’s replacement, Ron Gourlay.

Greenberg was unavailable for comment this morning, as he was competing at a masters swimming gala in Guildford. There, he broke his personal best in the 200 metres freestyle, but he was disqualified in the 50m free for moving on his blocks. As far as his next career move is concerned, Greenberg’s unlikely to make a false start.

Click here for more recent articles on journalism, sport and sports journalism

Book tickets for the glittering SJA 61st annual British Sports Awards, being staged in London on December 9 – click here for details and booking form