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“All in all, it’s a clever piece of audience design” - Dr Kieran File on Jurgen Klopp’s swearing

Dr Kieran File, expert on sports culture and communication at the Centre for Applied Linguistics, discusses Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s swearing in his post-match interviews.

“Swear words are a key set of resources we draw on to help us express our emotions or to modify expressions and heighten the force of our messages. However, socially, there are typical patterns for their use. We tend to use swear words in close circles and less formal settings with close acquaintances. We rarely see them in formal settings and on television, particularly live television, their use is often banned.

“By swearing in what is a formal television setting, Klopp subverted these norms. And, while he’s is likely to lose some of his pay packet, what he gained is probably more significant to him. By dropping the F-bomb at a time when the club’s supporters were likely to be beside themselves, he has achieved something all managers are trying to achieve in these interviews - engagement and a connection with (most) of the club’s fans.

“Most Liverpool fans will have watched the game with close acquaintances, and many would be using similar language as they processed their impossible win. Seeing their manager swear will certainly have grabbed their attention and would have been entertaining for many, largely because it is not something managers typically do in these formal media interview settings. However, at a deeper level, it may also have created or reinforced alignment between fans and the manager, strengthening bonds between them.

“Fans may also feel that they are getting the ‘real’ person speaking to them in these interviews as opposed to a carefully constructed media identity. If swearing is something we do predominantly with close acquaintances, listeners may be left with the impression they are seeing the Klopp that his friends and close acquaintances see. Some may even feel he is treating them as close acquaintances. By letting his guard down in their presence, he is reducing the social distance between speaker and listeners that is often created by formal speech events.

“Post-match media interviews are designed to continue the consumption of a sporting event and they do this by promising emotional reactions by players and manager to match events and results. These interviews certainly achieved their purpose last night and the behaviour witnessed last night might encourage more fans to leave the TV switched on in future matches, at least until after Klopp’s interviews.

“I’m sure he will apologise sometime soon, perhaps after he has been fined. TV and radio shows tend to orient to conservative audiences. However, the reinforcement of his impression as a down to earth guy and the strengthening of feelings fans have towards their manager will likely outweigh a fine he can almost certainly afford to pay. All in all, it’s a clever piece of audience design.”

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