Culture matters, in business and in sport. The set of principles which guide the employees, managers and shareholders of a business are what produces results and culture plays a similar role at soccer clubs. Both clubs and corporations are organizations focused on accomplishing a set of goals, it follows that there are parallels in organizational style. Read on for the long lost corporate twins of your favorite clubs.
The rest of the ‘Company’ series: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United
“When you walk through a storm, Keep your chin up high, And don’t be afraid of the dark.” So goes the anthem that rings out at the start of each Liverpool match. The lyrics are especially poignant for Liverpudlians these days as stormy weather has found its way to Anfield these past two seasons. The Merseyside Red have a massive history with numerous domestic and international triumphs won largely during the 1970s and 80s Golden Era; however recent history was more comfortable than glorious. That all changed when Liverpool became the first club knocked out of the Sky4 oligarchy. Management problems and the arrival of Manchester City conspired to knock Liverpool from its Champions League berth in the 2009-2010 season much to the chagrin of both owners (soon to be ex-owners) and supporters. For those awaiting the resurgence of the Red Giant the Golden Age was once again a distant dream. Continue reading “Which Company is Liverpool Most Like…?”
When Michael Lewis’ Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game hit shelves in 2003 booksellers could be forgiven for believing that a story about sports management and statistics might not exactly light up the mass-market audience. Even though it was about America’s national sport it was about the Oakland Atheltics, not the Yankees. Moneyball of course went on to be a national bestseller as Lewis’s tale of the underdog A’s and Billy Beane managed to capture the attention of baseball fans, academics and corporate executives alike.
Moneyball is about the success of a perpetually underfunded baseball franchise in the face of the financial might of historically larger baseball clubs. Lewis’ explanation for Oakland’s success is two-fold: a rigorous application of statiscal sobriety to player selection and business acumen in player trading. Billy Beane used these tools to outperform competitors year after year while also paying out a much smaller wage budget; it is a familiar American narrative that plays especially well in the recent times of extreme financial disparity. But Lewis’ most important theme is emphasizing the rewards of innovation in an industry which had grown complacent and wasteful.
An environment in which major financial decisions, like player trading and wages, are divorced from reality is easily recognizable for soccer supporters because an equally ridiculous climate exists in the world of soccer. Elite clubs owned by billionaires are able to splash mountains of cash on outsize transfer and wage budgets while the minnows who must operate within the considerations of balance sheets and income statements are resigned to the fate as perpetual middlers or relegation fodder. The rise of Manchester City is only the most recent example of a club whose financial presence places one more brick in the wall between the tiers of clubs. Moneyball has a following among soccer supporters because it gives hope that money is not the sole determinant of a club’s success and that disciplined management and scientific innovation can build an underdog into a giant. It worked in baseball, can it work in soccer? Is it possible to buy low, sell high and still win things in soccer? Continue reading “Moneyball Does Not Work In Soccer”
Anfield has exploded in a flurry of activity as predicted, the October 6th deadline has come and gone and a last minute bid of £300m pounds from New England Sports Ventures, owners of the Boston Red Sox, has been accepted by the board. But Tom Hicks has no plans to go quietly into that good night, in fact he is doing his best impression of a stung Tasmanian devil and understandably so as he and George Gillette stand to lose 144m pounds if the sale goes forward. Hicks is contesting the sale on the grounds that the board did not have the proper authority to accept the bid from John W. Henry, owner of New England Sports Ventures, and has moved the battle into the courts to stall the sale. In addition to the legal challenge Hicks has appointed a new board which he insists has control over the club. Continue reading “Why Tom Hicks Will Not Go Quietly”