Business in Football

Should football be run more like a business?

Football business team

Working alongside recruitment firms and getting to know the world of HR in more depth has alerted me to the fact that, for many UK organisations, talent management is crucial.


Which is why I find it so surprising that football clubs pay no attention whatsoever to this. The recent  firing of Malky Mackay as Cardiff manager means that currently, 13 out of  the current 20 managers in the English Premier League have been in their job for under a year. This isn’t a new phenomenon,  seven managers were sacked before Christmas in both 2004 and 2007 which realistically gave them only 16-18 matches to show their potential.


The lack of managerial retention in football can be clearly seen at Chelsea. In just over 10 years, the Chelsea chairman, Roman Abramovich, has paid out almost £50 million to former managers in compensation. This includes an ongoing payment of £130,000 a week to  Roberto Di Matteo. While analysts say football is increasingly becoming more like a business, this is one area where it certainly isn’t the case. I can’t imagine CEO’s of FTSE 100 organisations regularly losing their jobs after a couple of month’s bad performance, so why do football clubs do it?


For many potential owners they may see the potential to drop cash and expect immediate results, but it rarely works like this. Stability, according to Richard Bevan of the League Managers Association, is the key to success, which is why it’s baffling to see so few clubs take notice.


You only need to look at the most successful football manager in British history, Sir Alex Ferguson. He was given 26 years to do his job and survived a rocky patch at the start of his career that a manager in the modern game would not be able to endure. If he was sacked before his time Manchester United may not have experienced the mass of trophies that they won under his leadership. The club also showed they recognise the value of planning for the future; the next manager was selected and backed by Ferguson, already giving him an advantage over many of his rivals whose jobs are under almost constant threat.


So what needs to change? Football clubs need to start treating the football side of the game less like a business and the boardroom and managerial side more like one. Recruitment strategies need to be developed and stronger succession plans need to be set in place, otherwise the managerial merry go-round will continue on an eternal loop.


Ultimately, football club owners must remember they’re dealing with people. It’s people who play the game and people who lead them. These professionals need time to develop and hopefully we may see longer-term planning in the future, making football more like a business in some respects.

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