Page last updated at 06:30 GMT, Tuesday, 29 September 2009 07:30 UK

Boardroom lessons for the dugout

By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News

Everton manager David Moyes
It is a lonely job managing in football

Major sports such as football, cricket, rugby, Formula 1, and many others are now recognised as being part of a multimillion pound global industry, with extensive budgets, media exposure, and customer bases.

However, despite the outward trappings of a FTSE or Dow-listed bluechip company many sports clubs, particularly in football, do not operate along traditional business lines.

Many still operate with a "fan-turned-chairman" ethos, or, at the other extreme, they are destabilised by a sudden influx of cash and become a billionaire's trophy asset.

All of which makes the jobs of both managing the team from the touchline and managing the business from the boardroom increasingly difficult.

To try to address some of these problems top business leaders and major figures in football management met at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium for the League Managers' Association (LMA) annual meeting.

'Fast money'

Fru Hazlitt

Archie Norman is the businessman credited with turning around supermarket chain Asda during his time at the helm between 1991 and 2000, taking it to second spot in the UK market behind Tesco.

"In football you often get an intoxicating combination of the media, the fans, fast money, and managers who think they can work miracles," he said.

"What then happens is that you get a degradation of the organisation - of the club and its ideals and values.

"As a club, as a business, you have to have a long-term vision, set the agenda, and accept that your team's fortunes will go up and down as you seek to reach your goal."

'Talent pool'

The former MP for Tunbridge Wells now runs Aurigo Management, a private equity firm primarily focused on the retail and consumer industry.

He has recently joined the board of Australian retailer Wesfarmers and commutes regularly to Sydney as the group attempts to turn around struggling supermarket giant Coles.

"People say football is not a business, but it is a business," he says.

"The difference with football is that it is susceptible to 'rich man syndrome' when people come in at clubs which then defy the laws of financial gravity."

Archie Norman
Directors and owners should not be there to get applause - they are there to protect the values of the club, and look after the finances and technical development over a long-term period
Business leader Archie Norman

He said Manchester City was a current example of this effect, but that clubs without such rich benefactors should aim to emulate the business principles he followed while working at Asda and other major firms.

"It is about people and the talent pool you have, and how they work together," he said.

"You have to get them to live the ideals of your club, it is not only about winning on Saturday."

He added: "Directors and owners should not be there to get applause - they are there to protect the values of the club, and look after the finances and technical development of the organisation over a long-term period."

He said that clubs such as Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal had built up their organisations with long-term goals and over a number of decades.

Mr Norman also said those at the helm of these clubs were serious business people, who wanted success on the field, and off it too.

"The Glazers at Manchester United have absolute clarity about the financial parameters in which the football club can operate," he said.

'Harnessing passion'

According to David Buchier, chairman of Merchant Asset, and former vice-chairman of Tottenham Hotspur, major football clubs - with their large annual turnovers - are "serious sports businesses".

"But to be successful there has to be better communication at football clubs between the sporting and business sides," he pointed out.

Iain Dowie in the dugout during his days in charge at Charlton
What sport can learn from business is long-term planning, personal development, and goal setting
Iain Dowie, football coach

"It is amazing how many managers have no idea about what is happening on the financial side, and how many board members do not know what is happening on the playing side."

However, according to Fru Hazlitt, former chief executive of media group GCap, it is not just just about football learning from best business practice.

She thinks the beautiful game has a lot to teach those in the boardroom.

"I say to a lot of other business leaders - 'if you don't love football you had better go and understand it'," she said.

"It is one of the biggest industries in this country, and it matters, probably, to 70% of your staff.

"So you should understand it and you should know it and you should watch and learn about harnessing passion and focusing it in the right way, which the very best football managers do brilliantly."

She also said that business could learn from those top managers about "coping with intense pressure and intense crises".

But she believed that football could learn from business in taking a more internal and rational view of what the media can often incorrectly label "a crisis".

'Team dynamics'

Among coaches looking to learn from the business world are those such as Iain Dowie, who has managed at Oldham, Crystal Palace, Charlton, Coventry City, QPR, and was most recently assistant at Newcastle United.

"What sport can learn from business is long-term planning, personal development, and goal setting. Also achieving short-term goals within a wider long-term vision," he said.

Stuart Pearce
When you have just lost on a Saturday and are getting stick, you can't turn round and say 'it's OK - my chairman has a really good long-term business plan'
Stuart Pearce, England U-21 boss

"What business can learn from sport is not to be afraid of taking emotionally-based decisions, how to deal with pressure when you are under the gun, and team dynamics."

Mr Dowie, who has an engineering degree, cites former GE boss Jack Welch, BA boss Willie Walsh and Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary as business people whose methods he has watched with interest.

But maybe the last word should go to England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce, who has also experienced the pressure of club management at Manchester City.

He points out the difference at the heart of the football industry and traditional businesses, despite how much the two can learn from one another.

"When you have just lost on a Saturday and are getting stick, you can't turn round and say 'it's OK - my chairman has a really good long-term business plan'."



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