Premiership wins a license to print money, but who profits?

June 2, 2016

Claudio Ranieri

While international success continues to elude English football clubs, its Premiership has acquired a license to print money. But who profits from it?

Next month, the European Football Championships begins.  Of the so-called home nations, England, Northern Ireland, The Republic of Ireland, and Wales have all qualified. Scotland, riding high politically in its efforts to make a break with the rest of the United Kingdom, continue the Brexit process by making a break from qualifying this time around.

In a league of its own

But financially as well as literally, England is in a league of its own. The Premiership continues to strengthen its economic prospects. This is rather strange, as its success is not matched by the performance of its international team, or of its Premiership big hitters. In recent years these have been Manchester United, joined by billionaire backed Chelsea, together with the Mancunian noisy neighbours City, and the well-heeled Gunners of Arsenal.

Even the iron rule of ‘big bucks rule’ broke down this season, with the thousand to one outsiders of Leicester winning the premiership. [Manager Claudio Ranieri pictured above.]

What is happening? Where will it all end?

Deloitte, a financial organization, takes a favourable view. The future is bright.

This is based on financial projections. As another commentator remarked,

Football is the global sport.  Interest is still growing. The Premiership is the hottest football franchise of all, with huge TV rights, sponsorship, and is increasingly attractive to all vut a few of the the top players.

As with the current EU debate, the argument could be contested, but it carries some weight. Football Premiership style is fast and exciting. It is also technically rather flaky, and more physically demanding than other top leagues such as those in Spain and Germany.  The recent results in the top team competition, The Champions League, confirm this point.

The Leadership Question

On the leadership front, the general position is that top clubs seek out the top international coaches.  Manchester City has moved to obtain Pep Guadiola to add the final piece to the jigsaw puzzle to become world beaters.

The response from Manchester United was to hire the self-styled special one Jose Mourinho to nullify any competitive advantage.

A great coach might be a necessary ingredient for success. Necessary but not sufficient.  And a coach may achieve great results with fewer resources than the competition.  Jurgen Klopp (now galvanizing Liverpool, and Mourinho started his rise to fame that way, as did Brian Clough a generation earlier, and arguably the great Sir Alex Ferguson, whose shadow Jose now has to step away from. Such a coach will attract and retain the key match winning players also needed.

 


Why Manchester United’s Louis van Gaal reminds me, in some ways, of Brian Clough

May 20, 2015

Last night I found myself comparing the leadership style of Manchester United’s Louis van Gaal with that of the great English manager Brian Clough

The occasion [May 19th 2015] was the Gala night at the end of the season, at which seven hundred of the club’s supporters, players, and staff gather at the Old Trafford Conference facility to honour the players for their achievements. Money raised for various charities is the tenuous justification for a glitzy and boozy night out.

This year there were several unusual factors at play at the Players of The Year (POTY) do. The season was not quite finished. The team had barely reached the minimum goal set its new manager, of a top four Premiership position. This was achieved in a nervous draw against Arsenal in the penultimate match a few days earlier. The team will now compete [in a pre-qualifying match] to re-enter the European Cup competition for the 2015-16 season.

Mingling with celebrities

Some seven hundred participants were gathered at the tightly packed tables to enjoy a meal together with carefully-controlled mingling with the world’s top footballers. The award ceremonies, large screen replays of memorable moments, and auctions for involvement at celebrity events were conducted with varying degrees of attention being paid from the tables.

An early highlight was the arrival of the first team squad led by Captain Wayne Rooney. The team members were wearing dinner suits (no team numbers on the back) and black ties. Some looked as if they had been issued with the wrong suits.

Don’t spoil the party

An important unmentionable was a developing story which threatened to spoil the party. Throughout the week rumours had been increasing that the team’s brilliant goalkeeper David de Gea was to be attracted back to Spain by Real Madrid. In the match that secured United’s access to the European Cup, de Gea had kept United ahead in the match with a serious of typically spectacular saves, then limped off injured. Arsenal pressed and scored a deserved equaliser, almost guaranteeing them third position above United. The evening was to turn into a remarkable attempt to demonstrate how much the fans supported de Gea. It also turned into the Louis van Gaal show, as the manager made his own unique contributions, and the comparison I began to draw with Brian Clough, the great but eccentric English Manager.

The Damned United

In an earlier post [2010] I described the documentary The Damned United. It dealt with the tumultuous late career of Brian Clough including his rejection by Manchester United, and his ultimate failure at Leeds United where he was unable to overcome the influence of Don Revie, the previous manager of Leeds (and of England)

I had noted that

Brian Clough is fondly regarded nowadays, not because he was ahead of his time but because he was very much of it, despite upsetting football’s authoritarian old guard with his cocky contempt for them. He would never have got away with his genius in today’s world of agents and multimillionaire egos. With copious footage, this documentary traces his rise from a dazzling young centre-forward scythed down in his prime, turned brilliant, self-assured manager, to the ruddy-faced figure he cut in his sad decline.

When the film was first released, Prof Szymanski of CASS Business School told the BBC “It was socialism if you like …You do see this idea in business sometimes. The focus was on the needs of his players. These were his frontline staff – they’re the ones under the pressure, they’re the ones who deliver, so you need to meet their needs whatever it takes. … [however] he was a very overbearing employer, incredibly paternalistic – like Stalin and just as frightening.”

When Van Gaal was appointed to United , there was a special factor which bears comparison with the situation facing Clough at Leeds. He was arriving in the shadow of one of the most famous and successful of football managers, Sir Alex Ferguson.

In just over a year of appointment he also shown himself to have a self-confidence and idiosyncratic public persona which reminded me of that of Brian Clough.

I would add, however, that Clough denied he had some secret system, whereas Van Gaal repeatedly insists that his success is grounded in his ‘philosophy’ which cannot be easily explained in a media interview.

Inevitably at the Gala Night the hidden agenda surfaced. The players voted De Gea the United player of the year for the second time in succession. Van Gaal spoke in his elliptical way which appeared to grant De Gea the greatest accolade, the approval of Louis van Gaal.

The Jolly Green Giant

At that point, he handed over the award to a puzzled-looking De Gea. It seemed to be a statue of the club’s greatest icon, Sir Matt Busby in churchyard Verdigris, and in the style of trophies awarded on the ATP Masters tennis competitions. The Louis Van Gaal show was only beginning.

The Louis Van Gaal show

Some three hours into the evening’s entertainments, the table guests were showing signs of fatigue. Many were getting ready for the obligatory smart exit from Old Trafford so necessary on match days. It was then that Van Gall showed that flash of genius in his closing remarks.

Viewers who have watched Van Gaal’s press conferences would have had some expectation of someone who communicates while speaking in a fractured form of English. Brazilian friends used to tell be that the hugely popular Lula, [Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva] when President, had a similar impact while speaking in his own homely dialect.

Van Gaal’s performance went viral. The audience was swept up by his surreal eulogy to Manchester United. In football today, the effect might only be matched by the media efforts sometimes of Jose Mourinho after a rare Chelsea defeat.

As with other charismatics , Louis dominated the occasion with the utter self-belief of the inspired leader, intoxicated by the power of his own vision.

To be continued

I am still reflecting on the leadership lessons (if any) are be drawn from this rumbustious end of season party.

The video clip of the Van Gaal performance is now not available.  MUTV has exercised a copyright claim.


Brian Clough was a better manager than Sir Alex Ferguson says Roy Keane

December 11, 2013

This week [Dec 2013] Roy Keane the combative former Manchester United and Ireland football player turned pundit has responded to remarks about him by his former manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Keane is settling old scores, but is also playing the media as his television programme “best of enemies” is screened.

He is reported as saying that Brian Clough was a far better manager than Sir Alex. New subscribers may like to see an earlier post from LWD, re-posted below. It was entitled Can we learn much from Brain Clough’s leadership style?

The original post

My leadership students this week [sometime in 2010] chose Invictus as a book or film worth studying. Would they have voted for Brian Clough, if they had seen The Damned United, screened by the BBC this week-end?

A case can be made for studying leadership in its widest variety of forms, including the actions of dictators as well as saints. Can we learn more from studying Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Gandhi than from studying Hitler and Stalin? And what about sporting leaders such as Sir Alex Ferguson and Brian Clough?

The Damned United, [released March 18th, 2009], concentrates on one of Clough’s few managerial failures, who after less than two months managing Leeds United Football Club, was fired for a combination of bad results and an abrasive style which extended to the club’s board of directors.

It was rescreened by the BBC [10.30pm, BBC2, Sunday July 18th, 2010].

Brian Clough is fondly regarded nowadays, not because he was ahead of his time but because he was very much of it, despite upsetting football’s authoritarian old guard with his cocky contempt for them. He would never have got away with his genius in today’s world of agents and multimillionaire egos. With copious footage, this documentary traces his rise from a dazzling young centre-forward scythed down in his prime, turned brilliant, self-assured manager, to the ruddy-faced figure he cut in his sad decline.

When the film was first released, Prof Szymanski of CASS Business School told the BBC “It was socialism if you like …You do see this idea in business sometimes. The focus was on the needs of his players. These were his frontline staff – they’re the ones under the pressure, they’re the ones who deliver, so you need to meet their needs whatever it takes. …[however] he was a very overbearing employer, incredibly paternalistic – like Stalin and just as frightening.”

Clough himself never over-analyzed his management technique.
“They tell me people have always wondered how I did it” he once said. I’m told my fellow professionals and public alike have been fascinated and puzzled and intrigued by the Clough managerial methods and technique and would love to know my secret. I’ve got news for them – so would I”

Would Clough make a good business leader? In one of his teasing philosophical dialogues, Plato has Socrates ask a similar question: ‘would a military leader be a good director of a theatrical chorus?’ But in Plato’s account, Socrates was too cute to suggest that there was a simple answer to that question.

Acknowledgement

Image [Brian Clough not Roy Keane] from The Tactician


Great Partnerships: But was Michael Eisner ever a team player?

October 4, 2010

Working Together:Why Great Partnerships Succeed
By Michael D. Eisner with Aaron Cohen, Harper Business

Almost still asleep, I woke up to a radio interview with Michael Eisner, one of the all-time big beasts in the Disney jungle. [BBC five live: Wake up to money, October 4th] But was I still dreaming? Eisner was talking about great partnerships in business and marriage. Don’t know much about Mr Eisner’s marriage, but team player he wasn’t.

Eisner was talking about, and plugging, a book he had written. But was this a public confessional? I had always associated him with a style of management found in the animal kingdom. Listening to the interview I thought thet he sounded more like a convert to Monty Roberts and trust-based teamwork.

I couldn’t help thinking of the power relationships in many leadership teams, illustrated recently in the film The The Damned United. This examined one of the great sporting partnerships of all time, between Brian Clough and Peter Taylor. The film suggested that Clough, for all his leadership talent, was utterly dependent on his ‘assistant’ Peter Taylor. The wider message is that of the great man theory of leadership and the repeated evidence of the largely unackowledged role of the great life partner. Was Eisner really getting into such territory? Maybe in the less-than-convincing way in which Tony Blair describes in his memoires his love and gratitude for his ‘partner’ Gordon Brown?

Perhaps not

Perhaps not. A reviewer from business week had picked up on the same theme as myself.

Eisner’s profound deafness to irony will provide readers with laughs… Eisner was indisputably half of the duo that reinvigorated Disney in the late 1980s. According to Eisner, the decade he spent working alongside Frank Wells—who died in a 1994 helicopter accident—was a wonderful partnership. Inspired by that experience, Eisner interviewed members of other successful working relationships to find out exactly what makes them click, clearly gunning for heartwarming tales of people working side by side, sharing risks and building empires. Yet what he discovers is the messy reality of alpha males and their butting egos, which he attempts to gloss over with all the Mickey Mouse enthusiasm he can muster.

The article goes on to outline how Eisner repeatedly undermines his own thesis:

While Eisner seems genuinely interested in talking up the benefits of working together, he appears blissfully clueless of the ways in which his own anecdotes undermine his thesis..  The entertainment lawyer Stanley Gold proposed a deal in which Eisner and Wells would become co-chief executive officers of Disney. Eisner rejected the offer on the spot, demanding that he alone be named CEO over the older and more experienced Wells..Wells acquiesced and became Eisner’s second-in-command. While some might see this as an example of running from the elephant ego in the room, to Eisner it’s the beauty of teamwork. When it comes to complimenting his partner of a decade, Eisner’s praise is, shall we say, nuanced. He recounts how, on their first day together at Disney, Wells was under the naive impression they might share the office where Walt himself once worked. Having none of that, Eisner made his desire for privacy perfectly clear, and his No. 2 obediently jumped up and took the office next door.

The Allen Principle

Colleague and leadership tutor Dr David Allen is a long-time journal editor and book reviewer. He says that a good review of a bad book can save others a great deal of time in not having to read the original. I think I’ll be following the Allen principle on this one.


Can we learn much from Brian Clough’s leadership style?

July 18, 2010

My leadership students this week chose Invictus as a book or film worth studying. Would they have voted for Brian Clough, if they had seen The Damned United, screened by the BBC this week-end?

A case can be made for studying leadership in its widest variety of forms, including the actions of dictators as well as saints. Can we learn more from studying Nelson Mandela, or Mother Teresa or Ghandi than from studying Hitler, or Stalin. And what about sporting leaders such as Brian Clough?

The Damned United, [released March 18th, 2009], concentrates on one of Clough’s few managerial failures, who after less than two months managing Leeds United Football Club, was fired for a combination of bad results and an abrasive style which extended to the club’s board of directors.

It was rescreened by the BBC [10.30pm, BBC2, Sunday July 18th, 2010].

Brian Clough is fondly regarded nowadays, not because he was ahead of his time but because he was very much of it, despite upsetting football’s authoritarian old guard with his cocky contempt for them. He would never have got away with his genius in today’s world of agents and multimillionaire egos. With copious footage, this documentary traces his rise from a dazzling young centre-forward scythed down in his prime, turned brilliant, self-assured manager, to the ruddy-faced figure he cut in his sad decline.

When the film was first released, Prof Szymanski of CASS Business School told the BBC “It was socialism if you like …You do see this idea in business sometimes. The focus was on the needs of his players. These were his frontline staff – they’re the ones under the pressure, they’re the ones who deliver, so you need to meet their needs whatever it takes. …[however] he was a very overbearing employer, incredibly paternalistic – like Stalin and just as frightening.”

Clough himself never over-analyzed his management technique.
“They tell me people have always wondered how I did it” he once said. I’m told my fellow professionals and public alike have been fascinated and puzzled and intrigued by the Clough managerial methods and technique and would love to know my secret. I’ve got news for them – so would I”

Would Clough make a good business leader? In one of his teasing philosophical dialogues, Plato has Socrates ask a similar question: ‘would a military leader be a good director of a theatrical chorus?’ But in Plato’s account, Socrates was too cute to suggest that there was a simple answer to that question.

Acknowledgement

Image from The Tactician