This summer, Premier League football clubs spent a record breaking £835 million in transfer fees; breaking last years record of £630 million.
Since the Premier League’s inception in 1992 only 5 different clubs have lifted the title and in the 22 seasons played so far, Manchester United have won the title an incredible 13 times. It’s no surprise that the three biggest spenders during this period are also the three most dominant clubs. However, looking beyond the figures shows that real consistent success needs more than just financial clout.
It’s clear that it’s not just on the field that clubs need to be competitive; it’s obvious that a continued financial outlay, while not guaranteeing trophies, is necessary to remain in contention. This has turned the transfer market into a high stakes gamble. Of course, foreign owners with seemingly bottomless pockets have taken the stakes to new heights and made the necessary expenditure explode. The difficulty is that in football there is no sure thing, every transfer is a potentially bad investment; no club or manager is immune, and it’s likely that all business is just as susceptible.
The Team of ‘92
Manchester United’s incredible dominance of the Premier League under Sir Alex Ferguson and his core of home grown players shows that true success requires something extra. While there is no doubt that United were no strangers to spending money; a core of loyal, homegrown players and a manager of extraordinary talent drove the club on and kept the success coming. It can be argued that the much-lauded class of ’92 was a freak occurrence, never to be repeated. Certainly, for one club to produce the football talents of Butt, Beckham, Giggs, Scholes and the Neville brothers is incredible, but what really made the difference was the attitude and work ethic the club instilled in these players. This ensured that their attitude became the default tone of the club and the players who came and went.
Given the current plight of Manchester United it’s become all too clear that the man management skills of Sir Alex Ferguson played a massive part in keeping the team successful.
As the landscape of football has changed, player-power has overtaken the authority of the clubs in many instances and some players display little loyalty towards their employers. While the business world has seen directors paid huge salaries and bonuses which have been shown later to be unjustified, in no way reflecting their or the company’s performance.
Building a Legacy
It’s not difficult to draw parallels between the cultures of football and business; both have been criticised for over compensating regardless of results and both defend their position by citing the need to attract the best talents available.
Clearly, simply spending money on managers or players without putting in place a strong team ethic and a sense of loyalty, is likely to backfire. In both football and business such teams are unlikely to reach full potential in the long run.