The Future of Football series – how teams will win 10 years from now
Football continues to grow in popularity around the world in part because it has changed so little since eleven club and school representatives met in a London pub in 1863 to hammer out the association rules. Despite some tinkering here and there over the last century and a half, the game is still two teams of eleven players trying to kick a ball into the opposing net. This is part of its enduring allure.
Off the pitch however, it is a very different story. The business of football over the years has often been radically affected by numerous socioeconomic factors and swift and wide-ranging changes in technology. Without the development of the modern railway in industrial Britain for example, which brought tens of thousands of working class fans to grounds across England each and every week at the turn of the century, the game might not have taken root and flourished as it did with working class Britons in the early part of the 1900s.
Similarly, in the early 1990s, the development of satellite technology paved the way for the wealth of the modern English Premier League, which split from the Football League largely to separately negotiate lucrative television rights fees on behalf of its club members. While it established England’s elite status in European club football, it also created a major financial divide between the top and bottom tiers of the sport while spurring a wide-reaching cultural shift in public perceptions of football’s place in English and European culture as a whole.
Now, over a decade into the 21st century, football is at the precipice of some major changes that could once again affect how the sport is run. For instance, the growth of digital and social media platforms is becoming a major force in both marketing and sports broadcasting as traditional TV faces a major challenge in its rights hegemony in live sports. The establishment of break-even rules (such as UEFA’s Financial Fair Play initiative) to prevent financial mismanagement will force clubs to seek new and innovative ways to generate revenue. While the growth of sports analytics, both in helping improve decisions made on the field of play and in relation to talent identification and player recruitment, could see a reorganisation of the traditional club hierarchy in which the manager is currently king.
The Future of Football series @21stClub
As in the past, many of football’s major actors—football governance groups, teams, fans, the media—will respond to these changes in diverse ways. There will be winners and losers, first adopters and slow-movers. There will be radical experiments, failures, and major successes. And there will be calls for a return to the “good old days” alongside calls for football to keep pace with the times.
While 21st Club respects the traditions of the past, we are also focused on discovering the future. This post is the first in a series of ‘Future Directions’ where we’ll be helping football’s stakeholders anticipate and understand the future. We will examine how digital media’s foray into live sports will affect the mammoth TV rights deals enjoyed by teams over recent years. We will look at ways clubs can take advantage of their social media networks to generate much-needed revenue and even identify talent. We will explore how data analytics can improve the player recruitment process, and elevate the importance of the football director role over that of the traditional manager. Stay tuned in the coming months as we seek to make sense of the future…