When does stability become complacency?
Through the Elite Player Performance Plan, the completion of St Georges Park and various Financial Fair Play regulations, football has introduced a wave of innovation and governance intended to encourage more stability and sustainability. Recognising the movement, 21st Club have created Evolution – a tool and a process that helps clubs with their future succession planning.
So far in the Premier League this season, 74% of minutes have been played by players who represented the same club in the 2013/14 season. That’s equivalent to around 8 out of the starting 11 players. Interestingly respective league champions Manchester City (91%), Leicester City (87%) and Wolves (91%) rank highly in the list of teams who have largely retained the same core, suggesting they’ve opted to reward their players and maintain the status quo. Meanwhile, Premier League aspirants Liverpool (66%) and Chelsea (73%) have made – or been forced to make – more changes. In the Championship, the churn has been greater – 68% of minutes played, on average, by last season’s squad.
Organisational stability can foster engagement and improve performance – people ‘know where they stand’. On the other hand, disruption can also be good. In his latest book ‘Hunger in Paradise’ 21st Club co-founder Rasmus Ankersen suggests that successful companies should think differently in order to avoid the rut of complacency. He suggests that ‘if it ain’t broken consider breaking it’, and recognises that it’s often harder to innovate when you have something to lose.
In all walks of life, we tend to focus more how to achieve success and less about how to sustain it. In football, there is no hidden formula it comes to optimal squad turnover from one season to the next. In planning for the future, clubs must try to find the balance between constancy and complacency. Every club’s context will be different, meaning that the only true constant is that every club should be focusing on continuity and long-term succession planning.