Tomorrow’s giants are today’s innovators
Football’s emotive pull means that when things are going well, our club feels unstoppable; when badly, hopeless. There’s rarely any middle ground.
It is the same in business. Imagine working for one of the largest companies in the world just over 100 years ago. Growth and continued market dominance would have seemed inevitable. However, over half of the world’s largest hundred firms in 1912 had disappeared by the end of the century; either through bankruptcy, acquisition or nationalisation. Few people working at those businesses would have predicted such a fall.
Of course, even the most dedicated strategist in football would not be planning for 100 years time, but the unpredictability at of the sport is still apparent using shorter time-frames. When comparing the league tables in England’s top four divisions five years ago to the rankings now, 17 different clubs – nearly 1 in 5 – have fallen more than 20 places down the ladder. A total of 8 different clubs have risen more than 20 places.
It’s hard to stay at the top, and for the very best the only way is down. This should give hope to clubs who are struggling and disillusioned by the perceived growing inequality in the game. Southampton and West Ham finished the calendar year in the top six positions of the Premier League, demonstrating that – with some innovation – it is possible to mix with the big boys . Similarly, the play off places in the Championship are occupied solely by teams who do not have the benefit of parachute payments, whilst Atlético Madrid continue to compete and succeed in La Liga despite having revenues nearly five times smaller than their main domestic rivals.
As we enter a new year, it’s important to acknowledge that in 12, 24 or 36 months time at least one team at the top – of the country, your division or in your ‘peer group’ – will grow complacent and vacate its perch. The more aspirational clubs will be asking what are we doing to take their spot? Are we innovating? Are we trying new technologies? Are we challenging received wisdom? Because when the time comes when the giant falls, there will always be an innovator ready to fill the gap.