Reflections on 2018
In most walks of life it is customary during this brief lull in festivities to reflect on our experiences during the past year – the achievements, the milestones, the memories. Football’s hectic fixture schedule makes it trickier to indulge in such cathartic reflection, but nevertheless I managed to carve out some time this week to reflect on our own achievements here at 21st Club and our targets for 2019. Here is a brief summary, told mainly through others who’ve covered our progress:
It’s hard to believe that it’s been just over a year since we spoke to the The FT about the potential sale of Newcastle United. 12 months on and we continue to be active in football club transactions – helping clubs find suitable investors or assisting with buy-side due diligence.
Back in the spring, we contributed to a piece in The Guardian about the myth of the ‘big-game bottler’. Although the article was geared towards fans, we suggested that smart clubs might be able to exploit the potential inefficiency in scouting so-called “big game players” – as players who supposedly underperform in such matches might be undervalued.
In May, The Times wrote an end of season piece about how Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur were the top over-achievers of 2017-18 Premier League season. The article was a triumph for anyone looking for a more contextual assessment of a team’s success – that is measuring achievement relative to resources, instead of merely looking at the league table. We take pride in the fact that our clients are now assessing their true performance level in a much smarter way.
The World Cup was memorable for many reasons. Despite severely affecting productivity levels in the 21st Club office(!), the tournament gave us a chance to surface some of the intelligence we’ve built to measure a player’s contribution to team performance. This playful piece in The Economist – How much better would Iceland be with Lionel Messi? – stimulated huge interest amongst clubs who’ve since adopted our player model to scenario plan how much stronger (or weaker…) they’d be in league points terms if they were to sign x or y player.
Staying with the theme of player contribution, we recently spoke to The Telegraph about how clubs are beginning to think a lot more around culture and identity – what the club ‘stands for’ – rather than simply building a team through individual pieces. Part of our work here at 21st Club is helping clubs to ‘codify’ their culture before devising winning strategies.
Perhaps my favourite story of the year was this piece in Forbes about how we helped Red Star Belgrade discover an undervalued player from the little-watched Cypriot top division. While this isn’t the only impact we’ve made in player recruitment this year, I’m particularly fond of this success given that we were able to identify an undervalued talent who wasn’t even on the club’s radar from the comfort of our own office in London. In a world where smart platforms like Acquisition can now automatically serve up suitable player suggestions, I have a feeling that stories like these will become the common in the future.
We are also extremely proud of our sister company – 15th Club – which worked closely with Thomas Bjørn and Team Europe to reclaim the Ryder Cup in France! You can read more about how this success was achieved in this piece in The Guardian.
We also found the time this year to publish our second book: Changing The Conversation: a collection of insights for football club boardrooms, Volume II. The book broadly covers four themes – Strategy, Talent, Performance and Planning – and, if you haven’t already, you can pick up your copy here at Amazon. Our hope is that it will create debate and inspire new thinking as you look to innovate within your own organisations.
I also took some time to look at which blogs you – the 21st Club community – engaged with the most in 2018. After all, the content that resonates with you in turn helps us understand which ideas are most useful and important today. I’ve therefore listed below our top five blogs of 2018, as defined by you.
These stories and blogs offer good insight into our purpose as a business and continued strategic focus at 21st Club: Strategy and Recruitment. In 2019 we plan to double-down on these core competencies and proactively seek out clubs who share our passion and relentless curiosity for discovering the edges in these crucial areas. If that sounds like you, then we should be working together!
Thank you for reading, engaging and working with us in 2018. We’ll be back in your inbox on January 3 with some predictions for the year ahead!
Until then, I wish you and yours a very Happy New Year.
Co-founder and CEO
Issue #200 – The finest Belgian chocolate
Issue #170 – When he leaves the building
Issue #179 – Was Arsene Wenger unlucky?
Issue #184 – The value of a World Cup goal
Issue #210 – Younger, better, cheaper