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European Super League – A Red Card Offence?

You’ll no doubt have heard by now that 12 top-flight European football clubs have signed up to join a European Super League to rival UEFA’s Champions League competition – probably the biggest football tournament in the world.

Why have they done this and how did they manage to upset so many people in the process?

The answers seem to range from “young people no longer being interested in European football” to club CEOs and Presidents who are very concerned with the indebtedness of their clubs – particularly given the last 12-months of Coronavirus and empty stadia leading to a catastrophic reduction to matchday income.

Competing Interests

In case you're wondering how important football is to us British, the late Bill Shankly (above) once said:

"Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."

Let’s be clear; football fans generally care about 1 thing and 1 thing only - glory.

However, the club‘s owners and investors are duty-bound to care about cash and profit. Running a big football club these days is very expensive.

But it’s not necessarily what the ESL did (ok, maybe it is), it’s the way they went about it that’s disturbing to most people.

I’m not sure if the behaviour of these 12 clubs is incredibly arrogant or incredibly naive. Regardless, the outcome is the same and the end result is that the beautiful game is in danger of eating itself.

But the point of this is not to question the wisdom of creating a Super League, it’s about how you ensure the chances that a major transformational deal such as this one stays in place once it’s announced to the market.

You have to make sure your plan can survive the first bullet being fired

George S. Patton

The Business Ecosystem

In a deal of this size and complexity, there are a great many stakeholder groups involved. How do you keep these groups – often with competing interests and agenda - “on-side” (forgive the pun) with your deal to ensure that it a) gets done and b) stays done?

Well, the answer is that you have to understand their individual needs or operating context and make sure that any deal is meeting them – in short, you need to understand your business ecosystem.

A business ecosystem comprises:

  1. Culture (Values, Vision and Purpose)

  2. Operations (Technology, Products, New Product Development)

  3. Stakeholder Groups or Value-Chain (Customers, Suppliers, Finance)

  4. External Market (Regulatory, Market Dynamics, Competitors)

I want to focus on the specific aspect of this deal that has gone so badly wrong in this case, which is point no.3:

Key Stakeholders

I sales-led a large IT outsourcing deal with a global Telecoms company a while back. Not only did I have to try to win the deal but I also had to help the client sell the deal to shareholders, the market and their employees that it was in the best long term interests of the company. No small feat.

Fortunately, we were adept at doing these types of deals and had a relatively large pool of experienced staff to call on to help with corporate communications.

The organisers of this new super league have spectacularly failed to take into account the response of their key stakeholder groups, focusing solely on the money and the new audience they are seeking to win.

The European Super League has failed to sufficiently consider the interests of key stakeholder groups in this case:

  • Management

  • Players

  • Fans

  • Regulators

The deal has sparked fury amongst fans, the Department of Culture Media and Sport and potentially even the competition regulator (CMA).

Even PM Boris Johnson is upset, calling it “ludicrous” though it’s not clear what the Government can do about it in reality.

Big Deal Check Points

Question: Have you consulted with key stakeholder groups in your next big deal?

  • What might they think about your deal?

  • What, or who could stop the deal from happening?

  • What will you do to mitigate the risks?

Advice for Salespeople

If you are the salesperson leading that deal, you have to cover all the key stakeholders. In essence, you become the de facto communications manager!

By all means, hope for the best but you also need to plan for the worst, just in case someone else’s needs are not being met and it all comes to a shuddering halt.

So, if you need help working or driving through your next big deal, why not message me for a chat to see if I could help you protect your investment!

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