How stakeholders influence football clubs' strategy?
par Eric Bailly
Staffordshire University (UK) - M.Sc. in European Management Strategy 2003
In the traditional economy, customers expect, from an organisation, a good quality product and service. It is the same for football fans. They expect that the game they bought the ticket of will be a good show. They want to appreciate a good football game with its special stadium atmosphere. For this experience to be comfortable, fans expect that clubs offer them all the equipments required in stadium. Like affirms Michie (2001), fans do not care about the size of the net profits of the club they support. But football fans have an emotional link with `their' team, a kind of identification. Their first expectation is the team to win. So they want the best players to play for their team and they always put pressure on clubs to buy them. But as good players are rare, their price is really high and football clubs have to invest a lot of money on the pitch if they want their fans to be satisfied.
Clubs agree that fans are essential for them and that they affect their strategy, that's why they are considered as very important stakeholders. But where does this consideration come from? Every manager will highlight that their everyday moral and psychological support is a necessary contribution and a key element in the team success. It is difficult to measure how the crowd can influence the team success but there is no doubt that this physical support is important on match day. But fans also represent an important part of clubs' income.
Table 4.3. Football fans' power
Source: Mintel (2002)
Fans represent a commercial opportunity: they pay to attend games, they buy the clubs' merchandise in clubs' shop and they also pay for a visit of the clubs' museum or a stadium tour when they exist. It may not sound very impressive but it represents thirty percent of Liverpool F.C.'s income. Clubs have to take in account fans expectations, as they cannot manage without the income they correspond to. Michie (2001) developed the idea that fans are essential to football clubs because they stand at both sides of the value process in football clubs. They are final customers of the games but they also contribute to create an atmosphere in the stadium, which will be consumed by fans in the stadium and those watching television or listening to the radio. Fans are `producing' a part of football clubs' product. What would be the commercial impact of teams playing in empty stadiums? This problem will not happen soon. For example, Liverpool F.C. has set up a waiting list for its season tickets and it is already booked for the next three years! As fans' expectation is the team to win, every two weeks when their team plays at home, they give their opinion about the clubs' management. Inside the stadium or at the training camp, fans can put physical pressure on players or coaches they do not considered as good enough. Sometimes, this pressure becomes violent and ends to people's aggression.
To increase their influence on clubs' management, fans regroup themselves in fans' groups, which have represents when they have to deal with clubs. So these represents have even more power because they have the support of thousands of fans. For example, R.C. Lens' managers often have to deal with the largest fans' organisation in France. About 9,000 fans are members of this group. Would any club like to frustrate such a numerous part of their fans?
2: N.A.: not available
How stakeholders influence football clubs' strategy ? September 2003
Concerning England, fans' organisations are managed a different way and are encouraged by the Premier League itself through the `Supporter Trust' program. In England, fans can also become shareholders of the club by buying shares. This program was developed to encourage supporters to unify enough shares to send one of them to attend clubs' annual meetings. The extreme examples of these Trusts' power are the A.F.C. Bournemouth and Northampton Town F.C. which are clubs now managed by a chief executive emerged from fans. These clubs' fans owned such an important part of their capital that they were in charge of appointing a new chief executive, as reported Smith (2000). Fans are also part of the image of the clubs. Everyone can remember the eighties and the incredible numbers of hooligans in British stadium. This kind of negative and violent image can put clubs in difficult position with their other stakeholders. Fans can also have another negative aspect: they can affect the clubs' business. The Sir Norman Chester Centre (2002) reports that BskyB tried to buy Manchester United and the clubs managers agreed with that, but fans put pressure on the club and government to avoid this bid. At the end, BskyB was not allowed to buy the club's financial capital. This event is often reported as a major success for fans. Clubs try to manage this crowd as efficiently as possible, to develop a commercial potential.