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Data analytics, organizational learning and governance in football

Football (soccer in the US) is subject to the market dynamics and the rapid information flow characterizing societies in the digital era. Whether focus is on sporting performances or the business of football, including the correlation between the two perspectives, the proficiencies of football clubs to comprehend and ‘tackle’ the data challenge with enhanced accuracy are vital. In addition, this touches upon how football organizations, e.g., football associations, leagues and clubs are organized and governed.

Bridging knowledge gaps

These proficiencies tap into a football organization’s capacity to bridge the competence gap that may prevent a football organization from optimizing its reality in this era of increased complexity at the strategic, tactical and operational levels. For instance, is the board or strategic level of football organizations cognizant concerning its missing links in terms of important contextual mechanisms when leading and managing a football organization? Here, the phrase ‘The War for Talent’[1] comes to mind as competitive advantages in football also depend on talent management and access to resources and various forms of capital. Recently, I did a podcast with the Kirk Lacob, who is the Assistant General Manager of the Golden State Warriors (GSW). GSW is now one of the hottest brands in sports and a powerhouse in the NBA. Lacob speaks about some aspects of the team’s formula for success in noting the following:

We are able to continue to build something that can sustain its success. That starts with the top. That starts with your leadership. If you have strong leadership, who also knows what they don’t know and is willing to fill in the gaps with smart people in various areas, you have a chance to continue to be successful. I think we have built something so far that has lasted a pretty good amount of time but we want to keep going for the next 10, 15, 20 years with a true winner here.

Just like scouting and talent identification are important cornerstones of a football club’s sporting platform, these areas of competence should be in sync with a football organization’s analytical competence level outside the pitch. This alignment influences the organization’s ability to ‘map’ the required competence level in relation to how the organization can execute its strategic plans and thereby succeed in playing some constructive passes between its organizational levels. Without this level of strategic and organizational cohesion, the football organization’s offensive playing patterns become less potent and its defensive structure is vulnerable to penetrating actions from opponents.

Building competitive advantages

Going from scouting and talent identification to bring the ‘right’ competencies and data analytics in play ‘at the right time’ and in ‘the right way’ provides three examples of Rs (right). The three Rs guide the football organization’s talent recruitment, development and retention in a meaningful (with respect for the context of football) and motivational way and hence establish the foundation to build competitive edge from viewing the combination of organizational capabilities and data analytics as assets delivering new opportunities. However, this seems like a simplistic process but my position in football research mixed with my practical experience as an elite coach reflects a story about managerial complexity. Shaping the physical, technical, mental and tactical elements of sporting performances plays a role in the junction with the ‘social life’ in a football club and how that spills over on the cultural fit surrounding the actions of bringing these elements and data to life. The ability to lift this performance responsibility through organizational learning and exploitation of the balance between positive alignment and diversity as two dominant organizational extremes characterizing any football club, heightens the chances of leveraging the organizational identification and commitment necessarily to build a situation in which players on and off the pitch run in the same direction towards organizational goal realization despite some degree of discrepancy in personal agendas.

Capitalizing on data, organizational learning and governance

Concluding on this perspective and the importance of cohesion between sporting and business performance, traditional and modern (the latter taking data and digitization into consideration) sports economic models emphasize that a positive level of cohesion between sporting and business performances in football enhances the monetization potential in the football economy[2]. The modern sports economic models underscore that data and digitization act as a driver for growth and that data-driven business models facilitate stakeholder and customer habits aligned with societies of 2019. This establishes opportunities to benefit from sports business models being affected by behavioral economics in the sense that if a football club synchronizes its business activities with an understanding of the motivational factors of its stakeholders and customer base, it is more likely to the commercially exploit the behavior of these stakeholders and the customer base. However, this requires organizational modifications as written above.

For additional inspiration regarding data analytics in football, please listen to the podcast below in which I engage in a dialogue with Laurie Shaw from Harvard University.


[1] Chambers, E. G., Foulon, M., Handfield-Jones, H., Hankin, S. M., & Michaels III, E. G. (1998). The war for talent. The McKinsey Quarterly1(3), 44-58.

[2] Cortsen, K., & Rascher, D. A. (2018). The Application of Sports Technology and Sports Data for Commercial Purposes. In The Use of Technology in Sport-Emerging Challenges. IntechOpen.

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