Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Why Sport Really Isn’t Business

If you ask most people they will agree that sport is business these days. It’s big business no matter how you look at it.

However, it has sometimes been an uneasy fit as the long traditions and tribalism's of sport are pushed together with the quest for the almighty dollar. Granted, there are aspects that work perfectly but it came into sharp focus this week just how unlike sport can be compared to a traditional business.

Imagine if you had a massive customer base and they were fairly captive, not completely, but that your product has been used by them, their families and their friends for so long that it has become part of who they are. Technically they could stop using your product but they are so attached to it that it wouldn’t even cross their mind.You’ve been so successful for so long and you are safe in the knowledge that your revenue streams are safe.

Sound like the perfect business right?

But it comes to your attention that there is a fault with your product that pisses a lot of people off. Thing is, you don’t really care. Why change it? People will still buy the product. Worst thing is, from the customers view point, is that its so bloody easy to fix that they just really think you are a wanker for not fixing it especially when similar businesses have done their best to fix the exact same problem. A lot of your customers feel really pissed off and angry that you could let this happen.

2 points if you have guessed what the business is.


This week we saw two unexplainable errors from the referees and linesman.  Both could be easily fixed with introduction of video technology. But the reality is that FIFA are so pompous and arrogant that they really don’t give a flying whatsit about the fans (the customers). They are happy for the game to be wrecked and write it off as “that’s just football”.

Ger v EngMex v Arg

Bet we wish we could all tell the boss “that’s just business” when something went wrong and absolve ourselves of any responsibility.

They’ll alk about introducing technology at a meeting and they’ll make a decision because they believe they know best. And that is why the marriage of sport and business is sometimes rocky because it’ll be the wrong decision because it will be based on what they think and not what the fans think. Any normal business would conduct the first step of marketing – conduct some market research.

All FIFA need to do is some market research to determine if it is what the customers want. Assuming they want video technology then trail it in small segments then roll it out when needed.

That’s what any normal business would do.


James Duthie said...

Not sure I can agree with you there Oyst. Sure, FIFA certainly are earning the wrath of their fans, but other sports prosper because of a business like approach.

The best example is the AFL. They have become Australia's dominant code because they employed business people rather than sports people into key administration positions 20 years ago. In particular, expansion into new markets has been a key success to their growth. But they've also aggresively protected the image/brand of the game by wiping out unsavoury elements (violence & thuggery).

They've also shown a will to adapt and improve the game/rules. The pre season competition is used each year to trial rule changes/variations. All in the name of improving the game for fans.

So I think they're a perfect example of how a sport can prosper with a busines like mentality.

Daniel Oyston said...

@James, yes I totally agree with you that the AFL is much much better at it than someone like FIFA and recruitment of business people is very important.

However, there are still times in the AFL when the fit between a business and sport is uneasy particularly because of the high profile of the employees. It speaks volumes for the AFL through the way they have handle most things.

I suppose my post was more about highlighting a bad example rather than a good one (of which there are plenty).