United we stand

I am a football nut, a real tragic. If I see a game in the local park, I can’t resist stopping to watch for a while. This weekend sees the start of the FIFA Under 20 World Cup in New Zealand and I will be all over it like a rash.

shutterstock_215811352But what of FIFA itself, football’s global governing body who seem to be imploding rapidly under allegations of bribery, corruption and poor leadership? FIFA have long been derided for their arrogant and iron fisted control of the game and it’s finances, with corruption long suspected but never proved. Like a dinosaur amongst businesses, FIFA are a relic of an age thankfully now almost extinct when greed was good, corruption rife and companies cared more about profits than people. Sepp Blatter’s re-election as President and refusal to stand down defies belief in a business sense.

My own team, a club I have supported through thick and thin since I was seven years old, have just become champions of England for the fourth time in ten years. While that fills me with pleasure, I am under no illusions that we got lucky when purchased by a rich Russian with seemingly limitless resources to invest in players and facilities. A club that ten years ago was a bit of a joke are now one of the finest and most successful clubs in Europe. But…

It feels odd, somehow a little fake. I have often felt if I still lived in England I would not be spending vast sums of my hard earned money watching EPL games. Ordinary supporters have largely been priced out of it. It’s become a  packaged experience rather than gut wrenching passion. While no one wants to go back to the pre-Hillsborough days of piss poor facilities, violence and over policing you COULD at least afford to go and watch your team every week home and away back then if you chose to.

I used to spend a lot of time watching lower league and semi-professional football as well. I’ve been an Administrator, a player and a kids coach. I was always about the grass roots of the game. So I was fascinated and delighted to read the latest progress of FC United of Manchester last week. If you haven’t heard of them here’s a quick summary of their history.

Ten years ago, a group of Manchester United fans disillusioned by the corporatisation and exploitation of their club by new owners and all that was wrong in football decided to go back to basics and form their own club.

Four promotions later they now sit in one of the top semi-professional leagues in England and have built themselves a brand new £6.3m stadium to be proud of designed with supporters and the community interests first and foremost.

And get this:

  • facilities are shared with community groups
  • the club are “passionately positive about doing things the right way”
  • they were the first club in England to offer staff the living wage
  • the club members set the rules
  • their General Manager describes their ethos as “about demonstrating a better way”
  • players are recruited based on the club’s values and on “attitudes and behaviours”
  • players resist the urge to play elsewhere for more money “because they feel valued”
  • the last ten years have been about relentless improvement
  • they ARE a success.

This seems to me to mirror what’s happening in the business world. New businesses (and quite a few old ones) are rejecting the traditional ways of running a business and looking for something different – people before profits, trust before control, collaboration before competition. Inclusiveness not exclusiveness. Win/win not win at all costs.

It’s a quiet revolution that is slowly but surely gaining traction. Are we seeing the same things in HR? I think we are. People across the globe are finding common ground and connection because they want and feel the need to take a new or different approach to work.

That doesn’t means it’s divisive, or cliquey, threatening or confrontational. It’s just different, fuelled by a belief that there is a better more fulfilling way to do things based on a curiosity to question the continuing relevance of decades long practices. It’s all about attitude and approach and that “relentless improvement.”

People want and expect higher standards and better behaviour from those they work for and with. The world of business is a better place for Enron’s demise. Football and sports administration generally would be better without FIFA.

There is always a better way.

2 thoughts on “United we stand

  1. Great blog as always Rich and like me I like the fact that you can turn your hand to any subject while easily and relevantly relating it to The Beautiful Game. You see many examples of this new culture coming through in locally owned, nimble businesses. The big challenges for them are when they get to a size where they have to ‘corporatise’ things.

    I agree with you on your opinions on FIFA also. It stinks quite frankly. I’d like nothing more than for the whole of UEFA to boycott the World Cup in 2018 (or 2022).

    • Thanks Adam. It is the newer more nimble businesses that can do this as you say. Wouldn’t it be great if some of the older more established ones tried it?

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