Culture of secrecy
Posted by John Beech on June 24, 2009
Researching management in any sector can be hampered by the difficulty in getting data. In the football sector it’s often particularly difficult because of football’s culture of secrecy. Requests for information may be met with the mechanistic response of ‘it’s commercially confidential’, especially if the request is for financial data.
While I can readily understand that most financial data is sensitive and that it is unreasonable to expect clubs to divulge it, any club which has limited liability, i.e. almost all except those at the very bottom of the pyramid, have to file accounts which are then in the public domain, although at a cost to the researcher.
When data would show the club in good light, there seems no point in adopting a blanket attitude of secrecy.
In the 8th June issue of Regeneration & Renewal, a journal for regeneration professionals (1), Ben Cook investigated the impact relegation has on the local community. He tried to establish how much clubs spent on Corporate Social Responsibility (CPR) plans – community programmes focussing on health, education, social inclusion and the environment, for example.
Extraordinarily, of the 20 Premier League clubs there was no response from 17; two (Arsenal and Everton) did respond, but would not disclose any figures. Only Chelsea spotted the opportunity to blow their own trumpet, pointing out that the club “invest[s] more than two per cent of its turnover annually – nearly £4.5 million – in community, charity, social inclusion and environmental schemes”. The Premier League itself would only provide a global figure of £125 million invested in community programmes during the 2007/08 season, an average of £6.25 million per club.
Most telling of all was the comment from an Everton spokesman (and, to be absolutely clear, I do not believe it reflects an attitude that is even remotely unique to Everton), who said: “We never discuss what we spend on anything. This a football club. If we announce we have spent £3 on tea bags the punters [sic] slaughter us, insisting the money should have been invested in players.“
How reassuring that the club is so concerned about what its fans think.