Manchester United and the Monkees
Posted by John Beech on October 3, 2011
A comparison that doesn’t fully stand up to scrutiny, I promptly concede, but the ‘soulless’ way Manchester United is run as a business must trouble many a fan of what was once ‘the beautiful game’, and has often in the past been referred to as ‘the people’s game’.
An article in the Financial Times really caught my eye (1) – an interview with Richard Arnold, United’s Commercial Director by the redoubtable Roger Blitz.
It wasn’t the business plan that Richard Arnold was setting forth was other than a sensible one in business terms, but here was someone who has ‘sold his football soul’, if, that is, he had had one.
It was the calculating and almost cynical way he viewed his ‘customer base’, and the language he used. Here was someone who made no distinction between running a sports business and running any other kind of business – a distinction which I believe to be vital (and bear in mind that I have been teaching and researching sport management, working in a university Business School, forponsored over fifteen years). Yes, there is much common ground, but sport businesses are a distinct variety of business, not least because their customers see themselves as having psychological ownership of the product.
God help the present and future fans of Manchester United who are to be milked like a cash cow, even when incurring charges on their club-s credit card. And just how comfortable does Sir Alex Ferguson (see my previous posting) feel working for them. I caught sight of him, appearing, rather incongruously, in a video shown last week at the annual Labour Party conference. He has long been a Labour Party supporter, and, for the benefit of overseas readers of this blog, the Labour Party for many, many years played Left Half in British politics.
Another football supremo also caught my eye since my last posting- the peerless Peter Ridsdale. He was claiming that “he yearns for a life out of the public eye” (3). Had this claim appeared in the form of a press release by fax from some rural hideaway out of the public spotlight? No, in fact he was sitting “sipping coffee in Cardiff’s Mercure Holland House hotel” giving a press interview. How torn the Spinmeister must be in deciding whether to follow his yearning.