Strategy making process, its content and context in small professional football clubs

Valynseele, Martin (1999). Strategy making process, its content and context in small professional football clubs. PHD thesis, Aston University.

Abstract

This thesis examines the phenomenon of strategy. Making as practised by small professional football clubs. The study was undertaken because football clubs were perceived to have problems with strategy-making and because it was believed that the specific circumstances of football clubs could be outside the range of views covered by conventional views of strategy-making. The characteristics of the club environment are its uncertainty and unpredictability, simultaneous competition and co--operation, strong regulations, and a not-for-profit orientation. Small clubs in particular face a constant struggle for financial viability and survival, due in part to split business and playing objectives. The study was designed to establish the extent and nature of the difficulties clubs experience with a view to preparing the way for creating practical guidance on ways to overcome them. Clearly, in order to survive in the long term, small professional football clubs require very effective strategic decisions. This study has addressed this issue by inquiring into the nature of strategy making for these organisations with the objective to establish the general direction in which the football clubs in question should be moving. As a result, the main research question to guide this investigation was determined as: Why do small professional football clubs have difficulties making strategies. The investigation was based on an analysis the concept of strategy and its elements, the strategic vision and objectives, the process by which strategic action comes about, the strategic action itself, and the context within which this action occurs. Data has been collected, analysed and interpreted in relation to each of these elements. Together with a wide variety of published material, 20 small football clubs have been sampled and personal interviews were conducted with board members of those clubs. The findings indicate that small football clubs do indeed experience considerable difficulties in making strategies, the reasons for which lie both in the characteristics of their competitive environment and their approaches to strategy-making. The competitive environment is characterised by a cartel-like structure with a high degree of regulation, high levels of uncertainty, little control over the core product or the production process, short-term business cycles and a close geographical link between a club with its local market. The management of clubs is characterised by the need to balance conflicting sporting and business objectives. Formal planning techniques are of little use in the small football club context as decision-making processes have a strong political character and the development of novel strategies is hindered by a strong conservative, industry paradigm and a lack of financial and managerial resources. It is concluded that there is no simple advice to be given to clubs, as they must re-examine the relationship between their playing and business objectives to create a unified and workable approach.

Divisions: Aston Business School
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Institution: Aston University
Uncontrolled Keywords: Strategy making process,small professional football clubs
Completed Date: 1999
Authors: Valynseele, Martin

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