Evolution & Ecosystem

21 May 2021

As an Arsenal fan, and as a football fan, I fail to understand the recent plans to create a European Super League. If ever, in the history of business, there was a disconnect between a brand and its customers, we’ve just witnessed it to full effect.

The Generation Game

Like generations before me, I’ve got to the age of reminiscing. My glory days of consuming football were the late 80’s. A train up to London, queuing at the North Bank with my homemade photocopied ‘college card’ so I could get in for £3, to be surrounded by other ‘yoofs’, chanting and singing and getting pushed around to high heaven.

In recent years, a trip to the lacklustre (but shiny) Emirates Stadium for me would mean a £100-150 day to be surrounded by football tourists from afar in a very flat atmosphere. Oooh, when I were a lad.

Even with the current state of TV rights, you need at least Sky and BT Sport subscriptions to watch games, both costing hundreds of pounds a year.

It takes a lot of money to be a fan.

Disconnect

Originally born from working men’s clubs, Football teams were an outlet. A way for local people to let off some steam on a Saturday.

Yes, they are still very much community-led organisations, but as far as markets go, the big teams are also huge global brands. As money led to money, which led to more money; things have evolved beyond recognition. Woolwich Arsenal, established in 1886 as a munition factory workers’ team in Kent (at the time), could never have envisaged this modern game, with players earning millions a year.

It begs the question, are young boys now in it for the glory, or simply the lifestyle and money.

As it stands, only six of the current premier league clubs are now owned predominantly by UK owners. You can count the number of times Arsenal’s American owner, Stan Kroenke, has watched the team in person on your hands (no thumbs required).

When you talk about culture and history, a lot of these people simply don’t understand. How could they? They can’t envisage a freezing cold night at the Dell in 1987, or the release a game of football gave so many people on a Saturday back in the day.

Meanwhile, football’s governing bodies want to make changes to the game, suggesting it simply doesn’t interest the next generation enough. I wonder why.

Evolution Requires Ecosystem

All businesses change, especially if they are successful. But when you have a fan base (and a lot of businesses have fans), it’s a dangerous game to make dramatic changes. It hurts those people who are invested in you; people who have supported you and helped make you what you are. You can’t simply take that for granted. As was proven when the fans (customers) spoke. Boy, did they ever.

What I fail to understand in all this is how the clubs involved got it so wrong. Surely, someone somewhere suggested an inclusive conversation before deciding, rather than leaving it to a bunch of oligarchs to thrash it out over an expensive lunch meeting (paid for by the fans no doubt).

It’s so dangerous to think people will just get used to things.

In all the sectors I work in, companies have so much gold in terms of their relationships with customers, staff AND supply chains. It takes time to build up that level of trust and they are all ripe for feedback to help you improve for the benefit of all.

The point is, you can not survive in isolation in any direction. We all need each other (like-minded people anyway) for things to work. If, as a company, you do not work with, respect, or listen to your 'ecosystem', then quite frankly you deserve to crumble, or in my case, wallow in mid-table mediocrity.