KM and football
1 July 2022
In this article, I will attempt to briefly review the importance of Knowledge Management not only in organizations and businesses but also in football stadiums, and thus make them more successful.
As an avid football fan, who counts the days till my team's next game and is willing to travel during irregular hours and days, I once thought about what could make a soccer club more successful locally and internationally. The obvious answers would be a more significant financial investment, signing better players, etc. Yet financial assets do not guarantee success in the field. There are countless examples of club owners investing a fortune in improving their team yet failing to attain their goal, namely winning the title or championship. Some of these clubs became financially entangled in debt due to future commitments based on their expected success, ultimately leading to their economic or competitive collapse. Some were fortunate to have the team relegated, while some were forced to declare bankruptcy and liquidate the club.
A combination of a wise financial investment supported by a scouting and analysis array that can identify and follow players that might suit the club professionally and economically can contribute to the club's success.
What does this have to do with Knowledge Management?
Not long ago, a football club manager's position involved lots of power and complete knowledge, all controlled by a single person. Training philosophy, appointing staff, and scouting decisions were all one man's job, rather than the club leading and assuming responsibility for these choices. When managers leave, which occasionally happens, their knowledge accumulated over the years goes with them. This scenario resembles a senior worker that accumulated much experience and knowledge during their tenure leaves the organization, taking the knowledge with them. The same goes for a senior in the academy, leaving with not only immense amounts of data on players but also a vast network of connections and scouting personnel.
How can this problem be overcome, at least partially? Unlike what happens at big organizations, which can perform a retiree knowledge retention process, the world of football has chosen a slightly different method: appointing a sports director responsible for leading a strategy and philosophy for the club to follow, with management fully involved in this process. Appointing a staff according to club philosophy, appointing key figures in the academy, and scouting teams while decentralizing any central power., Instead of a single person or group holding all the knowledge, a club strategy and vision are outlined. The club then acts according to this strategy and vision, making the fact that academy managers or training staff are replaced occasionally. The strategy matters, not the staff, and acting according to it will bring the club its victory.
Another aspect to consider is players' stats, such as their physical, technical, and psychological performance, their stats from the last game, where they live, where they played previously, or at what age they joined or left the academy, and why. Does the club manage all this data somehow? Is this done in an accessible manner so it may affect the club's future decisions?
The Football Association collects and stores data on all academy players in Germany. The academy's instructions regarding data that the club must hold are also quite clear. This data may assist the club's future decisions, such as whether a player should be promoted to the team's senior staff.
Many clubs around the world, including in Israel, have significantly developed in all aspects of collecting and analyzing data on football players: their biological data, personal history, where they grew up and played, number of assists, number of goals, quality of performance during each game and throughout the entire season. This data has been collected and stored in various data analysis systems and serves the clubs and their scouting teams throughout the year.
Any club that considers itself professional hires employs analysts whose sole job is to follow the data collected during training and games and advise the training staff on what to focus on regarding each player, as well as the rival team's players (e.g., their weaknesses and how to exploit them to achieve an advantage). They also advise the scouting teams on certain players the club is interested in purchasing.
The relatively rapid development in the field of analysis and scouting wouldn't have been possible without these data collection and optimization systems and sharing the knowledge with other club personnel, as takes place in any Knowledge management process conducted in organizations.
So, why is knowledge critical for the growth of a football club?
A football club should aspire to perform better than its competition constantly. The organization should support its workers' knowledge and skills. This is evident by the advantage a Sports Director and appointing an analysis and scouting team provides clubs with a significant edge over their competition. Most clubs cannot invest a fortune in purchasing the world's top players. It is therefore essential to attain this advantage through knowledge rather than money.
This process can be referred to as "Methodical Knowledge Management." As stated above, knowledge and data are one of the most valuable resources a club can hold. Based on the knowledge accumulated during this process of Methodical Knowledge Management, a club can make more intelligent and data-based decisions. This might be the path to a more prosperous future.