Thursday, May 22, 2008

For love or money?

A wonderful example of the entirely different priorities and cultures of two teams in football on Wednesday as Manchester United won the European Champions League.

The organisers decreed that a non player representing each club should lead the team up the steps to receive their winners and losers medals.

The losers, Chelsea decided that their club ‘icon’ was Peter Kenyon the Chief Executive – a pen pusher – the man who controls all the business interests at Chelsea on behalf of the billionaire owner of Chelsea football club.

The winners, Manchester United decided to give the honour of leading then team up the steps to Sir Bobby Charlton – one of United’s all time great players.


The Chelsea view of the world of football is all about business, money and profit and they choose a pen pusher as the most appropriate person to represent them to the watching audience of millions of football fans worldwide on TV.

Manchester United believe that a front liner – one of the greatest ever players to wear the red shirt - is the best possible role model to represent the club. Of course United have pen pushers too but they are in the background - where they should be - doing vital work.



David Wike said...

You might be right Trevor but equally you could be completely wrong. Few of us would disagree with your Simplicity message but there is a danger of taking too simplistic a view of situations. I presume you have no way of knowing why Chelsea decided to send Peter Kenyon to collect a medal.

It is a grossly unfair simplification to characterise him as just a pen pusher. Maybe Abramovich feels that Peter Kenyon has made the greatest contribution to the team’s success in the Champions League, provided great leadership and, therefore, wanted to reward him with the honour of collecting the medal.

It is also patently ludicrous to criticise Chelsea as just being about business, money and profit when much of United’s success on the field over the last few years has been because they have been successful at business, profit and money. Do you really think they go on tour to the Far East and such places because they really want to play more football and entertain the crowds? It is all about creating a market for the Manchester United brand so they can sell more shirts etc. A visit to the MU website will show you how keen they are to make money by relieving the fans of their hard earned cash.

You and I, and I’m sure many others, would prefer that sport was not dominated by money. It is a sad reflection that we can be 99% certain of which four teams will top the Premiership next season. The reason is that by a long way, they are the four with the most money to spend on quality players.

I pointed out recently that Everton would have been Premiership champions if it had been decided on points won for money spent. You dismissed that argument on the basis that it is actual trophies won that count. Quite right; but theses days they are won by the teams that are the most successful in business and making a profit. For much of the last few years Manchester United have been the richest football club in the world.

By the way, I thought it entirely fitting that Sir Bobby Charlton received the award for United. He was a truly great player for Manchester United and for England and is one of my footballing heroes.

Anonymous said...

I also think this is a very unfair comment and it's quite likely that it reflects more on the Chief Executive as an individual than the club. Chelsea and their fans have a huge sense of history and have produced some marvellous players over the years (Osgood, Hutchinson, Bonnetti, Harris etc). I rather suspect this was a case of an individual pulling rank and highjacking the task. Under another CEO, I suspect we'd have seen one of their legends leading the way.

Unknown said...

Yes, Trevor, all teams should preserve their roots and play with an identity. But football is a big business. Players earn lots and lots of money and there's a financial element in it that makes it attractive for business people to be envolved.

Last news on Cristiano in Madrid tell about an offer of 80 million euros to Man.United for the outstanding portuguese player.

Mike Gardner said...

Trevor, I felt the same way as David when I read your post. In my work we teach something called 5-Why Analysis. This means that when we see something that is wrong, or appears to be wrong, we ask "why" through five generations. Why did "A" happen? Because of "B." Why did "B" happen? Because of "C," and so forth. You don't suppose you were still feeling a tad superior to Chelsea after the game and maybe rushed to judgement? Heh heh. You are the first person to ever do that, I'm sure! In any case, enjoy the glow from the championship. We have a national holiday this weekend and I'm going to enjoy a nice cabernet to celebrate Man-U and their championship. The only thing that would have made it better is if it had been REAL football! (He says while running away and dodging the thrown clods and stones...)

Unknown said...

I can only add that when it comes to sports loyalty we are all entitled to throw rationality out the window. I have long abandoned the lens of "good" and "evil" when evaluating others' motivation - EXCEPT when it comes to my athletic teams (such as the Boston Red Sox) and their dastardly opponents. It provides me a harmless forum to express unenlightened thought!

Anonymous said...

Bravo, John!

Trevor Gay said...

Great comments from all of you all and thanks for them.

The point I was trying to make – probably not as well as I could have done – is that I think this illustrates very well the culture of the two clubs.

Of course Chelsea have great fans and great former players but to me this example illustrates where their priorities lay if a chief executive goes up the steps. It illustrates to me that the focus is on the ‘business’ side of the sport and not on the playing side.

Man United on the other hand show respect to the heritage of the club and the playing side of the game by asking Bobby to lead the team up the steps.

I am well aware football is a big business - but at the end of the day football is just a game and it is the game where the heart and soul of a club should be – not in the corridors of power of office based executives.

What a brilliant debate!!


PS – I accept I may be still ‘suffering’ from euphoria!!!

Annie G said...

You may be suffering from euphoria - I'm suffering from ear-ache. I draw the line at you whispering sweet nothings in your sleep to Sir Alex, Ronaldo, Rooney, Hargreaves etc etc etc

Trevor Gay said...

Thank you darling - you've been very tolerant of my obsession about Man United :-)

The late Bill Shankly once famously said; 'Football is not a matter of life and death - it's far more important than that'

David Wike said...

Annie, it could be worse:
"Of course I didn't take my wife to see Rochdale as an anniversary present, it was her birthday. Would I have got married in the football season? Anyway, it was Rochdale reserves." Bill Shankly

Anonymous said...

You go right ahead and bash Chelsea. They are almost as bad as the New York Yankees in American baseball. I love to see them lose when they try so hard to buy the championship every year. Sports are big business (for every team) All teams are doing what they can to make a profit. Afterall that is why they have a team. I have not heard of any major league team in any sport being a non profit agency. However, some are more bold about trying to buy championships. I love it when the Red Sox (how bout that John) clobber the Yankees Just as I love to see manchester Utd beat Chelsea. P.S. maybe Drogba can take up boxing. he seems to have a pretty good jab Hahaha

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Rocky - you are learning fast about con-men like Drogba in English football. Sadly his talent is over shadowed by his play acting.

Unknown said...

Now just remind me where did Peter Kenyon learn to ply his trade as 'pen pushing bureacrat'. Some team from the North West.. Manchester something - oh yes! MANCHESTER UNITED.
Come on Trevor - The REDs have done more than any other team in the UK to develop a professional world class brand.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Mike – I hope you are well – this is a great discussion and thanks for your excellent observations about our glorious game.

My friend - I’m sure you secretly admire REAL football played by REAL men rather than that game you call ‘football’ in the US played by molly-coddled soft men all padded up. :- )

I agree with you entirely that Peter Kenyon is an exceptional pen pusher – after all he was trained in the best possible place. I don’t doubt his ability or the necessity for excellent pen pushers in every organisation – but they must know their place.

My point is - who does a football club see as representing them? A bureaucrat or a player? … Man United see that role best illustrated by a player in the immortal legend that is Bobby Charlton whilst Chelsea see it as businessman Peter Kenyon. This is vivid illustration number one about the Chelsea culture

Vivid number two illustration is the sacking three days ago of the Manager/Coach Avram Grant after 8 months in his job despite him leading the team to runners up in three competitions and getting Chelsea to the final of the European Champions League for the first time in their history. With just a very small slice of luck Grant could have led Chelsea to a magnificent treble.

You are so right about how Manchester United have led the world of sport in making a ‘brand’ out of a football club and that of course has lot to do with many good business brains. But Man United’s heritage has not been created by bureaucrats – it has ALWAYS been about players on the pitch and Coaches – mainly Sir Alex Ferguson and the late Sir Matt Busby.

I simply cannot imagine a culture at Manchester United where a bureaucrat - who has been at the club five minutes – leads my beloved team up the steps to collect a trophy.