Sports leadership

Deny v. Embrace: How Should Sports Executives Handle Crisis?

The soccer world chatted about some salacious gossip this week when executives from five of the top English soccer clubs were allegedly spotted discussing the creation of a pan-European soccer league with Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.  The idea of a “super league” has been around a while, as big-money clubs reap more money from tournaments like the Champions League and conceivably could reap more if they just played one another regularly.  Teams from the continent, whose leagues are not nearly as wealthy as the Premier League in England, would theoretically be most interested as a way to keep up with the English cash cow.

The report itself is questionable, as all parties have denied the purpose of the meeting and the newspaper of record here is The Sun.  However, if that were the purpose of the meeting, does it benefit the executives from the two Manchester clubs, Liverpool, and Arsenal to deny the report?

The Super League is much more popular with team owners than fans; the fans tend to value local rivalries and league traditions while generally the Super League idea is usually attached to a team executive when it is floated.  Thus embracing a discussion of the new league would potentially be damaging to a team’s brand and standing with fans.

However, what if a team executive went the opposite way?  When a reporter stuck a microphone in their face and asked for a comment on the meeting, they said this:

“Yes, I was holding a meeting with executives from other teams and a business partner for the creation of a new pan-European soccer league.  While this meeting did not result in any decisions being made, I stand by our decision to at least hear and discuss the proposal for a new league.  As a employee of [insert team name], my responsibility is to look after the future of this club and its supporters.

“We do value belonging to the Premier League and currently participating in the Premier League is incredibly valuable and important to us.  However, market forces can quickly change and we owe it to the owners, players, staff, and fans to be aware of any next potential steps in the development of this game.  In 1988, the Premier League as currently constituted would have been somewhat outrageous, but no one doubts now the decision to form it.  In the same way, a Super League for us is a foreign concept.  However, if anything were to ever change in the Premier League that would hurt the product we put out every weekend, and devalue the hard-earned pounds the fans spend on this club, then it is our duty to be prepared to continue to lead this club in a world-class manner.”

What do you think?  Would you want your club’s ownership to take this approach?  Would it feel you with more confidence about its direction or scare you about how financially driven it was?

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