Column: So, you want to buy a professional football team? Beware of these ten common pitfalls

29 May 2020

Photo: PA Images "A buyer can benefit from taking some time to really understand how the club functions and what works well - instead of blindly making significant changes that may fall flat. Should the locals be eager, open and competent, it is recommendable to keep the existing employees. Why change a winning team?"
Alexander Janssen, who was involved in running two football clubs in Belgium and Spain, reflects on some of the difficulties he experienced while trying to turn things around. The stadium pictured is not related to the clubs Janssen was involved with.

In this column, Alexander Janssen reflects on - and gives a unique insight to - all the strategic problems you face when you suddenly find yourself the owner of a club.

Janssen was involved on the ownership side of clubs in Belgium and Spain, and there he learned that the football industry is not only extremely competitive but very, very different to the business environment that he used to work in.

As a successful consultant with deep knowledge of turnarounds, he inexplicably experienced a sudden disregard of the discipline and long-term mindset that normally characterised his every move.

However, as time marched on and his involvement with clubs grew, his experiences matured into a profound insightfulness. And those hard-won insights might be helpful to other experienced leaders with a dream of owning their own club.

Alexander Janssen, Sports Investor

According to Harvard Business Review, in the normal business world some 65 per cent of acquisitions fail. Football is not an average industry though; even the most rigorous business leaders get carried away. Whereas in their lives outside of football they would manage their businesses strictly based on facts and figures, in football they often ignore economic basics and alarm bells.

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