Football’s experts and influencers – some of the people we listen to

ONE OF the big changes in the football business world has been the recognition that the most popular sport on the planet now carries far greater weight than ever before. Admittedly, the game is dismissed as being the most important of the unimportant things in life, but in terms of contribution to the economy, social relevance, employment and community, football can no longer be regarded as trivial.

The rise of football as a business sector has, quite naturally, given birth to agencies, consultancies, intermediaries and commentators who earn a living on the back of global football. Equally, these companies and individuals also provide intelligent insights and interpret the economics, politics and data that gets produced.

While many fans care little for anything other than the game of football itself, understanding the background, financial structures and key elements of reporting allows people to understand why a club is successful or unsuccessful.

Game of the People  has worked with many of the key players in this industry and has provided editorial content for a wide range of reports and papers. The following is a list of some of the people we consider to be important and influential in this field. The list is not in any order and represents a selection of our most used sources. Needless to say, the list is being added to by the week. We welcome suggestions and recommendations.

UK Media: We see the Guardian as having the best stable of journalists when it comes to football – away from match reporting, writers such as David Conn and Jonathan Wilson are not only excellent scribes, but they lay a level of intelligence and sophistication to their work that is unmatched. David Conn has a strong business element to his writing but also understands the culture of the game, witness his coverage of the Hillsborough disaster trials. Jonathan Wilson, as well as being an incisive historian, has the ability to explain how football is played and how it has evolved down the decades. And there are others from the Guardian deserving of praise and respect, including women’s football expert Suzy Wrack and Italian football authority Nicky Bandini. The Athletic has lured a number of writers away from newspapers, such as Amy Lawrence and Raphael Honigstein while the Times has the likes of Henry Winter and Alyson Rudd (who was named GOTP’s top journalist in 2019). 

Swiss Ramble: This gentleman, a Brit living in Switzerland, provides possibly the most accessible and lucid explanation of football club accounts. His analyst-level content is football finance 101 for journalists, clubs, agencies and anyone with an interest in the game’s economics. And it is quite possible that he gets nothing for his considerable work. There are countless reports that reference Swiss Ramble and plenty who take his content and give no credit to the Zurich-based Arsenal fan. He is, without a doubt, social media’s foremost analyst.

KPMG Football Benchmark: KPMG’s Football Benchmark team is based primarily in Budapest, but it’s an international group led by Andre Sartori, a Juventus-supporting Italian. They came to the game after their corporate rivals Deloitte, but their European Elite report has become one of the “go-to” papers on football club evaluation. KPMG also produces a rolling player valuation tool and are regularly interviewed on TV.

Inside World Football: Experienced journalists form the backbone of this news portal which covers a broad range of topics and geographies. The site has a number of well respected writers including Mihir Bose and Andrew Warshaw. As a reference tool, Inside World Football is invaluable.

Soccerex: An events-driven company founded by Don Revie’s son, the late Duncan Revie, which stages conferences in various parts of the world. Soccerex published its third Football Finance 100 earlier this year, a report on the financial health of the top clubs.. Soccerex’s events are great networking opportunities and invariably have some top notch speakers.

Brand Finance: Brand Finance are based in the City of London and evaluate brands across many sectors and geographies. Included in their very considerable portfolio is the Football 50, which has been expanded to take the form of an annual that includes expert opinion, data and research findings. Their publications are backed by sound methodology and industry viewpoints.

Deloitte: Deloitte’s Football Money League is really the product that started the ball rolling in football finance. Although Deloitte’s research is primarily based around revenues and the elite end of the game, rather than other contributory factors, the presentation, editorial and format provides a clear snapshot of a club’s strength. Deloitte also produces an annual review of football finance, which is equally interesting and informative. These are the people that other companies aspire to emulate.

CIES Football Observatory: The Swiss-based CIES are the data gurus of the football world, producing reports that range from basic information about performance, player values and demographics to some quite obscure topics. So strong is their offering that other companies aim to partner with CIES to make use of their skills. We live in the data age and CIES are at the heart of football’s transition to a more scientific game.

Soccernomics: If Deloitte were the groundbreakers in producing club analysis, then Soccernomics , the book written by Stefan Szymanski and Simon Kuper, provided the ultimate text book. Soccernomics is more than a tome, though, it is arguably the most intelligent volume written about the game. Soccernomics is also an agency, comprising Kuper, Szymanski and Ben Lyttleton. They advise clubs, federations and businesses across the football landscape. The book, though, is what sells Soccernomics, it is an essential companion for anyone interested in how football works.

Academics: Kieran Maguire of the University of Liverpool’s Sports Business unit is one of the pre-eminent figures in football finance. He wrote The Price of Football  (if you can get hold of it) and has featured regularly on TV, in newspapers and websites. David Goldblatt, a larger-than-life character, has written some outstanding books, such as  The Ball is Round,  The Game of our Lives  and  The Age of Football. Also worth mentioning are: Simon Chadwick, Director of the Centre for Eurasian Sport Industry and Professor of Eurasian Sport Industry; Paul Widdop, senior lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University; Daniel Parnell of University of Liverpool; and Rob Wilson of Hallam University. There is a growing field of experts who have recognised the contribution made by football to society and the global economy. All of the aforementioned, who represent a far wider body of men and women from the field of academia, are worth listening to.








Football Read Review: The Barcelona Legacy – the story of our footballing time?

IS THERE a more prolific writer of quality football books than Jonathan Wilson? There are others who write a lot of books, but few that can match the depth of content, useful insights or accuracy.

His latest tome, exploring how the current football paradigm owes its roots to Dutch football philosophy and Johan Cruyff at Barcelona, also examines the dynamic of two of the modern game’s most prominent managerial figures, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho.

Pep versus Jose has become something of a latter-day Clough v Revie saga, with Mourinho obsessed with outdoing Guardiola in a similar fashion to Clough’s “Damned United” persona. In fact, Mourinho emerges from the book quite negatively, an insecure figure with a track record that still draws admiration. Guardiola doesn’t come out particularly warmly, either, although his way appears to be more in tune with Cruyff than anti-hero Mou. Wilson offers neither any great plaudits, although as successful football men, they have few equals.

Wilson’s writing is, as ever, superb, but there’s inevitably the voice of the tactical geek sprinkled throughout the book. That’s his obvious strength and why he has found a niche in contemporary football journalism. Another good book, another comfortable read.

Main photo: PA

Football Read Review: Few angels, but some great players


Angels with Dirty Faces: The footballing history of Argentina by Jonathan Wilson
I HAVE to admit to being a little biased here as Jonathan Wilson is just about my favourite contemporary football writer.

Following classic tomes such as Inverting the Pyramid, Behind the Curtain and the books involving England and Liverpool’s defining matches, Wilson has done it again, producing an absorbing book that tells the story of one of the most enigmatic footballing nations.
As ever with Wilson’s work, it’s superbly researched and he places football in the context of much wider issues – there’s politics, social history and culture all wrapped up in the story of the Argentinian game.

Having worked on Argentinian debt restructuring in the 1980s and 1990s alongside several natives of Buenos Aires and Cordoba, Argentina has always been a special place for me, and Wilson’s book, arguably one of the finest football books of recent years, lived up to expectations.

We would tease our colleagues with the question: “Hey, Carlos, how do you make money out of an Argentine player?”. After a shrugged shoulder, we would add: “Buy him for what he’s worth and sell him for what he thinks he’s worth.” Well, it was 1982.

That said, we enjoyed Argentina’s successes in 1978 and 1986 – the ticker tape welcomes, the long-haired cavalier style of Mario Kempes and Leopoldo Luque and the scurrying of Osvaldo Ardiles. And eight years later, you could only admire Diego Maradona, despite the “Hand of God”.

Especially interesting in Wilson’s book is the chapter on World Cup 1978, “Glory in a time of terror”, which revealed that Cesar Luis Menotti was not a child of the Junta, telling his team, “we are the people…we come from the victimised classes”.

And the way he talks of the emergence of Maradona, “The Nativity”, says a lot about how Argentina looked to the talented youngster to lead the country to greatness. What’s amazing is that Maradona was being mentioned in despatches as far back as 1971, when he was just 11 years old. Some 15 years later, Maradona had what Wilson rightly calls, “His finest hour” as he almost single-handedly captained Argentina to their second World Cup.

wilson-2Maradona dominates vast swathes of the book, to be succeeded by the luckless Lionel Messi. Although Maradona received his anointment in the form of the 1986 World Cup, along with his pivotal role in taking Napoli to two Serie A titles. Messi has not enjoyed the greatest success with his country, although he was [surprisingly] named player of the tournament in World Cup 2014.

Wilson makes a telling observation about Argentinian football in his closing address. Given that the country has been built on immigration, it is now ironic that most of Argentina’s best players are emigrants. “Football is another Argentinian dream that has slipped away….Argentinian football has become something that is played elsewhere.”

This is a great book – buy it, enjoy it and learn from it!

As my old colleague Carlos would say, “Que grande, Wilson!”.

Angels with Dirty Faces: The footballing history of Argentina by Jonathan Wilson, is published by Orion Books.