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.

 

@GameofthePeople

 

 

 

 

 

Farewell Albert Sewell, the man who invented the classic programme

HOW sad to hear of the passing of Albert Sewell, Chelsea fan, programme guru, statistician and, above all, a genuine football fan.

Albert Sewell, in the late 1940s, initiated a magazine-style programme at Chelsea, the first club to change the way football communicated with its fans. Sewell’s trail-blazing publication was soon copied by all and sundry and Chelsea had an incredible record for selling a programme to almost everyone in the crowd, in an age when gates were booming.

Throughout the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, Chelsea’s programme was among the very best, and it was the friendly, accessible style of Sewell that set the benchmark. Chelsea fans will remember the intro to many a season’s programme, “The Talk of Stamford Bridge”, a tag that was replicated by many clubs.

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He wrote an excellent book, Chelsea Champions, to mark the club’s 50th anniversary, which coincided with a first league title. He then repeated the trick in the early 1970s with the Chelsea Football Book.

Always magnanimous in victory or defeat, Sewell created a marvellous link between Chelsea and the fans. He truly cared and in 1974 when he urged the club to move forward once more after a grim couple of seasons, he was nudged aside by the board. Sewell, forever the optimist and standard-bearer, had seen what was happening at the club and was replaced. As a result, the Chelsea programme, for so long a market leader, declined, until in 1976-77 they brought him back. Chelsea readers rejoiced and his return to the editor’s desk was marked with a much-needed promotion. When things were bad, fans could, at least, console themselves with a first-class publication.

He later worked for Match of the Day and was often mentioned as the man behind the scenes who could come up with any fact or figure the TV programme desired.

Albert Sewell was a big influence on some people, myself included. As a young lad, his programme editorials were a catalyst and instilled in me a wish to become a writer. In some ways, Sewell was my first inspiration and my own career as a business and football scribe owes its source to reading those Chelsea programmes from the 1960s and 1970s. When I celebrated 25 years at Deutsche Bank as a business writer (and part-time football writer), I was asked who my writing influences were. I named Christopher Isherwood, Evelyn Waugh, JB Priestley, Patrick Leigh Fermor and…Albert Sewell. A few heads were scratched, but then I explained.

I truly owe Albert something. Thank you and RIP, Mr. Sewell.

Top picture, even players read Sewell’s programme notes. Roy Bentley and Ken Armstrong of Chelsea’s 1955 title-winners. Photo: PA