Football – Its Shareholders & Its Stakeholders

Fidelio has long argued that the interest in – and ambition to strengthen – corporate governance extends well beyond quoted companies.

Most recently the world of sport has found itself grappling with issues that are familiar to corporate Boards:

  1. Our awareness of mental health has increased sharply in recent months, as well as the expectation that corporates have a duty of care. As such the French Open, a Grand Slam tournament, has found itself in a difficult position as Naomi Osaka flags the pressure on players from media interviews. How can the wellbeing of players be reconciled with the media interest and economics underpinning the Grand Slam circuit?
  2. At the same time the International Olympic Committee are confirming that one year overdue the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead, critical to all those athletes who have trained, as well as the significant media interest, but flying in the face of nearly 70% of the Japanese population who do not want the Games to go ahead due to the risk of Covid. How can these diametrically opposed interests be aligned and can such a major sporting event succeed in the face of concerted popular opposition?
  3. And, of course, in the world of football we recently witnessed the attempt to establish a European Super League with clear economic benefits for the owners of the major clubs intending to participate. But the stakeholder backlash was enormous from fans and from politicians. Football demonstrated very clearly the risk when shareholder and stakeholder interests palpably diverge, as well as the very different governance and ownership models that are in place across Europe.

“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death (…) I can assure you it is much, much more important than that!” – Bill Shankly, former Manager, Liverpool F.C.

In this edition of Overture – and in the run up to next week’s Euros (UEFA European Championship) – we explore the case study that football represents in terms of stakeholder and shareholder interests and what happens when these are misaligned.

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For further information on Fidelio’s contribution to building better Boards through Search, Evaluation and Development, please contact Mark Cumberlege at mcumberlege@fideliopartners.com or Alistair Stranack at astranack@fideliopartners.com.

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