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Publication type: Master thesis
Title: Crisis management of European football clubs
Authors: Walser, Simon
Advisors / Reviewers: Graf, Christian Olivier
Guhl, Selina
DOI: 10.21256/zhaw-24679
Extent: 101
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher / Ed. Institution: ZHAW Zürcher Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften
Publisher / Ed. Institution: Winterthur
Language: English
Subject (DDC): 306.48: Free time and tourism
658.405: Negotiation, conflict management
Abstract: Given the unique field of sports management concerning the interplay of economic and sporting success, football clubs are generally considered to have a certain level of exposure to financial risks. In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic started to sweep over on a global scale. As a result, infection numbers rose and death tolls did too. Consequently, governments across the world were forced to take measures to limit further spread. In doing so, European football was almost completely brought to a halt for several weeks. Thus, revenue streams of football clubs were affected and the clubs had to ensure economic viability. The main objective of the thesis was to explore the crisis management measures employed by European football clubs in the context of the COVID-19. In doing so, best practices were established that could be used for football clubs’ crisis management efforts in the future. The research was conducted employing primary and secondary data collection processes. The former was carried out by means of ten interviews with club representatives of football clubs from various countries, three expert interviews in the fields of sports management, as well as crisis management and communication, and through a survey. The survey was primarily utilized to underline the findings of secondary data in describing the general situation, while the interviews were used to examine the measures employed by football clubs across Europe to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. Thereby, the Business Model Canvas was used to display the implications of the crisis, and the three phases of crisis management were employed to outline the measures taken in the respective stage. In doing so, various best practices were mentioned that can be useful when being faced with a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. Results showed that football clubs should identify, assess and possibly mitigate the risk. Furthermore, scenario planning shall be performed to recognize possible scenarios while constantly extending and adapting them throughout the crisis phase. With business continuity plans, football clubs can ensure the continuous operation of a football club despite certain threats. In the pre-crisis phase, football clubs should establish or revitalize a crisis management team in charge of coordinating and communicating through the crisis. The importance of internal communication emerged from the research as well. Thus, direct and regular contact can help prevent uncertainty amongst employees. Given a health-related crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic, football clubs need to implement and communicate the guidelines issued by the public health authorities. In the crisis phase, the continuation of particular previously introduced is advised, such as all health-related measures, the steering by the crisis response team, and the continuous scenario planning. If available, football clubs should request financial support from the government. Further, conducting an investment stop is advised. When performing the cost analysis, football clubs should be aware of possible new costs due to the given crisis while being on the lookout to identify cost drivers that can be neutralized. When it is concluded that personnel-related expenses need to be lowered, the results of this paper indicated that reviewing the bonus system and introducing temporary pay cuts are preferred to layoffs, which would likely lead to uncertainty and the loss of know-how for the recovery phase. Especially if personnel costs are targeted, active internal communication should explain the situation and update with new information. Given the importance of sponsorship revenue for football clubs, it was found that a strategy is needed for sponsors. Thereby, communication, compensation, and commitment shall be at the center of attention. Since the uniqueness of the connection between fans and football clubs, a similar strategy is strongly recommended. Thus, football clubs should communicate, find ways to compensate, and help the community. Lastly, every crisis also entails its opportunities. For this reason, football clubs should start looking for opportunities in the crisis phase – either within the field of football or outside it. In a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which lasts for an extended period of time, football clubs should review and implement the relevant lessons learned after each pandemic wave. Also, it is advised to evaluate the crisis response and change projects. Active internal communication is also of vital importance in the last of the three phases. Through examining the measures employed by football clubs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s implications, and suggested by experts, the overview of best practices for each of the three phases was summarized. Due to the wide geographical range of the football clubs, various insights could be gained. Yet, comparability was only limited because of different contexts. For this reason, it was suggested that future research should increase comparability through allocating football clubs in groups according to specific factors, such as country. Further limitations and future research suggestions were described.
License (according to publishing contract): CC BY-NC-ND 4.0: Attribution - Non commercial - No derivatives 4.0 International
Departement: School of Management and Law
Appears in collections:MSc International Business

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