Change Management Lessons from the European Super League

The clubs that have signed up to the European Super League (Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan) have a combined value of over US$34 billion (Forbes), higher than 1990 World Cup Quarter-Finalists Cameroon and means that if the combined foundation teams were a country, they would rank 109th on the list of wealthiest countries in the world. Despite this wealth, the recent announcement of football’s European Super League has been an unmitigated public relations disaster. It does provide important lessons for anyone considering implementing a change management project in any size organisation. These lessons are:

  • understand all of your stakeholders not just the one you deem most important;
  • understand the external factors that will impact the change
  • recognise what will motivate the individual to embrace the change;

Stakeholder Mapping

Stakeholder mapping is the process of identifying the people, organisations and natural resources that are impacted by your business strategy. There are number of ways to define and prioritise your stakeholders. It is important to identify areas where stakeholders may form allegiances or alliances either in favour or against the change. Returning to the European Super League, it appears that the fans of not only the clubs involved but more generally the fans of the game have not been considered in stakeholder engagement activities. Stephen Fry’s tweet shows what can happen when a stakeholder feels disenfranchised from the change management process.

Understanding External Factors

No organisation exists in an a vacuum; understanding social external factors (such as Political, Environmental, Socio-Cultural, Technological, Economic and Legal – also known as PESTLE/PESTEL analysis) enables an organisation’s leader to plans a proactive and response communications strategy as a component of the change management process.

A PESTLE analysis can be completed as a quick brainstorming session to ensure that a broad range of factors is addressed in the communications strategy.

Some areas that may have been identified if the European Super League had completed a PESTLE analysis include:

PoliticalEnvironmentalSocio-CulturalTechnologicalEconomicLegal
* Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on political decision making
* Importance of the role of grassroots football in social health programs
* Environmental sustainability of a trans-European league* Change fatigue in society due to the massive amount and speed of COVID-19 related changes
* Resumption of being able to attend football provided relief
* Fan’s pride at their team’s nation based performance and historic rivalries
* Ease of posting on social media and forums to create a movement against the change* COVID-19 job losses and related loss of disposable income* Impact on eligibility for recognised nation based leagues

Individual Change Motivations

An organisation is comprised of a group of individuals who come together to achieve a common goal. When we move into a change process, we are asking individuals to change their behaviour. Achieving sustained behaviour change is the most challenging facet of a change management project. The European Super League has not provided a strong motivation for fans of the game to support the breakaway league, its focus on the amount of money that clubs will be guaranteed has angered fans and led to negative comments regarding the proposed change, eg “cynical cash grab”. It is important to remember that during change, people will experience grief for real or perceived losses, fear and anxiety about the change and hope for the future.

Successful changes requires a strategy, implementation plan and evaluation. Our tools and support can assist you to make successful change.