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Football: a beautiful game

and a wonderful #business metaphor.

Full disclosure: I am a Manchester City fan. #ManchesterCity (#MCFC) are the team that have won everything - England has to offer in one season. They are "fourmidable". They have won the treble PLUS another trophy too. See below...

But this isn’t about how Manchester is Blue.

It’s not about the resurgence of a team from the 3rd division to beating everyone in the premiership to take the title in the last game of the season. It’s not about MCFC and our history of being the underdogs and the passion of the true blue army.

It’s about how football – and how it’s played can be seen to be a metaphor for business.

Let me explain. Without the silly smile of above....

Football is a team sport. And so is business.

Businesses come in different sizes. But the functions of the business is always the same. To achieve something. So the first question is


In football this is easy. In business it’s harder. But it’s worth thinking about. How BIG are your goals? When do you know you will be successful? How do you know when to celebrate etc etc? Are you goals all around sales? Or something else.

Is it also around social impact – like in The Landing where I work. As we have multiple stakeholders as a tech innovation hub in the heart of Media City. A great space which is changing with a growing team.

Which brings me on to…


How many people are on the pitch? As there is a MASSIVE difference between 5 aside (akin to being in the startup) and 11 a side ( a more established business.)

Even the goals are different.

With 5 a side – you don’t really have a manager – you all run around a lot.

You use your skills and energy. And you have to communicate constantly. Also the rules are different. You can use the walls of the pitch to bounce the ball off. You have to be inventive. Sometimes there are other rules too

The key thing is the game is played differently when there are less of you. You can even change positions. You have to. You can even play “fly goalkeeper”. Which brings us on to…


In 11 a side – you have different positions. In 5 a side less so. And if you are a keep yuppy specialists you just need the ball and a crowd (consultancy work basically.) So the question here is which position is it that you play. This point is a bit controversial but stick with me.

In business, there are lots of different functions some are defensive i.e. if they go wrong then something bad happens. And they can be more about getting the work in and scoring the goals – so let’s call that offensive or attacking.

And so you could argue for The Landing we have the following positions…

  • Finance - Goal keeper
  • HR and people - Defence
  • Operations - Defence
  • Administration - Defence
  • Technology - Defence and also Midfield
  • Maker space - Defence and also Midfield
  • VR / AR specialist - Midfield
  • Community manager - Midfield
  • Marketing - Midfield
  • Business Services - Attacker
  • Business Developer - Attacker
  • Partnerships Manager - Attacker

You get the idea. And this is not set in stone - it's just a metaphor remember... And so the way this is set up might not be to your liking which bring me onto the next point.


This is all down to your personality and strengths. Something I love checking in with using the 16 personalities test. I used to do this with everyone I worked with - when I played 5 a side. If you want to know I am an ENTP.

However, not everyone is. Not all my team are. And this makes a difference.

You see....

You can be a tech person (a traditionally defensive position) that wants to play upfront. Or has the passion and legs to help out upfront.

You might have the skills and desire to play as a winger that bombs forward to cross the ball to the attackers. Who if they time their run well might have a tap in.

All goals count the same. As the saying goes…

They do in football but perhaps not in business. But that's not the point. It's about personalities. Your position might be as an attacker – but you love to get back and help out the midfield. This is a rarity in football and business. And if not praised enough. Or are you a sweeper keeper? A finance person who comes out and senses danger and can even claim the odd assist? The new type of keeper.

Or are you a solid and dependable defensive midfield player. Or a box to box maestro. A workhorse or engine like Kante. Or a more reckless barnstormer like Yaya Toure. I know which one I would love to be. But I also know which one has better stats.

Which leads me onto....


So... How do you know when you are playing well? Has your role been defined? Your manager not telling you what to do is one of the key issues in business. And the differences between happiness and sadness whilst working. And also productivity and engagement. Which are key too.

Running around lots is great. But if everyone just runs after the ball. No one wins the game. The ball moves faster than any one person can. It’s a team game. You have to pass the ball. Not one person can win the league.

No matter what the Messi’s and Ronaldo’s might think.

However, you can make a team around a key person – but that in the modern world might be dangerous – what if they leave? What if they get injured?

Which bring me onto my final point.


Are you defensive or offensive? Are you great at set pieces? Do you score more from free kicks? Do your defenders get forward and cross the ball? Do you play through the middle? What formation are you playing? Etc etc. It’s worth thinking about.

What kind of culture do you have?

What kind of style do you have?

What are your strengths as your team?

You see in the end. Every team can win. Every team has a way of playing. My advice will be do like Leicester did and base your decision on data and analytics. Get geeky with it. Do your homework on yourselves. Get the right stats in.

You could use something like FLOCK to give yourselves an MOT for your company culture. I could go on …. about culture and success.

But that’s for Pep to talk about and for another article.

Thanks for reading...
About the Author:

Dan Sodergren is a professional trainer and speaker. He is a digital marketing trainer based in Manchester with Great Marketing Works. He specialises in mobile and social marketing with ideas ranging from augmented reality, to RTB and back again.

He trains companies and individuals in digital, social and mobile marketing. He also sometimes gets to talk about it all on radio and is even occasionally on the BBC.

He is an early stage investor in HR tech company FLOCK and now works as head of business services and marketing at the MediaCityUK innovation tech hub - The Landing.

The Landing @ MediaCity UK is workspace, community, business support, user experience testing labs, maker lab and events. The Landing is the technology enterprise incubator for high-growth companies at the heart of MediaCityUK.