Ranieri sacking a business lesson in world of sport

Leicester City debacle shows there is no room for sentiment in sport or business

Former Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri: sacking proved once more that money is all that matters in the world of sport. Photograph: John Sibley Livepic/Reuters

Former Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri: sacking proved once more that money is all that matters in the world of sport. Photograph: John Sibley Livepic/Reuters

 

Management schools love the sporting metaphor. If nothing else, it lets rotund executives believe they’ve a spiritual link with the sports stars they sponsor and cheer on over Chablis in the corporate boxes.

In the corporate world we are all meant to embrace the cut and thrust of the sporting arena, and be prepared to take one for the team.

The decision by Leicester City to sack its manager Claudio Ranieri, however, may prove a difficult tale to transfer on to the pages of the management manuals. Against the odds, he delivered the holy grail to a club that started last season as 5,000/1 outsiders. Yesterday the hero.

Today zero, let go by the club, proving once more that money is all that matters in the world of sport. A business lesson in the world of sport, perhaps.

Yet there are lessons to be learned for managers from the Ranieri debacle though, as a Financial Times article yesterday outlined, the more pertinent ones are from the pain of this season rather than the joy of the last.

For a start, it’s better to begin with a realistic idea of what is possible and grab opportunities when they occur. Exceptions are just that, and expecting them to be repeated is pure folly.

The second lesson, it seems, is that no sooner has your winning strategy delivered than competitors adapt and so must you. Then there’s the minefield of managing a team that succeeds against expectations. All the “dilly ding, dilly dong” training methods won’t keep inflated egos at bay. Overconfidence is the curse that befalls those with unexpected success.

So far, so platitudinous. Then again, no management guru – or chief executive – ever lost out on stating the obvious.

It’s the final lesson that sage business leader will reference this weekend over the foie gras: there’s no room for sentiment in sport or business.

Ironically that’s the exact opposite of the message both firms and sports clubs seek to evoke in their “loyal” customers and fans. Amid all the hoopla of heritage and pride that sports clubs like to promote – and that firms desperately seek to replicate with their brands – consumers would do well to apply the same cut-throat lack of sentiment when it comes to buying behaviour as the Leicester City board.

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