Tuesday June 7, 2011
Corporate lessons from football club! Yes, from Barcelona
Raison D'etre - Risen Jayaseelan
I AM admittedly a Barcelona football fan. That may taint my somewhat glowing perspective of the club but there are some admirable traits of FC Barcelona (or “Barca” to their fans) that stand out and arguably serve as lessons for not just football clubs but also for corporations.
One of the most outstanding achievements of FC Barcelona is their ability to spot talent early, groom them and keep them at the club. At the core of this is La Masia, its in-house training academy. All the three top players of Barcelona today - Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernndez and Andrs Iniesta are graduates of that academy.
The fact that three have been playing together for a long time, explains their deep understanding of each others' style and positioning, which needless to say gives Barca a huge advantage over other clubs that spend much more money buying talented players who may not necessarily jive so well on the field.
Messi's link to Barcelona and his journey in football is itself an inspiring tale. Considered one of the best football players of his generation, Messi received several Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year nominations by the age of 21, and won them in 2009 and 2010.
But wind back the clock to 15 years ago, Messi was a young kid in Argentina with promising talent but suffering from a growth hormone deficiency.
Although treatable, treatment had cost around US$700 per month and neither the Messi family nor any clubs in Argentina could afford it, what with the Argentinean economy collapsing then. FC Barcelona, who were already scouting him, stepped in.
Having learnt of Messi's predicament, Barcelona offered to sign the young Messi for its youth team and helped him and his family move to Spain for the treatment, all paid for by the club. The rest of Messi's stint with Barcelona is as they say, history. No wonder Messi has said he would never leave Barca: “Barcelona is my life, they have brought me to where I am today,” Messi has been quoted as saying.
La Masia has been home to more than 500 players over three decades as both a training academy and boarding house. According to a recent report in the Financial Times, these are some of the practices of La Masia:
> It sought out players who were not only talented but also had the drive to win and the ability to work as part of a team.
> Personal development and athletic performance are given due attention.
> Support from teachers, psychologists and other professionals are viewed as essential.
> La Masia is famous for instilling strong personal values in young players and they have played a vital role in the school's success.
The same FT report said that FC Barcelona experience showed that “for companies looking to develop and retain top talent, the lessons are that success requires a clear strategy for talent development and the patience to think beyond short term goals.
Organisations need to be consistent in articulating their values in everything that they do because investing intelligently in talent can generate a unique competitive advantage over the long term.”
And if there's another reason to like FC Barcelona it has to be this: It is probably the only club that pays its sponsor. In July 2006 FC Barcelona announced a five-year agreement with UNICEF, which includes the placement of UNICEF's logo on their jersey. And the deal raises almost US$2mil per year for UNICEF's humanitarian aid programmes.
To be sure, late last year, Barca announced the most lucrative shirt sponsorship deal in football history, worth 150 million euros with the Qatar Foundation, a non-profit organisation located in the gulf state where the 2022 World Cup will be played. Barcelona say they will seek a way to combine the two logos.