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March, 2014

Report: Manchester United



1. INTRODUCTION .............................................................................................................................. 2
2. ASSESSING UNITEDS CORE COMPETENCIES ................................................................................. 2
2.1. Evaluation using Mckinseys 7s ................................................................................................... 2
3. UNITEDS CORE COMPETENCES ..................................................................................................... 5
4. ATTRACTIVENESS OF UNITEDS KEY MARKETS .............................................................................. 5
5. RECOMMENDED STRATEGIES ........................................................................................................ 7
References: ............................................................................................................................................. 9


Football has become such a success globally that it is viewed by some as a laboratory for studying
success (Szymanski,2014). The global industry for football is estimated to be worth 150billion with
the cumulative revenue from the English Premier League being about 1billion (Szymanski, 2014).
Leagues and football events such as the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A and
World Cup have contributed to generating so much growth in the industry, especially over the last
three decades.
One team that has won the admiration of its peers and generated a lot of fans both in their home
country and offshore is Manchester United with an estimated global followership of about
350million fans (Grant, 2012).Its good corporate and football strategy is also a contributing factor.
This report will analyse the business performance of the club between the years 1992 2012.
The author will apply various strategic management models like the Michael Porters Value chain
and 5 forces together with relevant financial ratios and McKinseys 7s model to investigate into the
core competences of the organisation and how these contribute to making the club successful.
The report will also look into the fan base of the club and the opportunities their markets presents.
Finally, this report will go the extra mile to propose two strategies that will most likely keep the club
at the top for several years to come.

Core competences as defined by Prahalad and Hamel are some of the most important sources of
uniqueness to an organisation: They are things that the company does very well and that no one else
can copy quickly enough to affect competition. They do not diminish as they are used. The two
authors enumerated three tests for the core competences of organisation: inimitability, acceptance
in other markets, significant contribution to perceived customer value (Economist, 2008)
To be able to fully understand what these competences are, the author will use the McKinseys 7s
model which looks at the companys structure, systems, business strategy, staff, skill, style and
shared values. These shall be evaluated vis--vis the companys financials and major milestones in
the period 1990-2012.
2.1. Evaluation using Mckinseys 7s
2.1.1. Manchester United (2014) has clearly defined its strategy as follows:
Expand portfolio of global and regional sponsors: The Companys move to open an office in
Asia and North America in addition to their offices in London and Manchester is intended to
position them to secure sponsorships with leading global brands.
Manchester United is well aware of its brand equity and is tapping into that to generate a lot
of revenue for itself through sponsorship deals. In the 2010-2011 year, the percentage of
sponsorship to revenue was the highest (at 31%) among top football teams in Europe. In
that year, a 27% increase in commercial revenue was the major contributing factor to the
clubs increased revenue from 286.4m in 2009-2010 to 331.4m. A major attraction for the
companies was the fan base of the club.


Further develop their retail, merchandising, apparel & product licensing business: This
strategy generally looks at: increasing their product range, increasing locations and
expanding their portfolio of product licensees all over the world.
This strategy is also very dependent of the fan base of the club. Over half of the fan base of
United is in Asia and these fans are loyal to purchasing its merchandise. Increasingly,

Exploitation of new media & mobile opportunities: Internet on mobile devices and social
media has opened new windows of opportunity for multiple growth opportunities and new
revenue streams. The company intends to both leverage on third party social media sites
and also developing their own digital properties. According to Deloitte (2014), United is
among the top 5 football clubs most followed on social networking platform, Twitter. This
presents an opportunity for the club to transfer a lot of its followers to twitter and get
followers more engaged. Consequently there are monetising opportunities within having
strong numbers in social media.

Enhance the reach and distribution of Uniteds broadcasting rights: Live sports is of great
interest for fans to consume activities in real time. This results in higher audiences and
increased interests from television/radio broadcasters and advertisers. Manchester United is
well positioned to benefit from the increased value and the growth in distribution associated
with the Champions and Premier Leagues and other competitions. In furtherance, the clubs
own television imprint, MUTV, which delivers Manchester United programming to 54
countries around the world plans to expand the distribution of MUTV by improving the
quality of its content and its production capabilities.

Diversify revenue and improve margins: Manchester United aims to increase the revenue
and operating margins of its business as its further expands into high growth commercial
businesses, including sponsorship, retail, merchandising, licensing and new media & mobile.
By increasing the emphasis on their commercial businesses, the club will further diversify its
revenue leading to the generation of improved profitability.

2.1.2. The structure of the organisation is clearly defined and separated into
management on the pitch and management off the pitch. This clear distinction of who
runs what in what aspect? has been a contributing factor to the success of the club. The
club is owned by the Glazer family who are seated on the Board and interfere very little with
the activities of the club and they allowed David Gill and the Alex Ferguson the leeway to
operate up until their decision to retire in May 2013.
In contrast, rival teams like Chelsea and Liverpools managers have had to deal with
weak corporate governance structures thus, Jose Mourinho left Chelsea when Roman
Abramovitch kept interfering with team strategies and player acquisitions.

A strong corporate governance structure within Manchester United is cited within its
organisational structure. The owners, The Glazer family, only operates at the Board level and
leaves the day-to-day running of the team to chairman Ed Woodward and coach David
Moyes. This, seemingly, hands-off management style of the owners allows the 350million
fans of the club to continue to feel like owners of the club, thus helping build a stronger
brand equity for the company.
2.1.3. Former manager Sir Alex Ferguson developed an entire system of scouting,
training, team discipline, tactics, and strategy which has contributed to the
success of the team over the last 26 years. The new Ferguson training
regime paid meticulous attention to attendance, punctuality and effort
(Grant, 2009). During these training sessions, he was able to refine
technique to the point where difficult skills became a matter of habit. He
achieved this by making the players repeat skills several times (Grant, 2009).

2.1.4.The leadership style of Sir Alex Ferguson on and off the pitch is one that has
contributed to the success of the company. His intentions and vision for the club were of a
long term nature. On taking up leadership of the team, he expanded the scouting in order to
widen the quest to sign talented young players. The team he selected, which included Ryan
Giggs, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Gary and Phil Neville, and Paul Scholes won the English
League youth championship in 1990 (Grant, 2009). This same cohort of players went on to
become the core of the team between 1994 2003, and consequently dominated English
Elberse (2013) describes Ferguson as far more than a coach. He played a central role in the
United organization, managing not just the first team but the entire club. According to the
clubs former executive, David Gill, Steve Jobs was Apple; Sir Alex Ferguson is Manchester
United (Elberse, 2013). This showed the extent to which the manager led the club
The leadership of the owners of the club also needs to be recognised as visionary. They have
concerned themselves with the goal of looking into the corporate strategy of developing the
club as a brand and not just a football club, as described by David Gill (Grant, 2010).
He developed a good balance of motivating and criticizing his players, and this made him
able to bring out the best in his players. Central to his leadership style was ensuring that no
player so himself to be more superior to other players. He was focused on building character
of the players (Grant, 2010)
2.1.5. Manchester Uniteds staff includes both off-pitch and on-pitch personnel. The
teams on-pitch staff (i.e. players) are the ones the company spends a great percentage of its
revenue on. Wages as a percentage of operating revenues was 46% compared with the top
six average of 69.3%. This means that the company is managing its resources more
efficiently. It also buttresses the strategy of the company which focused more on building
the brand. The company could be seen to be employing a cost-cutting strategy approach
where staff are concerned. This is partly due to the high debt hanging on the balance sheet
of the club.

Over a 9-year period (i.e. between 2003 2012), United spent 77million on net transfer
fee compared with the European industry average of 341million. The highest spender on
transfer fees within the same period was Real Madrid, spending about 714million.
2.1.6. Skill in football has to do with a players ability to score goals while leveraging
on the talent of other team mates. This is what Ferguson tried to develop within United. His
focus was on building team skills more than individual skill (Grant, 2012).As a result, out of
the top 50 performing footballer (as of April 2012), on 2; W. Rooney and D. Welbeck, played
for Manchester United (Grant, 2012). This is probably one area that the company should
strongly look at. For the team to continue making higher revenues, it will need to build a
strong team made up some of the best players in the world. United may have to go on a
buying spree to top talent, but this requires funding.
However, one important thing worth noting is the ability of Management of the club, which
led by David Gill until May 2013, to convert its strong followership into revenue for the club.
This skill goes further contribute to the positive net profits of the club. In the year 2010-
2011, the company had the highest club value of 1.62billion even though it was the third
highest revenue earner.
2.1.7. Manchester Uniteds shared values are clear within and without the
organisation. David Gill was explicit on this when he said the Manchester United is a brand
and not just a football team (Grant, 2010). This is one aspect of the framework the company
has been able to build on to its advantage very well.

From the analysis above, it is evident from qualitative and quantitative data that the first core
competence of the company is its brand. This brand is evident in its loyal fan base of about
350million people (Grant, 2012), more than 50% of which are based in Asian emerging market (a
strong target for major multinationals seeking to expand). Uniteds brand cannot be copied unless
franchised to someone else. The brand is very much valued by customers which explains why
companies will spend millions sponsoring the team; because of perceived brand equity.
In 2010/2011, the club saw an increase of 27% in its commercial revenues. This was mainly due to
the 4-year deal with British risk management and insurance company, AON, which began in 2010. It
was also the result of a contractual increase in the clubs alliance with Nike and new commercial
partnerships with Telecom Malaysia and Turkish Airlines (Deloitte, 2012). Also in 2012/2013, the
club signed a record-breaking sponsorship with General Motors (Chevrolet) of about 357million
(Deloitte, 2014). These attractions are as a result of the brand which makes a significant contribution
to the perceived customer benefits.
The brand has given the club access to new markets in Asia, where more than 50% of its 350million
fans are, and Africa. These numbers cannot be easily imitated by rivals.
Football is by far the most globalised sports in the world, and since its introduction into Asia about
half a century ago, football has been undergoing different and complex implications in relation to
Asian societies (Cho, 2014). Manchester United boasts of having more than half of its fans based in

Asia. Uniteds fan base is estimated by Grant (2012) at 350million and Manchester United (2014) at
659million. For the purpose of the analysis, we shall stick to the former since our scope for this
paper is the case by Grant (2012).
Uniteds key markets in Asia include: China, Indonesia, India, Japan and Korea.
To assess the attractiveness of Uniteds key market, the author employs Michael Porters 5 forces
and takes a shareholder view of the analysis.

Having used the Porters 5 forces to analyse the attractiveness of the Asian market the following
conclusion is reached:


Based on the analysis above and results obtained by way of level of influence of various forces, it can
be concluded that the market in Asia is very attractive for Manchester United to boost its revenues.
Opportunities exist for active participation of the regions local football leagues.

Having done an assessment of Uniteds internal strengths/core competences and attractiveness of
its key markets, the author would like to propose two strategies that will leverage on the core
competences of the company while taking advantage of its largest markets.
The strategies are:
a. Franchising the club to Asia to participate in some of Asias top leagues
b. Clearing the Balance sheet through private placement (to Asian investors)
So far, even without active participation in Asia, the club has been able to win the hearts of more
than half of its 350million fans in Asia. The football style, leadership of Ferguson, the numerous
trophies won are all contributing factors to this large followership in Asia despite passive
Franchising the club to Asian investors will be a leap unprecedented yet largely spoken of.
Regarding revenue, franchising will create a new income stream for the club. The club could charge a
minimum of 3-5% of its market value as franchise fee and this could keep the club at the top of the
table for top income earners in Europe for football. They royalties that will come into the business
every year will also represent another income stream.
This new path to global reach and increased revenue to also be expanded to markets not yet looked
into, like the African market. The weight of franchise fee paid by the investor who takes the African
franchise may be lower than that of Asia, but it future royalties from the franchise could greatly
increase. African players have been influential in European soccer and thus pull a large followership
on the continent.
Franchising will also create the opportunity for easier scouting of players in the long and very long
term thus maintaining the growth of the club.
In terms of cost, the club is most likely to spend less in the future on transfer fees and player
acquisitions as the franchises will be able to trade players with the parent company.

Manchester Uniteds high debt of about 650million and annual interests of about 60million are
the major reasons for the clubs inability to purchase some of the worlds best players, which is
having a negative effect on its performance on the pitch in recent times. In comparison, cross-town

rivals, Manchester City, are able to spend millions in player acquisitions and this has resulted in
better performances on the pitch.
With the strong brand it currently has and the well-structured organisation which is an admiration to
many, the company can boldly offer some percentage of its ownership to like-minded Asian
businessman with a passion to see sports grow all over the world. While good returns on investment
a key criteria, and which United can offer, the investor should be willing to sit back like the Glazers
have done all this while.
Some level of debt is good for business growth because it makes people run affairs more efficiently.
For this reason, the club may want to maintain some level of debt, about one-fifth of its current debt
as a check on the company. Having a low debt-to-equity ratio is a good sign of good management.
Manchester United has the potential to become the most respected global sports team in the world.
The stage is set for this to be a reality if management will consider and act swiftly on these


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