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Nick Bennett

Strategy Director

Armchair Management - Crowdsourcing Football Strategy

Utter anguish. Those would be the two words I would use to describe my experience when watching England play football. As the kickoff times were a bit strange during this years world cup in Brazil, I ended up watching most of the games at home - giving me the opportunity to exercise my inner armchair-manager. Shouting obscenities at the TV, I felt an ultimate sense of helplessness in England’s bid to get out of the group stage. This got me thinking… What if there was a way we could contribute to the success of our national team? What if we had a chance to actually affect the way England played on the pitch?

Arm Chair Opinions

Recovering from the gruelling loss last night, I was chatting to a workmate about the game. “Every bloke, up and down the country, must be having this very same conversation right now”. Sam was probably right. I heard people talking about the match on the train, whilst walking down the street and even whilst grabbing my morning coffee. Everyone had their own opinion on which player should play where, what formation the team should have played and which subs to bring on when.

Obviously, none of us are being paid the £3.5 million a year salary to have our football opinions heard. The real England manager, Roy Hodgson, is the guy in the nations football driving seat. This should mean he knows his shit, right…? Not according to every single person I’ve talked to today. Anytime someone mentions they could do a better job than Roy, I roll my eyes and dismiss the claims of football self-genius. This did however make me realize that managing a football team may be a case of extreme ‘two brains are better than one’.

A Different Form of Football Crowd

With crowdsourcing becoming more and more prominent in modern day business, why couldn’t the England national team be the first to utilize the whole country’s opinions to fuel it’s tactics? The technology has been around for years - people have been voting for their favourite person to win reality TV shows since the early 2000s. Imagine taking that concept and implementing a truly crowd-managed (yes… I have just made that word up) football squad.

Sky Sports used a very diluted version of this to help give pundits the opinion of the masses. Although a limited tool, it does prove that people are willing to show their footballing prowess in any way possible. If Roy does end up stepping down as England manager, could we replace him with a crowdsourced version? I would personally love to sit down before a game, pick my team, pick my subs, choose formation & marking tactics and know that I had a slight slither of control over the match. It would be like a real-life version of Sports Interactive’s Football Manager - and we all know how addictive that game can be.

Too Far-Fetched?

Although websites such as Kickstarter have pushed crowdsourcing into the mainstream, I’m not sure people would be entirely comfortable with the fate of their beloved football teams in the hands of the masses. Even if the collated data wasn’t directly used, it could at least be passed on to the management team for analysis.

You see this sort of data-centric management everywhere in the world of online business. Understanding how your users are using your website en-masse gives you the ability to test and tweak for optimal conversions. 84% of people dropping on the second page in your goal funnel? Tells a good story as to which page is causing a loss in overall conversion. If fixed, you could drastically improve your conversion rates.

Individual opinions can be wrong, but when the masses speak - it could very well be the best possible solution if all that data could be analysed into a single strategy. The same theory goes for users on a website - individually, they are unpredictable, but as a whole, they hold the answer. The numbers will tell you what is working and what isn’t working on your site. Bigger the number - the more accurate the behaviour.

Full-Time Score

I highly doubt that we will see a completely crowdsourced football team any time soon, but I do feel that the sport industry could learn a lot from crowdsourcing web giants. It may not paint a perfect strategical picture, but everyone knows knowledge is power, and having the whole country’s collated thoughts at the managers disposal would only help bolster their information arsenal.