“If I had an hour to save the world, I’d spend 59 minutes defining the problem and 1 minute solving it.” - Albert Einstein
For anyone who has spent the last month on Mars, after extensive in-depth study, research and analysis, a FIFA committee has recommended that with regards to the World Cup to be played in Qatar in 2022, it would be preferable to play in Nov/Dec in the low 20sC, rather than in the height of summer in 40+C. If that falls into the category of findings one might reasonably group as Statements of the Blindingly Obvious, then no less predictable was the reaction of various football luminaries ‘up in arms’ at the impact that this will have on the domestic season (for which read: ‘highly lucrative Western European domestic season’). The said luminaries have approximately 7 years ‘to save’ the said domestic season and appear to have spent no more than one minute of that time defining the problem (‘it’s a disaster’) which should at least give them the advantage of over 6 years, 11 months, 30 days and 23 hours to solve it (I am actually quite good at this sort of thing and available at a very reasonable rate compared to a FIFA committee member).
One can’t help wondering exactly who this is a disaster for?
- The fans? I’m not the world’s most passionate football fan but it has not escaped my attention that the world cup is the second most popular sporting event on earth. I think that quite a few fans would swap a midweek mid-table match for the chance to watch the world’s best.
- The players? Want to play your career-defining match in 25C or 40C? Want to play at the end of a season feeling totally shattered or about a month in to the season at peak fitness? ‘Nuff said.
- The FA (and similar in other countries)? They want to win. See point 2 above.
- The TV companies? TV is a business which is ultimately about ratings. Midweek mid-table match or World Cup Final?
- The clubs? The clubs want to win the domestic and European trophies. Those events will still happen. They also want TV money. Unless there is some drastic cull of domestic matches, there will still be matches and TV money. And even if there is a drastic cull for one season (something which common sense indicates is unlikely), this may not mark the end of Western civilisation. Possibly the drop in income could be offset by a drop in expenditure? I looked hard at how you might save money in football; I didn’t have a complete data set to work with, but sensed that there might be some capacity for savings in the player wage bill.
- FIFA? FIFA just want the event to happen in Qatar. There may be any number of reasons for this – do the maths…
- The luminaries? The luminaries will have to play second fiddle to an event far bigger than their personal fiefdoms. By George, I think we might have cracked it. Breaking news: ‘a small number of highly vocal, generally high profile individuals used to getting their own way may have to eat some humble pie’.
Now there is a point to all this.
The reaction of the luminaries provides some near perfect examples of a number of issues which often occur in teams and organisations, invariably for the worse:
- You get what you reward. These people are incentivised and motivated to protect and grow their own niche and interests, not to work towards any greater good.
- Lack of objectivity. We all tend, to greater or lesser degrees, to be wedded to our own brilliance. The ability to look at an issue from a neutral perspective and deal in facts and balanced viewpoints is surprisingly rare.
- Framing the issue. I don’t think I have seen evidence of a single example where one of the key players has made any attempt to really think about the problem. You could make a pretty strong case that there is no problem. Every year, the top rugby clubs lose significant numbers of their best employees to the national squad for around 8 weeks mid-season. I’m just saying…
- Plan B. Is this decision really a surprise? I mean, you didn’t exactly need to have a crystal ball. Had nobody started to think about Plan B? Even starting now, given that we send astronauts to the International Space Station, have eliminated polio, and have nearly all the world’s information available via a mobile phone, it kind of feels like re-planning a football season is achievable in 7 years. I don’t want to harp on, but I am available…