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A case study of knowledge management in the “back office” of two English football clubs

Clair Doloriert (Bangor University, Bangor, UK)
Kieran Whitworth (Bangor University, Bangor, UK)

The Learning Organization

ISSN: 0969-6474

Article publication date: 20 September 2011




This study aims to explore knowledge management (KM) practice in the “back office” of two English football clubs.


The paper takes the form of a comparative case study of two medium‐sized businesses using multi‐method data including unstructured interviews, structured questionnaires and document analysis. Data were analysed using thematic analysis and basic descriptive statistics.


A review of the theoretical contexts highlights key challenges for the industry including the pressure of high wage salaries on the business model, minimising organizational memory loss given the high turnover of football managers, and the development of relationship marketing given the emergence of a variety of fans with different levels of loyalty. The empirical inquiry reveals evidence of KM in both football clubs although this is mostly informal, ad hoc and implicit. One club adopts a personalisation and the other a codification KM strategy. For both clubs, the football success takes precedence over business success. Emergent findings show that there is scope to improve explicit and formal knowledge management strategies within both football clubs, and that the “back office” could benefit from innovative and efficient ways of working given the pressures it faces.

Research limitations/implications

This is a qualitative case study that aims to explore and describe KM within the two clubs. Because of this results are not generalisable to the industry as a whole; however findings are insightful and can inform further substantive research.


Given the current issues that challenge football clubs, KM can offer a new lens from which to begin to address old problems and can inform and enrich existing organizational strategy in real and practical ways. This study contributes valuable insight as an exploratory study within a little researched context.



Doloriert, C. and Whitworth, K. (2011), "A case study of knowledge management in the “back office” of two English football clubs", The Learning Organization, Vol. 18 No. 6, pp. 422-437.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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