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Case study
Publication date: 7 June 2021

Muralee Das and Susan Myrden

Resource-based view (RBV) theory (Barney, 1991; Barney and Mackey, 2016; Nagano, 2020) states that a firm’s tangible and intangible resources can represent a sustainable…

Abstract

Theoretical basis

Resource-based view (RBV) theory (Barney, 1991; Barney and Mackey, 2016; Nagano, 2020) states that a firm’s tangible and intangible resources can represent a sustainable competitive advantage (SCA), a long-term competitive advantage that is extremely difficult to duplicate by another firm, when it meets four criteria (i.e. not imitable, are rare, valuable and not substitutable). In the context of this case, we believe there are three sources of SCA to be discussed using RBV – the major league soccer (MLS) team player roster, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to exploit this roster and the league’s single-entity structure: • MLS players: it has been widely acknowledged that a firm’s human resource talent, which includes professional soccer players (Omondi-Ochieng, 2019), can be a source of SCA. For example, from an RBV perspective, a player on the Los Angeles Galaxy roster: > cannot play for any other team in any other league at the same time (not imitable and are rare), > would already be a competitive player, as he is acquired to play in the highest professional league in the country (valuable) and > it would be almost impossible to find a clone player matching his exact talent characteristic (not substitutable) anywhere else. Of course, the roster mix of players must be managed by a capable coach who is able to exploit these resources and win championships (Szymanski et al., 2019). Therefore, it is the strategic human resource or talent management strategies of the professional soccer team roster that will enable a team to have the potential for an SCA (Maqueira et al., 2019). • Technology: technology can also be considered a source of SCA. However, this has been a source of contention. The argument is that technology is accessible to any firm that can afford to purchase it. Logically, any MLS team (or for that matter any professional soccer team) can acquire or build an AI system. For many observers, the only obvious constraint is financial resources. As we discuss in other parts of the case study, there is a fan-based assumption that what transpired in major league baseball (MLB) may repeat in the MLS. The movie Moneyball promoted the use of sabermetrics in baseball when making talent selection (as opposed to relying exclusively on scouts), which has now evolved into the norm of using technology-centered sports analytics across all MLB teams. In short, where is the advantage when every team uses technology for talent management? However, if that is the case, why are the MLB teams continuing to use AI and now the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL) and National Hockey League are following suit? We believe RBV theorists have already provided early insights: > “the exploitation of physical technology in a firm often involves the use of socially complex firm resources. Several firms may all possess the same physical technology, but only one of these firms may possess the social relations, cultural traditions, etc., to fully exploit this technology to implementing strategies…. and obtain a sustained competitive advantage from exploiting their physical technology more completely than other firms” (Barney, 1991, p. 110). • MLS League Single-Entity Structure: In contrast to other professional soccer leagues, the MLS has one distinct in-built edge – its ownership structure as a single entity, that is as one legal organization. All of the MLS teams are owned by the MLS, but with franchise operators. The centralization of operations provides the MLS with formidable economies of scale such as when investing in AI technologies for teams. Additionally, this ownership structure accords it leverage in negotiations for its inputs such as for player contracts. The MLS is the single employer of all its players, fully paying all salaries except those of the three marquees “designated players.” Collectively, this edge offers the MLS unparalleled fluidity and speed as a league when implementing changes, securing stakeholder buy-ins and adjusting for tailwinds. The “socially complex firm resources” is the unique talent composition of the professional soccer team and most critically its single entity structure. While every team can theoretically purchase an AI technology talent management system, its application entails use across 30 teams with a very different, complex and unique set of player talents. The MLS single-entity structure though is the resource that supplies the stability required for this human-machine (technology) symbioses to be fully accepted by stakeholders such as players and implemented with precision and speed across the entire league. So, there exists the potential for each MLS team (and the MLS as a league) to acquire SCA even when using “generic” AI technology, as long as other complex firm factors come into play.

Research methodology

This case relied on information that was widely reported within media, press interviews by MLS officials, announcements by various organizations, journal articles and publicly available information on MLS. All of the names and positions, in this case, are actual persons.

Case overview/synopsis

MLS started as a story of dreaming large and of quixotic adventure. Back in 1990, the founders of the MLS “sold” the league in exchange for the biggest prize in world soccer – the rights to host the 1994 Fédération Internationale de Football Association World Cup before they even wrote up the business plan. Today, the MLS is the highest-level professional men’s soccer league competition in the USA. That is a major achievement in just over 25-years, as the US hosts a large professional sports market. However, MLS has been unable to attract higher broadcasting value for its matches and break into the highest tier of international professional soccer. The key reason is that MLS matches are not deemed high quality content by broadcasters. To achieve higher quality matches requires many inputs such as soccer specific stadiums, growing the fan base, attracting key investors, league integrity and strong governance, all of which MLS has successfully achieved since its inception. However, attracting high quality playing talent is a critical input the MLS does not have because the league has repeatedly cautioned that it cannot afford them yet to ensure long-term financial sustainability. In fact, to guarantee this trade-off, the MLS is one of the only professional soccer leagues with an annual salary cap. So, the question is: how does MLS increase the quality of its matches (content) using relatively low cost (low quality) talent and still be able to demand higher broadcast revenues? One strategy is for the MLS to use AI playing technology to extract higher quality playing performance from its existing talent like other sports leagues have demonstrated, such as the NFL and NBA. To implement such a radical technology-centric strategy with its players requires the MLS to navigate associated issues such as human-machine symbioses, risking fan acceptance and even altering brand valuation.

Complexity academic level

The case is written and designed for a graduate-level (MBA) class or an upper-level undergraduate class in areas such as contemporary issues in management, human resource management, talent management, strategic management, sports management and sports marketing. The case is suitable for courses that discuss strategy, talent management, human resource management and brand strategy.

Details

The CASE Journal, vol. 17 no. 2
Type: Case Study
ISSN: 1544-9106

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Article
Publication date: 1 April 2007

Mauricio Ferreira and Gonzalo Bravo

This study examined the determinants of attendance at the Chilean national soccer tournaments between 1990 and 2002. A multilevel model approach was taken to estimate the…

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118

Abstract

This study examined the determinants of attendance at the Chilean national soccer tournaments between 1990 and 2002. A multilevel model approach was taken to estimate the effects of several factors, including unobserved sources, hypothesised to influence attendance in Chile. Results regarding team success, team division, population, stadium size and habitual persistence were found to influence professional soccer attendance; other factors such as admission price, age of team, international success, availability of soccer teams in the same vicinity and stadium ownership did not.

Details

International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, vol. 8 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1464-6668

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Article
Publication date: 14 July 2020

Pedro Garcia-del-Barrio and Francesc Pujol

The main goal of this paper is to evaluate the players' contribution and economic value in the soccer industry. Media visibility records provide us with comparable metrics…

Abstract

Purpose

The main goal of this paper is to evaluate the players' contribution and economic value in the soccer industry. Media visibility records provide us with comparable metrics to identify talent and make hiring decisions – these records can jointly capture sport (on-field) skills and other attractive (off-field) abilities.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper presents a valuation method that applies media visibility appraisals to estimate “theoretical values” of the transfer fees paid for hiring soccer players. The estimations are performed by analysing the evolution over time of the media exposure of about 5,000 individuals of more than 200 clubs.

Findings

The study’s empirical results reveal that, along with sport performance, the players' media status also affects their economic valuation, which explains why the clubs – in search of greater economic returns – fiercely compete for the most popular players. The paper also identifies the main factors determining the players' economic value. In predicting the players' transfer fees, some variables are statistically significant: individual media visibility, media visibility share of the player within his team, contract duration, status of the hiring team, years of experience, player's age at the end of the contract and the domestic league of the hiring team.

Originality/value

Professional sports provide reliable measures on individuals' performance that may help in the hiring process of workers. This paper identifies gifted soccer players while taking into account their skills as media leaders and the economic implications. Insofar as players' talents determine their teams' sport and economic achievements, the transfer fees paid for players must then be seen as a crucial factor. Measuring individual talent and being able to translate this talent into productivity levels entail serious methodological and empirical challenges.

Details

Managerial Finance, vol. 47 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0307-4358

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Article
Publication date: 6 February 2017

Tyreal Yizhou Qian, Jerred Junqi Wang, Winston Wen-hao Chou, Euisoo Kim, James J. Zhang and Bo Gong

The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of Chinese youth’s attention to and involvement with Chinese soccer and its professional league, the Chinese Super…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of Chinese youth’s attention to and involvement with Chinese soccer and its professional league, the Chinese Super League (CSL), on their level of satisfaction.

Design/methodology/approach

A survey study was employed to test the hypotheses. Research participants (n=948) were students from five major universities that represented each of the five main geographic regions of China. Data were randomly assigned into two halves: one half for CFA (n=474) and the other half for structural equation modeling (SEM) (n=474). Mplus 7.0 was used to conduct both the CFA and SEM.

Findings

The findings of this study indicated an overall lack of attention to and involvement with Chinese soccer and CSL among Chinese youths. Discussions have been presented on the causes of the lack of youth passion for Chinese soccer and suggestions have been articulated to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of policy formulation, business operation and marketing strategy.

Originality/value

The present study built on the extant sport management literature, demonstrated the complexity of consumers’ cognition and conation in the professional soccer setting, and revealed counter-intuitive relationship between attitudinal traits and behavioral patterns, which in turn provided unique insights for Chinese professional soccer marketers, managers and administrators.

Details

International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, vol. 18 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1464-6668

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Article
Publication date: 1 October 2006

Sven Theysohn

Global reach, together with rapidly increasing broadband coverage, makes the internet a potentially interesting distribution channel for video highlights and full-match…

Abstract

Global reach, together with rapidly increasing broadband coverage, makes the internet a potentially interesting distribution channel for video highlights and full-match viewings. This study investigateswillingness to pay as well as consumer preferences for type of report to derive marketing implications for soccer clubs. Survey results from more than 12,000 respondents supporting seven soccer clubs in the German first and second divisions underline the potential of this new distribution channel in finding a high average willingness to pay.

Details

International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, vol. 8 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1464-6668

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Book part
Publication date: 7 December 2017

Hirotaka Matsuoka and Akiko Arai

Abstract

Details

Sport Business in Leading Economies
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78743-564-3

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Abstract

Details

Education, Retirement and Career Transitions for 'Black' Ex-Professional Footballers
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-83867-041-2

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Book part
Publication date: 20 February 2020

Paul Ian Campbell

Abstract

Details

Education, Retirement and Career Transitions for 'Black' Ex-Professional Footballers
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-83867-041-2

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Article
Publication date: 30 September 2013

David Thomas Weir

– This article aims to draw on analysis of embodied plays in the game of association football to show the central significance of embodied spatial competence.

Abstract

Purpose

This article aims to draw on analysis of embodied plays in the game of association football to show the central significance of embodied spatial competence.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is descriptive and theoretical.

Findings

Describes the special skills of unusually talented performers like dancers and midfield soccer players who appear to understand embodied movement in three-dimensions, and considers whether these attributes are transferable to business decision making.

Research limitations/implications

No original research is reported but suggestions for areas of further study are made.

Practical implications

If senior managers were able to learn such skills, the practice of strategy formulation and review could be better understood as embodied rather than as embrained.

Social implications

Developing strategy as performance could enhance organisational competence.

Originality/value

These concepts have not previously been applied in organisational analysis.

Details

Society and Business Review, vol. 8 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1746-5680

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Article
Publication date: 1 October 2005

Athanasios Laios

Coaches leave an indelible mark on all their athletes by striving to exemplify the highest moral character, behaviour and leadership. Coaching is said to be as much an art…

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1486

Abstract

Purpose

Coaches leave an indelible mark on all their athletes by striving to exemplify the highest moral character, behaviour and leadership. Coaching is said to be as much an art as a science, and demands creativity and individual interpretation of people and situations. The aim of this study was to present the educational system for training coaches in Greece.

Design/methodology/approach

The study is based on a review of the literature and Greek sports legislation.

Findings

It was found that the occupation of coaching can be practised in Greece by: graduates of the five departments of Physical Education and Sports Science; holders of a certificate or diploma from coaching schools in foreign countries accredited by the Greek Centre of Sport Research and Technology; and holders of a certificate or diploma from special schools set up by the General Secretariat for Sport. The results showed significant differences regarding the institution which issue coaching diplomas, duration of coach training periods and source of the official and legal licence given.

Originality/value

The study provides useful information on the Greek system of training and educating coaches, the duration of their studies, the category, and the teaching staff.

Details

International Journal of Educational Management, vol. 19 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-354X

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