Sports

For all the easy talk about the need to repair dysfunctional cultures, it is still one of the hardest management challenges. But even by the thankless Sisyphean standard of such culture-change programmes, the National Football League is beginning at the foot of the hill.

Bernie Ecclestone, the 83-year-old supremo of Formula One, this week brought his empire-threatening bribery trial to an end by agreeing to pay $100m to the German court that was hearing the case. That is right: he paid off the state of Bavaria to escape a bribery charge.

John Gapper

Rupert Murdoch is not exactly putting his money where his mouth is with 21st Century Fox’s unsolicited $80bn offer for Time Warner. By offering non-voting Fox shares as part of the cash-and-stock bid he has made clear that he will not risk his voting grip on his family-controlled company. Read more

Emma Jacobs

Luis Suarez, right, and Giorgio Chiellini after clashing during their World Cup match. Photo: Reuters

If you bit someone at work – as Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez appeared to on Tuesday night – would you get sacked? It seems likely. Read more

Welcome to the World Cup in Brazil, brought to you by Fifa, a corporate governance disaster that is also one of the most successful multinational enterprises on earth.

Andrew Hill

Lesson Two: ensure your predecessor is dead or distant (photo: Getty)

Good morning and welcome to the new Harvard MBA module on sports management. I’m assistant professor David MoyesRead more

Andrew Hill

EE is the descendant of one of the most ridiculous brands in corporate history – Everything Everywhere, which turned out to mean Nothing Anywhere – so I feared the worst when I saw the UK digital communications group had signed a partnership with what it inevitably calls the “iconic” Wembley Stadium. Football fans already chant about “going to Wemb-er-lee”, so the brand gurus could so easily have renamed the ground “WemblEE”.

Wembley Stadium, as it will be, sEEn from the air (source: EE)

Happily, common sense and history prevailed. Fans will have to survive a blizzard of EE branding, including the illumination of Wembley’s arch in EE blue, but the press statement is clear that “the world-renowned name of the stadium will remain”. It usually does. When new names are applied to old stadiums, often either the name doesn’t stick – or the company doesn’t. Read more

Ravi Mattu

There is one question I’ve been struggling to figure out about Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to release his second memoir: why now? Of course, he has retired but for a manager renowned for protecting his players in public while berating them in the sanctity of the dressing room, publicly naming and shaming some of the club legends has generated lots of unflattering headlines.

Sir Alex certainly wants his legacy as a leader and manager to be recognised; his methods were recently the subject of a Harvard Business Review case study.

But another reason is hinted at in one of the most revealing quotes from the book, on the loneliness of being a manager: “In management you are fragile, sometimes. You wonder whether you are valued”. Read more

Andrew Hill

Di Canio confronts fans; a day later he lost his job as Sunderland manager

With Harvard Business School professors analysing Sir Alex Ferguson’s management style, and consultants drawing parallels between football coaches and chief executives, is there room in the crowded literature of sports management case studies for “The Di Canio Way”?

If there is, it will be a slim volume – Paolo Di Canio lost his job as manager of Sunderland on Sunday night after just 13 games and barely a month into the new season. I don’t have much truck with parallels between sports management and business management, but there are four cautionary chapters executives everywhere might want to read. Read more

Howard Wilkinson, former manager of Leeds United, knows about pressure: “No offence to captains of industry but even a FTSE 100 chairman can postpone a board meeting. A manager can’t postpone a football match and every match is a shareholder meeting, [sometimes] in front of 88,000 people.”

Michael Skapinker

Thomas Bach, the new president of the International Olympic Committee, is the ninth person to hold the position since it was established in 1894. The election of Mr Bach, once an Olympic gold medal fencer, comes shortly after the investiture of Ephraim Mirvis as chief rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth. Britain has had chief rabbis since 1704. Rabbi Mirvis is just the 11th to hold the post.

When the Olympic movement and British Jewry appoint bosses, they expect them to stick around.

Contrast that with company chief executives, who are being thrown out in almost unprecedented numbers. Read more

Andrew Hill

The Ashes is regularly described as “one of the oldest rivalries in sport” – a phrase to get the blood running for English and Australian cricket fans as the latest series gets under way. But could the competitive edge that makes the Test matches so exciting lead to unethical behaviour on and off the field? It seems so.

Academics exploring the difference between healthy competition and sometimes unhealthy rivalry suggest that the latter is “associated with increased Machiavellianism, over-reporting of performance, willingness to employ unethical negotiation tactics, and unsportsmanlike behavior”. Read more

Andrew Hill

Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement as manager of Manchester United gives the management world another example of how to bow out when you are, frankly, getting a bit elderly.

On this topic, we now have four great templates – the Pope, the Queen of England, Warren Buffett and Sir Alex – each of which could be applied by organisations whose leaders are grappling with questions about the frailty and mortality of their leaders. Read more

Andrew Hill

Pat Howard is getting some undeserved flak for suspending four players from Australia’s national cricket team.

The manager was once chief operating officer of a listed company, but never in his corporate management career can he have taken a more controversial decision. Read more

Andrew Hill

Roberto Di Matteo. Image by Getty

Chief executives who fret about the short-termist demands of their companies’ shareholders should spare a thought for Roberto Di Matteo, ditched as manager of Chelsea Football Club on Wednesday.

Football is a funny old management game, of course, but Chelsea’s capricious owner Roman Abramovich embodies a combination of short-termism, short temper and short-term memory loss that is extreme even in that curious world.

True, Mr Di Matteo had just overseen Chelsea’s defeat in the Champions’ League on Tuesday night to Italy’s Juventus, which puts the London club in danger of an early exit from Europe’s most prestigious club competition. But Mr Di Matteo is also the man who, having taken over only weeks earlier from the last hapless Chelsea manager, led the club to (admittedly unexpected) victory in the same tournament in May. Read more