The World Cup as a novel & its lessons for management

Dr Marco Arraya

Posted: July 5, 2014

The World Cup in Brazil could be a Harold Robbins novel. Since 12th June we have had a fantastic, fast-moving story with money, sex, melodrama and fights. However, this novel has some relevance for management practice:

i.            “Money so they say / Is the root of all evil today”[1]  – This World Cup has shown how money can influence teams: a) three African teams (Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria) had problems during training and the competition itself with players; b) the most expensive coaches failed to build winning teams (Capello, Hodgson and Prandelli); c) the Cost Rica team has a value in terms of players assets of £13.2m (half of this value is accounted for by goalkeeper Navas) which is 3.5% of the Brazilian squad; in spite of this, Costa Rica won their group and this week beat Greece (3x Costa Rican squad value). Money is a tangible resource that can, allied to effective decision-making, help to create wealth. In some situations though, money does not guarantee success nor is asset value a predictor of success. Lesson: financial resources must be associated with valuable intangibles resources – money alone doesn’t create success.

ii.            “Sex is natural – sex is good / Not everybody does it / But everybody should”[2] – Teamsthat banned their players from having sex were eliminated early in the tournament. Germany and Holland adopted a more balanced view by allowing wives and girlfriends to stay in team hotels and have progressed in the competition. Of course it’s difficult to confirm a positive relationship between having sex and sports performance, but the Germans and Dutch’s are proving that sex can be an attribute in getting human resources to commit to team goals. Moreover, it can assist in alleviating fear, stress and boredom. Lesson: to know how to manage an intangible resource such as “relationships between team human resources and stakeholders” can have a positive influence in team performance.

iii.            “Suspicion torments my heart / Suspicion keeps us apart”[3] – Der Spiegel journalist Rafael Buschmann raised suspicions about Cameroon’s team fixing games.  He has identified that a convicted fraudster (Wilson Raj Perumal) had correctly predicted that Cameroon would lose 4-0 and would have a player sent off in their group match against Croatia. During the same game, Alex Song was dismissed for elbowing Mario Mandzukic, and Benoit Assou-Ekotto ostensibly tried to head-butt team-mate Benjamin Moukandjo (did he suspect something was wrong?). The truth is Cameroon’s team is proud of its World Cup integrity. Lesson: research in marketing indicates that credibility, image and trust are all critical factors in business. Without them, situations can arise that undermine team effort, cohesion and performance.

iv.            “It’s the eye of the tiger / It’s the thrill of the fight”[4]  – The boot fight. Rumors suggest that sports equipment manufacturers invested a total of £100m in boot deals with the players on show at the World Cup. The Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo has the biggest sponsorship deal of all the players in Brazil – estimated to be worth £14.1million-a-year with Nike. CR7 was able to secure such an amount as his representatives know how to leverage his face, reputation, skills and, most of all, his ability to conquer fans’ passion with his friendly disposition (for example, the Brazilian girl episode during Campinas training). Lesson: the marketing has no forts or barricades and only the fittest and credible are achieve success, CR7 has left the tournament but his fans passion and reputation transcend his team’s defeats.

After such episodes in Brazil, the World Cup would make a perfect novel, with clear management lessons!!!! In the meantime, let´s wait for the next episode.


[1] Money, Phink Floyd / Roger Waters, Dark Side of the Moon Album

[2] Sex, George Michael, Faith Album

[3] Suspicion, Doc Pomus / Mort Shuman, Elvis Presley, Pot Luck with Elvis Album

[4] Eye of the tiger, Jim Peterik / Frankie Sullivan, Survivor, Eye of the Tiger Album

About Dr Marco Arraya

Marco Arraya is a manager and consultant in the sports and health equipment industry. He holds a PhD in strategic management from the Universidade Aberta (Portugal) and an MSc in sports management from FMH/Universidade Técnica de Lisboa (Portugal). His research interests are in business management practices, dynamic capabilities, resource based view, business models and learning organisation. He writes for several Portuguese sports and economics magazines/journals and can be contacted