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EPL offers lessons beyond its footballing artistry

Published Tue, May 15th 2018 at 09:45, Updated May 15th 2018 at 09:48 GMT +3

The English Premier League season has ended with Manchester City pipping Manchester United for the coveted title.

The Premier League has more followers in Kenya than in most African countries.

It has spawned a cottage industry involving betting in rural and urban areas.

The league is closest to an addiction for Kenyans of all ages, economic status and even tribe.

It provides cheap entertainment for many Kenyans who go home early to watch the matches and in the process keep out of trouble.

Interestingly, even golfers want to finish their games early to watch the English Premier League. Why is the League so successful? Can we learn a few national lessons?

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One is its openness; players come from everywhere in the world, including Kenya. All they need is to be good footballers. No one cares about the tribes, races or socio-economic class.

Take Manchester City for example. There are players from Brazil, Switzerland, Chile, France, Argentina, Spain, Ivory Coast, Ukraine, Germany, Portugal and Belgium.

The team looks more like a mini United Nations.


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This openness makes it easy to suck in talents from anywhere on the planet.

What if Kenyan football, corporations, and counties were running like that – bringing in talent from wherever they can be found.

Without recruiting the best talent, our firms and institutions will remain stymied.

Look closely at the best the firms in the world.

They are known for attracting high-level talent.

This is why governments rarely solve their problems. They can’t hire anyone no matter how talented they are because of nationality, security and other restrictions. Two is incentives. The footballers are well paid, leaving them with only one thing to do, play good football.

They know too well that the better football they play, the more value they create for the club and themselves. Do we reward the performers in both public and private sectors?

Many firms never grow because the employees are never incentivised. They never do their best but do what they think is commensurate with what they are paid.

Three, the league attracts a multitude of investors, some who buy the clubs for prestige or see future revenue streams through the sale of footballers or broadcasting rights.

So lucrative is football that a team like Manchester United is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

More money is made from ticket sales.  TV rights to broadcast live matches are perhaps the juiciest part of the English Premier League.

Add sponsors and advertisers, which is why you see adverts on the soccer field terraces and jerseys worn by players.

Investors from the US and Arab countries have poured money into the English Premier League. Chinese and Russians have not been left behind.

Four, the Premier League focuses on continuity and succession. Have you noted how they parade young kids on the pitch before the games start?

That is how they inspire future players.

Think of Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah holding your kid’s hand into the pitch.


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The vibrant market for players ensures there is always a stream of new players with good and experienced players retiring into coaching and managerial roles.

In Kenya, we incessant wrangles over the management of football and other games.

In the corporate and public sector, succession is often a big problem.

Five, the Premier League provides uncountable jobs. Apart from players, they need people to take care of the stadiums, logistics, finances, marketing and other activities around the matches.

Six, the league’s success shores up national pride.

There is something exciting about people from all over the world watching your football teams.

Imagine everyone watching Shamakhoko FC or Ituramiro FC and even betting on the possible winner.

Seven is history. League clubs have a long history.


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Stoke City was founded in 1863, Aston Villa in 1874, Manchester United in 1902 and Manchester City in 1880.

They have a rich history behind them. In Kenya, we think we can start a business or any other project and succeed instantly, which I call the “betting mentality.”

The truth is that great businesses, countries and institutions take time and patience to build.

Eight, the key areas in football are technicality, physicality, and tactics.  You must focus on all of them.

Next time you watch Premier League matches, think beyond money and entertainment.

The lessons from this popular league can be applied in our homes and workplace.

With such a young population, there is no reason why we can’t elevate Kenyan soccer and make it one of our leading industries.

After all, the key input is our bodies and their agility.

The rest is management, thinking inter-generational and attracting investors.

What is so hard about that?

-The writer teaches at the University of Nairobi

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