Wanted: Winning Recipe

Sports clubs that enjoy sustained success have their books and organisation in good order in combination with professional abilities and strong team loyalty. This is the result of the first part of the study, Top Performance, a collaboration between the University of Borås and the University of Skövde. The next step for the researchers will be to study how this knowledge can benefit our working life.

Illustration of basket ball match

– Sustained success is based on many factors which are skilfully combined, says Stefan Tengblad, professor of business administration at the University of Skövde, who together with Margareta Oudhuis, professor of work science at the University of Borås, runs the research Top Performance - From sports hall to boardroom.
Researchers have been studying a number of successful clubs with unbroken runs in the top divisions of football, handball, ice hockey and basketball. They have interviewed club officials on different levels as well as coaches and players. And they did not unearth a quick solution.
– Sacking the coach or replacing players when things are going badly is not the solution. Instead it is management unity that is crucial, and to dare to continue working with a long-term approach, says Margareta Oudhuis.
One example is Elfsborg If, where the coach Magnus Haglund initially experienced difficulties but then led the team to its first national championship in 45 years in 2006. He stayed as coach of Elfsborg for eight years.

Sound Financial Standing a Success Factor

Key factors for success, according to the study, are organisational structures and processes related to a sound financial standing, good public relations and team building, where communicative leaders are evident.
– If these factors are missing from a team or the workplace, it may be problematic, says Stefan Tengblad.
Picture of Stefan Tengblad and Margareta OudhuisNew arenas were also found to have been instrumental for a number of clubs. This has also applied to handball and basketball, where it has been possible to integrate additional events that increase interest and revenues. That a sound financial standing is important is perhaps not surprising, yet money itself does not give success. However, a good economy can help composure during temporary downturns, for example, you can afford to break a bad contract.
– One of the most important lessons to take into working life is probably the constant ambition to become the best and the ability to create an environment that makes it possible to perform at your best. Clubs exhibited a positive climate and a burning desire to develop as well as a goal oriented commitment that we believe working life would benefit from, says Margareta Oudhuis.
Vinnova financed the study with Sustainable Performance AB as the administrator. The overall aim of the researchers is to find tools for organisational development.

Text: Florence Oppenheim
Photo: Martin Karlsson
Illustration: Li Rosén