How to avoid an own goal with PRINCE2

A football stadium filled with fans

It’s safe to say that most of us are aware of the disaster that is the European Super League (ESL) – or was, considering how many teams have so far withdrawn from it. For those of you unaware of what happened (I should probably accept that some of you aren’t into football), 12 European football clubs decided to form their own exclusive league. Why? For more financial gains, of course.

The announcement of the ESL on Sunday was met with a lot of backlash from fans, players, football clubs and governing bodies. To say this was expected, is an understatement.

But, of course, we love to look at things from a project management perspective. So, if we look at the setting up of ESL as a project, how could PRINCE2® have helped avoid this mess?

Stakeholder engagement

Once the project plan was set in place, both internal and external stakeholders should have been identified. That means everyone involved or affected by the project. In this case, stakeholders include among others: the players, the fans, the football bodies, sponsors and all other football clubs.

The teams should have made a comprehensive list and ensured they knew exactly who the stakeholders are and engaged with them appropriately throughout the project. Effective stakeholder engagement and communication is key to a project’s success.

Many players tweeted their dismay at the announcement and stated they had no desire to be a part of the ESL. In addition, some fans expressed their disappointed about their club’s greed  by holding protests outside their team’s stadium. To top it all off, the major football bodies threatened legal action against the teams involved in the ESL – and even politicians got involved. This all shows that stakeholders were disregarded, and no appropriate communication was established.

Assessing and identifying risks

Projects encounter uncertainty and it is important to take the time to identify and assess any risks that could impact the project’s objectives. When planning a project using PRINCE2, risk takes centre stage as one of the seven themes.

In terms of the ESL, there are numerous risks that should have been identifying from the very start and been recorded in a risk register.

When rumours first started circulating about the project, major football governing bodies were quick to state that such a league would not be recognized. They also said that any players involved wouldn’t be allowed to compete in international tournaments. Surely, this should have been highlighted as one of the major risks. You would expect the teams to have discussed how the ESL would impact their participation in other domestic and international competitions.

Furthermore, the success of such a league would depend on fans’ and players’ involvements. What if players refused to play and fans refused to pay to attend the matches? The friction this would cause would be unrepairable. Were any contingencies put in place to deal with this? From all the debate, discussion and news stories posted over the past couple of days, it’s clear that none of this was taken into consideration.

Seeing how quickly teams have withdrawn from this project, it is evident that there was no risk management approach in place. It is also very clear how vital stakeholders are to the success of any project.

A little bit more thought and project management guidance could have helped shape the project plan and avoided failure. But then, do we actually need a super league?

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