Should we Implement UEFA Financial Fair Play in IT

by John Turner

Posted on February 10, 2013

It has been very interesting to watch the clubs of the Premier League (EPL) lobby for and against the proposed Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules. The FFP rules attempt to set out a budgetary framework that aims to ensure that football clubs align their spending and income.

Having had a number of recent high profile bankruptcies this would appear to be a no-brainer for the EPL. Bankrupt clubs have a widespread impact on the club, supporters, local economy and the league as a whole. So the question is, why the need for lobbying on this particular debate?

Clubs that are run responsibly have little to fear from FFP as they are probably already adhering to the constraints on spending. In fact, this is a positive step as they will no longer have to compete against clubs that are spending recklessly or those that have wealthy sponsors. On the flip side, clubs with wealthy sponsors who have their investments subsidised would no longer be able spend beyond the income they generate. This is not very appealing to the oil and gas barons who like to tinker with football clubs in their down time. Then there are those clubs who have been promoted and want to significantly invest in order that they have a chance of remaining in the league.

But how is this relevant to IT? I would say that all this is directly relevant. IT companies engage in the same competition for talent as the EPL clubs and they often do so by offering better financial rewards to the players.

So for those companies who do not have the finances (or are too responsible) to attract talent by offering ever increasing salaries and bonuses how can you compete?

Arsenal compete by offering a strong sense of community. They have an established culture that extends trust to younger and less established players. Young players get the opportunity to grow faster than they might at clubs that spend big on transfers. This culture permeates the club from the board through the manager and to the players themselves.

Liverpool offer players the opportunity to become involved in an interesting project that has a clear vision for transforming the club on and off the field. Players can be excited about the changes in transfer policies, playing style and restoring the club to the pinnacle of European football.

What these two examples teach us is that if you are not Google, Amazon or Apple you can still compete for talent by offering something that is more compelling and sustainable than money alone.

Translating this to the IT industry companies need could consider:

  • Find ways to increase the talent pool by supporting initiatives such as CoderDojo.
  • Investing in the grass roots (graduates) and focus on their growth. Support alternative routes into IT and get involved with universities to ensure that they are imparting relevant skills and knowledge to their students.
  • Facilitate progression where people demonstrate out of band skills and expertise. All to often companies attach too much significance to tenure or years of experience when developing the bench for senior positions.
  • Be ambitious when considering what projects to undertake and trust your team to deliver. Value their feedback and allow them to take ownership of your projects.
  • Allow your team to own their workspace. Want bean bags, sure…want to invite their friends over to talk tech, no problem…prefer Linux to Windows, we’ll find a way. Whatever it is you should be as open as health and safety or confidentiality allows.
  • Support the things your team are interested in even if this is not directly relevant to your company (today). IT teams are really inventive and often they will see applications within your company that you cannot see. Hack days and 20% time were designed with just this in mind.
  • Remove (or hide) the things that frustrate your team such as unnecessary bureaucracy.

I could go on but I’ll stop now as I would never be able to come up with a definitive list. Below are some other resources who have already considered the same problem.

What non-financial benefits do you find compelling?