Updated on

While some are afraid of technology taking jobs, the most recent progress has shown that tech solutions embellish our workflow. Rasmus Ankersen, Brentford FC Co-Director of Football and FC Midtjylland Chairman, tells Business Malta that technology and football can and should coexist. He gives an innovative depiction of this sport which is different to the narratives often echoed by football enthusiasts. Mr Ankersen is one of the speakers at the Breakthrough – From Good to Great conference by Business Leaders Malta on 14 June at Teatru Manoel, Valletta.

Best-selling author and successful entrepreneur, Mr Ankersen has been the Chairman of FC Midtjylland — his childhood football club in Denmark — and director of the English club Brentford FC. His entrepreneur career allowed him to incorporate two fundamental life elements: work and passion.

Yet, how do business and football come together? “I believe that both worlds can learn a lot from each other. Running two football clubs today I take a lot of inspiration from best practices in the business life, especially in the way I think about business models and KPI [key performance indicator] systems,” Mr Ankersen says.

“At the same time, I believe business can learn a lot from sports, especially in terms of how athletes have to innovate to stay ahead of the game.”

Rasmus Ankersen, Brentford FC Co-Director of Football

Working with two clubs in two different countries, Mr Ankersen has to deal with cultural differences, especially in a sport such as a football, where connections between people are significant. Different countries have different approaches to playing sports, which is very visible when we see the national teams competing against each other during international events.

“I think there are some great cultural differences which you need to take into account when leading people. In the United Kingdom, there is a lot more respect for hierarchy than in Denmark for example,” the professional says. “But overall, I would say that the mechanics of running a football club are not too different. It is pretty much the same strategic challenges that both clubs face,” he says as he recounts his own experiences.

Tech bets its boots

Mr Ankersen appears to be highly enthusiastic about the possibility to improve the gameplay of football through technology.

In recent years, football has changed. What used to be more about passion, nowadays is often accompanied by figures and more and more by statistics. It is fundamental, therefore, to analyse a football club in different ways, and not just to talk about the ability of the players and the managers. Through the use of analyses, one can give a more objective idea of what the game is and how we should deal with it in this modern era.

“Football is a very emotional industry, and unfortunately, too many important decisions are still based on emotions rather than rational thinking. Analytics is a way of trying to take the emotions out of a decision, and if used correctly, I think it can make a huge difference to the quality of the decisions you make in a football club,” Mr Ankersen says.

His innovative vision of football is rooted in the inclusion of big data and is heartfelt across all his operations. He says big data analysis helps him to cut through all the evocative narratives created by media and fans. Since everyone has an opinion about how players play and how coaches manage — or should do so —, Mr Ankersen clarifies that analytics and hard facts can provide a much more objective answer, hence improving the decision making.

Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, Business Leaders Malta is organising the Breakthrough – From Good to Great conference by Business Leaders Malta on 14 June at Teatru Manoel, Valletta. If you want to hear what Mr Ankersen has to share, come and see him in action at the event.

Business Leaders Malta started life as an alliance between three diverse companies in 2009 — Mdina International, Jugs Malta and Konnekt, fusing capabilities, experience, professionalism and creativity to pursue their original goal of creating a forum where thought leaders and professionals could come together to share knowledge and ideas.