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Football in the Workplace

While various forms of football have been an important medium for exercise and social exchange since ancient times, it was the establishment of football clubs in industrial Britain in the second half of the 19th century that heralded the emergence of the world's most popular sport and established football as an important part of corporate life.
 
To inspire pride and reward teamwork, the formation of work unit teams including Arsenal (Army) and my own favorite team West Ham (iron works) helped fuel the game's rapid expansion as an amateur sport in Britain. In 1878, Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (LYR) workers who played football against other departments and other railway companies to relieve work pressures formed a club. In 1902, it was renamed Manchester United.
 
But while company teams joined leagues with teams formed by churches, cricket clubs and other organizations in Britain, it was skilled and semi-skilled workers who played the most crucial role in introducing football to the rest of the world. Football's simplicity, its relatively low cost, and its suitability for group enjoyment all contributed to it taking root quickly once introduced.
 
For example, in the 1860's, even before railway workers were dreaming of Manchester United, their industrious colleagues were introducing the game to railway workers in Argentina. By 1892, Argentina had established its own national league, the first outside Britain. Railway engineers were also among the first to establish a football club in Uruguay, the winners of the first World Cup.
 
Scottish textile workers are credited with introducing the game to the residents of Gothenberg in 1875 and Scots workers were involved in the spread of football to Italy, Russia, Columbia and several other countries that embraced the game after watching them organize games after (and sometimes during) work. Similar casual games played by British mining engineers led to the formation of Athletico Bilbao, the first club in Spain in 1898, while weekend games in the town square led an Englishman working for a marine agency and an Italian engineer to establish Napoli in 1904. In Russia and many other places, famous clubs like Spartak, Dynamo and Locomotiv still proudly carry the name of their founding company.
 
Although commercial enterprises helped carry football's pioneers around the world, the education and training sector also saw the wider benefits and must also take great credit for exporting football's principles of fair play and teamwork. For example, Oxford University's tour of Germany in 1875 encouraged a number of German Universities to adopt the game and helped Germany become one of the first countries to play under FA rules outside Britain.
 
In Uruguay, an English professor at Montevideo University formed the first club in 1882, beating even the railway engineers to the honour. Subsequent university tours were responsible for introducing the game to Austria and Iceland. As for Brazil, football was introduced there by Charles Miller, the Brazilian-born son of English parents who became an enthusiast during his education in England
 
While the institutions preached the amateur sporting principles that were part of the game's founding code, the involvement of commercial interests through works teams helped the game spread rapidly towards professionalism wherever it was played. Ambitious factory owners looking to strengthen their teams would post advertisements for jobs like this:
 
"Wanted. Factory Manager. Must be able to play right midfield."
 
Naturally, this led to many complaints from amateur teams who were unable to compete against these new thinly disguised professional teams. Clubs typically registered as limited liability companies within a few years of establishment and, although it would take many decades before market forces would set their salaries, the job title of professional footballer was created in 1888.
 
These developments quickly led to the emergence of football as an industry in its own right and we are all aware of the size and reach of that industry today. From the club formed by a group of railway workers, Manchester United has become one of the most recognized brands in the world, a billion dollar business.
 
But even as football has become a fashionable and high profile industry at its top end, the real strength of the game can be measured not by the number of clubs that have turned professional, but the number that have not - the number that still exist to provide their mainly worker members with the week's main leisure and entertainment activity. In Britain, there are over 50,000 clubs that do just that for over 3 million people.
 
From a human resources viewpoint, while small football clubs are found all over the UK and some company teams have been playing in amateur leagues and cups for decades, the full benefits of football in the workplace are only now being fully understood.
 
One exception to the rule and an example to all is Bayer AG, one of Germany's biggest companies. Bayer has shown incredible commitment to sponsoring sports clubs in the communities surrounding its production sites and there are now a total of 29 Bayer sports clubs with a total membership of over 50,000 people. Incorporating the Bayer name and the Bayer cross in their club emblem and wearing it on the club's strip express the traditional close links with the company.
 
As described earlier, the idea of establishing a company sports club came from the employees themselves and arose simply from the desire to use their leisure time constructively. In Bayer's case, it was Wilhelm Hauschild who wrote a letter to the head office with signatures from 170 employees requesting support for the establishment of a sports club. The management readily agreed to the request as Bayer's Leverkusen plant was isolated in a "no-man's land" with no infrastructure and no facilities for the creative use of leisure time. TSV 04 Leverkusen company sports club was founded on July 1, 1904 - the first works club of any kind to be established in Germany.
 As the company grew, so sports became increasingly important. As we have seen, the initial commitment to purely recreational sport quickly led to participation in sport at the championship level, as Bayer athletes naturally strove to improve their performances. The company readily responded to its employees' demands for an ever wider range of sporting activities and eventually developed into one of the biggest funders of sport in Germany. The first Bayer Olympic athlete participated at the 1952 Helsinki Games and since then Bayer athletes have won 55 medals.
 
TSV Bayer 04 Leverkusen is the biggest club to be sponsored by the company and it has more than 10,900 members today. The club supports a wide range of activities in professional, recreational and disabled sports and works closely with teams, promoters and sports associations to fund and invest in construction of sports facilities.
 
In China, the history may be very different, but football is still just as capable of answering basic human resources challenges faced by organizations of all sizes. Today, as companies experiment with ever more complicated team building and role playing courses, football stands head and shoulders above the competition as a tried and tested method of focusing group attention on the core skills of trust, communication, respect, vision and motivation.
 
In a society where social networks are closely linked to family and work, football can broaden social horizons and create new exchanges that cross language, cultural, economic and geographical barriers. Company-supported football can become highly symbolic [xiangzhengxing] to an organisation in a way that bungee jumping and paintballing can never achieve.
 
In Beijing of all places, we should recognize that football engenders the Olympic spirit of commitment to a noble cause that is at the heart of all great achievement and provides people with new enthusiasm and energy for shared goals that can directly enhance performance in the work place.
 
At some stage, we will all work or play in a team. Effective teams are vital to business and sporting success but it takes effort to make them work effectively and without conflict. With this clearly in mind, ClubFootball FC has developed its "Football in the Workplace" program together with leading human resources site www.zhaopin.com.
 
"Football in the Workplace" is designed to provide football solutions to corporations investing in team building and leadership training programs. We have developed standard packages that satisfy most core requirements, but we also enjoy creating tailored solutions for company and conference entertainment, team rewards and fun days, even inter-company and industry tournaments.
 
ClubFootball FC events can be designed simply for fun, as a reward to hard working teams or as a bonding and socialising event for new projects. Whatever your requirements, our aim is to deliver professional events that are enjoyed by players and spectators alike.
 
Unlike many other team building schemes, "Football in the Workplace" can be a continuous program that provides regular weekly activities for the keenest players and regular special events for the whole company to support. Our FA qualified coaches are here to bring out the best in each and every competitor while making everyone feel at ease at all times.
 
ClubFootball FC activities are designed to motivate people at all stages, combining their individual talents and abilities to maximize team performance. Through "Football in the Workplace", participants find that diversity is their greatest asset and that trust, cooperation and effective communication are the keys to team success.
 
For more detailed information on the services ClubFootball currently offers corporate clients, please see our ClubFootball Amateur Premier League and ClubFootball Corporate Events sections.

 

By Rowan Simons

 

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