Fans don’t get the business of football… but women DO understand the offside rule

Aug 28, 2014

This is the message from new research published by the Open University Business School and the Football League Trust.

The study of over 1,000 British football fans, carried out by Opinion Matters, compared ‘on-pitch’ and ‘off-pitch’ know-how and uncovered which areas of Britain have the supporters with the best all-round knowledge of the game.

Fans from the North East topped the table overall, but nationally, British fans showed a lack of knowledge when it came to the business of football, scoring on average 16% in the off-pitch questions compared with 58% in the on-pitch questions.

This poor awareness of the commercial realities behind the game can undermine a fan’s understanding of the decisions their own beloved clubs are making day in day out.

The study marks the launch of a new BA (Hons) Business Management (Sport and Football) degree, developed in partnership between OUBS and The Football League Trust, which focuses on business through the lens of the football industry.

The degree draws on people’s passion and understanding of football and combines this with the foundations of effective business management. ‘The Business of Football’ will be available via OpenLearn and is being supported by the OU’s Faculty of Education and Language Studies.

The research also found:
  •          In the battle of the sexes, male respondents scored highest in both their on-pitch (40% v 31.5%) and off-pitch knowledge (17% v 13%);
  •          Age and wisdom overcame youth, with the 55+ age group scoring the highest overall with 39.5%. The lower the respondents age, the lower the score, with the 16-24 age group achieving just 24.5% in comparison;
  •          Only 23.5% of British football fans understand the intricacies of the offside rule… and female fans scored higher than their male counterparts – 25% v 23%;
  •          Just 12% understand the basics of football player contracts, with almost half (44%) thinking a player has no option to leave a club aside from being sold or reaching the end of their contract.
  • The degree enrols its first squad of students in October and is aimed at anyone who wants to enhance their career with a respected qualification; from fans with an interest in both football and business, to those aspiring to earn a business degree with a difference.

It would also appeal to those already working within the football industry, or community organisations that want to underpin their football experience with an education in business and management.

Details of the full degree or how to sign up to the free course are available at 

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