Creating a Club Ethos


Being a data translator, not only do you need to be able to understand data but you need to communicate what it means concisely and effectively. For my second article, I wanted to focus on a specific soft skill: communication. Not the communication of data, but rather the communication of an idea - an ethos. 

The Athletic recently published an article titled, “The ‘(Club X) Way’ Delusion.” The author brings up a lot of good points about how people believe certain clubs have a certain “way” of playing or identity. It says the reality is most clubs’ “Way” are about playing attractive football, not unique, a souvenir of the glory days, and how these ways are, more often than not, tied to managers. It gives a good overview of how football works currently. But, I say, football shouldn’t work like this. This is where a Club Ethos comes in.

A Club Ethos is a set of principles and beliefs, which reflect the people, location, and history, to lead the direction of the club;
an identity to use as a guiding light.

The great thing about a Club Ethos, when implemented effectively, is that it will be the unifying factor, attitude, and direction for your club. Everyone from the coaching staff, board, marketing team, ticket sales, and everyone in between, should identify, have resonance, and believe in the Club Ethos so they can strive to accomplish what the Club Ethos sets out to do. That’s ultimately to reflect the people within the organization, the location, and the community. In short, the football club is a way to communicate an idea - the embodiment of the staff, location, and community.

To help paint a picture, let me give an example and even do a quick Club Ethos.

The best example of a Club Ethos is Red Bull. RB Leipzig and co. are all conveying the idea of the Red Bull energy drink.

The brand is about:

  • Targeting young people
  • Creating attention-grabbing experiences
  • A high-energy, “gives-you-wings” level of work ethic

Now, if we look at their clubs:

  • Look to bring in young players and coaches
  • Play attention-grabbing football by playing a high-press and direct
  • Above is possible because of a high-energy work ethic

Not bad, right? Not only that, but they also hire staff who epitomize the brand, too. As Andrew Sparkes, former goalkeeping coach for seven years at Red Bull Salzburg and NYRB, said in this article,

“They like young, energetic people all through the company, who are hard-working, committed to the brand, and they have kept on building from there.”

This is superb and every club should strive to convey and live their identity as effectively as them.

The only criticism I have of Red Bull is that they choose to have their Ethos built around their brand’s identity - not each city’s identity. They would’ve faced much less backlash, in the footballing world, if they captured the essence of Leipzig, Salzburg, New York, etc., as the base, and put the Red Bull flavour (no pun intended) on top. In short, Red Bull was true to themselves but seemed to disregard the cities, which they populated.

Now let’s look create a Club Ethos by sticking to the club’s roots. Let’s try the Ligue 2 club: Grenoble Foot 38.

I chose this club because I adore the city, watched matches in their stadium during the 2019 World Cup, and had a blank slate of information about the club.

When doing a Club Ethos, I typically look into the history, essence, and unique features of two things: The city and the club. From there, we can gather information to form something unique, real, and actionable. Let’s get started.

1. The City - Grenoble

My thoughts and research:

  • A modest size but big for the region (metropolitan area ~688,000)

  • “Capital of the Alps”

  • A mix of everything from modern (Museum de Grenoble), historical (Palace of the Parliament of Dauphiné), and abandoned architecture

  • Beautiful landscapes with mountains, rivers, and parks

  • La Bastille, an ancient fortification, on top of a nearby mountain that is accessible by cable car or by foot

  • Shown growth over the past centuries due to a booming and innovative glove industry, hydropower, and hosting the Winter Olympics in 1968

  • Currently huge in research, development, and technology - one in five people work in those industries

  • Top Universities in physics, computer science, and applied mathematics

2. The Club - Grenoble Foot 38

I was lucky enough to find Grenoble Foot 38’s former site editor and former writer/editor of, François Lo Presti, on LinkedIn to ask him some questions about the club he knew so much about.

Here’s a quick summary of François’ thoughts:

  • The club has gone through six(!) name changes and mergers with smaller local clubs due to financial difficulties and “therefore represents the amalgamation of the different districts of the city…a true amalgam”

  • Furthermore, their Women’s team was a merger between another women’s team from the region

  • The 38 represents the French Department of Isère, which the club is located

  • Even experiencing a demotion to the 5th tier, due to previous owners mismanagement of the club, they still drew crowds of 2,000-3,000 people - more than many Ligue 2 clubs at the time. They continue to have high attendance today

  • Historically trained many top talents. Olivier Giroud, Florian Thauvin, Youri Djorkaeff, Sofiane Feghouli, and more.

Now that we have all of this information, let's distill all of these findings to create an actionable Club Ethos.

A few things jump out at me:

  1. Consolidation: Having six mergers with smaller local clubs to make the club even stronger, they truly represent an amalgamation of the entire community and is supported as such

  2. Broad: With the 38 attached, it truly is a representation of being “Capital of the Alps.” Not only that, but Mountains also symbolize an obstacle. GF38 can be that obstacle

  3. Innovative: Invests in itself to grow: High Tech industries, top universities, and built the transportation infrastructure for the ’68 Winter Olympics

From these three things, we can create a motto that encapsulates the Club Ethos which will generate further ideas.

The Club Ethos:

La Constante des Alpes - The Constant of the Alps

Constant refers to not only the symbolic nature of mountains and being stable/eternal, but also mathematical constants to pay tribute to the city’s innovative nature. Additionally, I wanted to mention the Alps because of the importance of the community, and the broader region, which Grenoble can make a name for itself.

Here are some ideas based on the Club Ethos:

Catchment Area: They are by far the biggest club in the Alps and could expand their reach to the surrounding departments, which take up the Alps. It’s possible to grow their pull from 1.2 million to ~3.3 million. That’s about 5% of the population of France - not bad!

Below is an example of their reach if they decide to broaden their catchment area.


Left is current catchment, while right is the catchment with the growth.

Grassroots: Partnerships, partnerships, partnerships. If your club is based on an amalgamation of the community, build partnerships to represent that. Build partnerships with all of the clubs in the area to create camps and events, do high-end training sessions for the best boys and girls, and look to create lifelong fans amongst the players and families. Plus, this helps build the foundation that every great soccer player in the Alps should be playing for Grenoble.

Sponsorship: Like above, look for sponsorship opportunities in the Alps. Look for who is interested in building that partnership to grow their business throughout the region. This could include community outreach with businesses to foster environments to support GF38 and their two first teams. Tourism, Carrefour (has over 1,000 jobs in Grenoble), High Tech, Glénat (a well-known comics publisher based on Grenoble), festivals, museums, and universities immediately come to mind, but I’m sure there’s more. This will generate revenue and ultimately make the club better.

Analytics: GF38 should immediately build a partnership with the local talented, intelligent, and innovative universities in Physics, Computer Science, and Applied Mathematics to create a robust analytics department. They should be using these resources to not only help students gain valuable work experience, get school credits, and potentially a job but to gain an upper hand on the opposition. There’s plenty of things to look into from recruitment, playing style, player development, set-pieces, load management, and green-sustainability to help both the Men’s and Women’s teams.

The main point of all of these partnerships is to build an even stronger bond with the community which has helped Grenoble survive hardships to be a constant in French Football. In short, if Grenoble and the Alps thrive; Grenoble Foot 38 thrives.

Playing Style: The Club Ethos needs to be responsible for the playing style to further reflect our identity. If GF38 is known for being a difficult obstacle to overcome (mountainous) and a combination of mergers (consolidation) I’d be expecting the team to play:


  1. Difficult to breakdown, compact
  2. Overload near-side, especially the centre of the pitch
  3. Probably a low-block


  1. The heavy use of combinations to progress the ball down the field
  2. Overload near-side
  3. Methodical build-up

Coaching Staff: The last piece of the puzzle is the coach and all coaches who are considered and hired should be comfortable and expected to play this style of play. If they don’t it goes against the very essence of the club. We’ve seen what happens then.

That’s everything! From doing a bit of research and a quick interview with a knowledgeable person we created a Club Ethos which helped the club make decisions about:

  1. Marketing
  2. Catchment Area
  3. Grassroots
  4. Sponsorships
  5. Analytics
  6. Playing Style
  7. Coaching Hires

With adequate resources and actions, creating this foundation for the club to live by should improve the club to being a Ligue 1 mainstay. The club will also be unique, identifiable, more connected to the community, and even connected to the “tribe” of people who identify with the Club Ethos, gaining even more fans. A tribe of people who believe working collectively and together to form a stronger bond, identify with the Alps region, and believe in innovation will become fans once they realize what the club is about. I can see the delusion going away and the essence of each club coming to light now!

All this being said, it requires much more time, energy, and resources to do a proper Club Ethos. This is just a quick summary and paints a picture of how I might go about it. I’m happy to provide a more thorough Club Ethos, along with other analyses, to your club, league, or organization, upon request.

I encourage you to check out my consulting page, here.