Matthew Benham has spoken about the importance of collaboration and consensus in a wide-ranging interview where he discussed the role of a football club owner, structure and transfers.
Brentford FC’s owner shed light on the Club’s approach and stressed that ‘it’s much more qualitative than quantitative’ highlighting that, contrary to the general consensus, the role of analytics is more subtle, with personal connections and relations also playing a part.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Brentford Supporters Trust ‘Bees United’ to mark the tenth anniversary of him taking control of the Club from the Trust, Matthew Benham spoke about his thoughts on making transfer decisions and the importance of vigorous debate.
He said: “Basically, I’ve always been of the opinion that decisions are best made not by all powerful leader, but by consensus. Not by ‘groupthink’ where everyone just agrees but where you have a group in which everyone is allowed to have their own independent thoughts, there's vigorous debate and decisions aren't weighted by the seniority of the person giving their opinions.”
Matthew reflected on the ‘Moneyball’ tag which The Bees has often been labelled with, since the Club move away from a traditional scouting, recruitment and football management model.
“I think we all got a bit caught up in it," he said. "The first few months after that (in 2015) there were press releases blathering on about analytics and all of that. And then we quickly realised, ‘shit, this is getting out of hand’. And so ever since then, we've been trying to downplay all the sort of Moneyball nonsense, But generally, it's much more qualitative than quantitative.”
The role of the owner was also discussed and Matthew emphasised the reality of his approach which is more nuanced and balanced than it is commonly perceived to be: “I would say, for a long time, the media presented it as this binary option - either the owner just writes a cheque and keeps his mouth shut as he should, or it means he's interfering in absolutely everything and he's running down to the bench at halftime. The fact that I didn't want to be in the former camp meant that there was lots of crap about me trying to dictate team selection and so on.”
When speaking about the transfer process, Matthew said: “It was always exaggerated how much maths was going to be involved. But having said that, I would have anticipated that our models would have had more impact than they actually have.
“So, I'd say instead, the big change hasn't been such so much that but more that it's now a collaborative effort rather than the tradition that a manager says, ‘I want to sign this guy because he used to play for me and I trust him’. The other most common lines are, ‘I know him’ or, ‘we share the same agent’ or, ‘I saw him on TV the other night, and he had a really good game’. So, I think the really big change is that it's a more collaborative effort. Lots of different people having input.”
To read the full exclusive interview, the first of a two-part series with Matthew Benham, visit the Bees United website.