Federico Mari is a fascinating individual. He has spent 15 years as a senior private banker, fluent in four languages, his life has taken him between Milan, Switzerland, Barcelona, London, Singapore and Paris, to name but a few. He has also spent his career dealing with and handling some of the most intimate and sensitive matters for high-profile footballers across the world.
Thanks to his financial background, relationship skills, and specialisation in player personal development, he successfully helps the management of football groups to run a profitable business, build sophisticated player trading strategies amongst its portfolio of clubs, decide how to effectively allocate funds to one or more clubs, and negotiate deals with other clubs and player agents while creating global synergies.
‘As a private banker with over 15 years of experience, I am well-versed in fund allocation, negotiation, trading, and asset portfolio management. I firmly believe that these skills are essential for the management of a club whose primary goal is financial sustainability.’ He explains to the Atlantic Dispatch.
Mari, now a Consultant at FIFA, is someone who you could describe as a connoisseur when it comes to analysing the business management of football clubs around the world. Somebody with a deep passion and interest in the future of the game and how it should be run.
‘It’s difficult for me to remember when my interest in football started,’ Mari tells us. ‘Probably when I was 4 or 5. I don’t remember a time when I was between 5 and 12 without a ball. Growing up I became fascinated by football clubs as companies and by their inefficiencies.
‘During my time as a banker, I have had the chance to meet many football players, football agents, and club owners which gave me the opportunity to learn about football as a business from behind the curtain. I began to realise what problems most clubs face, what opportunities they miss, but also how much football players suffer and don’t prepare for their life post-career.
‘All of this made me passionate about the potential improvements that football clubs have to make and it also made me understand that football players need much more personal support and that fans also want to be more involved in the life of their club.’
Through his own website and social media platforms, Mari details a number of interesting insights and opinions into a range of issues, such as how every football club owner should study the model implemented by Napoli S.S.C and he also looks at how AI technology can help narrow the gap between the footballing elite. He also details his own vision of running a football club and how that should be based on two pillars:
1:Considering the players more than athletes but as the main representatives of the club’s values. Therefore, the football club must support the all-around growth of the players. No more athletes left alone with their problems.
2: An obsession with the relationship with the fans who are the true purpose of the club’s existence. Fans must be pampered and constantly surprised by making them participate in club life. No more invisible barriers between clubs and fans. I call it Football Humanism. Where the human, the athlete, and the fan, are at the centre of the club’s strategy.
The Atlantic Dispatch had the pleasure of Mari’s company as we spoke through a range of issues such as Football Humanism, Todd Boehly’s leadership of Chelsea, how to build a great team on and off the pitch and his thoughts on modern-day football.
Money is not always the only way to win
When you have a lot of money you tend to compete with other clubs with the same wealth and that creates auctions that make the price of a player explode. As in every circumstance, when you don’t have enough money to compete with bigger clubs you start being creative and find the best solutions for what you can spend. But to win on the pitch you need perfect chemistry between players and the staff.
To build great teams on a recurring basis with a medium/low budget you need to create a perfect machine off the pitch. The owners need to trust the club executives, the executive should hire top scouts and build a well-structured academy, and also the right manager who is capable of enhancing the value of players. It’s the sum of multiple factors that starts with having clear values and self-awareness within the club. Money is not always the only way to win. Every year we see examples of rich clubs with bad results but also a few surprises from small clubs that achieve great results.
Use Football as a tool to transmit positive values to society.
I am bullish on the future of football. There is a big transition undergoing from football clubs as sports entities with a little bit of business to football clubs that are businesses built around football. Most clubs have the potential to grow in many corporate areas like digitalization, internationalisation, and fan engagement. There is a tonne to be done and hopefully, fans and athletes will benefit from it. I’d like to see less violence, fewer tensions, and fewer fights and see football used as a tool to transmit positive values to society.
putting fans and athletes at the centre of the club strategy
I believe that fans are the “raison d’être” of football clubs. No fans, no football club. Clubs are used to having fans every weekend but things are changing because today people can choose between different forms of entertainment. Plus, most executives change clubs often so there is a lack of planning in the long term. Living in the short term makes people focus mostly on results or their personal goals and forget about fans.
When I talk about Football Humanism, I mean putting fans and athletes at the centre of the club strategy as a way to make the club grow in the long term. I see a lot of potential in football, I don’t think other forms of entertainment will take fans away from football but the habits of people are changing and a club should involve their fans much more and lower the barriers between fans, the club’s employees and players. Fans want to experience every detail of their club. Fans want to experience the club.
We live in the attention economy era and people must be given a good reason to spend their time with you. It’s not anymore enough to “just” sell a football match. The attention that people gave to the Gerard Piqué King’s League is a good example of what people like right now. If you read the history of the 5 top European leagues you’ll see that in the last 20 years, just a bunch of clubs have won a league. What about the other 95% of clubs? Winning is the most important thing but most clubs don’t win so you’d better give something else to your fans.
Successful people that have struggled to have success in football.
I professionally respect Todd Boehly because he’s had huge success in finance. So I believe he’s smart and his entourage is composed of very smart people. Having said that, there are many examples of successful people that have struggled to have success in football. Success can mean winning but also managing the club in a financially sustainable way.
I believe that Chelsea FC, even if they have a little issue with the stadium, is a big international brand that attracts many players and fans. It’s very important for them to play again in the Champions League for both the direct and indirect positive effects.
Right now it seems that they have overspent making huge contracts to young players and that on the pitch they are not doing well. The management is new and has to find the right chemistry. I like to think that they have many great risk managers and that at some point they will be successful.
It’s realistic to say that now risks are big because if you invest a lot and then don’t play the Champions League you have a problem. Time will tell us if they have done things correctly or if they will have to change many things within the club.
Thanks very much to the gentleman that is Federico Mari