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Posts by Alex Fenton

European Super League and social media – they think it’s all over

21 April 2021
Alex Fenton, Salford Business School

Dr. Alex Fenton, Salford Business School

Thanks go to Wasim Ahmed and Guilherme Guimarães for their contributions to this article.

At Salford Business School we have a strong research network and teaching interests and expertise in social media, the experience economy and sport. When the ‘European Super League’ concept reared its head again on 18th April 2021, it created an amazing wave of discussion online and offline. If you’ve been off world, visiting another planet recently, you may have missed the latest round of the biggest football clubs in Europe flexing the might of their brands to try to enact change. That change is essentially the creation of a new European Super League – in this particular incarnation involved ‘the big 6’ teams from the English Premier League Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur in a new league with Italy’s Inter Milan, AC Milan and Spain’s Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid. 

Analysing social media conversations

By Wednesday 21st April, the project was once more metaphorically kicked out of the stadium and into the car park. It just gave fans long enough to have some (sometimes) heated debates about the potential impact of this move and what might happen to the respective leagues, grassroots football and the other clubs when these big clubs with their fan bases and cash withdrew.

European Super League - Football picture Photo by Israel França from Pexels

Photo by Israel França from Pexels

Aside from the strongly worded conversations in the pub beer gardens of a newly unlocked England – fans all over the world took to social media to vent their two penneth about the impact of this move. According to a YouGov Poll, 79% of fans were against it, saying it would destroy the league. 83% of UK respondents did not support it. In the US, 43% of fans would boycott it and in the rest of the world, 68%.

This short lived phenomena created an incredible number of international news stories and hundreds of millions of social media posts. We used Twitter and a tool called NodeXL to try and delve more deeply into what fans were saying about the European Superleague on 20th and 21st April 2021. NodeXL is a Microsoft Excel Plugin that can perform social network analysis. It can make sense of and visualise tens of thousands of social media posts on particular topics at one time. It can also help to identify influential users. 

On 20th April, we created a Super League NodeXL network visualization graph. This graph highlighted some interesting things. Firstly, some of the top hashtags and conversational groups frequently referred to highlighted Manchester United and Liverpool in particular as most mentioned. The visualization highlights how virtual crowds gathered on Twitter to actively campaign against the Super League. We previously wrote a journal paper about these two clubs on Instagram and analysing fan comments. They are two highly popular and well discussed brands on social media and really stood out from the other 12 clubs involved in the Super League and in this analysis. Manchester United’s Executive Vice Chairman Ed Woodward also featured heavily in conversations and also news stories on the BBC and Sky News because he stepped down from his position amid these developments.  

As the European Superleague concept again began to unravel on 21st April, the Node XL graph continued to show Manchester United and Ed Woodward at the top of the Twitter debate, followed closely by Arsenal as the top influencers. United, Arsenal and Liverpool’s official accounts were the top influencers as clubs announced their withdrawal from the European Super League. News outlets like Sky and BBC were less prevalent on 21st, perhaps due to the fact they were initially breaking the stories on the previous day and then the clubs making official statements on the following day. One notable new network influencer was Arsenal player Mezut Ozil who made a number of influential Tweets condemning the new league and gaining a great deal of support, some Tweets reaching over 160,000 likes from fans across the world.

Notably, @utdreport (a fan driven account) was also more influential than the official news outlets in this network as they live Tweeted updates about Manchester United and Ed Woodward in particular. Social media is well documented as giving players and fans a voice and often, that voice is faster, louder and more insightful than the official brand communications. Fan generated content is a critical part of a football club’s brand and is impossible to control which makes it such a good topic to explore. 

International reception to European Super League

Our NodeXL analysis highlights in particular English speaking Twitter users, but this story was covered and discussed on social media globally beyond Europe. China is a growing and massive market opportunity for football.  Some Chinese fans felt that the new league would be a bonus because fans were most interested in watching the more popular clubs play each other rather than the lesser known brands.

As part of our ongoing analysis of digital sport in Brazil, we found that media and journalists specialised in international football coverage condemned the initiative and the news spread like wildfire on Instagram in particular. Prone to humour and jokes, memes were shared endlessly. For example, Heineken, with its tongue in cheek critical approach, received accolades and positive feedback from fans.

Heineken European Superleague

Impact and future – is it all over?

The European Super League concept may have been financially driven and accelerated by the Covid-19. Ultimately, it once again proved to be highly controversial and unpopular with fans. It did however create an incredible worldwide wave of debate on social media. Whilst it’s impossible to say for sure what the impact of this league would be and its impact on the other clubs and grassroots football – the subject and debate has gripped the world. We wonder though what damage has been done to the brands that threatened to break away and indeed, when the next attempt will be and what the impact might be. The English Premier League has propelled some clubs to become global brands, but they wish now to go further and create more experiences which international fans love – more of the big match clashes. It’s a commercial opportunity and threat that isn’t likely to go away and change is eventually inevitable. 

For some fans though that reject the commercialism of football and the money aspect of the game, there is almost a romanticism to return to the days of a more level playing field where football felt more about the fans in the stadium and not the commercial aspects. For now, it seems to be all over, but only time will tell what the next twist in this tale will be. What do you think of the proposed European Super League and what impact would it have? Contact us or share this story on social media. 


Salford Business School Research Clusters

23 March 2021
Dr Gordon Fletcher introduces the Salford Business School Research Clusters

Gordon Fletcher introduces the Salford Business School Research Clusters

Salford Business School’s research is setting a path to shape thinking and the application of technology in a post-pandemic and post-Brexit world. Our aim is to create business school research and solutions for the myriad challenges of Industry 4.0 and the ethical and legal issues facing society. Our research acts as the integrator for a diversity of disciplines, the translator from technology to management (and back again) and as the critical voice in the need to adopt of technology fully recognising the human and social impact that these decisions bring. We are building a vibrant and industry focussed research culture that lets a diverse range of academics create meaningful and impactful research for the good of society.

Research challenges today are invariably complex and interlinked. As the world recovers from the consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic we are seeing many of the social inequalities that have been exposed by it. At the same time we must face up to the challenges of human-induced climate change and the new ways of working that transform societies. Business School researchers make an informed, value-driven contribution to society as it addresses these challenges.

Articulating such a clear and focused strategy comes at the end of a seven year research cycle, marks the start of a new cycle and a new era for Salford Business School.

The University of Salford’s institutional areas of interest over the next seven year are:

  1. Robotics and Autonomous Systems – Fundamental research in soft robotics and autonomous systems. Also, ethics, governance, regulation and operation of such systems
  2. Smart Living  and Smart Working –  Smart and urban futures, Health, Smart systems and controls
  3. Digital – Big Data and Analytics, Ethics and issues of privacy and surveillance

With that in mind we have created five new research clusters within the School that let us rise to this complex and interlinked challenges. The clusters are Data Analytics, Project Management, Operational Research and Process Optimisation, Disruptive Technologies cluster and Governance,Legal and Ethical issues.


Post-covid supply chain trends

23 March 2021

Dr. Jonathan Owens discusses post covid supply chain trends

Dr. Jonathan Owens discusses post covid supply chain trends

What are the post-covid supply chain trends that will remain after we finally unlock? This is a question of great interest to me as we reach the 23rd of March 2021, the anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown.  You might remember, like me, how the Supply Chain was one of the first things to be noticeably affected when the handbrake was applied twelve months ago.  But, why was this, and what can we learn from this for the future?

At the beginning, most people, even myself, began to  follow the stockpiling mindset and let us get extra of everything “just-in-case”, because at that time, we were entering a period of uncertainty of not knowing  how long it would last and fear of possible rationing like the war years may be reintroduced. The stockpiling mindset was reflected through huge abnormal and spikes for lots of different products all over the country and many parts of the world.  In the UK, many retailers were unable to redeploy surplus stock from region to region as they had done in the past, because every region was in high demand.  During the early days of the pandemic, we found the most products were available somewhere in the supply chain, it was just a simple case they could not keep up with this unprecedented, constant, and continuous demand by the customer.


Great reasons to attend Creative Entrepreneur 2016

8 September 2016

Alex Fenton, Co-Producer of Creative Entrepreneur explains why you should attend our industry collaboration event

Alex Fenton, Co-Producer of Creative Entrepreneur explains why you should attend our industry collaboration event

Have you heard of Creative Entrepreneur 2016? It is Salford Business School’s industry collaboration event! Here at Salford Business School, industry collaboration is really important. We really want to make sure our teaching is real-world relevant and that our graduates are as employable as possible.

How do we do this? How do we create a bridge between theory and practice? Creative Entrepreneur is one of the ways! This will be our third year of holding the event at MediaCityUK and we hope, once again, to grow. I am always amazed by the generosity and wealth of talent of the range of industry experts, students, alumni and organisations involved each year. 2016 promises to be bigger and better than ever!

At the event you will meet young entrepreneurial students as well as staff and businesses from nearby and further afield. Join us at MediaCityUK on Wednesday 23 November from 9.00am to 5.00pm. The programme and registration for the 2016 event is now open. But, before you signup here is a taste of some reasons you should come to Creative Entrepreneur 2016.


Bangalore: Silicon Valley of India linking up with Salford

20 May 2016

Alex FentonA team from Salford Business School, is travelling to Bangalore which is known as the Silicon Valley of India. Bangalore is the centre of digital innovation in India and this month we will take the next step to building better relationships in its tech and education sectors. India is seen as a key market due to ambitious plans by the Indian Government for 30% of its young people to go on to higher education by 2020.

Along with my fellow colleague Simon Ireland – International Partnerships & Business Coordinator, we will visit Bangalore on 24th May for a week.

Bangalore is well known as the Silicon Valley of India, due to its concentration of technology companies. We plan to tap into the expertise in the region, as well as assess how the University of Salford and its graduates can contribute and show Indian students interested in completing a degree in the UK, what Salford has to offer.


Business School demonstrates teaching excellence

2 May 2016

Alex Fenton and Business School colleagues show teaching excellence

Alex Fenton

Each year, our Students Union (SU) arrange the Salford Teaching Awards. These awards are run completely by the SU and are voted for by students. This year, there were over 400 nominations for 150 staff from across the University.

At the Business School, we are absolutely dedicated to our students and to teaching excellence. We have been very successful in attracting industry and teaching awards and accreditations in recent years.

The special thing about the SU teaching awards however is that, it is not colleagues or externals that are judging, it is our students, who are ultimately at the heart of everything we do. At this year’s SU Teaching awards, the Business School were incredibly successful, winning in many of the categories as follows:


Get involved with Salford University Race Team!

1 March 2016

Joshua Jones Team Director Salford University Race Team

Joshua Jones
Team Director, Salford University Race Team

Ever wondered what goes into building and financing a formula one car?

A team of mechanical engineering and business students have been finding out!

For the first time ever the University of Salford is competing in Formula Student. It is the world’s largest student competition, involving 100 teams from across the world tasked with designing, building and racing a formula style single seat race car. This is a multi-disciplinary project and requires a team from across a number of subject areas including business where sponsorship and marketing activities are required to raise the funding for the car’s development.

Salford University Racing Team is a fantastic opportunity to work on a real world class project. Currently we are in our first year and we are looking to develop a critical mass of enthusiasts to keep the momentum going for many years to come.

Do you like fast cars and want to get closer to understanding how the racing business works?


Creative Entrepreneur – Next Generation business event

22 January 2016

Alex Fenton, Salford Business School

Alex Fenton, Producer of the Creative Entrepreneur event

How can a business school teach entrepreneurship? Can you learn how to develop a business model or a marketing plan from a book? Meeting and hearing from successful international entrepreneurs sharing their real life stories, gaining feedback on ideas and establishing new links are all great ways to learn about entrepreneurship and grow your network.

At Salford we recognise the importance of strong links with industry. They help us keep our teaching relevant to the real world and mean we can offer great opportunities to help our students to get employment-ready.

Our Creative Entrepreneur event is a key example of this in practice. At the event, held annually at our state of the art campus at MediaCityUK, individuals from partner organisations volunteer their time and share their experience with students at the University of Salford.

At the latest event, on 25th of November 2015, we welcomed over 40 guest speakers who delivered an exciting programme of master-classes, panel sessions and installations to inspire, inform and entertain over 460 attendees. These were a combination of local businesses, University staff, students and local colleges. Several of our courses and modules were present, creating great opportunities for our students. Read on to find out more about key points from the event and what happened.



10 reasons to attend Creative Entrepreneur 2015 #CreativeEnt

13 September 2015

Alex Fenton - Creative Entrepreneur

Alex Fenton

Salford Business School is once again opening its doors to our cutting edge campus at MediaCityUK to you, your friends and colleagues! We are bringing together our centres of Digital Business, Sports Business and Social Business to provide inspiration and education for all, thinking about global opportunity in a connected world.

Whether you are a student, young entrepreneur, graduate or a seasoned professional you will find great opportunities to inspire your entrepreneurial business thinking at our Creative Entrepreneur 2015 event.

Meet young entrepreneurs amongst our students, members of staff or many other businesses from near and far. Join us at this open innovation space at MediaCityUK on Wednesday 25 November from 9.00am to 5.00pm.


Little Chip Placement Apprenticeship #BigChipAwards winner 2015

2 July 2015

Alex Fenton, Salford Business School

Alex Fenton, Salford Business School

Can a university keep up with the constantly changing digital environment? Here is industry proof – with another of our students being recognised by the industry in the Big Chip Awards 2015.

Keeping up-to-date is a challenge in the world of digital where technologies are disrupting old ways of doing things.

At Salford Business School, out students are given incredible opportunities for placements and internships. This allows students to connect with companies on various levels for mutual benefit. Companies get advice and practical help and students get the real world learning experience and skills that they need.

An excellent recent example, Business Innovation Project is with Web Shop Direct, who are an e-commerce, fashion business based in Macclesfield. Web Shop Direct have been operating since 2005 and consist of UK Swimwear and UK Tights. We were able to assist this company through our industry focused training courses and business internships.