Project Management – Why Leicester won the Premiership 2016

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Project management in football

It may not be obvious to view the progress of a football team as a project, the following article describes a Project Management view of the success and failure to meet objectives.  This is contrasted between two of the UK Premiership’s teams for the project dates spanning the 2015/16 season.

At the start of the 2015/16 Premiership season Leicester City had narrowly survived relegation.  They were 5000:1 outsiders to win the Premiership. Chelsea on the other hand were the title holders and looking to cement their position and go on to win further titles. Chelsea had one of the most successful managers in Jose Mourinho.  Whilst Leicester City had a relatively new manager (Claudio Ranieri) with few accolades who had previously been released as manager of Chelsea.


At the start of the season Leicester had an objective to remain in the Premiership

At the start of the season Chelsea had multiple objectives including retaining the Premiership title and to win domestic and European titles.


Leicester has a benevolent sponsor who treat owning the club as a hobby rather than primarily as a business. They take a “hands off” approach to running the club.

Chelsea have an owner who takes a direct management approach to running the club, including management and playing staff selection.

Project Leadership

Leicester’s Project Management (Claudio Ranieri) had an inclusive and beneficent management style. He created a high level of trust and respect from the team by initially not trying to impose his will on the team and undertook a period of analysis before attempting to make any significant changes.

Chelsea, under Mourinho, had a different approach being autocratic and imposing his will and direction in an uncompromising way with team. This created rifts and factions within playing and also to backroom staff (Reference dismissal of Eva Carneiro). This ultimately lead to Mourinho’s dismissal but not before Chelsea had slipped down the league to a position just above the relegation zone. Mourinho’s replacement (Gus Hiddinck) had more success with Chelsea moving up the table but was unable to achieve a position higher than 10th. It would appear that Gus Hiddinck has a less autocratic approach than his predecessor.

Claudio Ranieri did not rotate the playing staff unless forced by injury or suspension. In comparison Chelsea frequently changed personnel and formation based on the perception of their recent performance.

Project Team

In theory Leicester did not have a strong pool of playing resources in comparison to other premiership teams.

It could be argued that Leicester very much played as a team throughout the season with pride in playing for the club and their team mates. In comparison it could be argued that the Chelsea players operated as a number of highly skilled and highly paid individuals that had a greater focus on personal achievement than that of the team. There are well recorded instances of player disruption and lack of support and respect for Mourinho as a manager.


The total value of Chelsea playing staff is £371.81 million. Compared to Leicester’s £95.25 million. Therefore, it is likely that the available funding for Chelsea was significantly higher than that for Leicester City.

Risk Management

Leicester proactively managed their major risk (relegation) by changing tactics part way through the season. At the start of the season they played a free flowing style of football which relied on scoring more goals than they conceded. This approach changed to become more defensive as other teams became aware of Leicester’s weaknesses. Chelsea on the other hand failed to manage their major risk (titles) and waited for it to become an issue and attempted to resolve the issue by changing the Project Manager.

Project Delivery Methodology

Leicester’s manager publicly used an Agile approach to the season. Frequently he reported to the press that his focus was purely on the next match. In comparison Chelsea took a season long view and eventually became a hostage to their own and their sponsors objectives. In summary Chelsea took an approach more aligned to Waterfall.


It can be seen from the evidence collated under the various project headings above that in theory Chelsea should have had far more of a chance of winning the Premiership and therefore achieving the project objectives than Leicester. However, Leicester not only achieved their original objectives but went on to invoke a form of change control throughout the season to revise the scope of their delivery from survival to top ten and then to reaching a Champions League place, to eventually actually winning the Premiership by a significant margin of 10 points.

The success of Leicester City’s campaign cannot be down to luck. There have obviously been a series of excellent decisions made by the Project Manager, backed by the project sponsors and the whole of the delivery team, both backroom and playing staff.

If Leicester were to replicate this success next year what would they need to do?

Should Leicester attempt to replicate their success of this season or should they set themselves different objectives for next season?

Please feel free to comment on this article and check out how LogicTicks could help you to manage your project management be as successfully as Leicester City.

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