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Football teams urged to consider business-like training to avoid culture shock for new players

3 min read

07 August 2015

Former editor

With £500m having been spent during the summer transfer window for the English Premier League, and more expected before it closes at the end of August, clubs have been warned about the problems associated with culture shock.

As the Premier League has become an attractive destination for players from a wide range of continents, including South America, Asia and Africa, Joanne Danehl, intercultural and language training expert at Crown World Mobility, has advised against expecting them to perform from the off.

“The effects of cultural shock have been scientifically measured and most global companies are convinced it can have a profound impact on performance,” she said.

“But in all the years I’ve been in this job I’ve hardly ever heard of a football club using cultural training, which can help people navigate their way through a new culture. When you consider that in many global organisations – including some that own football clubs – it is compulsory, then that’s very surprising.”

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The past few seasons have seen a number of new players fail to settle in the league, such as Argentinian striker Carlos Tevez and fellow native Erik Lamela – who plays for Tottenham Hotspur and found it hard to settle in London due to his lack of English.

For businesses moving employees around global operations, culture training forms an integral part of making sure they are made to feel comfortable in a new location.

Danehl explained that football fans can expect a dip in form in August and September, when the initial excitement of a new job dips and players suffer a low. After that, in October and November, it can set in again when what she described as “cultural frustration” sets in – often brought on by something as simple as getting lost not being able to do something they do at home.

If symptoms go unaddressed, Danehl added, the effects could be more profound in January and February, leading to “frustration and depression”.

“There’s a real feeling in football, and in the country as a whole, that because our popular culture goes around the world and so many people speak English that it’s an easy culture to understand. In fact, ‘Britishness’ is very hard to understand,” she added.

With English clubs spending tens of millions of pounds on new players, Danehl believes a lot can be learnt from big businesses which have adapted to deal with the issue of culture shock.