There have always been links between sport and business. Whether it is about coaching, motivating or getting the best players for your team.

The Creegan Talent model was born with proactive recruitment in mind. At first, I called it “Moneyball recruitment” based on the strategy used by the legendary baseball coach Billy Beane, who used analysis to highlight specific strengths of players before he brought them in and played them to those strengths. We wanted to engage early with talent and look at getting to know individuals’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as looking at their social media profiles.

In football terms, both Brentford and Brighton have employed this model.

The Brentford Story

The Brentford success story has been a fairytale, and an essential part of that is their recruitment model that Rasmus Ankersen built alongside Matthew Benham from 2014 onwards.

They were promoted to the Championship in 2013/14 and have stayed up in the division until now. The secret to this is their coach, Thomas Frank’s innovative tactics and Brentford’s recruitment model. So, in this data analysis we will be looking at Brentford’s transfer strategy using data and statistics, with a “Moneyball” approach to making those transfers.

When looking at recruitment models, Brentford’s is very interesting as they have consistently used their “Moneyball” model to buy and sell players. To those not familiar with the term, let me explain…

The key is being able to identify undervalued talent in the market, develop them, and then sell them on for profit – gradually building more value into the squad and gradually increasing the level of squad proficiency.

Brentford seem to be punching above their weight this season, considering they have a lower ticket sales revenue than most teams and are competing for visitors with London heavyweights Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham Hotspur on their doorstep.

We then look at the current Brentford situation with their Spanish goalkeeper David Raya.

Raya was touted for a move since the start of the previous season and had numerous suitors together with a very hefty price tag. Brentford’s strategy saw them identify his replacement and sign him whilst Raya still at the club.

In comes a goalkeeper who is likely to cost around 30% of the fee that Brentford will receive for Raya. Mark Flekken stands favourably against man he is replacing; he is a ball playing keeper who has 4 international caps for the Netherlands. If like Mbuemo, Hickey and Toney before him, he turns out to be a class player – and why wouldn’t he – then Brentford will have again shown their shrewdness in their recruitment strategy.

Is your business like Brighton FC?

62 miles down the road another club have also shown their ability to punch above their weight and have taken proactive recruitment to the next level by identifying managers before they need them. Brighton have undertaken some fantastic recruitment and have a team diverse in nationalities: Mitoma (Japan) Mac Allister (Scotl, sorry Argentina), Caicedo (Ecuador) and Ferguson (Ireland) have all proven to be exciting hires who have and will have huge sell-on values.

Again, like Brentford they are proactive as they knew that two of these players would be looking to move on this summer. Their manager broke this news to the world whilst explaining that he had already secured a replacement for one of them by bringing in a German international who has just finished the season as runner-up in the Bundesliga.

As I mentioned, Brighton like to take things one step further than Brentford and even have their managers lined up proactively. On signing for Brighton in September 2022, Deputy Chairman Paul Barber said “we looked at a range of candidates but Roberto was our number one choice from the start and the only person we spoke to. It is no secret our chairman is constantly monitoring potential coaches, both here in our domestic leagues, throughout Europe and across the world as part of our succession planning work.”

He was also quoted as saying the new manager is the ideal cultural and technical fit for the role. And that is key to their recruitment process.

Hiring smart vs paying over the odds

Both Brentford and Brighton have been success stories since joining the EPL, with Brentford narrowly missing out on Europe finishing 9th and Brighton securing a 6th place finish and securing European football. Considering that Brentford have the smallest budget in the league and Brighton the third smallest it proves they aren’t paying over the odds to recruit top talent either.

As in business, not every club will have a 100% success rate when it comes to recruiting. But having a medium and long-term strategy and identifying and communicating with prospective hires before you have a requirement should surely be a pre-requisite for any business stakeholder or HRD.

Just ask Brentford and Brighton.