Football fans are being warned their favourite club’s new signings could suffer from ‘culture shock’ as the season gets underway.
Premier League clubs have spent more than £500m in the transfer market already this summer, with the majority of players bought from abroad. Fans will be eager to see their new heroes hit top form straight away. But now experts are warning the effects of ‘culture shock’ could affect performance of newly-signed players not only in the short term but even into 2016. Joanne Danehl, an intercultural and language training expert at Crown World Mobility, a company that helps corporations manage global talent, said: “The effects of cultural shock have been scientifically measured and most global companies are convinced it can have a profound impact on performance. In fact, research shows exactly when and how most people will react after moving to a new country.
“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. “Fans all over the country are looking forward to seeing new signings for the first time this weekend and expectation is no doubt high. But it's impossible to over-estimate how much cultural differences and off-the-pitch problems could affect individual and team performances.” In fact culture shock – defined as a phased negative reaction to an international living experience – can hit new signings not just early in
their new job but long into the future. Danehl says fans can expect a dip in form in August-September when the initial excitement of a new job dips and players suffer a low. Then again in October-November when ‘cultural frustration’ sets in, often brought on by something as simple as getting lost not being able to do something they do at home. Finally, if the symptoms go unaddressed, the effects could be more profound in January and February, leading to frustration and depression.
She said: “At this stage you may find players asking ‘why can’t I understand this culture?’, ‘why can’t I make friends?’, ‘why aren’t I valued?’ It’s as if your ability to succeed is at risk. 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. In reality people from abroad find it tough to understand why we’re so reserved, why we don’t like change, how we work out status and why we’re so hierarchical. It’s very difficult for players to arrive from abroad and perform straight away. I really think it’s time for football to take the effects of cultural shock and cultural differences more seriously. There is a lot it can learn from big business.”