‘Family farms should be run like football clubs’

Jurgen Klopp, who has just become the 20th manager of Liverpool Football Club. Professor Matt Lobley believes farms can learn from football clubs' changing managers whilst remaining under the same ownership to aid the tricky task of succession planning.  Pic: Richard Sellers/PA Wire.
Jurgen Klopp, who has just become the 20th manager of Liverpool Football Club. Professor Matt Lobley believes farms can learn from football clubs' changing managers whilst remaining under the same ownership to aid the tricky task of succession planning. Pic: Richard Sellers/PA Wire.
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FAMILY FARMS should be run like football clubs to better manage the daunting task of succession planning, according to a leading agricultural academic.

A failure to manage succession is putting the future of British farms at risk, warned Professor Matt Lobley, co-director of the Centre for Rural Policy Research at the University of Exeter.

He called for farmers to re-think farm succession planning by separating farm ownership from management of the business.

“The process of planning the future of farm businesses can be made less daunting and be more readily managed if management and ownership are considered separately,” Prof Lobley said.

“Football clubs are constantly changing managers. Each new manager is the successor to the previous occupier of that position but ownership of the club hasn’t changed.

“While farms and football clubs are very different organisations the UK agricultural sector needs to face up to the succession challenge.

“Because most farms are family homes as well as businesses, succession planning is a very difficult challenge involving multiple generations and the desire to avoid conflict all too often leads to failure to start planning for the full involvement of the next generation.”

Prof Lobley, who was speaking at the annual lunch of the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists on Thursday, warned that in order to recruit the best and brightest people, farming had to be an appealing career choice – and waiting until their 50s before gaining significant managerial responsibility was not attractive to prospective successors.