My 6 favourite business English phrases from football..

Football is the national sport in England.  You may be quite surprised how many phrases we take from football which can be used in business.  Here are my top 6 favourite ones. Enjoy!

To be on the ball

I’m going to start with my favourite phrase here. It means to be quick to understand and to react to things, and it can be used in various contexts.  This can be used to describe someone’s general personality:

‘John would be an excellent candidate for the job, he is always on the ball’

This sentence means that, John is generally very efficient in understanding and reacting to situations.

The sentence can also be used negatively.

‘John usually forgets things, he isn’t usually on the ball’

It is possible to be on the ball with specific situations.  For this you can use the phrase on the ball with…

‘Helen is particularly on the ball with her finances’

Just like above, this can also be used negatively:

‘Helen is not particularly on the ball with her time management’


To take your eye off the ball

To take your eye off the ball means to fail to pay attention to something that you should be paying attention to.

‘The market is changing very quickly, we cannot afford to take our eyes off the ball 

‘We lost our dominant market position because we took our eye off the ball’  (we stopped paying attention to what we needed to in order to maintain our market position)

The meaning of the phrase is quite clear.  Of course, in any ball sport, if you take your eye off the ball it could cause problems!


To take sides

To support one side in an argument or disagreement.

‘I don’t want to take sides in the dispute, I think it is better to remain neutral.’


A game changer

If an event or a decision is a game changer, it means that it will completely change the situation.

‘The bad weather has been a complete game changer for the fortunes of the ice-cream company’

‘If our rival company goes bankrupt, it could be a real game changer for us’

‘If the government decides to change its laws on marketing it will be a real game changer on the market’

From a football perspective a game changer could be an event or a decision by the referee in a game, which completely changes the situation in the game.


To move the goalposts

This is another interesting phrase, and one which is very common in business. It means to change the rules, or to change the objectives of what someone is trying to do, which could make it more difficult for them.

‘We are trying to develop the product according to the client’s requests, but now they keep moving the goalposts on the design’

‘My boss is never satisfied with my work.  Whenever I complete a task he keeps moving the goalposts!’

In a football context, if you literally move the goalposts (move the goal), then the players don’t know where to shoot!


To kick off

To kick off is another word meaning to begin something.  The beginning, or first kick, in a football match is known as the kick off.

‘So, to kick off the meeting, let’s review how the project is going so far’ 

‘Let’s kick off the brainstorming session with a few simple ideas’

You can also use the phrase ‘for a kick off’meaning ‘to begin’:

‘I would like to tell you a little bit about our company.  For a kick off, we are based in…’

Check out some more advanced business English sporting idioms here, can you guess which sports they come from?

If you would like to have any any further example sentences, or other phrases based on football, feel free to visit my website or comment below! Back to more useful vocabulary!


 David Cox

 Fluency Space

 Make the world your fluency space. Business English for career and life success

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