Business Idioms: How Sports and Business Make Good Companions – 10 Idioms

by | Jun 21, 2018 | 0 comments

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This is an updated version of a guest post I wrote in 2013.


Business and sports have a close and strong relationship. Think of all those businesses that sponsor football clubs, tennis events and so on. According to this article in the UK newspaper the Daily Telegraph: “Companies in all fields are turning to sport to drive awareness of their own products – with increasingly impressive results”.


If you look at the qualities that sports and business share, you can see why the connection makes sense.


Both business and sports:

  • require certain skills
  • are competitive
  • need self- confidence
  • take planning
  • use strategies and tactics
  • take concentration
  • teamwork may be important


It’s no wonder then that Business English is peppered with idiomatic expressions with a sports flavour to them.


In the final post in my series of theme-based business idioms, I explore the world of sports through 10 idioms and the related sport or game.


#1: To keep your cards close to your chest

Don’t reveal your plans

I kept my cards close to my chest during the negotiation.” (Card games)


#2: Poker-faced

Expressionless (comes from the game of poker where you must not let your face reveal whether you have a good or bad card)

The clients sat poker-faced all through my sales pitch. It was so unnerving.”


#3: Knocked me for six

Surprised and upset me

Jenny has just announced that she’s leaving which has knocked me for six. I really enjoyed working with her.” (Ball Games)


#4:  Play the trump card/ace

Use the advantage especially when others do not know about it

The CEO played his trump card by promising a dividend payout at the shareholders’ meeting.”(Card Game)


#5: A whole new ball game

A completely different situation

This is a whole new ball game if we’re talking about expanding the business.” (Ball Games)


#6: To play hard ball

To be so determined to get what you want that you will use unfair methods to get it.

The people here like to play hardball which can be very challenging.” (Ball Games)


#7: Don’t pull any punches  

Speak in an honest and direct way without being tactful

The CEO didn’t pull any punches when he told the board that the company was in trouble.” (Boxing)


#8. Below the belt

An unfair attack (in boxing, that is not allowed)

There was no need to mention my personal problems to the press. That was below the belt.” (Boxing)


#9: Throw in the towel

Giving up and admitting defeat

I think we need to accept things as they are and throw in the towel before we lose any more money.” (Boxing)


#10: Hold all the cards

To be in a powerful position

Management found that the trade union held all the cards during the pay talks. (Card Games)



Tell me


I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, idioms are wonderful because they bring different cultures together because, more often than not, different cultures share similar idiomatic expressions. So, here’s what I’d like to know.


  • Have you got business idioms in your first language that are similar to the ones above?


  • Has there ever been a time when you had to throw in the towel on a project? What happened?


  • Are you someone who keeps things close to your chest when you’re negotiating?


Please share your answers with me in the comments box.


If you want more idioms, check out my Business Idioms and Coffee To Go series.


All good things come to an end.

I’ve enjoyed looking back at my archived posts on business idioms, dusting them down and updating them and reposting them. I hope you’ve enjoyed the experience, too. Which were your favourite posts? Let me know in the comments box below.


I’m taking a break from blogging to reflect on my writing and to refine my core message. I’ll be back in the autumn with a fresh outlook on life and work.

Have a great summer.

Ciao for now.


PS: If you found this post helpful and feel that your friends and colleagues would benefit, please share it with them.