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Manchester City

Poorly defined management roles are not the path to success

Since the professionalization of the game, from the formation of The Football Association in 1863 through to the game’s current state as a global institute, the management hierarchy of clubs has undergone massive changes. Originally, professional football clubs were run solely by their owners, with all decisions made by the club’s chairman. However, chairmen of professional football clubs soon grew to find this arrangement unsatisfactory, as when things went wrong on the pitch, it was they who faced the fans’ displeasure. The solution to this problem was to create the position of manager, handing over the footballing responsibilities to an easily disposable figure and allowing chairman to retire back to running the club as a business. The move to hiring managers happened quickly, but not universally at the same time, with Arsenal hiring their first manager in 1897, but Manchester United not hiring theirs until 1914.

This system should mean simplicity in principle, an easy divide of responsibilities along the lines of football and business. Certain responsibilities are bound to be snagging points, such as transfer policy, but again, in principle should be fairly simple; manager provides a list of target, Chairman provides a budget and financial structure, with the manager choosing which of his targets is the best option considering said budget. However, the relationship between Manager and Chairman has been complicated throughout the years, due to a seeming never ending stream of new positions and with them, a new division of responsibilities; Technical Directors, Directors of Football, Sporting Directors and General Managers.

These positions needn’t cause issues if well defined, but all too often this isn’t the case. Appointments of new directors have often meant disharmony in recent years, in large part due to division of responsibilities being unclear. It is far too frequently the case that the appointment of a new director brings with it a lack of clarity over who is responsible for what at the club. This is especially the case when it comes to transfer policy, with it becoming uncertain who has authority over the players that enter and leave the club; who renews contracts? Who identifies targets? Who negotiates fees? Who has final say on whether a player signs? The Manger – Director of Football relationship can work, if these roles and responsibilities are clarified from the start of both parties tenancy, however, what is often the case is that the management structure of the club is changed in the middle of the Manager’s tenancy, creating disharmony in the club and undermining the Manager’s authority.

Evidence of this is apparent from Newcastle’s recent appointment of Joe Kinnear. In this case, like many, Alan Pardew’s authority has been undermined, as his role has been changed mid tenancy. Whereas previously players had been identified by Chief Scout Graham Carr, with Manager Alan Pardew having final say on whether they are signed. The bumbling Kinnear upsets this balance, first claiming that it is he who will now have sole control over transfer policy before quickly backtracking and stating that he would work in conjunction with Pardew and Carr. It is unclear whether Kinnear is even certain what his role and responsibilities are, unable to even correctly pronounce players’ and staffs’ names, or remember which players he signed during his time as Newcastle manager. What is certain is that Kinnear, who announced his appointment to the media  before the club could do so, has brought disharmony to Newcastle, casting doubt over Pardew’s position and in particular undermining his authority over transfers.

Even if a manager and director’s roles are clearly defined, which is not normally the case, on pitch success is difficult if final say over transfers is not given to the manager. If this is not the case, the manager is forced to try and be successful with a group of players that he did not assemble. This is the situation that faces new Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini. Whilst still without a manager, Manchester City shelled out a reported near £45million on duo Fernandinho and Jesús Navas. These signings, made before Pellegrini’s appointment, were presumably carried out by Director of Football, Txiki Begiristain, which poses the question now Pellegrini has been appointed, will it be he who handles transfers, or will Begiristain continue to manage recruitment. Either way, Pellegrini now faces the daunting task of trying to lead a squad that he has had no part in assembling to on pitch success, with a greatly depleted transfer kitty, whilst carrying the huge burden of expectation that comes with the Manchester City job.

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