Does Harry make a valid point about management control?

Harry Redknapp is a manager often accused of not doing very much, of leaving the coaching to the coaches, the running of the club to the chairman and of leaving his tactics to chance. All a little unfair perhaps but criticisms he faces nonetheless. However his arguably minimalist approach to management highlights an issue in modern management that, although not a fact across all clubs, is widespread in most leagues. When Harry first started management, he told BBC News, the managers would:

“Do the transfers, you would do the contracts with the players, you would negotiate the contracts with the players, you would negotiate the transfer fees with the different managers at the different clubs…nowadays we’ve all got chief executives, you’ve got chairmen who are all hands on and really the business side of the club is completely run by them.”

Now you might think that this can only be beneficial to managers who, after all, have enough to deal with as it is. This would be true if the managers still had a say in the financial aspects of the club, to take away their involvement in that however would be to decrease the power of their position as a whole.

Wages

In his interview with Robert Peston Redknapp yearns for a time when wages were not only reasonable (he quotes £10 per week) but when the wages were decided by the manager and were dependent on a player’s form and loyalty. Basically he covets a time when the manager had complete control over his players and the club. He cites the reasoning for this being a necessity not only because it made the manager’s job easier in terms of controlling his players but there was also a clear system of motivation for the players. If they impressed the manager they would be paid more. Unfortunately the system is not as sustainable as it once was. Where players used to be given £10 per week increases now they want an extra £10,000 per week.

Clearly with the Bosman ruling in today’s game the control could never be the same as it was, the players could still demand more than they used to be able to because of the threat of leaving the clubs for free at the end of their contract. However Redknapp highlights the problems faced in today’s clubs of players’ agents going above the managers and straight to the chief executives. Now this isn’t necessarily a problem in clubs where there are long standing managers such as Arsene Wenger or Alex Ferguson. At those clubs there would be no point in going above the manager when the managers have established situations whereby they are effectively in control due to the length of their tenure. However this is not the case at most clubs and whilst the role of the chief executives might be important for the commercial running of the club, when it comes to contract negotiations it tends to undermine the authority of the manager with the players.

Player control

This is the case because with the exception of a minority of players the only control managers ever really had was the money the players received. Yes there are other factors, such as a manager refusing to pick a player. Yet players such as Wayne Bridge or Carlos Tevez or Paulo Ferreira have shown that there are footballers out there that care little about being played as long as they collect their pay cheques. Without the ability to influence the money that these players receive the position of the manager is weakened. This might seem unimportant but in a season when we have already seen players such as Suarez, Rooney, Terry and others in the media spotlight for the wrong reasons it is clear a manager can never have too much control. We only need to look at the last week to see an example of this with Wayne Rooney, Jonny Evans and Darren Gibson all breaking curfew to go out for dinner, and that was under the management of the infamously discipline inclined Alex Ferguson. Yes he exercised his power by dropping them for the next game yet he was the one who suffered as they lost 2-3 to relegation threatened Blackburn. If even he doesn’t have the ability to totally control his players then who does? Yes, he can fine them, but the damage is already done by their excessive contracts that you can be sure he did not negotiate. As Redknapp said in his interview:

“(The chairman) would discuss the terms with the selling club or whatever…and he would do all the deals with them. I wouldn’t be involved in it. I couldn’t even tell you the wages of a player at this club. You now the wages are something that he negotiates.”

Redknapp argues that the control is totally undermined by level of wages these days but admits that his inability to renegotiate the players’ contracts at the end of the year makes his job even more difficult:

“You don’t have that control that my manager would’ve had when I was a young player, when at the end of the year, you’d sign a new one year contract. Whether it was Bobby Moore, whether it was Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters –who played in the World Cup final – they’d go see the manager. You didn’t have an agent. You’d sit in the manager’s office and he’d give you maybe a five or ten pound a week rise.”

When you look at all of these factors together: the role of agents, the hands on approach of chairman, chief executives and directors of football, the increase in wages and the Bosman ruling you are left wondering whether managers really have enough control of their clubs or players. Whilst essentially their role is that of a head coach is that role not inextricably linked to the financial management of the players? Players, who, Redknapp says, are now “fragile characters” due to the amount of money they earn and agents who pander to their every demand. Clearly at some clubs the situation is worse than others, at Chelsea for example it is obvious who is in control, and also clearly some managers are not up to the task of negotiating yet how can we truly judge the performances of those in charge of our clubs if they are not fully in control?

For more news and views follow me on Twitter @H_Mackay

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Article title: Does Harry make a valid point about management control?

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