From the Touchline

From the Touchline: Why Clubs Hire the Same Men and Will Always Do So

This week two news articles from different sides of the Atlantic caught my eye. They were about different subjects in football but they play into the same idea of why certain people are hired to be managers at the professional level, and some are not.

The first was an article from the States about the lack of women in the coaching ranks. The lack of gender diversity is surprising considering how progressive the U.S. has been in women’s sports for some time. This is largely thanks to the federal Title IX statute that, in essence, forced universities to spend equal sums of money on men’s and women’s sports. This allowed the U.S. to set a standard in many international team sports, including football. Yet despite churning out quality players for years, few have graduated to the coaching ranks. Currently, only 15% of members in the country’s football coaching association are women. Despite the women’s national team winning multiple trophies and numerous successful collegiate programs, women are not populating the coaching ranks in the men’s or women’s game. Even the national women’s football league has mostly male managers!

The second was an article from The Guardian with a shocking statistic: about 70% of first-time managers do not find another managerial job immediately after their first firing. The article interviews some managers with solid CVs and good credentials who just cannot latch on in England or abroad. The implication is that the game is changing so quickly that one day’s darling is another day’s forgotten person.

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, managers have a survival instinct that is nearly unrivaled by any other people, plants, or animals. Unless you are one of the rare few that has reached the height of the profession where you are untouchable by most bosses, you must constantly struggle to maintain your brand relevance in front of the numerous audiences you face daily. Yet even those who constantly struggle to hold on are a privileged few, and the vast majority of managers are “one and done”. That is, unless you are a women, where you may not even get that first chance.

Why don’t more Boards hire a fresh-faced manager or someone who’s had success somewhere but hit a rough patch? Boards tend to be incredibly small “c” conservative. They oversee a brand and an income stream that they want to protect at all costs (and which is more important varies by Board). It is much easier to hire a manager with a lengthy resume who has found some success somewhere because the onus for success falls on them. A perfect example is David Moyes at Sunderland – he had found success at the highest level and when he failed at the current gig, much of that blame could be placed on him. It helps hide the other deficiencies that would fall under the Board’s management. A Board can throw up its collective hands and say, “we hired someone with a history of success, we can’t believe it went south.” Hiring a manager is in a way creating a possible fall-guy.

When you hire a first-time manager, you don’t have that track record to fall back on. If the former player fails, the Board comes under scrutiny for why someone “unprepared for the position” was hired. Think about the private sector – when your company hires someone new to the workplace, there is a level of trepidation as to whether they will adjust to the job required of them. This fear is unacceptable to a conservative body looking to maximise profit and a brand. That unfortunately means women and new managers face major hurdles to being hired.

How can this be overcome? More on that next week.

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