Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of! Football Finance

Of footballers and horses!

Posted by John Beech on June 17, 2009

Last week at the Play the Game Conference, my colleague Dr Terri Byers gave a very interesting paper entitled Use or Abuse ? Animals in Sport (1). She focussed in particular on horse racing, and how horses fitted into the sport.

Her framework for analysis identified three phases in the life cycle of race horses and eventing horses:

  1. The Breeding Phase
    where far too many horses are bred, the surplus are simply discarded with far too little thought for their welfare, and little thought is given on how this large unwanted surplus might be reduced
  2. The Competition Career
    where welfare of the horse is paramount, but any horse which is badly injured is simply discarded
  3. The Post-Career Phase
    which attracts little attention and where the welfare of the horse is a very low priority for those engaged in the sport

Sound vaguely familiar?

More seriously, if there is a parallel, it suggests interesting research agendas into youth football development programmes (and what happens to the many aspirants who do not make the grade), and what happens to retired footballers who don’t make the grade as managers or TV pundits. In the old days they would often have become pub landlords or opened an independent sports equipment shop in their home town – neither are likely to be career options for the footballer retiring today.

Now you may think “What’s the problem? They earn so much during their albeit short careers!”, but this is only true for the elite. For the journeyman footballer of the lower tiers of professional football, there is often a real problem. The PFA have taken significant steps to help footballers post-career, but there are so many of them.

You may recall Jimmy Glass, the Carlisle goalkeeper, who carved himself a particular immortal niche in pub quizzes by scoring the goal that kept Carlisle up during the final minute of extra time in the final game of the season – his ’95th minute of fame’. That was back in 1999. Today he drives a taxi in Poole (2).

At least they don’t shoot footballers.


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