Keep Management Speak Out Of Football

The commercialisation of football has led to those that previously worked behind the scenes stepping into the limelight. Can we push them back into the shadows, please..?

Last Updated: 22/07/14 at 10:34 Post Comment

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It often feels as if life in the 21st century is run by unworldly bean counters and professional consultants who have no hinterland, no life beyond their work. For example, politicians largely seem to be people whose careers to date have involved just trying to become a politician, working in various weasely little roles until finally they're elected in some town they'd never heard of by people who quickly grow to dislike them and about whose lives they understand little, because their own lives mostly involve being a politician.

This is how we end up with ministers who shamelessly claim £39 off the state to pay for his breakfast (better be a bloody good feast, eh) while simultaneously pompously demonizing the common people he sees as scroungers.

When one faceless drone after another pops up on TV to say how happy they're are to be the new Regional Minister for Squirrel Abuse, they seem to be more like poorly-functioning software than human beings and are, in every way, instantly forgettable. So much so that you wonder if they even really exist at all.

I suppose we need the various Pointdexters who live in a world of spreadsheets but my view is we should never see them. They should remain in the shadows along with their army of 'consultants', who come armed with jargon in order to aggrandise themselves and make it sound like giving your opinion about something is a proper science.

This sort of hobbity nerd has infected football in recent years too, of course. Their leader at the moment seems to be Manchester United's Ed Woodward. If I was running the club I'd instruct Mr W never to appear in any club photos and to just quietly blend into the background, shut up and do whatever it is he does. I'm sure he's a nice bloke, but he looks like Salesman Of The Month for a company based in Cheetham Hill that makes poly-cotton shirts. Though 42, he has the look of a gauche teenager when photographed next to Louis Van Gaal. He looks like he thinks taking 'a selfie' makes him modern.

Woodward had been United's head of media and commercial affairs and his tenure in this role had seen the club grow its revenues markedly, suggesting he was very good at his job, or possibly that a team of people underneath him and whom did most of the work were good at their jobs. This, I am told, is how corporate life works, which is why I've never had a job and have always worked for myself.

So his reward for increasing the sales of duvets and hot water bottle covers to Taiwanese United fans was to be made executive vice-chairman. (I always think a vice-chairman sounds like someone who is in charge of the key for the cupboard where the porn is kept, or at least a big vice)

As we know, he made an almighty mess of it, firstly by not setting fire to himself when it was suggested David Moyes should be the manager - a decision so manifestly wrong than not to argue against it was akin to not stopping someone who is pouring petrol on your house - and then by being rubbish in the transfer market.

But it's alright because now they've got a grown-up as a manager who doesn't look even a bit frightened and Ed is telling everyone how much money they're going to spend and how many players they're going to buy - it's like last year never happened. This is a very corporate way to go on. It's all about 'moving on' which is jargon for saying, 'please forget I was sh*te.'

When he's in the papers saying 'I've experienced a lot of conversations with agents and players...' it just makes your heart sink. No you haven't Ed, what you really mean is you've talked to them. Saying you've 'experienced conversations' is typical, heinous corporate-speak where you dress up basic, every day behaviour as clever stuff. Either that or he's just been in a room while some other people have been talking, which would, if you think about it, be 'experiencing' conversations. Neither reflects well and he might want to liaise with a consultant about it. Liaising being a word used to make talking to people sound more important.

It gets worse. Speaking about Van Gaal, Woodward says: "Every interaction he's having with people is leaving an imprint, which is superb."

'Interaction' and 'imprint' are not words we use to describe people getting on with other people. This is life seen a business exercise. It wouldn't surprise you if he was heard saying football shirts were 'hi-viz brand purveyors' or a referee was a 'quintessential administrative in-game driver'.

But you'll be pleased to know when it comes to talking football, Ed knows his stuff. "We're a club that absolutely should be in the Champions League." Thanks for that Ed. We thought you'd be happy avoiding relegation. Now back away from the microphone please.

We know football is quite big business (though on the scale of big business, it is a lot, lot smaller business than it likes to think it is), but don't rub our noses in it. Keep the dweebs in the shadows, please, keep the business jargon out of our lives and let the football professionals handle the rest, going forward.

John Nicholson - he's on Twitter

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