Man Utd having a ‘Director of football negotiations’ is as big a joke as Chelsea’s ‘President of Business’

John Nicholson
Chelsea co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali
Do Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali just like handing out grandiose job titles?

Every industry is plagued by well-paid suits with pointy tan shoes and big job titles. Do Man Utd need a ‘director of football insights and innovations’?


It may have caught your notice that the former head of the Post Office was giving evidence to the Horizon inquiry last week, and an extended self-serving diatribe it was, wrapped up in self-pity and spectacular, unconvincing, dishonest memory loss.

She should go to jail. And this from someone who was proposed as the Bishop of London. It was the least Christian of performances from a radically insubstantial woman and one might say her evidence was full of lies, deceit, obfuscation and humble brags.

Her first thought was that hundreds of people were robbers. Very Christian. Didn’t bother to assume the best about people. Nah, nail the bastards, get them in chokey. Scumbags. Do you think Jesus would be proud? She is at least, acting in the great traditions of the church.

Apart from the moral vacuity and sheer bastardry on display, it revealed the low, low quality of CEOs in this country. This woman was earning hundreds of thousands of pounds but seemed to do nothing for it except throw loads of perfectly innocent people in jail for crimes they hadn’t committed, it not seeming to occur to her that so many managers simultaneously deciding to start stealing on the introduction of the Horizon system all at once was, to say the least, questionable. How it didn’t occur to her that something was wrong, even as people went to jail, shows the extent of her mendacious, selfish, ass-covering mindset, all the while presenting as a person of holy integrity whose farts don’t stink. The worst kind of sickening.

All of which is nothing about football except that it explains how low-grade people who are obviously no good get employed. I say this because I look at some people in some roles at some clubs and they are obviously rubbish.

I mean, look at the people in charge of Manchester United. Tell me they know what they’ve been doing. You can’t. Similarly, people like Garry Cook and Peter Ridsdale are still out there, relegating Birmingham after some terrible managerial appointments and nearly bankrupting Leeds.

Being rotten and it being self-evident is no disqualification. These people make out they’re doing something difficult when in actual fact they’re just making it difficult. Top-flight clubs are full of people in all sorts of undefined roles, all coining it off the club. The feeling that there are loads of freeloaders at clubs, especially in the Premier League, is inescapable. There are over 25 directors and other people in the management team at Manchester United, including a ‘Director of football negotiations’. How’s that going? The club routinely makes terrible, overpriced transfers; how does he keep his job? More pertinently, what do you have to do to lose it?

There are nine non-executive directors – what are they all doing? There is a ‘Director of football insights and innovations’. The club has shown very little insight in its appointments and decisions and what the hell have been the innovations? Why is this person picking up a wage? Like Paula Vennels, he seems to get paid for nothing.

And it isn’t just United. Every major club has them. People, who you can see with your own eyes every week, who have brought nothing to the table. Chelsea had a ‘President of Business’ until late last year! The club is a financial basket case, laughed at and mocked by everyone else. I imagine he sat in an empty office forever saying he’s sorting out the Penske file, like George Costanza.

Running a business isn’t that hard in principle; I’ve done it for 40 years. A top football club must be one of the easiest, with its loyal customers and endless free money. A common mistake – and we’ve all done it once – is to get right up yourself and start dishing out big job titles for things that you don’t need a person to do exclusively, because it makes you feel like a big and clever boss. It used to take you an hour per day, now you’ve got someone doing it for eight hours and achieving the same amount. Clubs are full of people I wager would not be missed if they were not there. Money makes organisations flabby. Unearned money especially and that is what the Premier League specialises in.

Self-important titles are a clue to what is really going on. Many clubs end up being run to flatter the ego of the owner or CEO and are bloated and inefficient. As United have shown, you don’t get away with it in the league. If you are a badly run shambles off the pitch, you end up with a vague, inconsistent, characterless team, which drifts and is assembled haphazardly. This season has shown us that quite clearly. You get some good results but no consistency.

As Vennells well proved, organisations can promote poorly and appoint badly. Time and again we’ve seen people go from job to important job. Take former FA man, Adam Crozier. He’s been CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, CEO of The FA, CEO of Royal Mail, CEO of ITV, Chairman of Whitbread and Chairman of BT Group.

Which is quite a CV considering by any standards, some of those jobs were little short of disastrous. There’s a certain class of person in the UK who isn’t judged like you or I would be. His tenure at Royal Mail was disgraceful and should have disqualified him from being a CEO and probably should’ve landed him in jail. Would you want him in the trenches with you? But the rules don’t apply to such Teflon people; he is forever overprivileged, never to be accountable for anything but paid as if carrying much responsibility. They think we can’t see them, but they’re everywhere, getting away with mediocrity and dressing it up as important.

Your club almost certainly has people like this in meaningless jobs, trying to pretend to be important, quite possibly wearing those long, pointy, tan shoes with a mid-blue suit, so favoured by bullsh*tters the west over. If there is anything wrong with your club, it’s almost certainly the fault of the people with the longest, most meaningless job titles.

We shouldn’t tolerate such failures. We should rise up against them and drag such people out of the building by their hair, but we don’t, we just moan about them, even as they make our lives worse and even put us in prison.

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