The Dark Side Of Football And Dodgy Deals

From player to functionary to sports manager I’ve worked and dealt with a very wide range of Head Coaches or, in the way the Irish and British are wont to say – Managers.  A player simply wants the following from their manager: 1. respect, 2. belief, 3. clear instructions, 4. honesty.  As a functionary or sports manager you want the same.  I can count on the fingers of my left hand the number of Managers who had all four, since I have only 4 fingers you catch my drift.  Of course I have a thumb, but what I’m trying to say is, well, it’s clear.

At the start of 2014, as a favour to an agent I went to meet his client who was, then, playing for a Premier League club. The player had had some sort of argument with the Manager when the latter had arrived just before the New Year. The player had been offered a move but felt it was not in his interests. He tried to speak with the new Boss but to no avail. Which is why his agent asked for help.

I arrived in London on a 6 hour turnaround and met the Manager as arranged. We’d previously met in Russia so it was at least friendly. At a cafe near the training ground we had a very polite round table. The player explained why he wanted to stay and help the club. The Manager said he had to sell him and that the offer was good, somewhere in the region of a million pounds. The player was to take some time to think it over.

He stepped into the street to call his agent and it was then the the truth emerged. “I don’t care for his fuck agent, you get the bastard to move and I give you a bite (sic).” I explained I couldn’t, that I was not involved and only here to resolve the conflict, after all, the player had been playing well under the him and was the kind of lad you needed in a relegation battle.

“Look, we are going down, okay.  You make it when you can.  Now, you want a bite (sic) or are you crazy.  You don’t want it?” I shrugged. In my more than 20 years experience in sports, Managers are not adverse to ensuring transfers go through and if it means shorting their club, so be it. Again, think of the fingers of my left hand.

The Manager was a bit up his own backside and had grown to believe his own hype. I’d known he was a good training ground man, great at physical preparation, and in his previous post he’d made a packet by stabbing his friend and Number 1 in the back so he could grab the top job. So he was also smart.

I left for the airport once we’d agreed the player wouldn’t move in the January window and that there’d be no repercussions. I don’t class myself as an idiot, nor too intelligent, and probably more than a little too naive, so when the player moved a few months later for 5 times the sum the Manager had told us, I felt at least I’d done a good job for the club, not that they’d reward me for it.

Instead the Manager, by then ex-Manager, got a hefty fee from the selling club and a lump from the agent of the club who shelled out the shekels. I’ll never know the “bite” – or bit that was coming my way, though it was certainly more than the airfare and expenses the agent paid. Though I was surprised, I shouldn’t have been. As one of those good 4 Managers told me when we began to work together – “Some believe so little in themselves that while waiting for the axe to fall, they grab what they can.  The problem is, if you keep waiting for the axe, you forget to do what you’re there to do, build and win.”  Seems there’s more money in waiting for the axe for most.

Guest Blog By Alan Moore. He is a Russian based sports specialist and columnist for Russia’s #1 sports media outlet, Championat. Alan has more than 20 years experience in professional sports from playing to administration to management.  He has worked with professional clubs in countries including Germany, Russia, Croatia and Austria.  Alan worked on the Croatia-Hungary UEFA Euro 2012 and Russia FIFA World Cup 2018 bids.

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