Football Governance - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 400-447)

Richard Bevan, Steve Coppell and Martin O'Neill OBE

22 March 2011

Q400 Chair: For the second part of this morning's session, can I welcome Richard Bevan, the Chief Executive of the League Managers Association, with Martin O'Neill and Steve Coppell? Your organisation represents managers from the Premier League and then goes all the way down to League 2. Can you just set out what you see as the main issues affecting them and to what extent they differ between the top and the bottom of the pyramid?

  Richard Bevan: Yes, on the main issues affecting the managers, the LMA's history goes back to 1919. It used to be the League Secretaries and League Managers Association. The LMA was formally launched in 1992. I think probably the biggest change since 1992 will simply be employment issues. That is the key one. The average tenure of the job back in 1992 was about three and a half years. It is now sitting at 14, 15 months—I think I am about to lose a manager in the next five minutes as well. But also in the Football League last season, the average tenure of a sacked manager was around about 10 months. I think a very worrying stat for the game, which is reflective of the game and worrying for all the stakeholders, is that there are about 46 clubs at the moment that have a manager that has been in place for less than 11 months. If you take the manager being the most important person at the club, as the one that gets the sack most regularly when things go wrong, then you have to presume that is very bad news for the game. Certainly in a business corporate environment, politics and any other environment, that would be something that you would have to address fairly quickly at the top.

  Secondly, not particularly sexy issues but very important issues, many of our managers don't get private healthcare, so in the LMA we recently set up a health trust. We now have 60 managers in that. If you can imagine getting the sack every 12 months and you are out of work for, on average, 16 months, you have to make sure that there is healthcare as well as other basic needs. So the LMA is very much a family from that perspective.

  Thirdly, I think very importantly, what we are trying to change is our ability to collectively take the views of our members and to lobby both at home and internationally across Europe. We have 91 managers in 30-odd countries. I think it is somewhat ironic that today in UEFA they are voting on new members of the UEFA executive. There are 13 nominees for seven places, and out of those 13 nominees, there are five ex-players that have been nominated by different countries around Europe by different FAs. The FA has never nominated any ex-player, nor to my knowledge has it ever had an ex-player on the board. Even Trevor Brooking isn't on the board of the FA. I think what you need, like Mr Platini did representing France, you need to make sure that you have young, energetic people, not people, with all respect, in their 70s joining the UEFA executive. So over a period of 10 years, or 15 years, we can try to ensure that we get to a much better position, that we can help influence the game in a better way. Perhaps taking our stock at the moment, the Under-21 Championships, we went in for that alongside Wales, Bulgaria and a couple of other countries and it was recently awarded to Israel, so that probably reflects where we are at.

  Lastly, we are in regular communication now with coaches across Europe. We are setting up a number of meetings and think-tanks and we do intend to be proactive. In many ways, like it or not, with some stakeholders, the LMA, the players and perhaps the supporters as well are probably the best policemen in the game at the moment.

Q401 Chair: Can I come back to the first point you made about the ever-diminishing average tenure of a football manager? To what do you attribute that and is there anything you can do about it?

Richard Bevan: There are a number of things that I attribute it to, mainly the world we live in, the lack of managing expectations at a certain number of clubs, the 24/7, the pressure, the financial issues as well, the reward for getting into the Premier League are now reportedly in the region of £90 million. Equally, if you get relegation or even going out of the league, the pressures will be different, and they are exaggerated by the very nature that we are living in a 24/7 media world and the internet, Twitter and everything else.

In terms of can we do anything about it, yes, we can, short, medium and long term. Short term we are pushing for standard contracts. We are encouraging our managers to have the objectives of the club very much written in writing, "What are we looking to achieve in three months, six months, 12 months?" and helping to manage those expectations, and very importantly, the LMA is very much moving into the role of developing training, coaching and management education. We are moving into the National Football Centre in July next year, and along with three business schools, we intend to build upon the leadership management. We have recently been working with companies, major plcs in the country such as Castrol, Barclays, Jaguar and a number of other companies, because we are looking to bring that leadership model in, because there are probably three aspects of being a football manager in what I have learnt in the last three years since I've joined: leadership, management and coaching. The FA are very much delivering the coaching and education and we are going to be delivering the management and the leadership training.

The total spend in football is embarrassing for the game. Less than £750,000 is spent on the development of our technical staff—that includes referees—in terms of technical training. We did a recent report with the Warwick Business School on the film industry, the comparison between the film industry and football. Very similar, £3 billion turnover—the entertainers, if you like—and in the film industry, they spend around about 5%, 6% of their turnover on training of their technical staff, which is fantastic, because that is why our British technicians are wanted all around the world, and that is why we are winning Oscars. So hopefully if you were to look at the LMA in five years' time, you will see it is very much focused on the delivery of coaching and management. I think if we achieve anything like the goals we have set ourselves, then we will improve longevity, because we will prepare our managers better.

Q402 Mr Sanders: Can I ask Steve and Martin your experience of management? Is it becoming harder for clubs to bridge the gap between the Championship and the Premier League?

Steve Coppell: I would say most definitely without the input of a benevolent millionaire who would invest, as we spoke before, the massive sums of money. In my experience at my club with Sir John Madejski, at Reading in particular we tried to bridge that gulf, and even though he is a wealthy man, his ideal all along was the club should sustain itself, which it can do very successfully at one level, but when you get to the Premiership now, the Premiership is without doubt a power league. You can more or less forecast who is going to finish in what position at the start of any one season, based on the power reference of each club within that league. There are always one or two exceptions, but that cannot be sustained without the finances involved. So to answer your question, I would say most definitely it is very, very difficult to go beyond the one or possibly two seasons' success without the input of substantial funds.

Q403 Mr Sanders: Can I ask, Martin, is it possible to challenge for a Champions League place on a regular basis without a very significant financial outlay?

  Martin O'Neill: On a regular basis, I would probably very much doubt that. I think statistically it has been proved that only Everton and Tottenham Hotspur obviously have broken into that top four in the last seven or eight years. I think it is the dream and I think the dreams are always worth pursuing. I suppose from the country where I was born that is what we lived on most of the time. So, yes, I think it would be very, very difficult, as you mentioned, on a regular basis. However, Tottenham Hotspur are making a terrific effort at the moment. First of all, they have done it, and I think it has been a magnificent achievement, not only in getting there, but what they have done in their first season in the Champions League, now contesting the quarter-final. So for teams of that ilk, and I am talking about perhaps maybe tradition, history, crowd support, yes, I still believe—Tottenham have shown the way recently, Everton did it before that—that it is possible. But on a regular basis without that input, that financial input, it is difficult.

Q404 Mr Sanders: Can we ask why you left Aston Villa?

  Martin O'Neill: You can, and I would not answer that, primarily because there is a tribunal coming up in the next month or two and I am not at liberty today to speak about that, but I appreciate you asking me the question and asking about my wellbeing.

Q405 Mr Sanders: In general terms, is there a connection though to the difficulties and the competition for wanting to achieve a top four position and where you are today?

Martin O'Neill: You make a very, very good point. I think that Richard touched on it. The managing of the expectation is—well, let me start by saying that the world in which we live in now seems to be—I only say seems to be—instancy. We are looking for instant success and because we have instant access to things, I think the other seems to want to follow, or people feel, if it is there for you, you are capable of doing it. What I am saying is that you set out with a number of ambitions, a number of goals, you try to achieve those and if you have a little bit of a success early on, then people are looking for more, they are looking for more. I think that that has been the difficulty in the game. I am not saying that it didn't exist some years ago, of course it did, but with the financial situation being so, so strong now, the possibility of failure in the Premiership, the possibility of relegation, then the thoughts of getting into the Champions League, it has reached a zenith.

In my 20 years of management, I have seen a lot of positive changes in the game. It is still a wonderful, wonderful game, and, for instance, if you look at the stadium improvements, if you look at the racism that we were trying eradicate, all great news. Then I often think to myself, "Well, has the game changed at all?" and I will bring you back to just a little story. About 31 years ago, I sat in a dressing room in the City Ground, Nottingham Forest, as a player, and we were part of a very, very successful team, the team was going very well indeed. In stomped a colourful megalomaniac, who had obviously had a bit of an issue that morning with something or someone. At that stage, he was the most successful manager in the country. He had just won the European Cup, and within a couple of months he was about to win another European Cup, and he stomped into the dressing room—now Brian Clough could stomp into any dressing room and he could be irked by anything, but obviously he was chuntering about his board. They had upset him that morning, I don't know, perhaps because they hadn't given him something that he had felt was his due, but he almost read the situation, because there was a number of us who were reaching that age where we were thinking about management, certainly thinking about coaching, and I think he had almost a telegnostic feel about it, because he said, "If any of you lads are thinking about management, don't". He said, "The only inevitability about this job is you'll get the sack."

I wonder whether anything has changed over that 31-year period. Certainly statistically, as Richard talks about, it wasn't as severe, managers were getting longer in those days, although still getting sacked, but it has reached a level now where I think managing is still a terrific job but it has become exceptionally difficult.

Q406 Mr Sanders: Is it more difficult to manage expectation than it is to manage a football team? I wonder whether, Richard, I could ask you, what support you give to managers in order to help them manage expectation.

  Richard Bevan: That is a very good question. Managing downwards and managing upwards are of equal importance, and I think probably the traditional Chairman in football is going. Issues have arisen in negotiating over 100-odd compromise agreements in the last 12 months or so, because we also represent a lot of coaches, we have lost about 36 managers and about 48 coaches so far this season. One of the problems is who in the football club am I ultimately responsible to? There seems to be in a lot of clubs, particularly in the Football League, two or three directors that have investment in the club, they are having a say in the club, that want to play in a different way and so I think that is very hard for managers. In terms of what we are doing about it, particularly when managers are out of work, we have the Warwick Business School football management course. We are working on 16 three-day modules of leadership and management, and media training is in that. Also, we monitor media interviews of our managers and we help them, and some have a greater need than others and some have a bigger drive, but what I find working for these guys, is that there is a massive appetite for learning. There are 100,000 matches of experience between the members. That is a lot of knowledge, a lot of passion and I want to try and harness that.

  I think you talked earlier about Europe, and we looked at Europe, we looked at the way Holland works, we looked at the way Germany works and the one thing that is very clear—to me, anyway—about Europe is there are very few turf wars in those countries. They work together. Their strategy is more unified and I think proper governance, correct and successful governance, is all about participation of the stakeholders in making the right decisions, but getting them to embrace those decisions and that doesn't happen, if at all.

Q407 Paul Farrelly: We have heard from Steve about John Madejski at Reading, but Martin, can I just come back to Aston Villa? I can understand the difficulty of managing conflicting objectives, such as, "We expect the team to do this, but we are only going to do this and we are only going to give you this" and some people might want to take a stand and say, "I cannot fulfil that objective for you". But if you are looking at the Premier League and below in the round, take the perspective of just up the M6 from Aston Villa, from my club, Stoke City, for the likes of Stokes City it is an absolutely good thing for people like Randy Lerner to pull the horns in and not join the splurge, just as it would be for John Madejski not to join the splurge. Because if it is unsustainable, the way all the decisions on transfers and paying people's wages filter down, it affects the financial viability of all the clubs below, so isn't it a good thing that the horns were pulled in in terms of not going on any more spending sprees?

  Richard Bevan: Can I answer that question, because there is a Premier League managers arbitration and if Martin answers that question he could conflict himself out for what is going to be an important tribunal? So I don't think you can ask questions that relate to Aston Villa because—


Q408 Paul Farrelly: Let me phrase it generally: is it generally a good thing that unsustainable spending sprees do not happen?

Martin O'Neill: I think that Mr Watmore touched on this, and he talked about the top clubs in the Premiership, where they have been on massive spending sprees, and therefore other teams, to attempt to catch up, proportionately they have to spend some money. Now, I accept your point entirely. I believe that football clubs—was it Deloitte that mentioned something about the 65% wages to turnover? I think that is something that clubs should aim for and attempt to go for, and I do agree in principle that you can only deal with what you are able to bring in, and if you cannot compete against Manchester United and you cannot compete against Chelsea, it doesn't stop you attempting to do so, but then I think then that you have to get some sort of—for want of a better word—reality check. But that doesn't exist in the Premiership, and you have just mentioned Stoke City. Tony has done a wonderful job there, absolutely wonderful job. The day that they made it into the Premiership was a fantastic day for Stoke, but Stoke believe that they belong there, even though they hadn't been there for quite some time, and now, last year, when they finished I think about 10th in the league, it was terrific. This year, would 11th be good enough for Stoke City this year? I wonder. I will throw it back to you.

  Paul Farrelly: We might come on to that in a moment.

  Steve Coppell: Can I just add a little bit there? You cannot compete with the big clubs financially, so you try and compete at a different level, which is the nurturing and development of talent. Now, again, the big clubs can spend more money, but you can provide a more caring atmosphere with a route through to progress. I think that is the attraction of the clubs who are trying to compete against the mega-giants. It is the only way you can sustain it and perhaps, in the future, if we have more home-grown players demanding to be in the squads, which I think is a fine development for English football and would protect our national team to some extent in the future, I think that is the way forward.

Richard Bevan: Certainly in the Football League, I think there is only one club that has just posted a profit, which is Swansea. There are 653 clubs in 53 leagues across Europe and over 50% are losing money. So certainly, whether it is under a licence or whether it is a different type of UEFA financial play rule that is reflected down the leagues, we would very much like to see the ability of clubs managing cost controls to a greater extent.

Q409 Alan Keen: Just a small question about the LMA. I am mindful of what the FA are trying to achieve, and that is to professionalise, not just at the club managers' level but coaching and further down so that we can bring people up through the game. But there is one problem, sometimes it is managers who sack coaches. A new manager goes into the club and they quickly get rid of three or four coaches and take it further down to bring in people that he works well with. I can understand that. Martin is known to have worked with a team of coaches, but how has the LMA approached it to sort of deal with that? Are you trying to aim at getting a level within a club where they would be looked upon as permanent coaches, say with the under-17s and others, so that a new manager coming in is free to bring his own coaches in at the level for the first team coaching and other assistant coaching, maybe for the reserve sides, so that that coherence of tactics and everything else is okay, but at least the other people in the club below that level are fairly safe to pursue their career for five or six years or indefinitely, as it were?

Richard Bevan: Certainly in 1992, when Graham Taylor, Howard Wilkinson, Lawrie McMenemy and a couple of others formed the LMA, it was very much because there were issues between coach and manager, whereas in recent years, it has gone the other way. We are representing and have represented—employment issues in particular—over 40-odd coaches so far this season, and those coaches have been represented because of the request of the manager. Certainly there are some cases where managers will take their coaches with them. In terms of managing the conflict, I think there is conflict in every walk of life and it is how you embrace it, so if we were dealing with a manager and a coach in the same club, where there was a breach—I have not had to do that in three years—we would use separate legal advisors, as with the PGA, if they were dealing with golfer on golfer.

Steve Coppell: I think you would find as well most clubs within their academy system have fairly stable environments. I think they were designed to not be affected by the incomings of a new manager, so the development of young players is very much insulated from who is managing the club. It is not a separate entity, but it does have a special consideration.

Q410 Alan Keen: At what level would you go to? Academy would be the obvious level that you want to perpetuate for years. In my own team, Middlesbrough, they set a—

Steve Coppell: Yes, development, you'd go to development level, I think. It is the prerogative of any owner or manager to employ his inner sanctum staff: people, like any relationship, you have to trust, and that trust is usually developed over time.


Q411 Alan Keen: Even with physio, would the new manager want to bring his own physio in, for instance?

  Martin O'Neill: That is possible. I take your point, in principle as much as anything else. Any new manager who is stepping into a football team and will concern himself immediately with what the youth team is doing is deluding himself. He should take himself off to the nearest insanity place, because he is not. He is dealing with football. He is dealing with football first team issues. That is what his job consists of. It consists of that immediately. If he gets the time, if he gets, as they have often talked about, these five-year plans—I have never seen one myself—where someone steps in and has time to look and see what is happening at youth team level, he might get an opportunity to have a look at the youth team within six or seven weeks of coming into the football club and then it is up to him to take as much interest or as little interest as possible.

  Steve has made the point that they are usually almost separate entities and chairmen like them to be separate entities, because the chances are if the manager is going, it would be because of first team results, obviously. Yes, a manager will take in some of his staff, but surely that is something that the club must be thinking about when they are about to sack the manager in the first place.

Q412 Dr Coffey: Mr Coppell and Mr O'Neill, you have both been exceptionally distinguished players and successful managers, are you concerned that the influx of foreign managers is restricting the opportunities for English or UK managers?

Steve Coppell: Personally, I am. As an English coach, I feel to a certain extent offended that we don't have an English manager of the national team.

  Dr Coffey: That was going to be my next question.

  Steve Coppell: As you know, I think the LMA at the moment are working with initiatives to try and educate our coaches and managers to be better at their craft so that in the future that won't be an attractive option. The same with our players; to have so few of our players playing every week, every Saturday in the Premier League I think is something that we should be concerned about as regards the overall picture of the success of the national team. I just think it is wrong. We should have more protection within our game for talented people. The responsibility is with the clubs to produce the best home-grown players they can. It is their responsibility, without doubt, not to cherry-pick around the world and invite those players to come and take advantage of the finance that has been generated within our game. Similarly, with the managers and coaches, there should be a more defined route of progress, educational process, which again the LMA are taking a lead on, so that when an owner of a club, whether he be English or foreign, looks at the contenders out there to run his club, he will say, "Well, the English system is the best system, they give the best education and time has shown they produce the best results".

Richard Bevan: Can I give two important facts before I pass it on to Martin? One, there's only nine overseas managers in the 92 clubs. It is a misconception there is a lot, but obviously in the same way that the best players in the world want to come and play in the Premier League, so do the best coaches and the best managers. In terms of having an Englishman as our English manager, there are about 60 Englishmen managing in the 92 clubs, and I come back to the training point I made earlier: what are the FA doing in terms of vision and strategy for four, five, 10 years ahead, and are they saying, "Are we identifying the talent? What are we doing to help train those individuals to improve, so we end up with a dozen or so candidates to become the next England manager?"

Martin O'Neill: My view was concurring with Steve's, but having listened now to Richard and those statistics, I think I will keep quiet.

Q413 Dr Coffey: I was going to ask, do you think the FA should restrict the manager to being a UK national, but I think there seems be consent that that is true.

Steve Coppell: I think the qualification rules for the national team now should apply to the manager as well, which doesn't restrict foreign managers but it makes it more difficult.

Richard Bevan: We have about 10 managers, who are managers of other national teams as well, Finland, Panama, Uganda, India.

  Dr Coffey: Tony Adams, Azerbaijan.

  Richard Bevan: Yes, Thailand, and 90-odd guys working abroad, so as we train and develop our young coaches, they will go abroad to get experience.

Q414 Dr Coffey: From what I have taken from what you have suggested, the LMA is taking the leading role in educating managers, but should there be more mandatory levels of UEFA licensing, not just in the Premier League, but up and down our leagues?

Richard Bevan: If you look at the number of UEFA qualified coaches in this country, it is around about 2,700. If you compare that to Germany, it is 32,000, to Spain it is 29,000 and Italy is about 27,000. But I think what the National Football Centre will bring is a focus on quality, not quantity, and as well as the AB and the pro licences. We have about 140, 150 coaches with the pro licence; the figure in other countries in Europe is over 1,000. I think the key for a coach, a young coach, and a manager is that there needs to be a clear pathway. If you go to Holland and you want to become a coach or a manager, there is a very clear pathway of how you go up the ladder. If you have not played the game or if you come out of the game early and you want to become a coach, there hasn't been that clear pathway. Although we are leading the way, we are not trying to take control of coach and education management, what we are trying to do is to work in partnership with FA learning in order to ensure that the people we represent get a broader cross-section of training. In League 2, for example, it is my opinion that you need to probably understand the commerciality of the club if you want to survive longer than 12 months. You need to understand what the ambitions of the Chairman are, you need to understand the budgets and the cash flows and maybe even read a balance sheet.

Q415 Ms Bagshawe: I just want to come in on a little supplementary to Mr Coppell's answer there. You said that it is the responsibility of the clubs to develop players for the national team and that it is a great shame that we have so few English players playing in the Premier League. Would you support some kind of quota for English players per team in the league?

  Steve Coppell: Yes, I would. I would, to protect our own talent and to put more emphasis on clubs to produce the talent that will play for England in the future. Again, it is a pathway, as Richard was saying there. If you sign for a big club now, you know that the big club, unless you are the top of the tree, are going to buy somebody from somewhere around the world, and that makes our league game more attractive. If you go anywhere in the world, they will be watching Premier League on the television in the afternoon, so it is that dilemma. But as somebody who played for his country and loves the England team, I want the England team to almost run parallel with the success of the leagues. Is it possible? I don't know, but I think we can just move a little bit more the balance away from the league itself towards a national team.

Q416 Ms Bagshawe: What about you other two gentlemen, quickly?

  Martin O'Neill: I think it would improve Mr Capello's choice of a game on a Saturday afternoon anyway, if he is getting to see more English players playing in the Premiership.

  Richard Bevan: Personally, I am less about quotas, less about restrictions. I am more about better governance, better people leading our game, a more unified approach, an agreed strategy, and if we had those, we wouldn't have to worry about quotas.

Q417 Philip Davies: Just pursuing this theme, shouldn't it be the free market and it all be done on merit, and presumably given that it is such a results-orientated business, if the best players are English, they will get in the team; if they are not, they will not get in the team? Do you not think that if you had this kind of—laudable though it is—aim to force clubs to develop more English talent, would that not in itself damage the Premier League in the sense that one of the reasons presumably why there is so much money in the Premier League is because of all these stars come from around the world to play in it? That is the thing that gives it the kudos, why it is so important. Would it not damage the league itself to do that?

  Richard Bevan: I think on that particular point, you only have to go to the top of the tree in the FA, and what you need is you have to first of all identify players, identify the talent. Secondly, you have to make sure they have enough hours to be trained. Thirdly, you have to make sure that the coaches that are coaching them are the best in Europe, and the point where you do need assistance, which is why I am sure the Premier League have gone for their 25-man squad rule, and the use of a minimum of eight players locally, I think that has to do with making sure that the Premier League and the FA have the ability to—I have just forgotten the thread. The point I was making, the last point, is that you must create opportunities. I think the Premier League and the Football League, it is about opportunities for our domestic players, that is key.

  Steve Coppell: If the purpose of the English game was to provide the best and most exciting league throughout the world, I think you could say that we have been fairly successful, but if the purpose of the English game was also in combination to make a very competitive England team, which every two years would make us very happy, rather than making us reasonably unhappy, then we have been unsuccessful. We need to try and combine the two, and I don't even know whether it is possible, but I think we can make a better fist of it than we are at the moment. Again, it is all down to that responsibility of clubs and the Premier League to a certain extent to maybe shift a little bit of power towards the national game.

Q418 Philip Davies: Can I ask about the qualifications issue for football managers, because every so often it seems there is a controversy. The last one—Alan will know more about this than me—the one that springs to my mind, I think, was Gareth Southgate, who I think had been appointed as manager of Middlesbrough and he hadn't gone through all of his coaching qualifications and all the rest of it. Where do you stand on that? Just because somebody does not have a particular qualification does not surely mean that they are not going to be any good at managing a football club, does it?

  Richard Bevan: I think if you are going to become a surgeon, you wouldn't expect a surgeon not to have the right qualifications.


Q419 Philip Davies: It is the same parallel?

  Richard Bevan: I think it is a good example, yes. If you take Europe, we are the only country in Europe that doesn't have mandatory qualifications, although the Premier League do now, and the Football League have been moving very closely towards that. In Gareth Southgate's case, it was also because Steve McClaren was taken by the FA to become the manager of England, and they wanted to promote him through. There have been four or five occasions. What the Premier League are doing is saying that as long as the manager is going through his qualifications, they do on occasions and have made about five or six exceptions.


Q420 Philip Davies: My reading of the situation is that somebody like Martin O'Neill has been a tremendously successful football manager, not because of his coaching qualifications—if you do not mind me saying so—but because of your ability to inspire the people that play in the club, your man management skills. It always strikes me, as an observer, that the ability to manage people and to inspire them to play better and to fulfil their potential is a far more important asset in being a successful football manager than necessarily the coaching qualifications that you have. So surely somebody who is a great man manager, somebody who inspires people, who might not have all of the coaching qualifications, I put it to you would prove ultimately to be a more successful manager than somebody who cannot inspire the players in the same way but has all the coaching qualifications.

  Richard Bevan: I think the point you are making is a good one. At the same time though, being a successful manager is about leadership, management and coaching: can you teach leaders to be better leaders, can you teach managers to be better managers? Of course you can, and in business, if you were going to be looking at any of the plcs, do they train their senior team, their managers? Yes, they do. So you want to provide the opportunity for a coach to have as many qualifications, to have as much learning as possible to survive and be as successful as he can as an individual.

  Steve Coppell: You need to have qualifications. You can't just say, "Open house, who do we want to be manager next week?" I think it is a requirement of the trade that you do have some basic knowledge of coaching techniques. As you say, it is all about man management. I am not sure whether Fergie has all his coaching badges, but you look at the success he has had down to man management. Gareth Southgate had spent 15 years in the industry as a player. It is a natural progression. He wasn't a rookie by any means. He had been in many dressing rooms with many top managers and obviously learnt an awful lot from them. So I would say qualifications, yes, but it shouldn't not allow people with man management abilities to be able to do the job.

  Richard Bevan: There is also a big appetite among our members. We recently had the Royal Marines working on a particular course with our guys, there were about 40 members. We run coaching clinics and, in my time, there have never been fewer than 70 managers and coaches turning up on one particular day. There is a big appetite for learning as well.

  Philip Davies: Martin, I prayed you in aid.

  Martin O'Neill: No, I am so pleased you mentioned that. I am beginning to agree with you. I have always been a bit sceptical about—Richard won't like me for saying this—the licence, the procedure you go through. I do accept it. I accept because, again, you have to do something about it. It might be the worst analogy in the world, but it might be a bit like getting a driving licence, you have to pass the test at some stage or another. Will that be how you drive in the next two or three years? Well, if it is anything to do with my driving, it certainly wouldn't be, but I think that there are certain things that you can learn during these courses. I must admit, I don't have my licence myself at this minute, and hopefully it won't debar me from going back into the Premiership. I will certainly do it, but I will do it because I want to do it. I want to do it, because there are things that I can learn from it. Now, I don't for one minute suggest that when I take a coaching course just for the purpose of passing an exam—it will give me that experience, of course, but will that be any good to me in the heat of the moment when I am having to make a decision as to whether a game can be won? I am not so sure. Maybe that is just experience, but I do accept the point. I didn't always think this, but I am coming round more to thinking that the licence is there for a purpose. As you say, I am not even sure that Alex Ferguson has this particular badge. It hasn't prevented him from being one of the greatest managers of all time, and I am still debating the point.

  Richard Bevan: Well, 50% of first-time managers never get back into the game when they get the sack, and so—


Q421 Philip Davies: I was going to move on to the respect bit, because as we have mentioned Alex Ferguson, it seemed a good point to ask just briefly—the FA tried to introduce a respect campaign to help the amateur game as well, parents not having a go at the referee and all this kind of thing. As we touched on Alex Ferguson, what is the League Managers Association doing to make sure that managers set the best example of all to their players, which is not to challenge the referee's decisions, that the players therefore do not challenge the referee's decisions, because unless the managers and the players at the highest levels of football show some respect to the referee, there is no chance of anybody lower down the chain doing it.

  Richard Bevan: The Respect programme is a very important programme, and when the FA and Lord Triesman launched it, we were, and still are, very supportive. I was in a meeting yesterday, and am pleased to see that the results of the Respect programme have been working, that there has been turnaround in terms of the amount of referees, there were about 7,000 amateur referees leaving the game a year, that has been turned round.

  In terms of managing at the very top and the volcano—I think they call it, sitting on a volcano—at times there will always be moments of high emotion, but behind the scenes our guys are extremely hard-working. We have completed a document and we have meetings on a regular basis with the PGMOL, the body that works with the referees. We had 80 managers working over 500 hours, chaired by Greg Dyke, where we came up with a number of recommendations on how we could help referees, and that is on an ongoing basis.

  Steve Coppell: The only thing I would say, after a game that has been very intense and the be-all and end-all of your week, your preparation, your thinking, everything you do, 20 minutes after the game finishes, you have somebody asking you questions, it is very difficult to be even-tempered and conclusive about what happened. So I think it is just the passion of the moment. It is what makes our game, it is what all the supporters want to see, they want to see the management team show passion. Sometimes words don't come out the way you would mean, but I don't think it is a bad thing. I think there is an awful lot of respect emanating—certainly I call Sir Alex the don of managers. He is the don of managers. He does so much for the game that is positive and I think so many of the top managers are of that ilk, but just for 20 minutes sometimes you just don't think straight.

  Richard Bevan: These guys do a fantastic amount of work, as I said earlier, behind the scenes, and something that people are not aware of is we have been debating for the last three, four weeks in terms of what happens in post-match interviews, in terms of not answering any questions regarding the referee. They tried that in Scotland recently and it didn't hold together, but it is something that we are looking at. There was a case with one manager that said after the FA Cup match that he didn't want to complete the interview, but he was told that he was legally contracted to do that, which wasn't the case in the FA Cup, and, again, his emotions were very high. You look at the likes of Peter Jackson up at Bradford, he has three or four games to prove his worth up there and to hopefully get a full-time contract there running the club, not as a caretaker manager, and one decision could affect that. But it is an entertainment world. At the same time, our guys behind the scenes do very much care, they are very positive about it. As I said, we had a five, six-hour meeting on the subject yesterday.


Q422 Damian Collins: There has been a lot of discussion about debt and profits in the game. How much pressure is there on football managers to spend more money?

  Steve Coppell: That is a good question. There is an awful lot of pressure on most managers not to spend money. There are very few occasions where a Chairman has said to me, "Well, why aren't you spending the money that I've given you?" The reality is I think you know you have to compete. I think most managers, given the opportunity to spend money, would rather see that money running around on the pitch than sitting in a bank account gathering interest and looking after the financial security of their club in the future. You know you are managing in the instant and you have to get results. You are judged on results, so if you get the opportunity to spend money—but again, I have never known a Chairman who has allowed me to spend more than he has offered.

Q423 Damian Collins: But you must know in your conversations with the chairmen of football clubs that if they have an ambition to reach a certain level, it is going to cost them money, and if a manager wants to stay in a job beyond the end of the season, he knows he is going to need money to do that.

  Steve Coppell: I very often say to people in football, "The success of football is easy. If you have the money, you buy the best players and then you have the best team. It's easy". But most clubs don't have the freedom of the finances to be able to do that, so every judgement call you make then is just trying to get the best value for the money you spend, and that is the art of management.

Q424 Damian Collins: Mr O'Neill, I think it was reported you spent £120 million in four years at Aston Villa, and that was not enough even to get into the Champions League, but to get within touching distance of it. I appreciate you cannot talk about Villa directly, but I would be interested in your views on this: are managers in a position where effectively they are driving debt within the game, because they have to be advocates for spending more money?

  Martin O'Neill: Well, one thing I will say, the figure was much, much less. What generally happens in a football club is they talk about the amount of money that is spent on players coming in. What they forget to do is that you have to attempt to balance some capacity by letting other players go, and in actual fact the figure that we are talking about was closer to £70 million net over four years. Yes, there is seemingly an outside pressure, there is a pressure from supporters who feel that when a club is taken over, the owner, the Chairman, has just carte blanche to put this into a different stratosphere when, in actual fact, most people would want to run football clubs as a business. As Steve has just mentioned, I am not so sure that there have been that many chairmen who would say, "Well, here's a spare £50 million. Go out and see what you can do with it". I think that prudence seems to be the key word these days. But, yes, it is a difficult one. You have to try and compete at some stage or another and if you feel that there is something out there, someone out there who can help, of course you will have these discussions. But the owner of the football club will have the ultimate sanction.

Q425 Damian Collins: Do football clubs have a strategy beyond spending as much money as they can to try and sustain a league position? Some clubs are striving to either get into the Premier League or compete at a higher level within it. You have talked about youth football and other things within the club, and clubs have limited resources. It would strike me that a club would need a strategy to say, "We have a certain amount we can spend. There is a certain amount that has to come from internal development within the club, a certain amount we have to raise through a better commercial strategy". Do clubs have serious strategies like that, and given the management might be there for a relatively short period of time, what role does the manager have in that?

  Richard Bevan: That will vary dramatically from one club to another, and there are some very good chairmen and boards out there. We spoke earlier about a model, Stoke City, Peter Coates, the Chairman there, is very experienced—it is his second time, I think, at Stoke—and the chairmen at Crewe and Doncaster Rovers and numerous chairmen and boards are very talented and have very successful models in that they can break even at the club and operate in a positive cash flow. I think it will depend upon the boards. I find that particularly on the employment tribunals and the legal issues we have. About a third of the clubs are probably struggling with some of the quality of the leaders of their clubs and the way that they operate their model.

Q426 Damian Collins: Mr O'Neill, do you think we will ever again see a club like Nottingham Forest with a European Cup?

  Martin O'Neill: Funnily enough, I was thinking about that last night. Again, it is a dream. I think it is highly unlikely, highly unlikely, the way that football has gone in the last 20 years, and I think that would be a shame. It doesn't mean that there couldn't be a manager who could bring all of these things to pass. You could inherit a very, very good youth team in a couple of years who might come through, if they stick together, and I am talking about the Manchester United side of about 1994, 1995 time, but I suppose that was at Manchester United. Nottingham Forest are a provincial football club, steeped in the history now with two European Cups. I don't think it is impossible, but I think it is highly unlikely, certainly in the 20 years.

  Richard Bevan: Perhaps the expectation has come away from winning the Champions League to getting into the Champions League, as Everton did in 2008, and getting to the last 16. That was obviously a major success.


Q427 Damian Collins: I record for the record that Steve Coppell was giving a no to that.

  Steve Coppell: That was a massive no. Absolutely impossible without the massive support of a benefactor. If you are producing a team, if you have a great youth team then in the next transfer window you lose your three best players. It is the very nature of football now.

  Damian Collins: One final question, if I may, I know we are getting tight on time.

  Martin O'Neill: I wasn't expecting him to be as strong as that.

Q428 Damian Collins: I could see him vigorously shaking his head, so I thought I would give him the chance to put it on the record. One topic that we have talked about quite a lot in previous hearings is the football creditors rule, and when we discussed it with the Premiership chairmen and Chief Executives they expressed a view they thought the rule should go, and that without the football creditors rule clubs would, out of necessity, need to be more transparent in the way they deal with each other. Clubs would be more cautious about selling a player to a club if they didn't know that that club had the money to pay for that player and that it would be fairer, because it seems unfair that a football club with smaller creditors from the community that they serve lose out when a football club the other end of the country is protected by it. As managers, I would be interested in your views on that. If the football creditors rule went, do you think it would make a difference to the way you do your jobs and do you think it would be good for the game?

  Richard Bevan: First of all, before I pass on to these guys the football creditors rule doesn't apply to managers and coaches. It is obviously something that has had a lot of debate recently and probably still needs to have more debate, but I think that would come if the clubs could have a licence, in looking at how they would operate. But it does need a debate, and certainly the man in the street running the small printing business and not getting paid is an issue in today's commercial society around football.

  Martin O'Neill: Are you referring perhaps to transparency? For instance, I have never understood this idea about a player being sold to another club and it was a non-disclosed fee. I have never been into that idea.

Q429 Damian Collins: No, I think what I was referring to is if a player is sold to a club and that club might be in financial difficulties. The football club selling might not be as concerned that it might not get its money if the payment was being paid in instalments, because they are protected by the football creditors rule, but if that rule didn't exist a club might want to know a lot more about how a club is going to pay for that player.

  Martin O'Neill: Obviously.

In the temporary absence of the Chairman, Mr Adrian Sanders was called to the

Chair for the remainder of the meeting.

Q430 Mr Sanders: If the Chair were here, he would be calling on me to ask the next question, which is what impact has the increased level of overseas ownership had on standards of governance in the English game?

  Richard Bevan: We have about 11 or 12 overseas owners in the Premier League. To be honest, whether the owner comes from America, Birmingham, Australia, Wales, wherever they come from, I think that they need to be operating within a much tighter environment. We would like to see a licence going from the FA to clubs, a framework where a new owner, wherever he came from, had to work within much closer guidelines, and that would protect the future of the club and also give more integrity. Certainly, there are the UEFA fair play rules, and there are still some issues around ownership and offshore ownership and transparency. But I think it is not so much about overseas owners, it is more about the quality and making sure the framework is correct. If you do have overseas owners coming on board, as we have recently, I think we have to—the leagues and the FA and the media—impart upon them the importance of the tradition, the philosophy, the supporters and the actual community, and I think if we do that—in many ways the Government are also a union for supporters. It is representing—

Q431 Mr Sanders: Would you see this in place of the fit and proper test or is it in addition to the fit and proper persons?

  Richard Bevan: Do you mean the licence?

  Mr Sanders: Yes.

  Richard Bevan: The fit and proper persons test or the director test, I see that as part of a licence.

  Steve Coppell: I think good governance is all about protection. You have to protect the people within the game and I think the people who need to be protected on this particular point are the supporters, because that is the only loyalty in football, the supporter for his own club. Almost every other loyalty can be bought, but the supporter for his own club, when he is at the whim of bad governance then he is vulnerable and I think everybody within the game is going to be very mindful of that.

Q432 Mr Sanders: Martin, can I ask you, because you are in a unique position. You will have experienced a club run as a committee at Nottingham Forest; you have experienced the traditional English club ownership model under, say, Doug Ellis; and you will have experienced foreign ownership at Aston Villa. How would you compare the differences between the three?

Martin O'Neill: Yes, I joined Nottingham Forest way back in 1971 as a 19 year old player and they were the only team in the Football League who were run by a committee. That of course, changed in—you may say it might have changed about 1990-odd or whatever it was. It changed in January of 1975 when Brian Clough arrived, because it was no longer a committee, it was his decision. It was interesting for those couple of years to see how that committee was run. Of course, I was a young professional footballer at the time, more interested in trying to break into the first team, but I did not know the basic difference between that and the board. I felt that the committee at Nottingham Forest seemed to run itself reasonably well at that stage. It did not find itself in serious debt until 1979, when they decided to build the East Stand. They needed £2 million, would you believe, and I think they found a little bit of difficulty, and even winning the European Cup at that time did not cover the cost. So that was the first time that I realised that the committee could find itself in a bit of difficulty, of course there were shareholders and such things like that.

  I have been involved with football clubs where they have been run by boards. I have been in board meetings too; those are interesting in themselves. I get back to the point that Richard and Steve make. If you have good governance, I think that will transcend most things, and I think that is the best way for me to explain it. If the club is run exceptionally well, has transparency, obviously, and I suppose if the supporter believes in the way that club is being run and thinks that this club can have a future for a start and, secondly, can have some ambition, I believe then that that is the best way. If there is a comparison between the three, it would have to do with the governance of the club itself, not the way in which it was done.

Q433 Jim Sheridan: Can I ask a question about the role of football players' agents? We have the extreme example of Wayne Rooney, who made it known that he was not happy at Man United and then regained his enthusiasm when another couple of zeros were added to his contract. You guys depend in your job on getting the best out of players, they have to remain focused on what they are supposed to be doing in terms of playing football, but if players are being distracted by being promised extra money, or moving clubs, or to stop being players, that will impact on your job, I would imagine. I was trying to get a feel for what managers think of agents, and should there be a code of conduct between managers and agents. But also should the manager and the player have the same agent?

Richard Bevan: That is a big question. I think the role of the agents is something again, a little bit like the governance issue, where there will be good and bad out there, and we probably experience both. There are 400 licensed agencies, I think, in the UK. Our biggest concern is that FIFA, I think in 2012, is going to be relinquishing their regulatory control over agents, and I think that is going to be a major problem. I think, probably because of legal issues, administration issues, if you have agents bringing young players from country to country, indeed from continent to continent, you are going to have a lot of issues. Certainly, from my experience, I have seen a lot of good agents working. Probably the biggest negative for me is the size of agency fees. I think that is something I have been extremely surprised at.

Steve Coppell: From my experience again, as Richard said, there are good and bad. A good agent is a huge ally in dealing with some players, particularly difficult players. A bad agent needs to be regulated, and again, that is where you need guidance from your governing body, to make sure it is not just a code of conduct but actual regulations whereby bad agents are eliminated.

Martin O'Neill: You would hope that when you sign a player that if he signs, for instance, a four year deal, that you would be hoping that you would have some control of this. I think that this might be a separate issue, but the control has left the football clubs and gone to the players and therefore the agents. I think that is one of the major changes I have seen in the game. When I started out, the player had no control whatsoever, he was at the behest of the football club. Now it has gone full circle and I think the players are now in charge, which is a bit of a shame.

Richard Bevan: Recently I heard it is a bit like the wild west out there, we can't do anything about it, we are where we are, and I think that is an inappropriate approach to it.

Q434 Jim Sheridan: I think the fundamental problem as I see it is that there is an incentive for agents to move players on, simply because of the commission they get, so it is in their interest to keep moving players on. The other factor is the fact that the agent also is paid by the club. Would it be fairer if the player pays the agent rather than the club?

Richard Bevan: I think you probably need to look at other models around the world and pick up experiences. For instance, if you take America, in a number of sports the agents' fees are paid centrally. I am not necessarily saying that is the right way to go, I am just saying there needs to be a focus on the framework and if there is not it will be chaos.

Q435 Jim Sheridan: Steve, you say you think that agents should be regulated?

Steve Coppell: I believe so, yes.

Q436 Jim Sheridan: Would you agree with that, Martin?

Martin O'Neill: Absolutely.

Q437 Damian Collins: Do you think the Bosman ruling has had an inflationary impact on players' wages?

Martin O'Neill: Yes, I do. Interestingly, I think that you can trace an awful lot of these questions today back to Bosman. Bosman set out in the first place with right on his side, because he had been given a free transfer, his money for the following year was going to be less than the previous year. In English football he would have been given a free transfer and therefore he would have been free to negotiate another deal with someone else. But he was held back. He was held back by the club, who had freed him, and were not prepared to keep him but were looking for a fee. He took this to a higher authority and won his case, and I think quite rightly won his case. Had he been dealt with in England, it would have been perfectly all right. But suddenly, just from that, the fallout from that was extensive, so much so that we were possibly debating the idea that football itself could have its own rules, and I think there is certainly a case for that. Because the minute that there was a possibility of a player having a bit of a difficulty with his contract, suddenly he could go to European law, and find a loophole there, and sort things out. Clubs were finding out loopholes as they were going along. For instance, a player with two years left of his contract was in the position, by some sort of law—made way back, I think, during King John's time—that he could actually get out of his contract, and certainly in his last year, could buy himself out and agents were using these to manipulate situations. Bosman himself set out on the side of right, but a lot of fallout from that has happened. It has triggered a number of situations which I believe could have been resolved early on.

Q438 Jim Sheridan: Can I just clarify the question I asked about, is it unhealthy or bad practice for the player and the manager to have the same agent?

Steve Coppell: I would say it is bad practice, with the potential of being unhealthy.

Martin O'Neill: Yes, absolutely. Conflict of interest would almost certainly take place there.

Steve Coppell: With the Bosman thing, I think we can realistically say now, for most good players, a contract is probably at least 12 months short of the reality, because you know you have to protect that asset.

Q439 Damian Collins: You have to renegotiate before you get to the last year?

Steve Coppell: Yes, very much so. At least 12 months. And that, with the combination of increased TV income, has made it very inflationary, yes.

Q440 Alan Keen: Because we are short on time, I am going to try and be brief. It is the main structure of the game in this country that needs changing. Do you agree that it should be the FA that is the body that is strengthened so it is superior in power to any other body in football? That would be with an LMA representative on there as well, of course. But it is the FA surely, that must be strengthened to be the regulating body above any other part of—

Richard Bevan: I think, if there is one thing that can come from the select committee and the encouragement to the game to do various proactive things, one of them will be to work together to unify the family and absolutely a pyramid system in which the FA are on top. The FA are the representative of FIFA and UEFA. At the moment the FA just manage the business. Like Ian said earlier, I think a lot of the criticism of the executive is unfair. In my three years I have come across a lot of fantastic executives in the FA and in the Premier League as well, and their speed and their communication and the discussions we have are very good. Unfortunately, the framework in which they operate does not encourage them to be innovative, proactive and, most importantly, it does not encourage leaders. It is the framework that needs to be changed and if you do not change the framework then they will not develop.

Q441 Alan Keen: Do you agree that the PFA also, along with the LMA, should have a representative on that?

Richard Bevan: I think, if you wanted effective governance in the world we live in, whatever sport it was, if you do not embrace the players, the coaches, and certainly, in our case, the managers, then you will fail in delivering that participation. It is only when you get participation in decision making, if you achieve that then you will find people are on the same wavelength and we will deliver far greater success. A little bit like, I was talking earlier about Germany and Holland, where you do not see the turf wars, for want of a better way of putting it.

Martin O'Neill: Richard had said earlier that we do have the determination, we have the passion, and I think we have the knowledge, although that might not be universally accepted. But I do believe that we have an important role to play, simply because we are, or are supposed to be, the most important person at the football club.

Richard Bevan: I think there has been a fair amount of talk as well, about whether there should be independent directors. If you had a very efficient structure in the way we have just been mentioning, then the need for independent directors would not come out. But you do need, as it stands at the moment, guys who will challenge, and the PFA and the LMA represent people across all of the leagues. I think that is very important.

Q442 Alan Keen: Do you agree that the independent directors, the sort of people who would be appointed, would listen to you? At the moment you do not have that voice at the top.

Richard Bevan: I think we have the voice, insomuch that the guys that are members of the LMA have got a powerful voice collectively. We try to use that very professionally, whether it is the professional way forward document; we have a current review with Southampton University going on in the technical area; we are looking at transfer windows; we are looking at a whole range of technical issues. But there is not a technical committee in the FA. The Technical Control Board they got rid of in 2006. Then you can look at the true governance, you have the Professional Game Board, which sits below the FA, and the Professional Game Board's remit is the finances of the FA yet the Chief Executive and the Chairman of the FA do not have a vote on that, which is why I believe Adam Crozier resigned.

Q443 Paul Farrelly: We have run over our time, I am sorry to detain you. I only have two questions on which I wanted to seek your views. Firstly, with regard to the game and the FA, we went to Germany, and without being naive and taking everything at face value, we got an impression of a more collective ethos, particularly when we were told the story of how they reacted to their disappointing performance in Euro 2000, to try and change their game. My specific question is about youth development. Do you think that the current proposals for youth development in the country—with all the different interests involved, including the Premier League—are right, or is there something better that we could be doing?

Steve Coppell: To be honest, I do not know the answer to that. I know there is progress being made at the academy level at the moment, and changes are afoot. But in any walk of life you are judged on results and if we are not getting results, if we do not have the input of young, home-grown players coming through the way we would like, to give us a very competitive national team, then we must change, we must do something different. We must have a more innovative approach to how we are producing our players rather than just leaving the blinkers on and saying this is what we have done for so many years and we are all right. We have to be more open-minded and flexible, I think.

Richard Bevan: Youth development is massively important. Our Chairman, Howard Wilkinson, who sadly could not be with us today, has a lot of good thoughts and views which he is imparting upon key people in the game. I think the responsibility for youth development essentially should be with the FA, but the Premier League are taking some key movements into their new academy system. I think what is important is that they embrace the Football League, which they are in negotiations with, and I am sure they will come out together. But what is important is the likes of Watford and Crewe and Southampton and Middlesbrough. Those clubs are doing fantastic work with youth development. They are still incentivised, they are still encouraged, and they still see that as an important role. If you look to Germany, they are spending £500 million on their youth development and their structure. But they are more or less one organisation and so they do work much closer together. But I absolutely believe that the Premier League are a very efficient organisation. If they were to work closer with the Football League and indeed with the FA, giving clear guidelines, then we would be in a better position.

Q444 Paul Farrelly: I am just wondering, Martin, whether over this issue we can square the circle by persuading people to give away some of their own money and share it out a bit more, if not in their own interest, then in the national interest?

Martin O'Neill: Yes. I did not realise until I read it a few days ago that each member of the German World Cup side, the 23 players, had actually come through a Bundesliga academy system. If you tell me that is a fallout from 2000, then that is very, very commendable, and there are parts that we could pick up from that. Like Steve, I am not really sure—I will only go from my personal experience at club level, I am all on for the youth academies. When I went to Aston Villa, I did not ask them to go and produce four or five players within a year. But I hope over time that we will get some very, very good players coming through the football club, and I think that is happening at the moment, and that is exceptionally good news. Steve also mentioned we are in the results business. To try and see that through, to see the end of that five-year plan that a manager and owner or Chairman seem to set out in the very first place, you have to be winning games at that first team level. And you are hoping by the end of that five-year period that you might have at least three or four of those young academy players playing regularly, consistently well in your team to hold down a place in a side that is doing very well.

Richard Bevan: The investment in the National Football Centre is fantastic. 1999 was the year when the FA bought the land. They probably should have built the National Football Centre then, instead of building Wembley and wasting £92 million on legal fees around Wembley. That is probably a lack of strategy and vision. But the hardest thing I think for the Premier League and the Football League and the FA, and indeed any of the other countries that invest time and money in youth development, is creating the opportunities, that is the hardest thing of all. You can find great coaches, you can invest in those sort of structures, but creating the opportunities for these guys to play is the hard part.

Q445 Paul Farrelly: Burton, the brewing capital of Britain, in my county of Staffordshire, leads me neatly to my last question, which is about supporters, which is what this inquiry really picked up on in the first place, from what the Government and various political parties were saying in their manifestos. As you all know, a fortnight, particularly at this stage of the season, is a long time in football. With Stoke City, if you do not beat West Ham in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup to get to the semi, and then if you do not beat Newcastle United 4-0 to stave off the relegation battle, within a fortnight you can go like Tony Pulis and Peter Coates at Stoke, from walking on water to being dead men walking. You hear supposedly sane and rational supporters, who are not idiots, grumbling and you just want to tell them to get a life sometimes and get some perspective. So given that, my question is, you have been under these pressures, do you like supporters, and if the answer is yes, what role do you think they and their organisations have in the governance arrangements of clubs in the country?

Steve Coppell: We exist to make the supporters happy. They are the people that need to be entertained to continue our industry, so they do have a massive voice. How that should be channelled, I do not know, because, as you mentioned with your own club, it gets almost so centred to their own team that you can't see the bigger picture. But without doubt, we have to keep our customers happy, they are our number one bosses and they have a massive voice to say in the way football in this country is going to be developed in the future, whether it be paying through the turnstiles or paying for TV. Someone with a better footballing brain than I will determine how that can be done, but they have to have a say in the way our game is developed.

Martin O'Neill: Are you concerned about the madness that Stoke City's fans are showing at the moment?

Q446 Paul Farrelly: I would not want to single out one club. I am sure it is across a lot of clubs in the second half of the division. But the question really is, Martin and Richard, should there be specific structures imposed, specific models imposed or, within the realms of involving supporters, should the clubs be allowed to evolve their own models?

Richard Bevan: Supporters' trusts operate successfully in a number of clubs, and absolutely they are key stakeholders. On the board behind you is the word "participation" all the way across. I think it is participation—they need to have their voice listened to, they are absolutely key to the game and the more that the Football Supporters Federation can get a seat at the right tables, then the better for the game.

Martin O'Neill: Steve mentioned earlier, I think it was a good point, that the only loyalty in football is the supporter with his football club. I think that they always want the best for their football club. They want the very, very best. If they have a good manager in charge, they want a better manager in charge. I just think it is the modern day approach to the game and I listen to the occasional phone-in, the website, this instancy. You want to be better, you want to be better than the previous week, you want to be better than the previous day. That fortnight you talked about where the manager and Chairman can go from walking on water to being dead men walking, that exists at every single football club. When you have won a few trophies, as Sir Alex Ferguson has done, just a few, then I believe that you can transcend that. But we are mere mortals in this game and we have to live with that. I believe there is a touch of insanity about it, but I do not know how it is going to be eradicated. Supporters are the most important people because they will still be supporting the football club. How you involve them, I do not know. Would you be thinking about a renegade group joining the board, or something like that? I just really do not know at this minute, and I have not thought it through.

Q447 Jim Sheridan: I think the sad reality is, everybody I have spoken to agrees that supporters should have some sort of tangible role in football, but there is always resistance. It is like the constituents who always want to play a part in community but they want it somewhere else. That is exactly what we find with football. Yes, there should be a role for supporters, but I am not going to give up my position to give it to a supporter.

Martin O'Neill: I must admit, honestly, I really have not thought it through.

Mr Sanders: I am sorry, gentlemen, I think we must wrap this up. You said earlier that you thought somebody was going to go imminently. It almost makes Martin's point. I believe it is Ronnie Moore at Rotherham, who only a few weeks ago was in fifth position in League Two, and five poor results and it looks like he has been shown the door today. Can I say a very big thank you to Steve Coppell, Richard Bevan, Martin O'Neill, for giving evidence today. It has been a very good session, thank you.

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 29 July 2011