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The uncertainty of life in professional football

Eamonn Salmon

The uncertainty of life in professional football was highlighted once again in recent weeks with the appointment of a new manager at Wolverhampton Wanderers FC.

Such events always bring a sense of unease for staff but the announcement that the appointee was to be accompanied by at least seven staff no doubt sent shock waves through the medicine and performance departments. Predictably some staff were released with immediate effect while others faced the prospect of being offered alternative positions within the Club.

Football clubs operate a performance based culture where leaders at all levels focus on delivering results rather than focussing on safe and stable working conditions. The problem with this is that it creates a fear based working environment where leaders focus on self-preservation. At the same time, workers are less incentivised to innovate or take risks. The result is high employee burnout and turnover, which leads to poor organizational performance.

Clubs should adopt a growth culture encouraging continuous learning, experimentation and feedback but this takes time, commitment and long term stability in a workforce. While many heads of department will endeavour to provide just such an environment, can they really commit wholeheartedly, especially when they or their staff can literally be dismissed at the whim of a manager or Chairman?

The conversations that follow such events usually revolve around the idea that clubs should ring fence the medicine and performance sector so as to maintain some degree of continuity, but while this is an honourable intention it is also a scenario that falls at the first hurdle when a new manager is appointed. After all they are at their most powerful when a club is in need of their services.

Given that the tenure ship of managers averages around 18 months, the club will have to go through the process of reappointing new staff if/when things don’t work out. More disruption and the merry go round of new appointments, genuine endeavours, and sackings continues.

Perhaps a new model really does need to be found?

The FMPA offers member support on exit from a Club as well as contract advice, union representation and legal support.

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