Being in control of a football club comes with certain responsibilities. First and foremost, there is a responsibility to run the club honestly and within the law. Besides that, there is also a responsibility to take decisions with the club’s best interests at heart.
The ‘new European model’ of club ownership has never sat particularly well with me, with control going to the highest bidder, people with absolutely no connection or passion for a club are capable of taking full control of it. It turns football into pure business. Furthermore, the abhorrence of a wealthy entrepreneur using a football club as a bank for his/her own personal debt goes against everything I believe football should be.
While these owners are almost always portrayed as successful, savvy businessmen, in my opinion the most intelligent business decision would have been to swerve club ownership in the first place. There is precious little money to be made by owning a football club.
Back in my native Scotland, the recent situation with Rangers Football Club is a textbook example of a traditional club being (knowingly) run into the ground by the ridiculous overspending under the watch of previous owner and chairman Sir David Murray. A blatant lack of owner’s responsibility.
The South American model, where football clubs are social clubs and not businesses, is certainly more appealing on an ideological level, but in practice it is perhaps even more of a mess than the European style. For example in Peru, the league is currently in the midst of a momentous player’s strike, after hundreds of players throughout the top flight have gone without wages for several months thanks to the clubs’ maddening financial situations and haphazard administration. As a result of this chaos, the 2012 Peruvian league season kicked off last week with sides only able to field youth teams.
In Argentina, the politics surrounding the election of club presidents and officials has given rise to a new breed of football thuggery, the ‘professional hooligan’. Every big club in Argentina has their own organised group of thugs, known as a barra brava, who are essentially employed by the club in exchange for political backing. The barras are involved in all kinds of illegal behaviour, from ticket touting to drug dealing at stadiums, and they are a true poison in Argentine football.
Here in Brazil there is a different problem, as fan-elected administration has given rise to a painfully counter-productive culture of short-termism. When a manager is brought in to coach a Brazilian club, he is expected to bring success immediately, and if he fails to do so, he will most likely be out on his behind faster than you can say Copacabana.
Last week, southern side Grêmio sacked their manager Caio Júnior after a paltry eight weeks in charge of the club. During his brief reign, Grêmio only played eight competitive matches; all of them in the largely inconsequential opening stage of the Rio Grande do Sul state championship. Out of those eight matches, Grêmio won four, drew one, and lost three times. Strangely enough, that record was enough for Grêmio to qualify – fairly comfortably – for the knockout phase of the tournament.
Whether I believe that Caio Júnior was the right man or not for Grêmio job is not ad rem, the fact is that this was another in a long line of ridiculous dismissals. Anyone with half a brain can see that eight weeks is clearly not enough time for a coach to leave his mark on a team.
Grêmio are one of the worst offenders in this surge of short-termism, since 2003 they have changed manager 16 times (not including caretaker managers or the pending arrival of Vanderlei Luxemburgo).
This problem has ramifications that run far deeper than Brazilian domestic football however, as it has significantly stunted the development of Brazil’s home-grown coaches. Afraid that one bad result will cost them their job, Brazilian managers often revert to safer, more defensive tactics. In addition, managers are employed for such short time periods that they often do no more than motivate the players in the dressing room and pick a starting eleven. They end up playing the role of cheerleader instead of head coach.
With this in mind, is there really any wonder why there are no Brazilian coaches managing at top-level clubs? Or that in the Copa Libertadores, Brazilian sides are often eliminated by continental sides who play much more expansive and attacking football? If Brazil ever wants to be the world’s greatest footballing nation once more, people at all levels of the game need to start taking responsibility.