England: The Lehman Brothers of Football?

England are compared to Lehman Brothers by Paul Mason at the BBC: A large and failed institution, where the main actors (bankers with Lehman, the England team members from the World Cup) are exposed to brutal and searching public scrutiny.  It’s an interesting analogy – I wrote earlier about the concern amongst those commentating on England’s misfortunes, and the perceived rottenness at the core of English sport, and football in particular.

Mason talks about the difficulty of managing individuals and institutional make-up, which appears to be at the heart of of the difficulties.  The England national team is a collection of incredibly highly paid football players who are used to wielding strong market power to set prices (in the player labour market) and dictate how things are.  However, at national level, players are selected primarily on the basis of nationality and fees don’t change hands for the services of players.  As such, the managing dynamic at club level is very different to that at national level.

Capello has succeeded wonderfully as a manager at club level, and his authoritarian regime appeared, pre-World Cup, to be exactly what the English players needed.  However, holed up in boring hotels for weeks on end appears to have taken its toll, with the various mootings of discontent at different points during the campaign.  Players used to having things their own way thus react in different ways to this constraining situation, and it appears the ill will in the squad at this regime was more important to the players than representing their country at the international level on the highest stage.

As such, it’s perhaps not surprising that the Sun, a usually very acerbic tabloid in the UK, ran with the headline “You Let Your Country Down” yesterday morning.  As Mason suggests, it’s economics that it all boils down to, and players familiar with wielding great bargaining power reacted in a perhaps predictable manner to suddenly losing all that bargaining power.  The worst thing England can do now is get rid of Capello – but the signs don’t look good…

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2 Responses to England: The Lehman Brothers of Football?

  1. Goldenboy says:

    Your comments on Capello and English sport in general are naive. In Italy everyone knows that Capello’s weakness is tactical inflexibility and this were perfectly demonstrated during the World Cup. England were always going to be over run in midfield by a more tactically astute side and that is what happened on Sunday. It was predictble, and consequently, for some of us, profitable. He represents an outmoded form of tactical thinking and should go. That, I suspect, is why Brian Barwick has the ‘cool down’ clause inserted in Capello’s contract which the FA stupidly caved in on pre-tournament. Guus Hiddink would have been the thinking man’s choice of non English manage.

    England seem to managing rather well in other areas of sporting endeavour that the English care about (rugby and cricket, no one gives a toss about tennis) so one has to be careful about lazy journalistic assumptions re the health of English sport in general.

  2. jamesreade says:

    Tempted to hit the trash button for your comment, but I’ll resist. I’ll also try not to be sarcastic after you describe my views as naive. It’s funny that the Italian friends I have speak highly of Capello – I guess they aren’t everyone? Whoops, I’ve already been sarcastic, damn.

    I’m glad you profited on England’s defeat, but I think you’ll find it was England’s shambolic defence that let the team down on Sunday, not the midfield. With a solid defence behind them, the game could easily have been won.

    Doing well at rugby? Which planet are you on?! England managed to win the World Cup in 2003 with their only decent team in the best part of the last 40 years, and anyhow the “world” of rugby is a rather restricted subset – not unlike the World Series of baseball. Same goes with cricket. Since that World Cup win, England have been humiliated by many nations at rugby, and not won a single six nations.

    But I guess I’m just naive, particularly compared to your sophisticated views – particularly sophisticated in that like everyone else you think the top man should go, when clearly the problems exist elsewhere in the system.

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