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…