Moyes suffers a brutal public sacking

Waving goodbye: Manchester United’s board has decided to part company with its new manager © PA

Manchester United have sacked their manager, David Moyes, after only ten months. Now that football has turned into a huge global business, does making money come before everything else?

Some saw that he was out of his depth on a trip to the beach last year. While on tour in Australia, Manchester United’s new manager David Moyes took his squad to relax on the sand, not realising that his players would be instantly recognised and mobbed by fans. As the team hid in a bar, waiting for security to come and escort them away, it must have dawned on Moyes just how huge a global enterprise his new club was.

Things only got worse for the Scotsman and after ten torrid months in charge, he has been sacked. He leaves last year’s champions seventh in the league and for the first time in 18 years, they will not qualify for next season’s Champions League, Europe’s top competition.

Yet when Moyes’s predecessor, Alex Ferguson, became manager in 1986, he also had a difficult start and it was five years before he brought home a trophy. He then went on to become Britain’s most successful manager spending a remarkable 26 years at the club. So why was Moyes given so little time?

Analysts say that money has transformed the sport since Ferguson’s time. Through marketing and TV deals, the English Premier League has gone global and is now watched in over 200 countries. Last year, the rights to show matches on TV were sold for just over £3bn and successful teams make money through huge sponsorship deals and merchandise sales.

Clubs spend millions on top players, but they lose money if this fails to bring success on the pitch. Not competing in Europe next season will cost United £50m in lost revenue. Economists say that with the stakes so high, clubs cannot afford to give managers a long time to get things right. On the day United fired Moyes, the price of the club’s shares on the New York stock market rose six percent, the equivalent of £110m.

Yet many fans feel that while England’s top league is among the best in the world, money is spoiling the game by making it more about profits than sport. They miss the days of affordable tickets and reasonably-paid players, when managers had time to build a legacy. They say modern football has lost its soul.

Sport or business?

Some fans do not see the great sums of money in football as a problem. They point out that the English Premier League attracts the world’s greatest players and is enjoyed abroad by a hundreds of millions of fans from Asia to the Andes. It is fantastic, they say, that so many people can enjoy it.

Yet others are disappointed that the business of football is overwhelming the game. Winning teams are almost always those that can spend the most: the average Manchester City player earns over £100,000 a week. They would rather see a lower level of football but a sport which is free from money’s interference.

You Decide

  1. Would it be better to have football leagues without the world’s best players but free from the pressure to make so much money?
  2. ‘Mixing sport and money is always a bad idea’. Do you agree?

Activities

  1. It is said Moyes failed at Manchester United because he did not lead his players well. In pairs, list eight qualities a good leader needs, and compare your ideas with the class.
  2. Read the Intelligent Life piece in the ‘Become an Expert’ section which argues that football is the best sport. Then, choose your own favourite sport, and write a short essay on what it teaches us about life and competition.

Some People Say...

“Professional football is just a business and people should not get so passionate about it.”

What do you think?

Q & A

I don’t watch football, why should I care?
Football is the world’s most popular sport and has become a huge global business. What happens within the highest levels of the game sends waves through popular culture, politics and media empires. It is an important element in our modern world.
Are football managers often sacked?
Very often. In the current season in England’s top league, nine of the top 20 clubs have already fired and replaced their managers. While not every team expects to be champions, there is too much money at stake for managers to underperform for long. Yet few will feel too sorry for Moyes: he will leave the club with a £4.5m pay off.

Word Watch

League
The UEFA Champions League is a tournament between Europe’s national league winners and top teams. The teams who finish in the top four positions of the Premier League qualify for the competition. However, Manchester United are now so far behind the leading teams on points, it is impossible for them to qualify this year.
Among
While the English Premier League is the world’s most popular league, many fans believe that the elite teams of Germany and Spain are superior to their English rivals.
Tickets
The cost of top-level match tickets has risen dramatically in the last two decades, with the cheapest ticket to see Liverpool at Anfield now over ten times more than it was in 1989.
Paid
The average Premier League footballer’s salary has soared in the last two decades. When star player Eric Cantona joined Manchester United in 1992, he was paid £10,000 a week, a figure that seemed extravagant at the time. However, in Feburary Wayne Rooney signed a new contract giving him £300,000 a week.

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