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Should Fans Have More Of A Say Over Managerial Changes?

For months I have been pondering whether football fans should have more of a say over managerial changes that occur within the club they support.

It has brought up some interesting conversations with friends and football fans alike, that have provided some very good arguments for and against why fans should, or should not, have a say.

There are many reasons for allowing fans to pick their team's next manager, such as:

Would fans be able to come to an agreement?

The first issue that this dilemma faces, is whether fans would actually be able to come to an agreement or not. Different fans prefer different playstyles, different management styles, varying types of experience, young managers or old managers, every personal preference comes into play.

Standing in Block B at Bloomfield Road, you hear differing opinions about every player on the pitch, some slating them for every wrong pass, wanting them out of the club, whereas others love them and blame others for the mistakes.

If one block of fans at a club in, now, League One, cannot decide if a player is good or not, how could a club with a capacity of 40,000 or more decide on one single manager to manage their side?

Again, using Blackpool as an example, the return of Neil Critchley was a controversial one. At the end of the season, many fans were pining for him to return to the club, yet the other half did not want to see him at Bloomfield Road again.

Fans will find issues with every manager on the market. It would be near impossible to get any fans of a club, of any size, to agree on one candidate.

This could easily be solved by the fans deciding on a shortlist of 3-5 managers, and then the board interview and decide which one gets the job.

Who would be to blame if things went wrong?

Would young managers, or managers for U21’s or U23 teams be given a chance?

How would clubs conduct a fair search that represents their entire fanbase?

What would happen if the fans first choice turns the club down?

The owner pays for the club, so why should the fans choose?

Betting companies would not be allowed to offer odds on ‘next manager’ markets

But, there are obviously some very positive, convincing arguments to why fans should be able to choose, such as:

Managers that the fans pick will be given more time if things go wrong

Fans can quickly turn on a manager if things start to go badly, and I believe that managers that fans are not fully on board with are given less leniency than managers that fans are on board with.

One of the more recent examples of this is when Nathan Jones got given the job at Southampton. Despite him doing a good job in the Championship, the appointment was met with disappointment by the fans.

The fans were calling for his head after his very first loss. The football on display may have been poor, but the fans were not interested. They wanted a well known manager to come in and keep them up.

The protests grew louder and louder each game, and Jones only lasted 8 games, winning just one in that time. Leading to this brilliant picture of a young fan holding up a filled out P45 form with Nathan Jones’ name on it.

Another example, this time coming from the Championship, is Michael Appleton being appointed at Blackpool. This was immediately met with concerns due to his affiliation with Preston during his playing days.

The style of football did not catch on with Blackpool fans either, with his formation, team selection, player positioning and substitutions coming under scrutiny week in week out.

When Blackpool started sliding down the table, the calls for Appleton to leave grew louder, and fans were evidently disgruntled when he did not lose his job during the winter World Cup.

On the flip side, fans would allow a manager more time when results are going bad if they were one of the top choices that the fans wanted.

Neil Critchley joined Blackpool when they resided in League One, and the fans were extremely happy with it. An understudy to Klopp, with a focus on young, exciting players and attacking football. The appointment was met with great enthusiasm and Blackpool fans wanted him in.

Things did not get off to a great start in his first full season. Critchley started the 2020-21 season with 6 losses in the first 9 games, leaving Blackpool lingering around the bottom of the table.

The fans were optimistic of achieving promotion to the Championship, and despite the early struggles, the fans stuck being Critchley, with there being next to no calls for him to face the sack.

The rest is history, as Blackpool’s form turned around, finishing in 3rd place and beating Lincoln in the playoff final to get that promotion their fans craved.

Yes, the fact that no fans were allowed in stadiums due to COVID-19 may have helped this, as fans were not able to be in the ground demanded for him to be sacked, but even on social media, fans were united and got behind him.

It keeps fans on board, and gets them more involved with the club

Gives the manager confidence that they are wanted by the fans

Fans can effectively choose the play style they pay to watch

Overall, it would be an extremely hard thing to implement. Fan owned clubs obviously do not have this problem. The fans own the club, there are fans on the board, and they can help make these major decIsions.

It is impossible to get a large group of people to agree on anything, and so it would take a long time for clubs to conduct a search for a manager. But, these managers would get a lot more leniency from the fans when things are going wrong, as they are the manager they believed in, and the manager that they chose.

Despite the varying downsides, there are a lot of positives, and these could potentially outweigh the negatives if it went well. A good managerial appointment means more money coming into the club after all, through ticket sales, merchandise and through potential promotions.

Realistically it is probably too difficult to implement something like this at a football club, unless a supporters liaison spoke on behalf of the fans. It would be interesting to see how successful something like this could turn out though.

The supporters liaison idea mentioned above is the only way I could see something like this being feasible. If every club have a supporters liaison that interacted with fans on a large scale, and sat in on board meetings, reported back to the chairman, and had a hand in the running of the football club, purely based on the fans views.

Fans are getting more and more entitled and they feel they should be able to make some decisions within their respective club. Should they be able to have a hand in these decisions, as it is not their money paying for managers wages or paying compensation when they get sacked?

But on the other hand, fans invest a large amount of money into the club, and they have no say in how the club is run. As the old saying goes, football without fans is nothing, so why not give them a voice.

So, is it a good or bad idea to give football fans more of a say over managerial changes? Well, the answer entirely depends on how a club would conduct such a process. If, like mentioned previously, a supporter's liaison conveyed supporters' wants and opinions to the board, then yes, it is a very feasible thing to consider.

As long as the relationship between the owner and the fans is stable, I do not see why some clubs could start to do this. It would create a buzz around the club, the manager picked solely by the fans, and the brand of football on display is the brand of football the fans want to see.

It would be brilliant for fans to be able to have a hand in these decisions at the very least, even if a supporters' liaison sat in on board meetings and relayed the fans' opinions, this would be a step in the right direction. If the fans do not pick the manager that gets the job, at least let them put a few candidates on the shortlist.

Yes, it would be a rather difficult thing to implement for bigger clubs, but for smaller clubs, this could be a massive step in the right direction. Yes, the hiring process could take a lot longer than usual, but the fans would gain a manager that they will instantly get behind. It may reflect the European model where managers typically aren't sacked until a replacement has already been lined up.

Admittedly it would lead to the fans playing with the owners' money in terms of potential wages or through payouts if being sacked, but again, fans invest large sums into their football clubs each season, so why should they not have a say?

For clubs that lack a clear direction or identity, this could solve those issues. I believe this could be a brilliant idea for some clubs to take on.

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