Themes from the League Managers Association Conference

An excellent day today at the annual LMA conference which included a range of inspirational talks on leadership with fascinating insights from a range of speakers including Sir Alex Ferguson. Here we draw out our themes and conclusions from the day:

Manager development and support – Richard Beven (Chief Exec of the LMA) highlighted the ongoing challenge of massive turnover in club managers. He suggested that 50% of dismissals are of first-time managers, and 50% of those fail to ever get another job in management – a world away from the Wengers and Mourinhos. In the quarter to end October, LMA’s new stats show 17 managers had been dismissed – a 10-year high.  Manager development remains an issue for clubs, as our research on managers’ club experience also shows.

Diversity – Lord Herman Ouseley (chairman of Kick it Out) set out the diversity management challenge, looking at experience and skill, rather than expectations. Steve Bradbury’s recent research on BME representation has brought the issue into sharp relief – just 3.4% of senior coaching positions in the 92 football league in 2012 were filled by BME coaches, compared to 6.4% of those with a UEFA Pro Coaching License, 14% of the wider population, and 25% of professional players.

Evaluating impact – the Premier League has spent £350m from 2012-2015 on the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) – apparently similar to expenditure by team GB – to improve the 38% of the Premier League’s talent which is home-grown, versus 50% in the Bundesliga and 72% in La Liga.   Credit to the Premier League for establishing measurable targets, which should enable this programme to be independently evaluated, assessed and focussed.

From data science to insight – we heard from Rasmus Ankerson on interpreting big data in football with his company 21st Club and from Steve McClaren and Alec Stewart on how player data has transformed football and cricket. Still, it’s clear that there’s further to go in actually making sense of data for decision-makers, and for new feedback to be fully accepted alongside ‘gut instinct’.

To conclude then, an inspirational day with leadership insights for all, and challenges ahead for managers and football in general. Of course, at Football Economics, we see that research and analysis have a big role to play in each of these areas – turning data into information, and then practical insight to help football develop its approach to meet the challenges it faces.