FIFA rul­ing should ap­ply to bosses, too

The Football League Paper - - NEWS -

ASK New­cas­tle fans what Hatem Ben Arfa did dur­ing his fi­nal sea­son at St James’ Park and the an­swer will prob­a­bly be ‘noth­ing’.

But that’s not strictly true. The French mav­er­ick – re­mem­bered for his skil­ful drib­bles, spec­tac­u­lar goals and al­ler­gic re­ac­tions to away games – did play one match in a black and white shirt that sea­son.

The Un­der-21 clash against Black­burn in the mid­dle of Septem­ber left lit­tle im­pres­sion on Toon fans but it made a big one on FIFA.

Four months later, af­ter a loan spell at Hull had ended in Ben Arfa go­ing AWOL, New­cas­tle elected to cut their losses and flog their tire­some tal­is­man to Nice.

Prob­lem solved? Not for Ben Arfa. FIFA rules state a player may sign for no more than three clubs in a sin­gle sea­son and play com­pet­i­tively for no more than two.

Gal­low­gate reg­u­lars could have told Sepp Blat­ter and Co that Ben Arfa hadn’t done any­thing com­pet­i­tive for about 12 months, but some­how that half-ar­sed runaround at Ewood Park counted. Nice would have to wait.

With typ­i­cal flam­boy­ance, Ben Arfa threat­ened to re­tire. In the event, he spent six months sun­bathing on the French Riviera – funded by Mike Ash­ley – joined Nice in July and ul­ti­mately turned in a sea­son so spec­tac­u­lar he was called up to Euro 2016.

On such oc­ca­sions, FIFA’s two-club play­ing rule can seem un­nec­es­sar­ily re­stric­tive. If both par­ties are happy to part ways, what’s the is­sue?

Yet the broader think­ing be­hind the reg­u­la­tions – to give play­ers and clubs a de­gree of se­cu­rity and con­ti­nu­ity over a sea­son – more than jus­ti­fies the odd frus­tra­tion.

Why, then, aren’t man­agers treated the same way? Isn’t the man in the dugout just as in­te­gral to a side’s suc­cess as the play­ers on the pitch?


With the odd ex­cep­tion – and Watford’s pro­mo­tion to the Premier League in 2015 stands in glo­ri­ous iso­la­tion – his­tory tells us that treat­ing your man­agers like Ap­pren­tice can­di­dates is a highway to hell. Leeds em­ployed seven man­agers in three years and went back­wards. Derby, now on to their third of the sea­son, are tread­ing wa­ter with a squad the envy of the Cham­pi­onship. Omer Riza is Ley­ton Ori­ent’s ELEVENTH man­ager since Septem­ber 2014, more than any other EFL club in the same pe­riod. Owner Francesco Bec­chetti is guilty of many things, from shoddy re­cruit­ment to a lack of in­vest­ment, but his propen­sity to blame coaches for his own fail­ings ranks high among the rea­sons why Ori­ent are head­ing out of the League af­ter more than a cen­tury. Play­ers, how­ever hard-work­ing or in­tel­li­gent, need a con­sis­tent mes­sage, not a con­stantly shift­ing kalei­do­scope of voices and opin­ions. Brian Clough fa­mously said that, if a chair­man sacks the man­ager he ini­tially ap­pointed, he should go as well. Much as Ori­ent fans wish that was the case, the only way they’re get­ting shot of Bec­chetti is if some­body meets his ask­ing price, cur­rently set at a lu­di­crous £4m. And, as for the Own­ers and Di­rec­tors’ Test, well… that’s about as much use at spot­ting a wrong ‘un as Neville Cham­ber­lain was. A 90 per cent owner like Bec­chetti is largely un­touch­able. Worse, he will cling to the yoke even as his ves­sel plum­mets to­wards a fiery grave.


Which is ex­actly why pro­tec­tion is re­quired. Man­agers, like play­ers, should be sub­ject to a regis­tra­tion sys­tem. And over the course of a sea­son, no club should be al­lowed to reg­is­ter more than two of them, plus a care­taker to fill the gap. Ob­vi­ously, ex­cep­tions would be re­quired for res­ig­na­tions but – what­ever the press re­leases may claim – we all know those are a rar­ity. Would some clubs suf­fer? Of course. In 2014, Leeds would have been sad­dled with the mirth­less Darko Mi­lanic for an en­tire sea­son. Then again, maybe Mas­simo Cellino would have given more thought to ap­point­ments if he knew the axe would be un­der lock and key. Like Ben Arfa, the odd in­jus­tice is in­evitable with any rigidly-ap­plied rule. But if it pro­tects clubs like Ori­ent from the reck­less­ness of ir­re­spon­si­ble own­ers, it is surely worth it.

YANN Ker­mor­gant isn’t just a tal­ented cen­tre-for­ward. The French­man – who this week an­nounced his in­ten­tion end to re­tire at the of next sea­son – is a ter­rific In­tel­li­gent, bloke. gen­uine, happy to en­gage con­ver­sa­tion about in a all as­pects of life. He once told me his dream was to set up a five-aside cen­tre in Brit­tany, a typ­i­cally idio­syn­cratic am­bi­tion from a player who al­ways ploughed his own fur­row. In a game in­creas­ingly short on char­ac­ters, the Cham­pi­onship poorer will be a place when the 35-yearold fi­nally heads for the Astro­turf.

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