A pandemic has come – and not yet gone – but short-termism in football remains

The COVID-19 pandemic has offered those in the world of football a chance to sit back and think about the wider, long-term implications of decisions made in football’s backrooms.

Arsène Wenger, FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development, said a few months ago that games taking place in empty stadiums must only be a short-term solution for the resumption of football.  I think it is fair to say that fans, players, and even economists have all agreed with the Frenchman on this.

Most teams have taken huge monetary hits, so we can expect to see a lot of clubs prioritise financial stability in the near future. It has already been suggested that transfer fees will be far lower this summer, with many clubs unable to be as active in the market.

However, it seems that some of the nastier, short-term thinking in football will be sticking around. There is no better example of this than Watford Football Club’s sacking of manager Nigel Pearson.

On Sunday, it was confirmed Watford have been relegated to the Championship. A matter of days prior to this, their board made the shock decision to sack Pearson with just 2 games left of the season remaining and the club merely 3 points clear of relegation.

As David Moyes put it after the sacking, Pearson could have been a Manager of the Year contender. Pearson was Watford’s third manager of the season. The rash decision from the board left under-23s coach Hayden Mullins in charge and with next to no time to prepare a reeling squad for matches against top sides Manchester City and Arsenal; opposition whom sides of Watford’s calibre require intense tactical preparation to achieve a result against.

This short-term move is by no means a first for a ruthless Watford board. As a commentator in their final damning 3-2 loss against Arsenal summed it up, Watford have had the same number of managers this season than Arsenal have had in the last 24 years.

From the outside, it looked as though Pearson was doing well at Watford in the battle to avoid relegation. At the very least they were playing better than before he took over; it was only back in late February they were shattering Liverpool’s unbeaten streak with a monumental 3-0 win.

Pearson was fighting, and he was winning. Watford were bottom of the league when he took over and he has the highest win percentage of their last 6 managerial appointments. There is a chance the widespread shock and disapproval following his sacking will deter similar backroom decisions in the future, but I am not banking on it.


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January 2021
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