Recruitment, the Spurs way

The board of Premiership team Tottenham Hotspur look as though they will finally get their wish to bring in Spaniard Juande Ramos as manager – but it’s been a textbook example of how not to run a recruitment process.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

In August, the directors clearly decided it was time to review their manager’s position. Their apparent doubts about Martin Jol’s ability to take Spurs to the next level (after two successive fifth-placed finishes) may seem harsh. But they were perfectly within their rights to look at their options.

Unfortunately, they weren’t exactly discreet about it. Having identified Sevilla coach Ramos (winner of five trophies in 15 months) as an ideal replacement, Spurs’ vice-chairman was then caught red-handed meeting him in Seville – before the present incumbent even realised his job was under threat.

And to make things worse, the club was so embarrassed about being caught with its hand in the cookie-jar that it failed to have the courage of its convictions – instead it panicked and started back-tracking, granting Jol a stay of execution. But with the manager clearly a dead man walking, this was only delaying the inevitable.

All of this has been disastrous for the board’s credibility. Not only do they look underhand and incompetent, the directors have also seriously dented their popularity. Judging by the chants directed at the chairman last night, there’s no doubt whose side the fans are on.

And it didn’t do the team much good either – Spurs’ players spent so much time sticking up for Jol that they seemed to forget about winning football matches (the team is currently third-from bottom, with one win in ten). There’s nothing like uncertainty at the top to create havoc throughout an organisation.

Financially, the board has also put itself in a terrible negotiating position. Every man and his dog knows who Spurs want as a replacement – which means that the Sevilla chairman has the club over a barrel when it comes to compensation.

And just to put the cherry on top, the board has even contrived to let shareholders down. As a listed company, Spurs are duty bound to inform the stock market of any senior management changes – but with news of Jol’s departure leaking out during an evening UEFA Cup game, the board couldn’t do so until this morning. By which time it was all over the sports pages of every newspaper.

Why is it that so many successful businesspeople seem to end up with their feet in their mouths as soon as they go anywhere near the boardroom of a football club?

Of course, the real test of any recruitment process is the performance of the successful candidate. The Spurs board will just have to hope Ramos can save their necks by winning some trophies…

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