The remarkable appointment of former England football manager Sven Goran Eriksson at Notts County, the 87th best club in England, has naturally raised a few eyebrows. After all, not many national team bosses end up at one of the worst teams in the country in just three years. But although cynics might suggest that cash – or the prospect thereof – must be the motivation for the deal (given Sven’s mercenary reputation), perhaps there’s a different interpretation. Eriksson’s like a FTSE 100 boss who tires of the pressures of life at the top, and goes to a start-up to rediscover the simple joys of business…
Sven has been unveiled today as director of football at Notts County, the club that last year finished 19th in League Two, the fourth and bottom tier of English football. In four of the last five years, it has nearly dropped out of the league altogether, so fans probably won’t be able to believe their luck that in the space of a week, they’ve been taken over by a Middle East consortium and appointed a former English manager. For his part, Sven, who’ll work alongside the current manager to sign players and improve the infrastructure of the club, claims he was attracted by the opportunity to ‘help build the club over the longer term’. Getting County into the Premier League is ‘the biggest challenge of my life’, he says.
The obvious question is how on earth the club can afford him, even with its new owners. Eriksson is famously one of the highest-paid bosses on the planet, pocketing £4.5m a year while England boss and similar amounts from his subsequent stints at Manchester City and the Mexican national team. The general consensus is that the size of his pay packet is his first consideration – but he insists he’s taken this job for the challenge, not the money. Then again, he is apparently a shareholder in the new venture - and since the consortium bought the club for a song, there could be a massive upside if it ever does make the big leagues. (And they’ve immediately been installed as favourites for promotion, so their profile is improving already).
We reckon we can see the attraction. As England boss, Sven was like a FTSE CEO – at the top of his game, but with all the difficulties that entails: huge expectations, difficulty in staffing, the constant trial by media. Whereas at Notts County (which happens to be the oldest football club in the world, albeit rather down-at-heel at the moment) he can build a club from the bottom up, away from the spotlight. Often we see ex-CEOs reappear at the helm of their own small business, or going in to turn an ailing company around – getting their hands dirty, and reminding themselves why they got into business in the first place...
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