Uefa suggest curbing the boom in backroom staff

 

Bigger may be better as far as Roy Hodgson and the England bench are concerned but Uefa have publicly questioned the need for such an army of assistants on international duty.

Uefa's technical report on Euro 2012, published this week to coincide with a conference for national team coaches in Warsaw, asks whether the time has come to limit the number of backroom staff involved in elite matches.

The report's talking points include "Overcrowding in the back room?" and, citing the surfeit of physios, fitness coaches, performance analysts and nutritionists, it asks: "Is the management of playing staff and backroom becoming too much of a burden for the head coach? Is it appropriate that the team-behind-the-team can be more numerous than the footballers?

"Are we reaching a point where it is legitimate to discuss a limit on the numbers of backroom staff? Should Uefa, as an international authority, take the lead by imposing a cap at the events it organises?"

The report was compiled by a technical team that included Fabio Capello and Gérard Houllier, as well as Andy Roxburgh, the newly departed Uefa technical director who managed Scotland at Italia 90 and Euro 92.

It adds that there were concerns as far back as Euro 2004 about "the proliferation of individual fitness coaches, physios and even agents in training camps".

To the layman's eye, the evidence is most obvious in the huge technical areas, which are a world away from the dinky dugouts of times past. At Euro 2012 there were 23 people allowed in each technical area; in England's case, besides the substitutes, this meant Hodgson, three coaches, two physios, a team doctor, masseur, conditioning coach, osteopath and a kit manager.

The number permitted varies depending on the competition; for England's World Cup qualifiers the limit is eight officials and 12 substitutes, while in the Premier League and Champions' League it is seven of each.

Uefa's concerns strike a chord with Mick Rathbone, the former Birmingham and Blackburn footballer who served as David Moyes' head of medicine at Everton from 2002-10. While Uefa's report asks "whether top-level football is now more of a science than an art", Rathbone's illuminating autobiography, The Smell of Football, describes a "game moving away from the training pitch on to the laptop computer [and] spending nearly as much time in meetings as we were kicking a ball about".

Rathbone recalls the influx of support staff at Everton and deciding to quit after entering the medical room and finding three players receiving treatment from their own personal specialists.

Unashamedly "old-fashioned", he says of the modern-day bench: "I see all the people in the dugout and they're all jumping up when the ball's going in. I used to think to myself, 'If Sky pull the money, within 12 months it'd be me, the manager and one sub again'. There is a finite amount of people you need to cover all bases."

Today's dugouts, he adds, are "part of the show", and not necessarily in a good way. "Every time there is a bad tackle everyone on the bench is up." It is all a far cry from his Birmingham debut as a substitute in the Seventies. "It was me, Willie Bell, the manager, and Jim Williams, the physio."

Dugout did you knows

* The first dugouts in Britain were at Aberdeen's Pittodrie Stadium

* The technical area was introduced into the Laws of the Game in 1994

* The elevated dugout area at Old Trafford has underfloor heating

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