Sports Letters: Management by obsessives

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Sir: James Burnham, the ex-Trotskyist scholar, long ago foresaw the growth of management at the workplace in his book The Managerial Revolution. Believing that the business world had grown too complex for the old-fashioned family capitalist to run it all, he envisaged a new class of managers who would be so powerful that they would supplant the authority of the owners as well as developing a nice line in bureaucratic unaccountability.

It would, perhaps, be overstating the case to credit Burnham with prophetic insight of such a degree to claim that he was thinking of such managerial supremos as England cricket's chairman of selectors, Raymond Illingworth. Nevertheless, the approach of Illingworth as a classic example of the modern manager dovetails quite well with Burnham's sense of the managerial attitude. Not content to simply ensure that England cricket teams are properly picked, Illingworth sees his brief as a means of intruding on what limited autonomy remains for the captain and his team. The recent dismissal of the Rev Andrew Wingfield-Digby from his pastoral role in the England cricket team exemplifies this only too well. In the tough, professional world so beloved by Illingworth and his kind, everything is performance-related and there are to be no shoulders left to cry on.

It is strange co-incidence that the growth of management has kept pace, step by step, with the growth of therapeutic counselling of one sort or another. Perhaps the appalling atmosphere engendered by the busybodying activities of interfering managers causes so much stress in the England dressing-room and other factory floors that some kind of compassionate counterbalance is necessary to keep them going at all.

It might be no bad thing if 'the England boys' were treated as responsible men and simply be allowed to get on with things.