“Abuse, Intimidation and Violence as Aspects of Managerial Control in Professional Soccer in Britain and Ireland.”

The Business of Sport – Seminar Series

Room G01 – Clore Management Centre, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London WC1 7HX

Wednesday  21st February at 6pm
(For directions click here)

“Abuse, Intimidation and Violence as Aspects of Managerial Control in Professional Soccer in Britain and Ireland.”

Given by: Seamus Kelly, Centre for Sports Studies at University College Dublin & Dr Ivan Waddington, Centre for Research into Sport & Society, University of Leicester


The research reported in this paper focuses on the ways in which managers maintain control over players in professional soccer clubs. More specifically this paper focuses on the ways in which disciplinary codes are established by managers and the sanctions that are imposed on players for breaches of club discipline. The paper highlights the arbitrary character of these codes and the central part played by intimidation and abuse, both verbal and physical, as aspects of managerial control within clubs.

It is argued that these techniques of managerial control reflect the origins of professional soccer in late Victorian England, when professional soccer players were the equivalent of workers within industry and, like industrial workers, were seen as requiring authoritarian regulation and control. This pattern of management has persisted in professional soccer long after it has been superseded in industrial relations more generally because, while many aspects of the management of soccer clubs have involved increasing professionalization and bureaucratization, the role of the manager has proved remarkably resistant to these processes. The authority of the team manager continues to be based on traditional forms of authoritarianism and this has allowed managers an unusually high degree of autonomy in defining their own role, while placing relatively few constraints on their authority in relation to players.


Seamus Kelly is a lecturer in the Centre for Sports Studies, University College Dublin, Ireland. He also lectures at the Dublin Institute of Technology. He is currently undertaking PhD research in the Centre for Sports Studies, UCD. He has played professional football in both Britain and Ireland. He has represented the Irish Universities and gained one Irish International B cap.

Ivan Waddington is Visiting Professor at the Centre for Sports Studies, University College Dublin, Ireland; the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo; and the University of Chester, UK. He is the author of Sport, Health and Drugs (Spon, 2000) and a co-author of the British Medical Association report, Drugs in Sport: the Pressure to Perform (British Medical Journal Books, 2002). He has recently co-edited Sport Histories: Figurational Studies of the Development of Modern Sports (Routledge, 2004); and Pain and Injury in Sport: Social and Ethical Analysis (Routledge, 2006).


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For further details on this seminar series contact:

Sean Hamil
Department of Management
Birkbeck College
Malet Street

Tel: 020-7631 6763 or Email:

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