Leadership off the pitch: the role of the manager in semi-professional football

Conor Molan, James Matthews, Rachel Arnold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (SciVal)
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Research question: The first-team manager’s position in semi-professional or professional football clubs can be viewed as the de-facto leadership role. Although there has been considerable research conducted in relation to leadership on the pitch, in a coaching or in-game context, the football manager’s leadership off the pitch remains an underexplored topic. The purpose of this study was, therefore, to explore the manager’s off the pitch leadership role, utilising semi-professional football in Ireland as the research setting.
Research methods: The participants in this study were four first-team managers, four players, and three board members from semi-professional football clubs in the League of Ireland. The qualitative method of semi-structured interviews was used in this study to gain a rich, in depth exploratory insight on the manager’s role from a variety of perspectives.
Results and findings: Six key leadership themes were identified relating to the manager’s role with players off the pitch. These were: team vision, setting performance expectations, establishing behavioural expectations, effective communication, individual consideration, and use of archetypes. Leadership themes were also identified in relation to the manager’s role with other key stakeholders, including: cooperation with the board, leadership through support staff, and influencing through the media.
Implications: Practically, it is anticipated that the findings will encourage managers, football clubs, and national associations to place more emphasis on the leadership skills required by managers away from their on-pitch activities, and address these appropriately through professional development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)274-291
JournalEuropean Sport Management Quarterly
Issue number3
Early online date24 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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