A few weeks ago Alan Pardew once again made headlines for his antics on the touchline, this time, for a more serious offense.; the Newcastle United manager head-butted Hull City player David Meyler just outside of his technical area. Pardew was subsequently punished by the FA, receiving a £60,000 fine, a three match stadium ban and a four match touchline ban in addition to the £100,000 fine that his club imposed on him.
Pardew’s behaviour has led some to call for a complete ban of managers in the dugout. At first, this might seem like an extreme reaction, but let’s first consider the pros and cons of allowing the managers to stay in the dugout. Firstly, the manager is in the dugout in order to instruct his players and to motivate his players. This is a fundamental part of management; the man-management of players during match day, something that is often based in the dugout and which requires managers to therefore stay on the touchline.
The cons? Well, as previously mentioned there is the potential manager-player confrontation – let’s not forget Tim Sherwood hurtling the ball at Bacary Sagna as his Tottenham side faced Arsenal the other week. Furthermore, managers can be abusive towards fourth officials; once again Pardew is guilty of ill-discipline here as in August 2012 he pushed over a fourth official. Sir Alex Ferguson was also guilty of confronting fourth officials during his time on the touchline.
In addition to this, you’ve got potential manager-manager confrontation. Once more, serial offender Pardew is guilty of this, verbally abusing Manuel Pellegrini in January when their sides met. Ferguson and Roberto Mancini were also guilty of this, getting into a heated confrontation in April 2012 during the Manchester Derby when Ferguson accused Mancini of harassing the fourth official.
So what is the alternative? Clearly the most obvious solution to any potential problems on the touchline would be to make the managers watch the game from a specially designated area in the stands, in a similar manner that you will have seen during the recent Six Nations tournament.
The advantages of this system would prevent any touchline dramatics from taking place. It would prevent any potential conflicts arising between managers and officials, players or other managers during the game. However, it would prevent the manager from making immediate tactical changes or directly communicating with his players, and both are vital roles for the manager to play when in the dugout. His only real influence on the game would be reduced to making substitutions from the stand.
So what is the solution? Well, there isn’t a dead cert one and I don’t want this to be blown out of proportion. These questions have only arisen due to the actions of a minority of the Premier League’s managers. However, I do have a suggestion that could potentially reduce the amount of drama on the touchline.
My suggestion would be to decrease the size of the technical area. Currently the technical area extends to one metre in front of the dugout. I would halve this distance to increase the gap between the touchline and the edge of the technical area. This would prevent managers from hanging about on the touchline and would see them placed nearer to their dugout.
This would hopefully prevent incidents such as the Pardew head-butt. However, in addition the rules need to be made clearer. I would introduce strict rules preventing managers from having any physical impact on the game. This means that they wouldn’t be allowed to touch the ball or make any physical contact with opposing players during game time. If the ball went into the manager’s technical area or dugout then the manager would be authorised to give the ball to the fourth official first, not any player.
I would also want to see fourth officials be given more power to deal with disruptive managers. If a manager broke the rules then they would first be issued with a verbal warning from the fourth official. Any further offence would mean that the fourth official would have the power to send the manager back to the dressing room for the remainder of the game and the manager would subsequently receive a three match touchline ban. This way, any off field antics would have limited impact on the game and would mean that the referee on the pitch wouldn’t have to deal with unruly managers on the touchline.
I think these changes would certainly limit the amount of touchline drama during a match. Alternatively, we could all learn to get along and not head-butt one another.