Stupid Things About Football, No. 1: The Dugout.

Managers like to be beside the pitch because they can then be seen to be ‘managing’. Which translates in most cases as stalking the touchline – or as close as the technical area will let them get – and haranguing the fourth official, with perhaps some anguished gestures when one of their players, say Gervinho, misses another open goal. I often wonder how they manage to get so close to the fourth official to harangue him, actually, given that he isn’t in the technical area with them, and they’re not supposed to come out. Maybe it’s like a shot putt circle – you’re allowed out of the back without breaking the rules.

"I believe I definitely did see the incident!"

“I believe I definitely did see the incident!”

Either way, the side of the pitch is not the best place to watch a match from, so it’s a mystery to me why all managers insist on watching from there. The place where managers sit is called ‘the dugout’, and for many years it was literally dug out, being a bit below ground level. This idea was thought up in the 1930s by a mad Scotsman called Donald Colman, a coach at Aberdeen. He wanted to study how his players used their feet, so built a place where he could watch the match at feet height. Amazingly, other managers seemed to think this was a good idea, and within a few years virtually every club had a dugout. However, both the place itself and the term ‘dugout’ were in use in baseball by the early 20th century. In baseball the dugout came into existence because the spare players (of which there are many in baseball, unlike football prior to the 1990s) and coaches traditionally sat adjacent to the first and fourth base lines, which blocked the best view for spectators. Moving the benches below ground level meant more top-price tickets could be sold. This was less of an issue in football, where the action is spread over a much wider area and there were no subs at all until the 1960s, so far fewer people sitting around waiting.

It wasn’t until the new wave of stadium building in the 1990s that the manager’s seat largely returned to ground level, and at the same time managers were allowed to stand up and patrol their newfangled technical area.

"The dugout I believe is little bit down there"

“The dugout I believe is little bit down there”

Actually, by the strict wording of the poorly written Premier League rules, managers are not allowed to stand in the middle of their technical area, only at the edge. But either way, although this gives a better view of the game than the subterranean dugout, it’s still a useless way to watch. Pitch level is the best place for judging offside, but that’s about it. If it was really good for watching then lower tier seats would be more expensive than upper tier, TV cameras would all be at ground level, and the press box would also be much lower down.

"The lower tier is right there . . ."

“The lower tier is right there . . .”

The reason the press box and the cameras are high up is because PEOPLE WANT TO SEE WHAT’S GOING ON, and the TV audience would soon be switching off in droves if the main cameras were four feet off the ground instead of 40. You really can’t get a good view from pitchside, so managers should stop embarrassing themselves by leaping around and shouting at the fourth official and just go and sit upstairs. They’ll get a far better idea of how the game is really going.

"And the best view is up there"

“And the best view is up there”

I recall that George Graham actually had a period where he used to spend the first half in the Directors’ Box at Highbury, occasionally phoning down instructions to Theo Foley, then come down to the dugout after half time. Which is at least half sensible. Also, since Steve McLaren became the ‘wally with the brolly’, no manager dares carry an umbrella, and only Tony Pulis tries the baseball cap look, so sitting upstairs would prevent a lot of managerial coughs and colds over a season.

Follow me on Twitter:@AngryOfN5


5 thoughts on “Stupid Things About Football, No. 1: The Dugout.

  1. Wenger puts Primorac in the stands to get the better view. When people talk about Rice, Bould and Banfield, a lot forget that Primorac is closest to Wenger.

    We know that Wenger has gone to non-Arsenal games in disguise and has also gone on record as saying that he prefers to watch from the stands. Actually he’s said that he prefers to watch from a stand behind the goal, because you can see the movement of the entire game without needing to turn your head. Somehow i’m not sure that we’ll see him in the North Bank anytime soon!

    • Good point about Boro. He’s so anonymous I’d completely forgotten he existed. But does he communicate with Arsene during matches? If not, still a crap way to do it.

      • I very much doubt it, not until half-time at least – it’s noticeable that only our medical staff ever appear to be ‘miked up’. Perhaps Vic Akers has a carrier pigeon…

        There was one reserve game at Underhill when Wenger was comically sat alone behind a goal in a closed part of the ground. Maybe Wenger’s been alienating the fans just so that he can get a part of the North Bank all to himself?!

  2. Don’t be a spoilsport: watching managers going potty in the technical area is hilarious. Fergie wagging his finger, tapping his watch, the Wenger-Pardew spat, Harry’s tic, Pulis’s hat – and all to no avail.

  3. Personally i think we should replace the programme prize thing at half-time with a ‘Where’s Wenger?’ competition – sit him somewhere in the stands in disguise and the first person to spot him wins the match ball.

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