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 pointing and a few 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.
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. Arsenal never moved their benches below ground level, having just built the East Stand at Highbury before dugouts arrived in football. Instead the managers, physios, and later on the subs all sat in a cosy glass structure like a small conservatory. How very civilised.
Football did not really invent the dugout, however, as both the place itself and the term ‘dugout’ were in use in baseball by the early 20th century, though for a different reason to Donald Colman’s desire to study footwork. 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 in covered wooden structures adjacent to the home/first and third/home 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 non-paying customers sitting around waiting.
In English football 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.
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 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.
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.
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