Tue 27 Nov 2007
What is a contract worth? Anything or nothing?
It is meant to provide security for both parties - if you employ someone to do a job for you then a contract with them would provide peace of mind that they will turn up and do what they are supposed to, and from their point of view it ensures that if they do that then you are duty bound to pay them fr doing so.
In the sporting world though, contracts seem to mean diddly-squat and that doesn’t really seem fair on anyone at all.
Formula 1 operates a policy where all driver contracts are registered to ensure there is no chance of conflict between two teams fighting over the services of the same driver. Of course that doesn’t mean there are never any disputes, just ask Jenson Button who seems to have been the source of most of them recently. The good thing about this system is that if someone is signed to a particular team then he stays there until his contract runs out and only then do the rumours start about where he is heading next.
This is in play at the moment with Fernando Alonso who is currently pondering offers of employment from several teams. His situation is pretty much unique in that his last contract with the McLaren team was effectively ripped up only partway through - something I can’t remember happening before.
In a way it was inevitable, but at the same time unexpected. His only season in the silver McLaren car had been an incredibly torrid time for both parties, with the driver feeling unloved and biased against and the team involved on all sorts of off-track dramas.
Some think Alonso forced McLaren’s hand and left them with no alternative but to fire him, others think McLaren’s treatment of a double world champion was less than fair but as of this moment in time noone can really know the truth of the matter. We will have to wait several years for that, if we ever find out at all.
As for football, someone somewhere has to take a stand and demand that the terms of a contract are seen to fruition. All to often, players decide they want to play for club X and sign amid a great flurry of media attention, only to later fall out of love with the club and demand a transfer. While this was commonplace for those on the park, it has now spread to those off the pitch as well with managers moving from club to club mid-contract.
In the last couple of weeks we have seen Steve Bruce leave Birmingham City to take over at Wigan, and now reports are that Birmingham have nabbed the Scotland international manager Alex McLeish.
Birmingham are involved in a bit of a boardroom takeover at present, and Bruce was in no way assured that his job was safe so when another Premiership club came calling I can understand why he may have been swayed into thinking a move was in his best interests. I’ve no doubt that Birmingham were cursing their luck and also had a few choice thoughts about Wigan stealing their manager - so to then go out and effectively do the same thing to the Scotland international setup is particularly dastardly.
It’s a bit like someone finding out their husband has left them for another woman, only to go out and have an affair with another married man to help ease the pain.
I’ve got mixed emotions about McLeish leaving. Exactly the same thing happened with Walter Smith - Rangers came looking for a manager so off he went. At the time I wasn’t happy with him, and felt he had betrayed his country - and I still do. He signed up with the SFA and was paid to do a job so I think it only right that we should expect him to see it through. It’s not like he was being forced to do something against his will and for no reward!
I think the same thing applies to McLeish in a way, but at the same time I can understand why the lure of Premiership management could appear to be too great. He is at a point in his career where his “value” is at the highest it could get, he is seen as being the mastermind behind Scotland’s recent success so the only way for his reputation to go is down. If he hung about with Scotland for another couple of years, there’s no guarantee that the offer of a job in the Premiership would have been forthcoming.
So because of that I can almost forgive him for resigning today.
I am thankful to him, and Walter Smith, for returning the pride to our national football team - and to the country as a whole in many respects. Okay we didn’t qualify for Euro 2008, but we came mighty close and did much better than most people predicted. For that I thank him, and hope that his successor will pick up where he left off - when Walter left I thought our performances would suffer but McLeish has managed to keep us on track, so there’s no reason why another man can’t come in and do the same thing.
Who knows, all I’m sure of is that after the success of the last two managers, it’s certain to be a Scot. And hopefully a trustworthy, honest Scot at that…