27th April 2017 (following feedback this article has been updated to clarify comments made regarding transfers and contract talks)
I said on Twitter yesterday that reading and watching interviews with Garry Monk at the end of January and into early February worried me by seemingly indicating there was a “disconnect” between staff based at Thorp Arch and management mainly based at Elland Road. A report in today’s YEP by Lee Sobot detailing quotes from today’s press conference has done nothing to dispel my worries.
A CEO’s rôle
I’m on record in other essays published on this website saying that previous team coaches (or managers) have been close to Massimo Cellino and they have made no secret of in depth discussions regarding players and team selection; Steve Evans was openly proud of his close relationship. I’m of the opinion that in any business department heads should be given enough responsibility, autonomy and trust to run their department properly and effectively: I class team coaches (or managers) as department heads and in this regard football clubs are no different to any other business.
A CEO’s rôle is an essential part of every business and how the CEO interacts with department heads is often the difference between the success and failure of achieving business goals: there are many thousands of books and documents on this subject so I’ll not go into more detail here. My belief is that a successful CEO should be talking to and discussing matters with department heads (DH) regularly to ensure the company is on track to achieving its goals: this does not mean the CEO is leading the DH by the nose and doing his job for him, it means the DH does the work and makes departmental decisions while the CEO identifies areas that need strengthening or help being applied; being able to balance this discussion and monitoring versus departmental responsibility, autonomy and trust is what defines a good CEO.
So how does this apply to Leeds United?
When I use the term CEO I’m using it in the sense described by the Institute of Directors as being a more modern (Americanised) term for the English Managing Director (MD) – the Institute treats the terms as interchangeable – and they are referring to the person who is in charge of control of the Board of Directors. As far as I can gather there is no person allocated the MD’s (or CEO’s) moniker at LUFC and, certainly up until Mr Radrizzani joined the board in early 2017 the MD or CEO rôle was clearly performed by Massimo Cellino.
Most Boards of Directors have a Chairman or President (normally someone who isn’t present daily) who chairs board meetings etc. In LUFC’s case this rôle was also filled by Massimo Cellino.
There are other senior staff members at LUFC besides Board Directors and, as is common within other businesses, many are referred to as Executive Directors and this group sits below the Board in the chain of command – notable Executive Directors at LUFC are Debra Ware, Business and Community Director, Paul Bell, Executive Director (commercial) and Ben Mansford, Chief Executive.
I’m afraid I don’t know the detailed job descriptions of these people (and I am in no way, shape or form using this essay to criticise them or make judgements as to how they perform their work) so I can’t comment in too much detail but it would be usual for the Board of Directors, via the Chairman (or President), to set targets and goals for the long-term progress of the company and the MD (or CEO) would instruct the Executive Board, and in particular the Chief Executive, to achieve those goals: the Executive is the body that works daily to achieve them whereas the Board Directors often are not present daily in the company – in other words the Executive is the body that Executes the goals set by the Board but they can only work within the guidelines set by the Board.
Please note that in many instances, the MD (or CEO) does operate daily within the company and often performs a Chairman’s rôle for the Executive body: in other companies Board Directors also double up as Executive Directors – it depends entirely on how the company chooses to form.
I would expect LUFC’s football team coach to report in the first instance to the Chief Executive, Ben Mansford, who then reports to the MD (or CEO) who would then report to the Board under the Chairman/President.
So in LUFC’s case prior to 2017, the CEO would be Massimo Cellino whose right-hand man would be Ben Mansford: this pairing is what I jointly refer to as performing the CEO’s rôle described earlier although Mansford could only carry out duties and make offers he was allowed to by Massimo Cellino.
So why do I worry there is a Disconnect?
At the end of January and early February 2017 there were a few interviews given by Massimo Cellino, Andrea Radrizzani and Garry Monk that contained some conflicting and worrying comments: these comments were by and large seemingly innocuous and maybe just fleeting examples of imprecise communication but there seemed to me an undercurrent of something wrong. It is my belief that the LUFC CEO chain should have noticed this also and taken action and it seemed from a later Garry Monk comment that this had happened.
As evidence for the previous paragraph I offer this:
In the YEP of 28th January Monk said
The first paragraph shows he was made aware of interest – perfectly normal – abut then he goes on to say he was “told” it was far down the line and “[he] can only assume that means…”. In paragraph 4 Monk again uses the phrase “can only assume”. This “telling” and “assuming” would not happen if Monk and his CEO chain were in regular and productive discussion. Alarm bells ringing.
There have been many other little snippets from interviews that have added to events around this time, such as Cellino saying he wouldn’t invest in new players despite Monk believing the Club was working to get them, but the above sums up the essence of what they say. This all seemed to be put to bed later when Monk said the Club were now aware of his views which I took to mean there had finally been proper CEO to Monk contact.
Monk’s Contract Talks
I’ve worried that this subject is another example of a Disconnect for some time: whenever Monk has been asked about his contract he’s seemed almost embarrassed and avoided any substantive answer when he could have put the matter to bed by simply indicating he’d agreed with the Club that contract talks would be delayed.
He didn’t do that but today the YEP reports from the pre-match press conference show that he did give a little more detail; what he said worries me though.
Lee Sobot gives his quote as:
The first line shouts out to me: “I HAVE NOT SPOKEN TO THE CLUB ABOUT ANYTHING”! Wow, does he mean no one in the Club has had discussions about when and why contract talks are best held? Surely not!
However, the second line confirms it: “THE CLUB SAID…”. Not “the Club and I decided…” or “we thought it best… “. It is quite clear that there has been a complete breakdown of communication and he has not agreed to anything surrounding these contract talks.
Ever the professional he doesn’t throw a tantrum but merely says “that’s fine. I have to respect the club” but then gives the warning, again loud and clear “We’ll need to sit down and agree…” showing that whilst not kicking back now he intends to be a full participant in plans on his and the Club’s future.
The way that he said “the club said…” got me thinking. It is clear he’s had some message and I wonder what it was? An email from Cellino perhaps? A text? Maybe the email or text came from Mansford? Possibly Mansford or Cellino spoke to him?
Hmm… All those methods of communication have a return method to engage in dialogue – if I’d got a terse message saying “we’re going to wait until your contract has almost run out and you are about to be unemployed before we start to discuss whether we want to employ you again” I’d have hit the reply button and asked “Why? Why can’t we talk now? I’ve got my family to think of, schools for my children, I need more respect from you than this.”.
It couldn’t be, could it, that Monk got none of that contact (repeating the publicised events surrounding Redfearn and Evans) and his message was this Tweet from Radrizzani?
At first I dismissed the idea that Monk and Radrizzani were communicating by Twitter but then I reread Monk’s comment “I have not spoken to the club ABOUT ANYTHING AT ALL”. I know Radrizzani has been at Elland Road for a few days over the last two months but he’s obviously had a lot to do. He’ll need to rely upon other staff at the Club to keep him informed and up to date like any Director does.
Could it be that Radrizzani hasn’t been told the full story of what is going on?
In late April, Radrizzani also tweeted this puzzling tweet in direct response to a question about January transfers (he had also received many tweets asking about the delay in talking to Monk):
This Tweet says Radrizzani believes Monk is in full agreement with “all” that has been done.
However, Monk said today he’d had no contact regarding contract talks and so could not be said in any shape or form to be in full agreement with that. Similarly, Monk was reportedly dissatisfied with the transfer window and, after saying in my quote above that “he assumes…” the club is working on matters, a few days later he said:
Clearly, these quotes do not indicate a close working relationship between “senior management” and the team coach as I would expect to be the case at such a critical time for player transfers. Monk confirms a lack of communication when he says that due to a lack of contact with senior management on his contract talks he’s got no choice but to wait.
As I said at the start, before 2017 it was clear Mansford was the Chief Executive and Cellino was the de facto CEO and their responsibility was to jointly ensure regular and effective communication with Monk occurred.
Since 2017 the 50/50 partnership has changed the dynamic within the Club – we no longer have Cellino as President, he’s just a normal board member now – and it is unclear who the Chief Executive reports to. To my view as an outsider there appears to be a complete breakdown in the chain of command and possibly even a breakdown of regular communication with Radrizzani.
In other words, a Disconnect in the chain of command.
It remains to be seen if Monk is indeed available come June when Radrizzani starts looking for him at Thorp Arch.
I hope my antenna is wonky and my interpretations are incorrect. Apologies to Garry and others for discussing private matters in public, hope I’ve represented you correctly, [email protected] if not, please.
MJCT 27th April 2017 (updated 28th April 2017)