Skip to main content

"If you want some accessible but informative insight into football then I suggest you couldn't do better than the Political Economy of Football website, which is not only intelligible but comes with the added bonus of being written by Addicks fan Wyn Grant."
Ben Hayes - Charlton Athletic programme

Does a degree in economics help you to be a football manager?


Some might argue that a degree in economics doesn't help you to do anything with the 'dismal science' coming under some criticism since the global financial crisis.   Arsene Wenger has a degree in economics which perhaps helps to explain his somewhat professorial manner.   I remember going to Highbury some years ago and watching a pre-match talk by him on the big screen which seemed to have shot against the background of a fake library.

Arsenal certainly manage to balance their books, but that is down to the policy of the board as much as anything, although Wenger certainly endorses it.   However, one has to be careful about confusing economics, which as well as being highly quantitative these days can be somewhat abstract in its modelling of the real economy, with business related skills.   Accountancy skills might help to stop your club going best and a business studies degree should give you a grounding in such key areas as business strategy and marketing.

Bournemouth and former England international goalkeeper David James has revealed that he is the third year of a degree in economics.   It is not clear where he is doing it, but as he has lived in Devon for six years, it could be either Exeter or Plymouth universities.   Indeed, he has been offered some coaching at Exeter university.

Now, like many goakeepers, 'Calamity' James is a bit out in left field.   It is what makes them some of the most interesting personalities in the game.   A painter himself, I once watched an art appreciation programme by James on television which I thought was rather good, informed but also accessible.

James told The Football League Paper, 'I quite enjoy reading quirky economics books'.   That's not the reaction of most people who have to read them, but James wants to be a manager and thinks his degree in economics 'will give me an advantage over some of the other managers out there.'

Many highly successful managers finished their formal education at the earliest possible age or perhaps even bunked off school before then to play football.   Harry Redknapp has admitted that he has limited literacy and can't even fill in a teamsheet.

Alan Curbishley was a manager with little formal education who was nevertheless a shrewd judge of people and knew how to handle them.   I once dedicated a book on the Common Agricultural Policy to Curbs.   He was flattered, but I don't think he got beyond the first sentence and who could blame him?  But the book was the most successful in sales terms I have ever written, selling several thousand copies.  Not J K Rowling, but not bad.