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David Moyes' exit sparks governance debate

28 April 2014

David Moyes’ exit from Manchester United as its manager sparked a governance debate about what exactly went wrong with this particular appointment.

Issues of poor strategic decision making, poor succession planning and lack of adequate support have all been raised as playing a part in Moyes’ exit.

According to LOC Consulting’s Associate Director Brian Ford, the dismissal has brought into sharp focus, ‘the importance of strategic succession planning’.

Stephenson Harwood LLP’s litigation partner Louis Flannery explained that the succession process was handled poorly: ‘As well as Ferguson leaving his role as manager, David Gill, Manchester United’s former CEO, and widely acknowledged as one of the best at his job, particularly in the role of player recruitment, left his post as CEO, as did Ferguson’s entire backroom staff.

With Moyes, this left two new people in the most important roles of any football club, let alone the one the size of Manchester United. … Had Ferguson’s succession been better planned, David Gill could have been asked to stay on as CEO for an extra year to aid the transition process. Instead, he was replaced by Ed Woodward, who was Manchester United’s extremely successful commercial director, but who had limited experience at all of the off field running of a football club.

Flannery adds that Moyes also did what many new managers do, ‘he brought with him his own backroom staff – keen to be seen as his own man and make his own stamp on the football club. However, in doing so, Ferguson’s key senior coaches, many of whom were greatly respected by the players and who had a wealth of knowledge at the elite level of football (which neither Moyes nor his coaching staff had), were either not kept on or decided to leave to follow other opportunities.

'It could have been made a precondition of Moyes’ appointment that these key members of staff were retained, at least for a period of time to, again, aid the transition process. It is likely the board were keen not to undermine Moyes from the start and wanted him to have the same freedom that Ferguson enjoyed.’

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