Football managers – should they speak more languages?

The debate as to whether football managers should speak more languages rumbles on. This week a caller to Radio5Live suggested that modern managers need to speak more languages – that monoglots such as Sir Alex Ferguson or Sam Allardyce would not be successful in today’s multi-lingual dressing rooms.

To demonstrate how diverse Premier League football team s now are, Watford this week picked a squad of 18 players which had 16 different nationalities – with Switzerland and England contributing 2 players each. The starting line-up and substitutes who came on were from Brazil, Scotland, Uruguay, Austria, Northern Ireland, Holland, France, Spain, Cameroon and Nigeria. The unused substitutes came from Lithuania, Algeria, Greece and Italy!

The Watford manager Quique Flores – a Spaniard – says “English is the main language in the dressing room, we live in England and all of the players understand this.” On occasions, he even finds himself speaking English with the Spanish, Ecuadorian and Mexican players. “So sometimes we mix the languages but it is a funny moment.”

Flores argues that the varied background of his players makes it easier to build a team in his own style: “I think it is an advantage for us because when you are training more English players maybe it is difficult to change.”

So, for coaching in England where the common language is English perhaps one language is sufficient, or perhaps the fact that Flores can understand Italian and Portuguese as well as speaking English and Spanish means that he can empathise with his players, whatever their native language.

For Premier League clubs going forward, communicating in increasingly international dressing rooms will be a challenge. La Academia provides language support – tuition in English for players and coaches; other languages for staff at the club to communicate with the coaching staff. The confidence in being able to communicate with colleagues and team-mates and in everyday life is key to settling in and playing well.

If you want to help overseas colleagues settle in to the UK, or help your multi-lingual team communicate better, call on la Academia! We’re the Premier League of communicators!