CEO course inspires former Northern Ireland manager to re-enter football


lawrie sanchezIt has been four years since Lawrie Sanchez was last involved in football. However, after starting VSI’s MBA CEO of a Sports Organisation, he has quickly been inspired to re-enter the game at boardroom level.

The former Reading and Wimbledon midfielder made over 500 appearances before he embarked on a managerial career during which he took Northern Ireland from 124th to 27th in the FIFA world rankings.

After building an impressive CV, Sanchez decided to take time away from the game when he left Greek SuperLeague side Apollon Smyrnis in 2014.

The 59-year-old had wanted to study for an MBA for a long time, but did not find a suitable course until last summer when he heard about the latest VSI qualification. He duly enrolled and started in September 2018.

“Initially, my intention was to do the course and add to my Continuous Personal Development,” said Sanchez, who is adding to the BSc in Management Science he gained at Loughborough University while playing for Reading.

“But I have to say, the course has enthused me straight away and I’m thinking, having been out of the game as a manager for a while now, that perhaps it’s time to step back into the game and use the knowledge I’ve got.

“I think as a former player, manager and coach that I can bring great insight into how a football club should be run at the top level and I’m hoping this MBA will help me get there. The next progression for me would be an executive positon where I can lay down the whole direction of a club.”

Sanchez is adamant that more former players and managers should be given the opportunity to transfer their skills and sit at the top tables in professional clubs. He hopes, in that respect, he can be something of a trailblazer.

“There seems to be an idea that if you’ve played or managed in football that you know nothing about the actual running of a football club, and I don’t think that’s necessarily right,” said Sanchez, who started his professional playing career at age 17.

“When I was manager at Wycombe Wanderers, it was only my buying, selling and manipulation of the transfer budget and players’ wage bill that kept the club afloat. So to presume that I know nothing about the organisation of a football club at the top level, when I was the one who was predominantly keeping a club alive, is the wrong message to send to managers.

“Obviously, there is more technical background required in being a chief executive, but I certainly know the football industry from top to bottom and the VSI course will equip me with the remaining skills that I need.”

Having starting the two-year course in the autumn, Sanchez has already taken a great deal from the opening module on operations and marketing, but says he is gaining just as much from “outside the classroom”.

He said: “Not only do you get taught by high-calibre exponents in their field, but you also get to meet and interact with people on the course who come from different backgrounds.

“There are people from rugby union, rugby league, cycling, football and others sports and it’s been invaluable to talk across our professions and seek common ground.  You learn as much outside of the classroom as you do inside.”

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