Jermaine Jenas on managers, VAR, business & the women's game

02 Mar 2018

By: Sport Industry Group

Former England player turned pundit Jermaine Jenas joined senior industry figures from organisations including Gillette, European Tour, Canon, Populous, The Telegraph, Tottenham Hotspur, EY, Coutts, Manchester United, Dow Jones, Special Olympics and more at Sport Industry Private Dining Club hosted by Integro Entertainment & Sport.

Jermaine played under some of the top managers in world football during his career, which saw him play over 400 professional matches as well as 21 caps for England.

“Some of the best managers I’ve played under would be separated by the way a room of people react when they walk into it. The whole atmosphere would change. I’ve played in teams where we’d be kicking the ball about on the training pitch and then he [the manager] would walk out their office and the level of intensity would suddenly go through the roof.

“Fabio Capello had that authority with England, so did Bobby Robson at Newcastle United. That was one of the biggest attributes I found in a great manager, in a way they had to be more elusive.

“Some of these coaches that almost become your best friend means they lose that edge when they have to turn it on to try and get that extra 10%. The best would draw that intensity every time they walked into a room.”

That career came to a premature end after an ACL injury in training, and spoke openly about the challenges he faced before establishing himself as a respected pundit for the likes of BT Sport and Match of the Day.

“It’s odd. Everything is planned out for you when you’re a footballer, so when that stops, it’s hard to know what to do at the start. It sounds weird, but I miss the physical pain of playing football and those limits that you push to every single day and come through the other side.

“That competitive nature to my life that I had every single day is what drove me.”

The former PFA Young Player of the Year also agreed with Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish about the use of VAR (Video Assistant Referee) in the game. Parish spoke about the use of the system at the Sport Industry Breakfast Club on Wednesday.

Jenas agreed, adding: “The Premier League has found itself in a position with all the clubs where the risk involved in a wrong decision and dropping out the Premier League is so high that getting absolutely everything correct is key to people’s jobs.

“There is something good about this technology, and I think it can be great. We’ve seen the success of similar systems in tennis, cricket and rugby, but right now I hate it. This only works with decisions that are black and white, which is why goalline technology is brilliant. No one argues, it’s either a goal or it’s not. Now we’re going into an area of subjectiveness and I hate the atmosphere it creates.”

Growing up in Nottingham, before going on to begin his professional career with his boyhood club Nottingham Forest, Jenas added that the local area was crucial in his decision to begin his career in business.

“Business is a side of life that I wanted to learn more about,” said Jenas, “but I was also very passionate about the area I grew up in.

“It’s a tough area, with not a lot of opportunities to aspire to, so I wanted to find a way to show kids that there’s more out there than just what’s in front of you. We took a step back and decided education was the root I wanted to go down and we [Jermaine alongside a friend with a career in recruitment] started Aquinas Education, an education recruitment business that supplies teachers to schools in Nottingham.

“We then found our niche when I started going into schools and speaking to teachers, which is how the foundation was started. We’d go in and discuss the schools’ biggest needs – be it level of truancy or numeracy support – and then work out what we can do to improve that. As a result, I would give them my time and in return was asking for a teacher or a placement within the school to help start my business, and they just thought, why not? And we’re in our ninth year now.”

While Jermaine was able to find his feet, he admitted to some financial mistakes through the years, and felt there should be more support for young footballers thrown into the world of professional sport.  

“When you’re a young player growing up on money you wouldn’t dream of, you have to put your trust in advisors. If you speak to sportspeople everywhere around the world, at some point down the line, everyone has been let down by a shocking investment by someone they shouldn’t have trusted. Clubs have a responsibility to educate their young players and almost take a bit of that pressure away.

“For example if a young player is on £100,000 a week, just give them £50,000 and allow the rest of it to sit in a fund that they can access once they genuinely understand what to do with it. Players are being let down and there’s not enough support to protect them.”

Wrapping up with questions from the room of industry figures, Jenas discussed the levels of investment required in women’s football to help reach the next level.

Considering why more top Premier League sides don’t have a dedicated team, Jenas suggested: “If you’ve been in the Premier League for, say, ten years then they should have a women’s team. They have the financial security, they’re an established Premier League side and therefore it shouldn’t be a big ask for them.

“Notts County recently had to drop their women’s side, and I can’t blame them for that. It was costing £500,000 a year to fund the team and the money the players were being paid didn’t allow them to purely focus on being a professional football player.

“As a result, it should be the top sides that have an obligation to support women’s football. The game has come a long way but it needs to improve if it’s going to reach the next level of interest and subsequent revenue.”

The invitation-only members club meets four times a year at some of the best venues in London, providing top level representatives from across the sport industry with the opportunity to network and socialise in an informal and relaxed setting.

To find out more about the Sport Industry Private Dining Club hosted by Integro Entertainment & Sport, please contact Alex Coulson, executive director, Sport Industry Group, at [email protected].