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The bureaucracy of sport at its funniest

Unlike the US, where sports leagues govern themselves, European Leagues generally operate under the watchful eye of an independent governing body. In England for example, the Football Association determines rules under which both Premier League and Nationwide League teams must operate. The FA's drug testing program is an example where this method of governance, separated from short term economic interest, seems beneficial.

But these agencies are bureaucratic to the core, and some of the rules they make and enforce are patently silly. In Holland, there is a rule requiring that club managers be certified. This rule got in the way of one of the top five soccer greats of all time, Johann Cruyff. Apparently, being told "you can't do this" was regarded by Cruyff as a challenge.

"I only decided to become a manager when I was told I couldn't.''

It is a sentiment that has a familiar refrain throughout Cruyff's playing and managerial career. He was told in his early teens he would never be big enough to be a great player. And after retiring at the age of 37 following a successful swansong at Feyenoord - he left his beloved Ajax because he was told he was too old to go on playing - went to Barcelona because the chairman of Ajax wanted him to go to Madrid.

He then returned to Ajax to pursue a managerial career because the Dutch Football Association told him he didn't have the necessary coaching qualification.

"They couldn't see beyond the paper, almost as though I had never played in two World Cup finals or been a part of the best-ever international side apart from the Brazil team of 1970," he said. The Dutch federation wanted him to study for six years for his piece of paper.

"I know everything about playing the game, the technique, the tactics, but I don't know the physical or the medical, how long will that bit take?" he asked. "Seven months," they explained, and after his period of study he joined Ajax as technical director.

Three times the disciplinary committee hid in trees and bushes around the training ground with film cameras trying to prove he was coaching. Each time he explained that he was only passing on instructions to the qualified coaches standing alongside him. In the end they gave up, which was just as well as he went on to win the European Cup-Winners' Cup in 1987. When finally he was told he could call himself a coach, he smiled and explained that he was rather fond of his old title.

Six years' study to become a coach? Silly rule - particularly in its application to Cruyff, who had been studying the game for a lifetime. Disciplinary committees in trees? Bureaucrats at their best, enforcing a nonsensical rule nonsensically. Sadly though, the episode illustrates how elusive good governance can be - the incentives to create and operate an agency for "the good of the game" appear too weak to produce good governance of sport.