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The luxurious world of top-quality dugouts

Substitutes can sit in comfort

icon dugouts5 December ~ When Bruce Rioch was manager of Bolton Wanderers he would watch games at Burnden Park while sat on the kind of plastic chair you used to get at school – its skinny black legs were plonked unceremoniously on the grass beside the pitch. But that was around twenty years ago. These days, managers sit and watch games in more comfort. Take Chelsea as an example. If they can afford to spend around £80 million on players for the current season then it stands to reason that their dugout will be similarly plush.

And it is – leather upholstery with head-rests like something from the first class cabin of a jet plane. It's not just Chelsea though. Clubs throughout the country have pimped their hides.

I seem to recall it might have been Bayern Munich who started it all. Pretty soon many followed suit with leather seated dugouts. They bring another commercial opportunity in the shape of corporate branded head rests. Some have widened the net to include further commercial partners – Southampton have Sunseeker Yachts, while Chelsea have Audi. But many clubs just stick to the name of their sponsor or ground. In Leicester City and Brighton & Hove Albion's case that is the same thing. Brighton's blue and white striped design pulls off the feat of imitating their home jersey and the traditional deck chairs of the nearby seaside.

There was a time when the continent's dugouts highlighted the differences between countries. I remember watching BBC's Sportsnight and thinking Terry Venables was finished at Barcelona – it looked like they'd buried him up to his armpits at the Nou Camp. My Dad told me they took football very seriously in places like Barcelona but it turned out it was just the way the dugouts looked; cut in beneath the ground. These days the Nou Camp has leather seats like everyone else.

Those with an appetite for variety need only plumb the depths of the non-league circuit where the style and design differs from ground to ground. As a perennial substitute in the Hampshire Premier Combination League I have sampled some of them first-hand.

Liphook, which is on the border of West Sussex, have a set of portable benches. I watched a man make putting them together look much easier than anything that comes flat-packed usually is. The dark wooden benches at Bournemouth Sports could easily pass as a church pew, while Fleetlands' long white porch style dugouts cause substitutes to look out over the Gosport water and reminisce about childhood holidays by the seaside in static caravans.

Of course, modern dugouts are small beans in the scheme of things. What difference does it make if the dugouts at Shakhtar Donetsk look much the same as they do in Milton Keynes? As much as I would like football supporters to get a clear sense that they are in a Ukrainian mining city rather than a town in Buckinghamshire, what I would like even more is one of those posh leather seats. They look far more comfortable than the fold-up chairs that paying fans make do with. Perhaps in years to come they will be introduced into the stands of grounds across Europe. By then managers and substitutes will be making themselves at home in something even grander, like a customised Winnebago. Mark Sanderson

On the subject...

Comment on 05-12-2012 12:38:06 by markrpoole #738529
...with the opportunity to buy your own customised Winnebago at the club superstore.
Comment on 05-12-2012 15:50:20 by Coral #738617
Arsenal have their padded seats in the ground which is a long way from the hard wooden seats of Fulham. When all clubs get similar Arsenal style seats, I predict the end of football as we know it. The dug outs is just the warning.
Comment on 06-12-2012 06:00:29 by willie1foot #738785
Shinji Ono luxuriates on the plastic chairs that are used to construct the bench at all A-League games.... rain hail or shine.......
Comment on 06-12-2012 09:38:41 by GerryForrest #738813
I'm not familiar with this fellow, but having just Google-ed him is this the bench at Western Sydney Wanderers? If so, it's impressively low key for this day in age. Shinji conjures up the image of a wallflower just arriving at a busy barbeque.
Comment on 06-12-2012 14:05:03 by Arthur Nibble #738881
Mark, surely this is a WSC magazine article in the making. Belstone of the Hertfordshire Senior League have quaint white dugouts which look like mini-conservatories.
Comment on 06-12-2012 14:42:19 by biziclop #738895
"...but it turned out it was just the way the dugouts looked; cut in beneath the ground."

Hence the name "dugout".
Comment on 07-12-2012 11:47:46 by tratorello #739168
I've never really understood the concept of the dugout, I realise that it means the coach or manager is close to the action and can communicate with the players but the view must be the worst in the stadium, I never understood how on earth they were supposed to see what was going on.

Still, when we had proper dugouts there was always the bonus of seeing managers accidentally smack their heads when celebrating a goal or getting irate.
Comment on 07-12-2012 12:30:34 by theboyholty #739178
I've a vague recollection of Coventry's old Highfield Road ground having a dugout / subs' bench that resembled an air raid shelter with a sort of look-out lid on top where the manager could peer through a gap in the roof at activities on the pitch. I've Googled it and can't find any images though. Perhaps I'm imagining it.
Comment on 07-12-2012 14:27:41 by markrpoole #739208
Remember when Ron Atkinson sat in the wrong dug-out? That was funny.
Comment on 07-12-2012 14:41:20 by ursus arctos #739209
We discussed this worthy volume on here when it came out.

Comment on 07-12-2012 19:25:45 by Reed John #739333
I recall that I went to see DC United v Columbus in 1997 or 98 and they didn't have those plexyglass canopy thingies. It pissed down rain really hard for about 30 minutes and the subs and coaches just had to sit there getting dumped on looking miserable. They got some of those later, but not for a few years, as I recall.

I have noticed that Arsene Wegner's throne looks like a seat taken out of a Bentley or somesuch.

I think there probably something to be said for nice dugouts. If a player or coach isn't thinking about how much their back or ass hurts or how wet and coled they are, they're better able to focus.

In baseball and hockey, the dugouts/benches are often built such that personel can directly access the clubhouse from the bench (although that's not true in all minor league stadiums). I'd think that would make sense in soccer. It certainly would make it easier for the trainers.
Comment on 10-12-2012 05:50:40 by willie1foot #740020
Reed John wrote:
I recall that I went to see DC United v Columbus in 1997 or 98 and they didn't have those plexyglass canopy thingies. It pissed down rain really hard for about 30 minutes and the subs and coaches just had to sit there getting dumped on looking miserable. They got some of those later, but not for a few years, as I recall.


Perhaps that's why the A-League has gone down the 'plastic chair' road. MLS is what they aspire to in many ways. I still don't understand why coaches and subs need to be out in all weather; Australia gets some very heavy downpours during Summer (when the A-league is played).


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