Dixon joins illustrious managers list at LMA

Olaf Dixon has spoken of his pride at being made only the sixth vice-president of the League Manager’s Association (LMA) and the first from outside football management.

Bobby Robson, Olaf Dixon and John Camkin at the Club of the Year Award in 1985.

Leamington born and bred Dixon retired from his role at the LMA earlier this month after more than 40 years of service.

His contribution to the association was recognised with the 71-year-old appointed vice-president of the association, joining Sir Bobby Robson, Brian Clough, Bertie Mee, Lawrie McMenemy and John Barnwell on an illustrious list.

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“I am particularly proud to be the first person to be appointed who has not had a distinguished career in football management,” said Dixon.

Olaf Dixon with Sir Alex Ferguson and Ron Atkinson at a lunch at Grosvenor House to celebrate Ferguson;s 2,000th match as a manager in 2011. Pictures: Gibson's own

“When [Howard] Wilkinson rang me to tell me I was completely taken aback.

“For so many professional sportspeople if you have never played the game it doesn’t matter how long you have been in their world your opinion is worthless.

“Even professional referees, people think they don’t know what they are doing because they haven’t played the game.

“So to be invited to joined the ranks of Bertie Mee and Sir Bobby Robson, I was so astonished I couldn’t think properly.

Dixon with 1989 Manager of the Year George Graham, Young Player of the Year David Rocastle and John Watt from Barclays.

“I was thrilled and delighted.”

LMA chairman Wilkinson said there was no doubt Dixon was deserving of the honour.

“Olaf has played a prominent role at the LMA since it was just a spark of an idea in the early 1990s.

“We have come a very long way since then and his contribution and record of dedicated service is fully deserving of this accolade.”

Dixon began his journey in football administration in 1976 with the World Sports Academy, the company founded by Jimmy Hill to develop football and run the national side in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

At the end of a successful three-year contract in Saudi Arabia, Dixon returned to England to team up with the late John Camkin, also a Leamington resident, who had been approached by the committee of the Football League Secretaries’ & Managers’ Association (FLS&MA) to establish a professional secretariat for the association which began life in 1919.

The primary objective was to create a more effective voice in the game for those who were employed full-time within it, other than the players.

Together they set about restructuring the FLS&MA, which included two name changes and eventually, in 1992, Camkin, Graham Taylor, McMenemy, Wilkinson and Dixon met and subsequently announced the formation of the LMA.

It was to be the representative body of professional football managers in the newly created Premier League and the Football League.

The purpose of the LMA was to provide an effective platform for managers to have a more powerful influence over the development and welfare of the game, commensurate to their combined wealth of experience and knowledge.

Dixon says Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is the perfect illustration of that, with the association making arrangements for the Spaniard to put on training drills for large groups of managers.

“He loves doing that sort of thing,” said Dixon, who was made the LMA’s deputy chief executive in 1998.

“Pep is never going to be interested in things like our legal protection for contracts.

“However, he loves interfacing with coaches.

“Coaches’ thirst for knowledge is insatiable. They want to know what makes Pep different and he’s willing to show them.”

Dixon was instrumental alongside Barnwell in overseeing the progress and growth of the association.

This included the LMA’s move to bigger premises in Leamington, a subsequent relocation to Warwick and, in 2012 with current chief executive Richard Bevan, to St George’s Park.

In the summer of 2013, Dixon reduced his duties and became a director of the LMA group of companies.

Following his retirement, his appointment as vice-president means he will still play a role at the LMA in a consultancy capacity.

“They were keen I retained a proper connection with the LMA rather being a retired old git,” he said.

“Most likely that will be helping out on the charity side.

“We are not just a charity for our members and their families, we try to provide resources and funding for community activities.

“We have sent people out to Africa to help set up coaching structures in depressed areas and we have quite a big programme with Special Olympics GB.

“We helped them out with an Olympic run. We had a manager there for the torch at each town and Sam Allardyce launched it in Much Wenlock.

“They went to Abu Dhabi for the Special Olympics World Games and we had training camps for them at the FA headquarters at St George’s Park.

“They were thrilled to be using the same facilities as England players. Everything was open to them.

“We provided coaches to help them and Nike to provide kits.

“It tugs at the heartstrings. Something that was relatively small beer for us makes an incredible difference for them.”

Bevan, who became chief executive of the LMA in 2008 after a job spec drawn up by Dixon, was effusive in his praise of the new vice-president, saying his experience will be “impossible to replace”.

“Olaf’s remarkable service to the LMA has been underpinned by his unwavering professionalism, loyalty and charm,” said Bevan.

“He is a true gentleman, who has championed the careers of LMA members and LMA staff for over 27 years.

“His encyclopaedic knowledge of the game is impossible to replace and we are delighted to be able to call on him in his new role as LMA vice-president in the years to come.”