Sport Football

What does the term Gaffer mean?

Alex Ferguson  

What is it?

A British term for manager. It’s used mainly in football and rugby, but also cricket, where Alec Stewart appropriated it. The usage was more common in an earlier era, but with the globalisation of top-flight sport, the word has slipped to the periphery.

What is its origin?

In 16th century England, a gaffer was the head of an organised group of labourers. Also used colloquially to refer to an old man, which several managers were, the word entered the sports lexicon. It’s thought to derive from ‘godfather’ or ‘governor’.

Not to be confused with

The head electrician on a film crew, responsible for the lighting; a type of sailing boat; heavy-cotton adhesive tape used in industrial staging work: gaffers, the whole lot, but none capable of the gnarly orders their bossy sporting cousin barks out.

Who typified it?

Few wore the gaffer’s cloak better than Manchester United’s Matt Busby, Nottingham Forest’s Brian Clough, Liverpool’s Bill Shankly and Celtic’s Jock Stein, mythical figures from the 20th century. Alex Ferguson was, perhaps, the last of that line.

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 12:14:08 AM |

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