Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 · Health and Safety Regulations

Analysing England’s Miserable World Cup Campaign: the Underlying and Root Causes

Defeated England World Cup Team 2014

What a pitiful campaign the World Cup was for England! The physiotherapist twisting his ankle during Rooney’s goal celebrations was a dark omen, and there’s definitely material for a future blog post there somewhere! Still, at least England’s exit from Brazil was a relatively quick death and it’s times like these that we need to learn from the mistakes and focus on moving forward positively.

I wonder if there is any mileage in using Health and Safety’s domino and multi-causality theories to attempt to find some answers?

If you’re unfamiliar with these theories, the basic premise of the domino theory is that an undesired event or circumstance, that results in some sort of loss (injury, illness, property damage etc.), is usually attributable to one or more underlying factors. These underlying factors are not usually immediately obvious, as they can often be removed in space and time from the events that led up to them. The final domino to topple is the actual loss, the preceding ones are: the accident, the direct causes of the accident, the underlying causes, and the root causes. Multi-causality theory expands on this and suggests that there are usually many different sets of circumstances and factors at play, that converge on each other to cause the accident that leads to the eventual loss.

Domino Theory - underlying causes
Domino Theory – underlying causes

Example of the Domino theory applied to a workplace accident

Carpenter severs fingers – Loss
Carpenter’s hand makes contact with circular saw blade Accident
Circular saw blade exposed – Direct Cause 1
Carpenters attention is distracted – Direct Cause 2
Carpenter was nudged as someone walked past – Direct Cause 3

As you can see, there can be (and usually are) several direct causes. The real focus should be on the underlying reasons for those direct causes. For example, the exposed blade could have been in that dangerous state because the guard was removed, the carpenter’s attention could have been distracted because he may have been rushing to complete the job, and he could have been nudged because of a crowded and messy workplace. These would be the underlying causes.

But, in a proper investigation, additional questions need to be asked to establish why the guard was removed? Why the carpenter was under time pressures? Why the workplace was allowed to become crowded and messy? These would be the root causes and point towards a lack of management and absence of adequate risk control systems. For example, there should have been workplace inspections carried out to ensure the presence and proper use of guards. Management should be nurturing a positive health and safety culture within the organisation, which means that workers are not encouraged to rush through jobs at the expense of proper safety precautions and there should have been housekeeping checks in place, carried out by supervisory staff, to ensure that the workplace does not become crowded or messy.

So, back to football

What does the England World Cup campaign look like?

Example of the Domino theory applied to the England World Cup campaign

Big dent to national ego, loss of pride (if you are an England supporter) – Loss
England’s earliest exit from world cup since 1958 – Accident
England lose 2-1 to Italy – Direct Cause 1
England lose again 2-1 to Uruguay – Direct Cause 2

The direct causes involve both defensive errors and missed attacking opportunities. The underlying causes could be numerous…

• A tough draw?
• Lack of motivation/passion?
• Lack of truly world class players?
• Lack of general fitness/acclimatisation?

You may have your own ideas about some of the underlying causes, so go ahead and put them in the comments and let’s hear them.

As we have seen, for every underlying cause that can be identified, there will be root causes. These can be the most difficult to uncover because, as previously explained they are often removed in space and time from the final event.

Boys playing football in the streets of Brazil
Boys playing football in the streets of Brazil

Personally, my view is that the real root causes go much further than the England manager being new to the role and issues along those lines. I think we need to go deeper and wider than that. For instance, I can’t remember the last time I saw a group of kids playing a game of football on the recreation ground. Kids would rather play the virtual version of the game it seems. Kids in developing countries often don’t have these luxuries, so they do sports for fun (like we used to). Is the obesity problem a factor? It’s certainly been an issue for long enough now for us to be seeing effects such as a lack of talent making its way through from grassroots level. Have we got the funding model right at grassroots level? We all know that money is not an issue for players at the highest levels in football, but are we putting enough in at the other end? Public sports grounds and playing fields etc. are usually top of the list when local authorities are looking to cut costs.

These are only of few of my suggestions of what could be the root causes for England’s poor performance in Brazil. It would be interesting to hear what your views would be, both on the football and the health and safety…

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