Football is central to the story of Ted Lasso, and as season 3 is set to feature more of the beautiful game than ever, it’s time to take a closer look at some aspects of the sport and culture that the show has chosen to portray, correctly or incorrectly, and theorise about other impactful elements that could potentially be included.
The Venn diagram overlap between the Ted Lasso audience and actual followers of the Premier League is, by all accounts, not a big one. For starters, the show has viewers worldwide, but with Apple TV+ not being widely adopted in England, it’s clear that the majority of the show’s audience hail from America, and the majority of those American viewers do not follow English football. Most Ted Lasso fans, regardless of nationality, do not follow football, which is fine, but on the flip side, many die hard English football fans are reluctant to engage with the show, writing it off as an unworthy, mockable portrayal of their sport. They are, for the record, wrong. I am an English fan of both Ted Lasso and real football, and the football aspect is my favourite part of the show.
While the season 3 premiere, which re-joined AFC Richmond in the middle of pre-season training, didn’t feature a ton of actual football being played, episodes 2 and 3 certainly did, and it seems clear that, in part due to Ted Lasso’s new licensing deal with the Premier League, we can expect to see a whole lot more of the beautiful game itself. As someone who’s grown up around football culture here in the UK and follows several Premier League teams (Roy Kent might judge me for supporting too many, but given that the primary one is Tottenham Hotspur, it’s definitely not trophy hunting for me) I’m really looking forward to seeing how the football side of Ted Lasso continues to play out in season 3.
Related: ‘Ted Lasso’ season 3, episode 3 in conversation: I weren’t being ironic, I was being hypocritical
Because while the party line is generally that Ted Lasso isn’t really about football — that it’s just a workplace ensemble, that the setting of a Premier League club is just the vessel the show uses to tell the stories about the characters we’ve grown to love, or hate, or love then hate but maybe love again one day in the future — it is, also, you know, very much about football. Some of the highest and lowest emotional moments in Ted Lasso so far happen on the football pitch, from Roy’s career-ending injury in the season 1 finale, to Jamie handing Dani the crucial penalty that sees Richmond promoted in season 2, and the culture and lifestyle that surrounds the game in England really does matter, in terms of what makes the Ted Lasso so special and what kind of stories it has the opportunity to tell.
Episode 3, “4-5-1,” saw plenty of action on the pitch as the show sped through six victorious Premier League match weekends, all featuring the domineering talent of the godlike Zava, but football, what football means, has maybe never been portrayed more powerfully than the events of episode 2, “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea,” which saw Roy receiving a warm hero’s welcome at Stamford Bridge, his former home ground where he lead Chelsea as captain for what must have been a decade or more. Ted Lasso seems to place Roy as a John Terryish, Frank Lampardesque composite legend within Chelsea’s history, and just a glimpse in the trailer of a blurry sign dedicated to him at the Bridge actually gave my conversation review co-writer enough detail to predict this moment almost exactly, as a replica of the reception given to Terry in December 2019, when he returned as the assistant coach of Aston Villa.
Related: ‘Ted Lasso’ season 3, episode 2 in conversation: There’s a part of me thinking maybe I should have stayed
Between this moment, the reveal of how traumatised Roy was, at 17, by Trent Crimm’s negative review of his debut, and the final monologue he gives, about how much he loved his old club and how he regretted walking away out of self preservation, “Chelsea” is Brett Goldstein’s strongest Ted Lasso episode to date, and it simply would not be that if the power of football wasn’t truly at the heart of the show. Yes, you can call that last moment a metaphor for Roy’s break up with Keeley, and it’s certainly representative of Roy’s mindset in general, but to relegate it to just that does Roy’s feelings about Chelsea, about his career, about what football means to him, a massive disservice.
Actor Phil Dunster was told by Spurs striker and England captain Harry Kane — a man who recently admitted to a scolding from his wife because he cried while being honoured for his record-breaking goal for England but not at the birth of his children — that the show captures something about being a footballer that isn’t normally captured. He would know. And indeed, both Roy Kent and Jamie Tartt would be impossible to recreate in some other workplace ensemble. They would not be as impactful if they were not specifically what they are — English working class boys who idolised football, who came from nothing to succeed at the highest level of the game. How the game has changed in the two decades of playing time that separates them, and what football itself actually means — not as a metaphor for life, but as its own true driving force and life-or-death passion, the thing that makes them feel the most, the thing that these guys sacrifice their youth and health to — is crucial to the stakes of Ted Lasso, and to certain arcs and relationships.
There is no show without how the characters feel about football. Ted Lasso isn’t a perfect portrayal of top tier English football, not by a long shot, and that’s fine. However, it’s possible to go too far the other way in defence of that premise, and say that it doesn’t matter if the details are wrong. Who cares? Because football isn’t really what the show is about. No. It is about football, and the story is often at its strongest when it’s about the actual football. So in the spirit of that, I wanted to go over some of Ted Lasso gets right about the wonderful world of football, some of the things it gets wrong, and some elements of the game that I’d like to see incorporated later in season 3.
Related: ‘Ted Lasso’ season 3, episode 1 in conversation: ‘You ever wonder why we’re here, coach?’
Disclaimer: This article isn’t about ripping apart the quality of the football played on the pitch — I’ve seen some pieces that analyse that aspects, but honestly, I just get so carried away by the action that I’m never concerned about whether or not any of these actors would hold up in an actual Premier League match. This is about examining the off-pitch details — some small, some large — that stand out to me as a football fan, and referencing other realities of a Premier League team or wider football culture that we haven’t seen yet, but that I hope that Ted Lasso may feature during season 3.
Right: The Kit Update
AFC Richmond’s uniforms, or kits, (the top is always a shirt, never a jersey!) look very different this season, thanks largely to Apple’s new Nike partnership and that aforementioned licensing deal that the show has cut with the Premier League. In season 2, the show had a smaller deal with the FA that allowed them to, for instance, film at Wembley, and show the FA Cup logos, including the sleeve badge worn by the team during those specific matches. but this new one is a lot broader. Said to be worth around £500,000, it allows Ted Lasso to use the Premier League’s logos, the official kits for all the other clubs in the league, archive footage from matches and even the league trophy. And it means that fans of the Premier League will spot some very familiar additions to Richmond’s new kit, like the familiar lion, and the league-wide “No Room For Racism” arm badge. Richmond also seem to have gone for a cheeky Nandos in terms of their new sleeve sponsor.
From a behind the scenes perspective, the updated kit for season 3 is a whole lot more realistic than the show has had the chance to have before — these shirts look fully legit. But in-universe, it’s also just good football realism for a team to get a re-designed shirt for the new season. Most teams do it every single year, despite some lukewarm attempts by the Premier League to stop excessive kit updates from happening. Back in 2000, the League added a proposal to its charter that said teams should only introduce a new home kit once every two seasons. As a supporter, buying your team’s shirt can be expensive, especially if you want to stay up to date and they keep changing it every year, so the idea was introduced to help make it easier for fans to wear their team’s colours. Unfortunately, it wasn’t legally binding, and the two-year cycle is flouted by most sides in the Premier League. Shirts are seen as a way to generate more and more income — from merchandise sales, yes, but also with new sponsorship deals, and as a result, teams rarely stick with a shirt design for more than one season.
Related: ‘Ted Lasso’ costume designer Jacky Levy on the challenge of maintaining individuality at a funeral and the origin of Roy Kent’s socks
And it’s not just one new shirt a year — some clubs release two, three, even four shirts a season to try and get as much money from sales as possible. In a slight defence of these clubs, it can sometimes be a part of their contract with the sportswear companies that produce and sponsor their kits that they must release a set number of shirts per season. But if clubs really wanted to, they could refuse to sign contracts with these terms and keep a kit for longer. One team has actually done just that and bucked the trend — in fact, it was Richmond’s onscreen rival Brentford, who were promoted to the Premier League for the first time ever for the 2021/2022 season. They announced in November 2021 that they’ll keep their 2021/2022 kit for 2022/2023 because they want to make it more affordable for fans to wear the current kit, as well as more environmentally sustainable by reducing the amount of shirts that need to be produced, and their new income thanks to Premier League broadcasting meant they were able to take the hit of a loss of retail sales.
The fact that Richmond kept the same kit between season 1, which was the 2019/2020 football season, and season 2, the 2020/2021 season, is somewhat unusual and fairly unrealistic. The major change for them was the shirt sponsor, losing Dubai Air and gaining Bantr, but that’s not the same situation at all — even relegated teams get an annual redesign, this is not a factor that is usually seen as a cost-saver for the new, smaller budget. But perhaps Richmond are following Brentford’s lead in affordability and sustainability. It makes sense for Richmond to get a new kit as they go back up into the Premier League, but I like to imagine they’ll keep bucking the trend and retain it for more than one season!
Wrong: The Locker Room
That place where the team all get dressed before a match? It’s called the dressing room. Not the locker room. We don’t do those in this country, not where football is concerned.
This really annoys me, because it’s an Americanism that the show puts in the mouth of the British characters and I do not understand why. Ted would use it, sure, but there are so many things in the show that Ted says and gets corrected on, terminology wise. Why wasn’t this one of them? Ted Lasso has made scripting choices, along the way, that are clearly in deference to the American audiences, and I get it, sometimes, but did it have to be this one? A few foreign players and coaches do say it — it depends on when and how they learned English — but Brits never do, and dressing room is the standard terminology when discussing the English leagues in the English media. The television pundits, for example, would never say locker room. Rebecca would never say locker room. Roy Kent would never fucking say locker room! And yet the show insists on making this the terminology that all the British characters use.
They should have made it yet another term, like boots, or pitch, or training, that Ted, and American viewers, learnt the British version of. The show actually course-corrected on something like this in season 1 — it had British reporters using “tie” instead of “draw,” but they changed it for season 2. So why does “locker room” persist?
Related: Football is life: ‘Ted Lasso’ takes on ‘Heart of Stone’ for Mark Milsome Memorial Cup
This might seem trivial, but there are actually quite a few phrases and sentiments in football that reference the dressing room, the most famous of which is when managers are said to have “lost the dressing room.” Losing the dressing room is when a manager has lost the respect of the players — the players no longer trust him, they no longer believe he knows what he’s doing or has a grip on what’s needed. And when a manager loses the dressing room it only means bad things for a team’s performance.
And it’s deeply important to the players. It’s considered their inner sanctum, a place where they can come together as a team and believe in themselves so deeply they can achieve anything (say, by touching a Believe sign before going back out in the season 2 finale to level the game and get promoted) or a place where fights and tensions cause a rift so deep that games are lost before they even start. That part Ted Lasso gets right. Well, sort of. More on that in a bit. It’s just the terminology that’s the problem. If Roy Kent was real, he would headbutt his fictional counterpart for ever uttering the words locker room.
Side note: Interestingly, it’s often said that the most important person in the dressing room isn’t a player or the manager or the coaching staff. It’s the kit man that sets the tone and creates a positive atmosphere — a best friend, class clown energy, willing recipient of pranks and shoulder to cry on kind of fellow. “They tend to be the life and soul of that space because they see you every day. They tend to have been there for a long time. They provide you with lots of entertainment. They keep people together through their jokes,” says former Manchester City defender Nedum Onuoha in a Vice article on the matter. If you give it a read, I think you’ll agree that Nate Shelley was entirely in the wrong job. How on earth did he ever get hired for it?
Want: Academy, Reserves and the WSL
A club of Richmond’s size and history is almost guaranteed to be fielding more teams than just the Men’s First Team that we see featured on our screens, and one thing I’d love to see in season 3 is a glimpse of the other groups of players that would, realistically, be a part of AFC Richmond as well.
Firstly, there’s their Academy. Under new rules, by the 2024/2025 season all Premier League teams must have an academy of a specific rating in order to compete in the league. Right now, across both the Premier League and the Championship there are only two clubs that don’t meet that requirement — Brentford in the Premier League, and Huddersfield in the Championship. Both teams have academies, just not at the Category 3 standard needed, so it’s safe to assume that a club like Richmond, who had sat safely mid table in the Prem for many years, would have an academy of at least that level by the time we meet them in season 1. Academies can sign children from as young as 9 to begin their professional training in conjunction with schooling, and as they go, they’re either released or kept on and stepped up through the levels.
The academies in turn feed each club’s development squads — these are teams made up of younger players who have gone through the academy system and signed a contract with the club. Teenage players are able to sign their pro contract at age 17 but often aren’t yet at the level needed for the First Team, so they play in their own development team league called Premier League 2 and, with new post-Brexit rules limiting how many players from Europe between the ages of 18 and 21 can be signed by a club, this talent pool can be vital in bringing new blood into a squad. Players on the development squad are able to be called up for a first team match at any moment, play a game or two, and then go back to the reserves, they are available talent on tap and their shirt numbers reflect this — they play in higher numbers, so there’s no messing about with assigning them a new one if they make their senior debut then go back down.
In Ted Lasso, Jamie Tartt’s season 1 Manchester City number, 51, is a clear marker that he was called up from the Man City development squad but never got upgraded to a new lower number — or possibly never chose one, like City’s Phil Foden, who’s kept his development team number of 47 despite offers of other numbers since his permanent call up to the senior squad while still a teenager. So that numbering is a little football detail the show nailed that acknowledges Jamie’s City Academy roots. And Ted has actually mentioned “reserves,” but he tends to mean it as in “the other 15 people here as opposed to our fixed starting 11.” But Richmond would actually have a reserve team, as in, a development squad of young players waiting for their senior call up, training under their own coach and playing in their own competition, and it would be cool to see some of our Greyhounds mix with either the Academy kids or a fresh young home-grown teenager, being given his first shot with the big boys.
Related: The ‘Ted Lasso’ character team-ups we’d like to see getting good minutes during season 3
But there’s one Richmond team I’d especially like to see in season 3. The women’s team. In July 2022, football finally came home in England when the Lionesses won the Women’s Euros. It shone a huge spotlight on women’s football in the UK, and how, compared to the men’s game, it’s very underfunded and not given anywhere near enough spotlight.
That wasn’t always the case. Before 1921, the women’s game in England was hugely popular — more popular than even the men’s games in some cases. The problem was, it wasn’t run by the Football Association (FA) — the governing body for football in England — and so they couldn’t control the money raised or anything about the teams. The FA couldn’t officially stop women playing, but what they could do was ban women’s matches from being held at FA affiliated club grounds, which is exactly what they did. Without the ability to hold games in large capacity stadiums, people just lost interest. This ban lasted for 51 years, and women’s football all but died out in the UK until it was revived, slowly but surely, from the 70s onwards. The FA finally got involved with women’s football in 1993 and only officially apologised for the ban in 2008, the same year the Women’s Super League — the sport’s top tier for women, akin to the Prem — was founded.
The Lionesses’ historic win does seem to have upped public attention to the women’s game a lot, and now that the Women’s Super League is halfway through its 2022/23 season, it’s getting a lot more attention A clash last September between the Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur women’s teams saw an attendance of over 47,000 people — a new record for the league. And many clubs have really shifted to give their women’s teams a lot more airtime on social media, promoting both the matches and achievements of both teams with, if not equal enthusiasm, them much more than there has been in the past.
And a few female footballers are fans of the show! USWNT member Alex Morgan has previously dressed as Keeley Jones for Halloween, and England captain Leah Williamson, who has been seen attending numerous events in London with the Ted Lasso cast, recently donned a Richmond shirt in honour of the season 3 premiere. Given this support, it would be great to see Ted Lasso season 3 reference Richmond’s own women’s team in some way. Every club in the Premier League has one, and they’d be no exception. Maybe Roy could take Phoebe to a women’s match, maybe Isaac’s married to the Richmond women’s goalie, maybe Rupert never cared about the women’s team, but since Rebecca has taken over, she’s started investing a ton of money into its promotion and development. Maybe Shannon — the schoolgirl we see playing football on multiple occasions throughout seasons 1 and 2 — could be scouted for the team. Whatever the story, I’d just love to see the women’s game get some love this season.
Right: Relegation Trauma
Season 1 of Ted Lasso obviously ends with Richmond getting relegated, sent down to the EFL Championship — the second highest league in football in the UK.
If you’re watching Ted Lasso and you don’t know football — especially as an American where the big leagues are static, with guaranteed spots for the next season, regardless of how well you do — it might be hard to understand exactly how big a deal relegation is. The show definitely makes it clear that Ted doesn’t understand the stakes, both in the way he initially tries to put Roy’s happiness and wants above the whole team’s future and in his explanation of how it works in the NFL, but the impact it can have on a club goes beyond emotional disappointment. Relegation is not just heartbreaking for the players and fans of a football team. It’s a crisis for the whole club.
There are a lot of football leagues in the UK. Obviously Richmond started in the Premier League, the top tier, and went down to the EFL Championship. The Championship is still an incredibly wealthy and successful football competition that is rated above a lot of the top tiers in other countries, but within the English football clubs it is still a big, big loss. The lower you are down the hierarchy, the less you’re shown on television, and the less you’re shown on television the less money you get from broadcast rights, which could lead you to not being able to afford some of your highest-paid players anymore. Selling a star, or a youngster with potential, to a club with better opportunities for him, even if he doesn’t want to go, may be the best way to generate needed income. It can also see you being dropped by sponsors and struggling to find new ones, as they all want to be attached to the best teams.
Related: Coming out of the dark forest: The ‘Ted Lasso’ season 2 finale in conversation
Ted Lasso addresses this a bit in season 2, when Higgins and Rebecca have their conversation about paying Premier League wages on Championship level income. They’re already concerned about being able to fund the club, even before going to war with one of their biggest sponsors on behalf of Sam. And even if you can pay people the wages they want, your top players may still prefer to leave the team — in fact may have an exit clause in their contract if relegated — instead of wasting a year of their short careers in the relative obscurity of a lower league. And the lower you go the harder it is to get back up. It’s easy for a club to end up on a downward spiral and become entirely deconstructed due to relegation, if their best players are sold to keep the club afloat and the quality of the football drops. Sunderland, the club that scouted Roy when he was a child, currently sits in the Championship and have been in the Premier League when Roy signed his contract. But after a series of relegation battles, they lingered for years and years in the third tier League One, and have been mired with financial crises — a story covered in the documentary series Sunderland ‘Til I Die.
The point is, the devastation that the team, the fans and even Rupert Mannion are all shown to feel at the end of season 1 is very real. Rebecca may have come to regret her plan before the end of the season, but it could have had far worse consequences for AFC Richmond if the team had not achieved a swift promotion back up the following season. The Greyhounds’ fears of re-relegation this season make sense, even if the chances of it happening, to us as viewers, seem slim in terms of the narrative.
Wrong: The Training Ground
In Ted Lasso, the bulk of the action happens at Nelson Road, the home ground of the Greyhounds. Whether it’s the matches themselves, scenes in the dressing room before matches or training, moments in Rebecca’s office or antics out on the training pitch, it’s the most integral location of the show. It is also extremely unrealistic, because teams in the top tiers of English football do not train at their main stadium.
It should go without saying that football training does not ever occur on the (very expensive to maintain) stadium pitch, but the training pitches aren’t just right next door either. A club’s training ground does not share any infrastructure with the stadium. Players would not show up every day and enter the same car park, walk through the same hallways, shower in the same dressing room as they do on a match day. They wouldn’t, in Richmond’s case, see that Believe sign either on match days, or at training every day — it’d be one or the other. Because in reality, the dressing room at a professional football stadium is only used for matches, and with these stadiums being located in easily accessible places so fans can get to them, there’s seldom room surrounding them for the extensive training facilities that a club requires.
Crystal Palace’s stadium, Selhurst Park, is used as a stand-in for Nelson Road, but their training ground is four miles away in Beckenham. Chelsea’s training ground in Cobham is a 20 mile journey from Stamford Bridge in West London, with most players choosing to live out in Surrey close to the training centre as opposed to near the gameday stadium they visit once every two weeks. And it’s not just the Premier League, or the Championship — Wrexham AFC, the fifth-tier National League club and focus of documentary series Welcome To Wrexham, which charted the club’s journey as they were bought by Ryan Reynolds and Rob Mcelhenney, train at Colliers Park, three miles from their Racecourse Ground.
Wrexham is not a special exception to the rule due to their recent injection of Hollywood cash — this is the norm across most of the leagues. One actual, albeit imperfect exception is Manchester City’s purpose-built Etihad Campus. It spans 80 acres, features 16 pitches — some indoor, some out — and the team’s massive home ground, Etihad Stadium resides on the same piece of land, but it’s far enough from the training ground that players are transported over from the team hotel or the training ground for their matches on a special bus. The Manchester City training ground and stadium carry vaguely the same address, but again, the players would not frequent the same dressing room, offices, and car parks on training and match days.
Related: A ‘Ted Lasso’ season 3 trailer breakdown so exhaustive it may actually be unhinged
Even if we did assume that Richmond is a rare exception that does have its training ground on a mini-campus right next to its main stadium, and that for some reason, the stadium itself does not contain a separate dressing room for match days, this inaccuracy has carried over to a new location in season 3 as well. In episode 3.01, we see Nate arriving at work at the imposing London Stadium and leading training on the actual stadium pitch. Leaving aside the fact that the first time we met Nate, he was screaming at Ted and Beard to get off the — again, very expensive — grass at Nelson Road, signifying that both Nate and the show knows that abusing the stadium pitch is a no-go zone, in reality, West Ham trains at the Rush Green training centre, eleven miles east on the outskirts of London.
Ted Lasso’s decision to have all the training and dressing room scenes happen at Nelson Road, and now London Stadium, is one of the show’s biggest concessions to the truth of football. They know this isn’t how it works, but to translate the story for TV, they’ve handwaved that element of reality. If Ted Lasso followed real football logistics, there would be two “locker room” (dressing room) sets, one we see for training, and one we see for matches. Two car parks. Offices in different places, no easy access to Rebecca’s main office or Ted’s coaching office at any given moment. For both practical and emotional reasons, this decision means the show can use and re-use the same standing sets, centering the Richmond dressing room with its Believe sign at the heart of every episode. It means Ted can walk to work each day, whether it’s for a match or for training. It’s less expensive, and less to explain to the audience. But in terms of real football, it’s completely logistically incorrect, and I have no idea how many viewers are aware of that. Well, now you know.
Want: A Tiny Team Cup Tie
That’s tie as in match, not as in a draw. In season 2, Ted Lasso used the FA Cup ultimately as a vehicle to allow Richmond to meet Man City again in competition even though they were in different leagues. The show gave viewers a bit of an introduction to the concept of FA Cup, but we only see the later stages of the tournament when most of the smaller teams had been knocked out. I understand why we skipped all the earlier FA matches leading to their quarter-final match with Tottenham Hotspur — at this stage in Ted Lasso, Richmond were the underdogs, and we needed to see them beat one top team, and lose to another, for plot purposes. But the egalitarian draw system of the FA Cup leads to some big surprises — for example, in this season’s fifth round, fourth-tier Grimsby Town knocked Premier League team Southampton out of the running to advance to the quarter finals — and one of my favourite things is seeing big teams play small teams in the middle of nowhere. The best recent example of this happened in January 2021, when Spurs played against Marine AFC, a club that sits in the eighth tier of English football.
Marine’s team was made up of amateur footballers whose day jobs included people working in car plants and as refuse collectors. Spurs had to get changed into their kits at the local pub. And while the match was closed to spectators because of the ongoing pandemic, locals gathered outside the fence to watch their local team play their biggest match in club history. It was also, in fact, the biggest mismatch in the 149 year history of the FA Cup — never before had two clubs so far apart in the leagues faced each other. And sure, Tottenham beat Marine AFC 5-0, but such a result was always expected, and it was a match that Marine AFC and its supporters will never forget. Not least because thanks to 30,000 Spurs fans buying virtual tickets to a game they couldn’t even attend, thousands of pounds were raised for the tiny team, helping them invest in their team and playing ground and community.
Look, I just think it was neat, okay? And if season 3 of Ted Lasso features any kind of FA or Carabao Cup storyline, I hope it shows Richmond in an earlier round, playing against a much smaller team this time. If Ted thought Richmond v Spurs was a David v Goliath situation, he’d get a real kick out of this kind of mismatch. Although, on second thoughts, maybe he’d feel too guilty knocking such a small team out of the running. Beard might have his work cut out convincing Ted not to go easy on them.
Right: The Coaching Staff
When Roy joined the Richmond coaching staff in season 2, there were a fair few comments from fans asking just how many coaches one football team actually needs. The answer, in reality, is a lot! The coaching staff of a Premier League team is huge. Take Crystal Palace, the team whose ground is used as the fictional Nelson Road. They, like Richmond, had until very recently, four main coaches — manager Patrick Vieira and then three assistant coaches, who all left with Viera in March. New manager Roy Hodgson has brought in two assistants, like Ted has currently, but Palace have retained goalkeeping coach Dean Kiely, and all clubs, including Richmond would have one staff member whose sole job it is to train their goalie. At the top of the league, the numbers are even higher. Jamie Tartt’s former club and last year’s Premier League champions Manchester City have eight members on their coaching staff. That’s before you get to the fitness coaches and strength and conditioning coaches that all clubs would engage — the trainers who do a lot of the physical legwork with the team. You actually see those coaches in Ted Lasso, they’re there on the training pitch in coaching uniform. They have no lines or focus, but they’re part of the fabric of Richmond.
It’s not just the number of coaches that Ted Lasso gets right – it’s the fast turnover of managers too. The season obviously starts with Rebecca firing the loathsome George Cartrick and bringing in Ted as his replacement. Some might think that sacking a manager mid-season and replacing them that quickly was a bit convenient for plot purposes, but they would be wrong. In reality, players, fans and owners can turn on a manager fast and call for their dismissal. Rebecca, as all owners do, wields far more control over the manager’s job than she does over any of the players. Managers are not protected till the end of a certain season or term, like the players are, if they have a bad run of games. Their contract can be bought out and they can be sent packing overnight.
Related: Anthony Head sometimes doesn’t recognize himself on ‘Ted Lasso,’ and he likes it that way
The 2021/2022 season saw ten managers sacked during the season. Watford actually changed manager twice – Xisco Muñoz was replaced by Claudio Ranieri in October 2021, and then in January 2022 he was replaced by Roy Hodgson – yes, the same one I just mentioned, who is now Crystal Palace’s manager. Hodgson only signed a short term contract with Watford, and now that they’re back down in the Championship they’re still struggling to commit to a manager. Rob Edwards started at the club on June 30, 2022 and was sacked after less than three months in charge. His successor, Slaven Bilić lasted a whole six months in the job, but in March 2023 he was replaced by Chris Wilder. Good luck to him.
This season in the Premier League is set to be even worse than the last, with a new record set for in-season managerial changes. Five managers were sacked between August and December 2022. Everton sacked Frank Lampard in January, Leeds sacked Jesse Marsch at the start of February, and a week later Nathan Jones was sacked by Southampton after only three months in charge. All three clubs are either in or hovering just above the relegation zone, and their managers were clearly sacrificed in a last ditch attempt to keep the teams up in the Prem. The sacking trend continued in March with Crystal Palace sacking Patrick Vieira after they went 12 matches without a win and Spurs finally parting ways with Antonio Conte after an increasingly more tense relationship. With this year’s relegation battle being extremely hotly contested, we could yet see more sackings from some of the other clubs hovering close to the bottom of the table.
It’s a pretty brutal career, and honestly my opinion is that clubs and fans are often too quick to turn on a manager and kick them to the curb, especially newer managers, before they get a chance to properly prove themselves. But I’m not a very good football fan — I just want everyone to have a nice time and not be mean to each other. Although in George’s case, I don’t actually blame Rebecca for sacking him. He is pretty awful, both as a manager and a human being.
Update: Between the final draft of this article and its scheduled publication, Brendan Rodgers was sacked by Leicester City after their April Fools Day defeat to Crystal Palace. He’d been in the role for four years and led them to their first ever FA Cup victory in 2021, when they beat Chelsea in the final.
Update 2: Speaking of Chelsea, since the above update was added, but still prior to publication, the Blues have announced that Graham Potter would be leaving after less than seven months in the role, following their 1st April defeat to Aston Villa. I can’t keep up, and neither can this article.
Wrong: The Coaching Licence
While Ted Lasso does get the size of the coaching staff about right, it is highly unlikely that the four Richmond coaches would actually have been allowed to coach Richmond as a Premier League team. Why? Because to coach a Premier League team you need a UEFA Pro coaching licence. And that is not quick, cheap or easy to get.
You need to work your way through the various levels to reach the top qualification and the courses include requirements like being attached to a club where you’ll be actively coaching throughout a season-long competition, often a youth side. The second highest licence, UEFA A, allows the holder to be the head coach of a youth team, head coach of the development or reserve squad at a top-flight clubs, or the manager of a men’s professional second-tier club, like an EFL Championship team. The final licence, UEFA Pro, which is what is needed to coach a Premier League team for longer than a caretaker period of 12 weeks, takes a minimum of 360 hours to complete, and that’s only once you’ve successfully obtained the C, B and A licences in turn, and have also racked up over two and a half years of practical coaching experience at the levels each certificate qualifies you for.
So if a person did manage to complete all the requirements needed to be certified to coach a top tier European team, it would take them several years and around £15,000 to get the full qualifications. The likelihood that Ted and Beard as college football coaches just happened to have a UEFA Pro licence ready and in place before boarding a plane to Heathrow back in season 1 is small. The likelihood that Nate Shelley had studied for and achieved a UEFA B licence, the level required to become assistant coach of a professional club, just in case? Also pretty small, especially as that certificate requires the prior acquisition of a UEFA C licence and six months amateur coaching experience.
Roy is more plausible. Coaching is a common job for players to go into, the FA actively encourages players to consider the coaching pathway they have set up, and a lot of players get some of their licences while they’re still playing. İlkay Gündoğan and Kevin De Bruyne at Manchester City are both currently working their way through the coaching levels. Gündoğan holds a B licence, and De Bruyne was recently awarded his UEFA A badge, both players gaining their practical experience in coaching at Man City’s academy, so it’s not impossible that Roy got his licence while playing at Chelsea and then Richmond. However, given how much Roy was forcefully avoiding thinking about his future beyond playing football, and how initially reluctant he was to come on board as a coach in season 2, even that seems unlikely.
Oddly, there is one possibility that could explain all of this, and that can be found in the example of Will Still, the manager of Reims, a Ligue 1 side — the French top tier of football. 30 year old Still, whose interest in coaching began with the game Football Manager and coaching U14 youth teams in England, took over as Reims manager in October 2022, and at the time, he did not have his UEFA Pro Licence. This cost Reims £22,000 in fines every time he stepped out onto a pitch to coach a match, and the club willingly paid this for months, because he’s been doing extraordinarily well. Still has since started taking the Pro course, and as such, the league have agreed to waive the fee for future matches, I’m sure to the relief of Reims’ owners. So it could be that Richmond just happily paid the fines every time Ted, Beard, Nate and Roy showed up for a match until they’d started working towards their qualifications to an extent that satisfied the FA, but if that’s the case, forget Sam’s Dubai Air protest losing them sponsorship money — it’s the fines that might have ended up bankrupting Richmond.
Want: The World Cup
Season 3 of Ted Lasso is set during the 2021/22 Premier League season, and outside of the standard league and cup matches, there would be a series of hugely important games that at least a few Richmond players would likely be a part of. Across the world, national football teams would have still been playing World Cup qualifiers during this football season, in advance of the 2022 tournament.
As you may have noticed, in November 2022, 32 national teams came together in Qatar to compete in the FIFA World Cup. But to get to Qatar, those teams first had to earn their spot in a series of qualifying matches, matches that fell during each country’s domestic league seasons. Every year, domestic leagues get paused several times for international breaks, allowing players to join their national teams for a week or so and train together for a series of matches to determine which countries will end up going to either the World Cup or their continent’s next confederation tournament, like the Euros. The Premier League was on break this week, for example, and European teams played their first qualifying rounds for Euro 2024, and the 2021/22 season contained 5 international breaks rather than the usual 4, due to COVID delaying the Africa Cup of Nations.
The 2022 World Cup was unusual, because it was held in the middle of the 2022/2023 football season, in December, due to the climate conditions of host nation Qatar. I’m not personally wild about the Qatar situation on ethical grounds — from the slave labour used to build the stadiums, to the fact that Qatar’s stance on LTBGQ+ people left many queer football fans reluctant or scared to travel to the tournament because of their sexuality. However, I am desperate for some kind of World Cup storyline in Ted Lasso. Given that the show ignored the existence of the pandemic in-universe, maybe they’ll do me a solid and choose to set their fictional upcoming World Cup in say, Australia — who also put in a bid to host the 2022 tournament and are in fact hosting the Women’s World Cup in 2023 — instead.
A different location would also work better with the show’s timeline. Any other year, the World Cup would be held in the summer break during seasons, or, in terms of Ted Lasso, directly off the back of season 3, so season 3 itself, by all laws of football, should contain international breaks where a handful or Richmond players are called up to play in the final qualifiers, or, for countries that would have already qualified, in some international friendlies, an opportunity for new players to show their value to the national team and increase their chances of being selected for the World Cup squad itself.
Picture the storylines that could happen. Sam getting to play for the Nigerian team in the qualifying rounds despite Edwin Akufo’s best attempts at sabotage! Dani and Zoreaux could represent Mexico and Canada in their qualifying matches and fly out together — the fact that in real life, their first match against one another’s countries ended in a draw makes it even better. But more than anything, I want the show to cover Jamie’s first call up to the England national team.
Related: ‘Ted Lasso’ composer Tom Howe on creating the white noise of Ted’s anxiety, the rawness of Jamie’s heart, and the warning of Nate’s descent
Jamie is a product of Man City’s academy, and someone who has played for their first team. It’s likely that he played for England at the junior levels, Under 19s and so on, and realistically, someone of his talent and experience would have received his first call up before now. It’s his actions in recent years that may have prevented this from happening — players have been dropped for bad behaviour, so Jamie’s prior bad attitude, culminating in his chaotic decision to walk out on City and go star on Lust Conquers All, could have seen him blacklisted from the national team until now, an idea that a recent profile with Phil Dunster raises in its opening paragraph. If thinking about Jamie entering the real current England squad, there’s also the issue that strikers are not in high demand — it’s hard to get a look in while Harry Kane is fit, as Dunster raised when discussing Jamie’s FIFA rating.
He’s perfectly correct. Regardless of how good Jamie is, as long as Harry Kane is in form he’s always going to be England’s starting striker. It’ll be a while before Jamie would ever be the one to wear the 9 for England. He would definitely start out as a substitute, but there is still space for him in England’s attacking line, especially as he’s been getting more versatile positionally. He could definitely support Kane, or the show’s equivalent of him, as a second striker, a winger, or even an attacking midfielder.
Playing for your country is a huge deal for footballers. It’s not something that’s particularly lucrative — they don’t get paid for it beyond a small appearance fee per match, and the England squad donates those fees to charity. It’s in some ways purer than club football, more about the honour and glory and love of the game. In fact, some managers get frustrated by players wasting energy on international duty, and there is the occasional player who doesn’t fancy it either. But it would mean so much for Jamie to get called up, even if he only gets to play a few minutes, subbed on towards the end of the match. To score a goal at Wembley for England, is, I guarantee, one of the biggest dreams of his life. I would love to see the show explore that opportunity for him, especially if it came about as a happy side effect of the one-on-one training he’s doing with Roy, who was a respected England international himself in his day. In fact, forget Zava. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if getting Jamie on the England squad is what Roy had in the back of his mind all along. I hope he’s the one who gets to tell Jamie about the call-up.
Right: Hooliganism and Rivalries
In “Beard After Hours,” Coach Beard meets an adversary in a dark alley – James Tartt, Jamie’s father. Ted Lasso has established that James Tartt is obsessed with Jamie’s career, but not necessarily all that knowledgeable about how he should actually be playing. From his previous appearances, he seems to only want contact with Jamie for bragging rights and access to matches, and he cares way more about the achievements of Manchester City than he does his actual son. But when he told Beard that football doesn’t happen on the pitch, it happens on the streets, it hammered home for me that James Tartt is a proper football hooligan, and a dangerous one. And that’s before they came at him with a bit of lead pipe.
This moment is a smart allusion to an element of football that Ted Lasso doesn’t delve too deeply into: the darkness of hooliganism, and how nasty it can get. The organised “firms” that follow each club will meet for planned or unplanned clashes of gang violence and other criminal activities that have little to do with football. They are usually racist, homophobic and a pipeline to white supremacy. The Seaburn Casuals, the firm attached to Roy’s first club Sunderland, are really rough: in the early 2000s, Sunderland was often at the top of the table in terms of football-related arrests, and the group has been involved in some of the most violent incidents in British hooligan history, most of it with Newcastle supporters, their main rivals.
Related: Phil Dunster of ‘Ted Lasso’ delivered one of 2021’s greatest TV performances, and Emmy voters need to remember that
These rivalries, or derbies as they’re known, are another element of football that Ted Lasso touches upon. A derby is a regular game in any competition, except it’s played between teams based in the same city or area. The reason it gets a special name is that such teams are traditionally bitter rivals, so games between them are heated, dramatic and often violent. They often have more specific names based on the location, especially if a river or a historical event is involved. In the show, Richmond is said to have a traditional rivalry with Brentford, another team based in West London, who they play their final match of the season with and the resulting draw sees them getting promoted again.
Some other famous derbies in England are Manchester Derby (Man City vs. Man United) the Merseyside Derby, (Liverpool vs. Everton, both teams are based in Liverpool, on the Mersey river,) and the North London Derby (Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal) and as mentioned above, the Tyne-Wear Derby between Newcastle and Sunderland. It takes a lot for fans of big derby rivals to come together, and when it happens it tends to be an emotional occasion. Fans of Liverpool and Everton still hold memorials together for the 97 people who died in the Hillsborough stadium disaster back in 1989. And fans of Manchester City and Manchester United raised money together for victims of the Manchester Arena terrorist attack in 2017.
Someday in the future, Jamie Tartt may want to leave Richmond and move on to a top flight club. If that happened, and he really wanted to piss his dad off, he could consider signing with Manchester United. If that happens, though, James may literally have him killed if he doesn’t pass away himself from an aneurysm, so probably best that he picks somewhere else.
Wrong: The Team Bus
Oh, they’d have one. They just wouldn’t use it to drive to all the way to Liverpool for an Everton match, as they do in season 1. Back in 2015, Tottenham Hotspur got into hot water with environmentalists after taking a plane from London to Bournemouth, a journey that would have been three and a half hours by coach. And they aren’t the only ones. Both Arsenal and Chelsea have been criticised for flying to Norwich — what would be a two and a half hour bus journey from London. And in February 2023, Liverpool were criticised for taking a 33 minute flight back home from a match in Newcastle, instead of the three hour drive.
There are many more examples. The fact is that even clubs at the bottom of the Premier League will fly to games that are further away. They say it’s for a variety of reasons: it’s bad for the players legs to be seated and immobile for hours on a bus, they get there faster so have more time to relax and prepare ahead of the game, it helps with recovery because you get home faster, the Premier League schedule is too packed and they need every minute they can.
Honestly, I’m with the environmentalists (and I bet Sam is too) — just get a bus — but the fact of the matter is that it is extremely unlikely that any Premier League team would make the 220 mile journey from Richmond to Everton on a bus. They, like Rebecca, would take a plane. However, in this particular case, maybe we can blame it on Rebecca’s sabotage. Maybe she kicked the players off the plane and made them take the bus in the hope that they would play badly and lose. Jason, Brendan — if that’s the explanation you would like to use, I’ll allow it. However, hints about the upcoming season suggest that the team will be taking an even longer journey by bus, and I’ll have a few big questions about that if and when it happens.
Want: Addressing Abusive Footballers
I spoke a bit about one darker element of football that Ted Lasso gets right — bad behaviour by the fans. There’s another toxic element that the show is yet to touch on, and that’s awful behaviour by footballers themselves, especially in regards to women, and football’s bleak history when it comes to handling those incidents.
Right now, there is a Premier League player who has been arrested on suspicion of rape in July 2022, and yet is still playing for his club, week in and week out. He also played in the World Cup while on bail. British police are still deciding whether or not to press charges, and in January 2023 his bail was extended a third time until July 2023 which shows the case is still being investigated. But because he hasn’t been formally named, the press aren’t allowed to name him either, despite the fact that everyone knows who it is. Every week, when he plays for his team or his country, scoring a goal or blocking another one, thousands of people cheer him on without caring about the impact it might have on his alleged victim, or other victims of sexual assault.
There have been so many cases of rape and assault — Benjamin Mendy, Mason Greenwood just to name a couple. And then, of course, there’s Cristiano Ronaldo, a player namechecked by Ted in the pilot, who is publically known to have admitted his rape accuser said “no” multiple times, paid off his accuser to stay silent, and then, when she pursued the matter again, had the case dismissed due to the accuser’s evidence including leaked documents. Despite these very credible allegations he has been welcomed with open arms by club after club after club, with players, pundits and fans alike continuing to laud him with praise for more than a decade. Ronaldo drove his own career off a cliff last year, and he’ll never play European football again, but it wasn’t the rape allegations that made most fans finally turn on him.
Now on the one hand, maybe it’s right that Ted Lasso hasn’t delved into this topic. The show gives us an optimistic, idealistic, sanitised take on the world of football, where almost everyone is trying their best and trying to be better. I’m not sure it’s the right place for tackling the issue of sexual assault or rape. Maybe in this world, footballers do not ever do that kind of thing. But on the other hand it has tackled other dark storylines well in the past — suicide, depression, abusive parental behaviour. Maybe it could handle something like this just as sensitively.
Related: James Lance of ‘Ted Lasso’ has seen the backlash from journalists, and says Trent Crimm was ‘happy to pull the pin’ on his career
So I’m in two minds about this one, and whether or not it’s a topic I think Ted Lasso could handle. But being a female fan of football can often be hard, because time and time again male fans, players and managers alike will put goals and wins ahead of women who have been raped or sexually assaulted. And it would be nice if Richmond, as the only Premier League club owned by a woman, fictional or otherwise, could be shown to take an actual stand against that.
Failing that, I would love a storyline in season 3 that does more to call out that level of toxic masculinity that is depressingly prevalent in football. The closest Ted Lasso has got to this topic is Nate’s unwanted kiss of Keeley in the season 2 finale, and his subsequent public confession in front of Keeley’s co-workers, who she may not have wanted knowing about it. While I’m not convinced Ted Lasso is going to do a deep dive on the awful trend of footballers being accused of rape, I do hope, at the very least, that Nate’s treatment of Keeley gets addressed as part of the redemption arc I’m sure we’ll be seeing from him.
Right: The Boss Dating A Player
One of the major romances so far in Ted Lasso is of course the Bantr-borne relationship between player Sam Obisanya and club owner Rebecca Welton, and it sparked a lot of debate online about both the realism of a relationship between a player and owner happening, and also the ethics behind it.
The idea of a relationship between a player and a high level club executive isn’t completely unheard of. Given the majority of club owners in the UK are men, and that as of the date of this article, there is one out queer football player across the top two leagues of English football, it is rare, but it’s happened. My favourite example of this is Karren Brady and Paul Peschisolido. Karren Brady, known as “The First Lady of Football,” is the current vice-chairperson of West Ham. She’s someone who Hannah Waddingham has cited as an inspiration for Rebecca’s character, and in fact was name dropped in the show along with Posh Spice and Delia Smith when Rebecca was being photographed for a profile on women in football.
Brady was the managing director of Birmingham City when she met striker Paul Peschisolido and subsequently married him, and while in charge of Birmingham City, she sold Peschisolido twice, for a profit. Which probably made for some interesting conversations at the dinner table! Karren and Paul probably aren’t the whole inspiration for Sam and Rebecca, but it shows there’s some precedent in English football here.
The main argument against Sam and Rebecca’s relationship is the power dynamic — leaving age aside, the fact that as the owner, she is his boss and can literally fire him. However, that’s not strictly true. In the world of football, all players are signed to clubs under contracts and those contracts will be negotiated by third party agents who represent the players’ interests first and foremost. When it comes to signing or dropping a player, the manager, in this case Ted, will have far more say about the players they want and need, and so while some owners might be more hands on and want to have final sign-off, they will always be guided by what the manager says.
But most importantly, considering the Sam and Rebecca element, when it comes to selling or transferring a player, the final say is down to the player themselves. If they decide they want to stay, then as long as they haven’t breached a condition in their contract, they will, at least until the end of their contract. (Jamie being sent away in season 1 does not apply in this scenario — his contract was held by Man City, and Richmond began to breach the terms of it by not playing him, so Rebecca was able to just allow them to fulfil their rights in claiming him back, rather than assure them that no further breaches would occur.)
Interestingly, while Rebecca wouldn’t have much of a say over a player’s contract, she does have final say over the firing and hiring of managers. Hence why getting rid of George so quickly, and hiring Ted, was her decision alone. Rebecca has complete power over Ted’s career in a way that she doesn’t over Sam’s, unless of course Ted leaves Richmond, so make of that what you will, in terms of power balances within potential relationships.
Wrong: The Agent Involvement
As highlighted above, there have been a few moments in Ted Lasso where a player’s contract is under discussion. In season 1, Jamie gets recalled to Manchester City part way through a loan. In season 2, he approaches Ted to ask to be allowed to play for Richmond once more, and towards the end of season 2, Edwin Akufo approaches Rebecca to ask to buy Sam’s contract.
In none of these situations do we see an agent playing a role. It’s not surprising why — it’s an extra random person in the room, doing all the talking when we care more about our characters, and honestly, it just isn’t exciting. But in reality, none of these situations would have happened without an agent being involved.
It’s very unlikely that Sam’s agent would let Sam swan around London with Edwin Akufo, having all kinds of conversations about teams, salaries and terms, without them being present. Players do not just make the decision to move clubs and countries on their own in that business. Even a line like “I’ll have to talk to my agent” really could have done some heavy lifting here.
In the case of Jamie being sent back, teams can recall a loaned player at any time if the two clubs both agree to it. Richmond benched Jamie, City enquired about terminating the loan if he was not going to get the minutes they wanted him to get, Rebecca agreed to the termination, and Jamie got sent back. But his agent would have been informed of all of this, would have handled the logistics, and definitely would have gotten a bit more information as to why it was happening, which might have left Jamie feeling a bit less resentful towards Ted. Or, you know, the agent would have gotten to the bottom of the matter regarding the “misunderstanding,” and nullified the plot point entirely.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Jamie might approach Ted privately, as he does in season 2, to try and convince him to sign him, separately to any agent negotiations, but the final contract deal would have been negotiated between the club and Jamie’s agent, not Ted and Jamie. This likely happened offscreen. Kind of boring, but I want to know the terms of that contract. How much of a pay cut did he take, for example?
That being said, the only agent we do see in Ted Lasso is actually Jamie’s, and he’s pretty useless. So maybe in the world of Ted Lasso, agents aren’t worth much and it’s best to do these things yourself.
Want: Social Media Content
My final want from Ted Lasso season 3 is less about things to include in the episodes and more about the additional promotional content surrounding the show. These days, part of playing for a Premier League team is being forced to do an endless amount of social media videos either for the club itself or for sponsors. Some of the players love it, some of the players obviously hate it and yet still get roped into doing it anyway, and others will amiably go along with it while at the same time clearly not having a clue what they’re doing.
Look. They’re really fucking stupid, but God they’re enjoyable. You can lose hours to them on YouTube. Take the time Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson was forced to lead a number of team members through a fake marketing meeting to come up with a new advertisement for coconut milk sponsor Chaokoh. Or the time that Jack Grealish, while still with Aston Villa, was put through the Right Guard Stress Test by Chicken Shop Date’s Amelia Dimoldenberg. Quizzing one another, rating things, or answering fan questions are all popular options. I can’t even get started on the England national team account — I don’t know how they manage to create so much content, but you could become a superfan of that team without ever watching a minute of football.
Related: ‘Ted Lasso’ hair and makeup designer Nicky Austin on season 2’s character journeys and what she and Juno Temple want fans to know about Keeley
Some clubs are more into content creation than others. The AFC Richmond Twitter account has always had a little bit of extra content, social media videos including a couple of post-match interviews, or “On This Day” in Richmond’s history talking heads. I would love it if, for season 3, they fully leaned in and treated that account like a real Premier League team does — littered with photos and videos from matches, as well as interviews or sponsor-based video promotion from the players. We are off to a good start, with the way they’ve roped Chelsea into posting content as if their match with Richmond was real, including a badly photoshopped match-day poster, a classic of the genre. The interview with Ruben Loftus-Cheek, a Chelsea Academy boy who would have known Roy a long time, was a particularly nice touch.
The EASports FIFA challenge featuring Jude Bellingham and Jamie Tartt nearly finished me off. That’s what I’m talking about, people. But with sponsors like Nandos and Bantr, I can think of about a million video challenges a real team would be forced to do, and I want to see Richmond doing them. It’s not all sponsor stuff, either. There’s lots of funny videos just dealing with daily life at the training ground. The clubs definitely want to sell the players’ personalities and camaraderie as part of their brand these days, and yes, I do want to watch a fifteen minute video diary where the Richmond players debate whether a hippo or crocodile would win in a fight. Brighton & Hove Albion’s kitman even has his own recurring quiz show on their YouTube channel. The idea of Will quizzing the team for the Richmond socials would be incredible. Who wouldn’t want to see that?