Wednesday, 19 Jun 2024

The Evolution of the Dugout in Football


Is there anything more peculiar in football than the ‘dugout’? Although referred to as the technical area nowadays, it remains an enigma. One would think that the sideline is not the optimal spot to grasp what occurs on the pitch. Television broadcasts rarely employ the steady-cam view throughout a match, and the priciest tickets offer a panoramic view from higher up, rather than being close to the hoardings. Yet, if a manager chooses to sit in the stands, they are criticized for being distant from their players.

Where did the concept of the dugout originate? How did it develop into the area we know today? These questions often arise when contemplating the peculiarities of football matches. While we’ve answered queries about pitch boundaries, corner flags, and yellow and red cards elsewhere on this site, the history of dugouts deserves exploration.

Let’s shed light on the rationale behind one of the most intriguing aspects of football matches. While we may not explain why managers still utilize dugouts in this day and age, where technology enables easy communication with their coaching staff from elevated positions, we’ll do our best to uncover its origins.

The Inventor of the Dugout and Its Popularity

dugouts on a pitch

Donald Colman, born on August 14, 1878, in a Scottish village, was a passionate football enthusiast. Despite having to deceive his parents to join his local team, his love for the game flourished from an early age. Colman played for Aberdeen over three hundred times, earned four Scotland call-ups, and might have achieved more in his career if not called up for World War One. After the war, he briefly resumed playing but also developed an interest in coaching. Eventually, he became a player coach for Dumbarton.

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Colman’s influence extended beyond Dumbarton. In the summers, he traveled to Norway to collaborate with football coaches and learn from their ideas. It was here that he observed coaches standing beneath open-fronted bus shelters, overseeing their teams. As a coach, Colman understood the importance of closely monitoring players’ footwork. When he returned to Aberdeen as a coach in 1931, he requested the groundskeepers at Pittodrie Stadium to dig out the ground alongside the pitch and construct an open-fronted shelter, similar to the ones in Norway.

From this vantage point, Colman could observe his players’ footwork and determine if they were implementing the training techniques he had imparted. Additionally, the shelter’s roof allowed him to take notes without his paper getting wet in the typical Scottish weather.

During a friendly match between Everton Football Club and Aberdeen in the 1930s, Everton staff admired the idea of a sunken dugout so much that they replicated it at Goodison Park upon returning to England. Thus, a football-obsessed Scotsman played a part in creating one of the most iconic and peculiar features on the football pitch, spreading its popularity throughout the United Kingdom and the world.

The Transition from Dugout to Technical Area

When Donald Colman devised the dugout concept to observe his players, it was a time when only the manager, coaches, and a trainer (who often acted as a physiotherapist) occupied the area. As the introduction of substitutes in the 1960s necessitated an expanded area for their inclusion, the dugout naturally grew in size.

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For many years, the dugout remained low to the ground, as evidenced by iconic images of football managers during this period. It wasn’t until the professionalization of football, when additional coaches, physiotherapists, and assistants joined the team, that the need for a higher position emerged. In 1993, FIFA’s Laws of the Game officially established the technical area, dictating its dimensions and distance from the pitch, as well as specifying where the manager and staff were allowed to go.

Occasionally, managers choose to sit higher up in the stands to obtain a comprehensive view of the pitch, communicating instructions to their coaches via radio. However, this practice often draws the ire of supporters who believe managers should be close to the pitch, expressing their passion to the players. For instance, George Graham of Arsenal and Sam Allardyce used to sit in the stands during the first half before moving to the sideline for the second half.

In his book ‘Tales From The Dugout,’ Richard Gordon recounts a claim by former Scotland manager Craig Brown, suggesting that he contemplated placing the dugout at Hampden Park on hydraulic legs to elevate himself if necessary. While a far-fetched idea, it is unlikely that significant developments will be made to the technical area in the near future.


Q: Why do managers sit in the dugout during matches?
A: The dugout, now known as the technical area, provides managers with a closer view of the match and allows them to communicate with their coaching staff and make notes about player performance.

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Q: Why are dugouts sometimes located higher up in the stands?
A: Some managers choose to sit in the stands for a more comprehensive view of the pitch, communicating with their coaches via radio. However, this is often met with disapproval from fans who expect managers to be closer to the pitch, expressing their passion to the players.

Q: Are there any plans to change the technical area in the future?
A: While there have been some imaginative ideas, such as hydraulic legs for elevating the dugout, it is unlikely that any major changes will be made to the technical area.


The dugout, now transformed into the technical area, has a rich history and an intriguing origin story. From a football fanatic in Scotland to its worldwide adoption, this oddity has become an integral part of the football experience. While its purpose and effectiveness are debatable, the dugout remains an iconic symbol on the football pitch, embodying the passion and strategy of the sport. For more information and updates on football, visit Movin993.