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Who is running football operations at Sunderland? Meet the little-known figure behind much of it

Lois Jarvis is Sunderland AFC’s Head of Legal and Football Administration. Little known to most supporters, the solicitor has a growing remit and influence at the club.

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Sunderland v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images

Whilst the ownership of Ellis Short and continued failures of first team managers at Sunderland are once again attracting headlines following the dismissal of Simon Grayson, it is the often unseen football operations side of the business which also seems to be in a constant state of refresh and breakdown.

The crucial backroom functions of running the football club tend to be overlooked as events on the pitch at the Stadium of Light continue to be put in the spotlight as the struggles of the first team are rarely out of the news.

But what chance does a first team manager have if the back-office infrastructure does not adequately support them?

Whoever comes in next following the sacking of Simon Grayson may well have a huge job on their hands to change the effectiveness and culture of Sunderland AFC.

The football operations side of the business deals with the day-to-day administrative running of the club and includes logistics, recruitment, contract management, negotiation and legal matters.

Previous failed attempts to coordinate this function at Sunderland have encompassed the two long since discredited Directors of Football - Roberto De Fanti and Lee Congerton - as well as the short-lived role created when former Manchester City analyst Simon Wilson joined the club in January before departing in July.

In recent years, much of these administrative tasks were carried out and overseen by former Boston college graduate Ryan Sachs, first in his role as assistant to De Fanti and latterly as club secretary and head of football operations.

Sachs departed in the summer of 2016 and left a void to be filled.

Ryan Sachs left with Lee Congerton to his immediate right alongside Ellis Short and Gus Poyet

As part of Martin Bain’s reshuffling of backroom Sunderland, a large part of this function has been handed to an individual not widely known to most observers and supporters of the club, though according to the Daily Telegraph yesterday, roles appear to remain blurred and it’s not yet entirely clear how far remits extend:

As things stand, it is unclear who is running the football operation, with [chief executive] Martin Bain delegating the player contract negotiations to the club’s head of legal and football administration, Lois Jarvis.

That statement in the national press is roughly the first time that supporters on Wearside have been introduced to Lois Jarvis - head of legal and football administration - now a key player in the Bain regime.

Jarvis has been at Sunderland AFC for almost a decade, initially joining as a solicitor before taking up her present position last September.

We understand her role is wide-ranging, and the sports lawyer has been instrumental in much of the behind-the-scenes restructuring at the club which has taken place at pace in the last 12 months.

Lois Jarvis’ profile picture on networking site Linkedin

Joining Sunderland in 2008, the De Montfort University graduate stepped up into the role of club solicitor after Margaret Byrne was elevated to chief executive, and has continued her steady rise up the Sunderland AFC ladder.

Now handed a remit which extends into transfers, including incomings, outgoings, contracting and player loan deals, Jarvis is increasingly influential at the Stadium of Light and her role is increasingly expansive now that the redundancy programme which commenced last year is largely complete.

There are some who suggest the solicitor lacks the fundamental understanding of the game needed to perform a role which increasingly involves dealing with players, managers, coaches and other clubs.

But whoever Sunderland’s next first team manager is, they will be acutely aware that this element of the business at the Stadium of Light has traditionally under-performed.

High profile historical misjudgements continue to attract the headlines. Not inserting a relegation clause into Jack Rodwell’s contract, allowing Jermain Defoe to leave for free upon the drop and the increasing scrutiny on the pathway of young players in the academy are all elements which require review, and are deep-set features of a mis-functioning part of the organisation.

The lack of footballing nous within the Sunderland hierarchy - a criticism which has been levelled ever since Niall Quinn departed - continues to be highlighted as a concern.

High profile positions continue to be absent of those with extensive backgrounds in the game and corporate SAFC continues to plot the course set by Bain. Only time will tell whether the present regime will prove to be fit for purpose in supporting the next first team manager who happens along to try his luck.

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