Sunday 21 January 2018

United beware – why firing your manager has little effect for top teams

David Moyes lost his job at Manchester United
David Moyes lost his job at Manchester United


David Moyes should take heart - sacking a manager does not improve club fortunes if the team is already in the top half of the league, 10 years of Premier League data has shown.

Sports scientists at Sheffield Hallam University poured through a decade of statistics for 36 clubs in the Premier League who, between them, had clocked up 60 managerial changes.

They found that teams in the top half of the league table saw no significant difference in their position at the end of the season after making the chop.

The authors warn that for top-flight clubs striving for a place in Europe or challenging for the title, ‘managerial change is unadvisable’.

Quite aside from causing instability and not guaranteeing an improved standing in the league, any compensation payments demanded by a sacked manager can mean financial disaster, they argue.

Manchester United were seventh when they sacked Moyes, the same position in which they finished. The researchers suggested the same pattern could be seen when Chelsea dismissed Jose Mourinho in 2007 and Luiz Felipe Scolari in 2009.

However for clubs in the bottom half of the league, the research suggests that changing managers might be a risk worth taking – especially when continued poor performance and relegation can ‘instantly cost clubs around £25 million in revenue’.

In their article ‘You don't know what you're doing! The impact of managerial change on club performance in the English Premier League’ researchers looked at data from 2003/4 to 2012/2013.

They then correlated the information with the number of points each club earned per season and their final standing in the league table.

The authors found that although clubs earned more points after changing managers – which fits with the assumption that clubs change managers because of previous poor performance – clubs in the top half of the league do no better.

Lead author Dr Stuart Flint, a lecturer in exercise psychology at Sheffield Hallam said: “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the impact of managerial change in the English Premier League on performance.

“The main findings of this study were that managerial changes led to an increase in points per match but did not necessarily lead to an improvement in final league position.

“Further analysis revealed that when considering final league position, clubs in the bottom half of the table improved their final league position, while clubs in the top half did not.

“The findings of the present study suggest that previous managerial change for clubs in the top half of the league in the past 10 years of the English Premier League was an ill-informed decision if the objective was to improve league position.”

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