Unsuccessful soccer club managers are now three times more likely to be sacked than in 1950s

17 August 2014

Sunday Telegraph

As part of its promotion of social science research, the Campaign has issued this press release, which was featured in the Sunday Telegraph (see image):

Unsuccessful soccer club managers are now three times more likely to be sacked than they were in the 1950s, new research says.

The first detailed statistical analysis of sackings also found that most managers in the four professional English soccer leagues now last less than two seasons.

Professor Stefano D’Addona, of the University of Rome, and Professor Axel Kind, of the University of Basel, analysed the English leagues from 1949 to 2008, looking at 1,213 instances of manager being sacked.

In an article in the Journal of Sports Economics, the researchers say that:

• on average from 2000 to 2008, a manager stood a 22% of being sacked each season, and most managers were sacked within 63 matches, around one and half seasons.

• for the most unsuccessful 10% of managers, the chance of being fired has increased over the decades: in the 1950s it was 21% each season, rising to 65% in the years 2000-08. The rate of sackings of successful managers has changed little over time.

• from 1949-2008, managers in the top division (now called Premiership) were less likely to be sacked than those in the other three divisions – 5% less than those in the bottom division (now called Division Two).

• older managers were slightly more likely to be sacked – 4% more likely each decade they were older than others.

• it was the results over the short-term that usually triggered the sacking, rather than the long-term average of the club under the manager.

• football managers’ firings are more frequent than those of directors of commercial corporations.

The researchers say the increased frequency of sackings reflects the growth in revenues of the clubs and the fall in profits from increased competition.

“Nowadays managers face a much higher probability of getting fired, and this probability depends to a larger extent on short-term rather than long-term performance.

“In general, these findings seem to comply with the increased level of economic importance of and competition in English soccer.

“Manager turnovers in sports teams are characterized by a higher turnover frequency and a larger share of forced turnovers compared to the world of corporations.”

The researchers said that the high rate of sackings was despite evidence that this often led to a worse rather than better performance at clubs. However, the increased fear of sacking might inspire other managers to be more successful.

Their research was the first major analysis of sackings, the researchers said. “To the best of our knowledge, this study is the most comprehensive empirical investigation so far of manager turnovers in sports teams.”

The research has been flagged up by the Campaign for Social Science as significant for helping understand the relationship between changes in soccer economics and the management of clubs. The journal is published by SAGE and the article reference in Vol 15 (2) 2014 pages 150-179.


• In this research the least successful 10% of managers is defined by looking at the result of matches over the past few weeks.

• The statistical average for length of service before sacking in the years 2000-08 was almost three seasons. However, this figure is skewed by a few long-serving managers, and in fact 50% of managers were sacked before they had been in charge for 63 games.