What is the Impact of Changing Football Manager? Dr Sue Bridgewater, Warwick Business School.

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1 What is the Impact of Changing Football Manager? Dr Sue Bridgewater, Warwick Business School Popular myth would have it that a football manager is never more than six games away from the sack. Certainly, football managers tend to be dismissed when they have had a poor run of results although occasionally the trigger may be pulled after a victory or may be prompted by something other than results. In his paper on the timing of dismissal of English Premier League football managers, Chris Hope (2002) talks about the points rate at which the manager is dismissed as the trapdoor. He argues that there is a bottom level of points (measured using average points per game), below which a manager will be dismissed. This is the trapdoor. Similarly, there seems to be a honeymoon period research by Danish journalists at Tipsbladet (2009) refers to a shock effect where the new manager gains an uplift in points after coming into the club. Chris Hope (2003) supports the notion that English football managers have a honeymoon period and also argues that football managers are unlikely to be sacked during this period. There are many plausible reasons why there is a honeymoon period. Players may not know whether they are going to figure in the new manager s plans and may be playing to impress. Particularly at the current time, in which the credit crunch has brought a tightening of belts, there are players who have been released from contracts. All but the very best players may be keen to hang on to existing contracts. Sometimes, this may be a response from the players to realising that they played a part in the previous manager being sacked: It happens in football when the manager goes you find the next time the team play they normally win because you get the response from the players. It happens in football, it's very sad but it does. Alan Neilson reported in Luton and Dunstable Express, 5 th October 2009 Alternatively a new charismatic leader may change the way in which the team is playing and bring about this honeymoon because of the new culture which he instils. For any of these reasons, results appear to improve for a period of time. Using the notion of the trapdoor and the honeymoon period, the run of results before and after a manager is dismissed might be expected to show a roughly 6 game dip before and a similar rise after a change of football manager.

2 Trapdoors and Honeymoon Periods The idea of troughs, or trapdoors, before the departure of a manager and a peak, or honeymoon, after the appointment of the next manager is supported by analysis of the data based on football managers dismissals from 1992 to date.. So, for example, if we compare the recent management changes at Tottenham Hotspur Football club we see the following patterns: Figure 1: The average points performance of Tottenham managers before departure and performance of new manager after appointment Looking at this data we can see that in general a manager at Tottenham appears to have had a honeymoon period - a peak of performance after appointment. In some cases, as can be seen with the appointment of Harry Redknapp this has been rapid. On other cases, performance has built to a peak more slowly, as with Martin Jol and Juande Ramos. Sometimes this peak is dramatic. Other times it is less marked. Sometimes the points average before the departure of the manager was markedly lower than average. It should be noted that there is no one pattern some

3 managers will come into a club and have immediate impact, others a slower impact and yet others little discernible impact. If we compare all of the Tottenham managers from 1992 to date, however, there are average patterns for the club and each club shows patterns which emerge over time. So, for example, the average pattern for Tottenham before and after a change of manager is shown in figure 2 below. Figure 2: Average performance of a Tottenham Hotspur manager before departure and of new manager on appointment Interestingly, this suggests that on average the honeymoon might reach its height between the 7 12 game stage but has fallen back to around the previous level by the 18 game mark. In fact, overall Tottenham s changes of manager leave a slightly lower point average at the 18 games mark (1.16 points per game) than there were before the slump and change of manager (1.31 average). It would seem that the conclusion that changing manager increases points may not be the case.

4 To examine this more fully, this chapter now looks at the data across the Premier League from 1992 to date to see whether this pattern is repeated. Figure 3: What happens when you change manager? So in the Premier League, at least, there is a boost for a short honeymoon period and then performance dips back and indeed slightly below the level that it was before the club changed manager. Between 12 and 18 games after appointment, the points benefit of changing manager has vanished, suggesting that on average there is only a short-term gain and a longer-term negative effect of changing manager. Figure 4 shows the trends over time. Both peaks and troughs of performance seem to level out possibly because other factors such as the quality of players is growing in importance relative to the impact made by any individual manager. The level of the trapdoor seems little changed between and the and data. In the most recent season, the trend seems much flatter, with less of a dip in performance before a football manager in the Premier League is dismissed. The fall back in average points after the honeymoon period is over seems greater than in earlier seasons

5 Figure 4: Comparison and last three seasons. Conclusions: Why changing managers might not work? Overall, changing manager seems to have a negligible effect on how well the club does over the longer-term. Indeed, if we look at the Premier League since 1992, it would appear that clubs do rather less well once the initial honeymoon period has passed than they did before changing their manager. If we convert the average points into actual points, a club who dismisses its manager may arrest a decline and might gain around 3 points in the 12 game upturn but lose 2 points over the remaining games compared with the performance before the blip. Furthermore, research from baseball and American Football (Gamson and Scotch 1964, Brown 1982 respectively) suggests that when a coach is not sacked performance seems to turn in a pattern similar to that seen when the club changes manager. The conclusion seems to be that managerial changes in football do little to improve performance. There area number of possible explanations for this. The first is that leadership has little impact on organisational performance. Lieberson and O Connor 1972) suggest organizational performance is more influenced by other aspects of the organisational

6 context such as resources. So perhaps performance might be affected by the quality of players, injuries or just bad luck. The second explanation is that switching to a different leader brings with it disruption which, in itself, can have a negative effect on performance (Grusky 1960, 1963, 1964). Hope (2003) suggests that there are different phases in a football manager s lifespan some in which he may have a run of bad luck or a blip and others where performance may take a downturn whilst the manager is rebuilding for the longer term. This research is not suggesting that a club should never change football manager. As in other organisations, sustained decline in performance is often addressed by changing manager and this may arrest and turnaround performance. The data would suggest, however, that clubs may pull the trigger during a minor blip in performance rather than a sustained decline. Moreover, the level at which they do this, and the benefits gained from the switch may be less significant than they anticipate. A full version of this research will be published in Sue Bridgewater (2010 forthcoming), Football Management, Palgrave. References Brown, M C (1982) Administrative Succession and Organizational performance: The Succession Effect Administrative Science Quarterly, 27: 1 16 Gamson, W and Scotch, N (1964) Scapegoating in baseball American Journal of Sociology, 70: Hope, C. (2003) "When should you sack a football manager? Results from a simple model applied to the English Premiership." Journal of the Operational Research Society, 54(11):

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