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Managerial Merry-go-Round’ Leads To Poor Performance

Tue 16th Dec 2014 | Football Club Management

As we head into the busy Christmas period with a Premier League manager yet to be shown the exit it seems that chairman have finally heeded the warning that constant managerial upheaval has a negative impact behind the scenes.

Big managerial changes at Premier League football and County Cricket clubs threaten the productivity and effectiveness of staff for up to six months afterwards, a new study has found.

The research, published by scientists from the University of Portsmouth, is the first of its kind to show how managerial turnover impacts the medical and scientific support team – the key people behind the scenes at such clubs.

The study examined three organisations competing in the top tiers of English football and cricket over a two year period.

Senior lecturer in sport and performance psychology and lead author of the research, Dr Chris Wagstaff, said: “Employment practices at clubs have historically been shabby. There has been a culture of ‘jobs for the boys’ where former players are fast-tracked into top positions with little or no management experience.

“They get thrown in at the deep end, don’t make the cut and get the sack soon after.

“The managerial merry-go-round that characterises elite sport needs to change because this research shows that these poor employment practices don’t just impact on players and coaches, but they also impact the effectiveness of other staff like the sports scientists and medical staff, who are increasingly important.”

Dr Wagstaff says the medical and scientific support teams, which include doctors, physiotherapists, strength and conditioning specialists, nutritionists and sports psychologists, are essential for maximising players’ potential on the pitch.

He said: “They’re responsible for designing conditioning and training programmes, diet and nutrition plans, performance analysis and rehabilitating players if they’re injured.

“These people are working behind the scenes to ensure that players are fit and optimally prepared to perform at a consistently high level so it’s important they’re looked after when clubs go through periods of change.

“Unfortunately, when managers are sacked, the drop in effectiveness of other staff is seen as collateral damage and it would appear that those responsible for hiring and firing managers are unaware of the impact such changes have.”

Dr Wagstaff argues that elite sport organisations need to be more aware of the effect big organisational changes can have on employees.

“Hiring and firing happens so often; the average tenure of managers in the football premier league is 1.4 years. This high turnover can be very fickle –for example Chelsea have had eight managers in the last five years and each new manager must quickly instil a philosophy and style of play, while satisfying the chairman’s performance demands.”

According to the study, firing a manager causes staff to feel heightened levels of job insecurity and stress. Job satisfaction is also affected, staff feel resistant to change and they are more likely to quit.  

The disruption to medical, recovery, rehabilitation, fitness, psychological and performance analysis support will all have some effect on performance on the pitch.

Dr Wagstaff added: “If clubs are more aware of this upheaval they can focus on doing something about it. These clubs also have a duty of care to their employees and should do more to support them through periods of change.”

The study is published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.

Posted by: Aaron Gourley 

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