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How management changes affect football clubs

Thu 15th Sep 2016 | Football Club Management

Although public perception seems to be in disagreement, football clubs are in fact businesses that will operate within the same professional guidelines as any respectable company.

Lower league teams often face the same problems as small businesses, struggling for funding and to upgrade essential infrastructure. Premier League teams, meanwhile, are multi-million pound corporations, with shareholders to please and huge financial transactions to broker.

Good management is essential to any business, but how far does that apply to football clubs? If a business hits a bad patch, it's generally considered favourable to stick with the existing management.

That’s because a company is influenced by many factors relating to the market and other variables, all of which can affect short-term performance. There is also the belief that a good product, combined with stable, capable management, should be able to weather any storm.

Changing horses

In football, the inevitable response to an extended run of poor results is to replace the club's manager or first team coach. In business, this would be seen as a sign of instability and unlikely to have a long-term positive effect; the same is often true for football clubs.

Analysis by Dutch economist Dr Bas ter Weel suggests changing managers mid-season does nothing to change the fortunes of clubs. There can be a short-term improvement in results when a new manager comes on board, but ter Weel argued this is misleading because teams suffering an uncharacteristic slump in form will usually bounce back regardless.

Staying stable

Newcastle United have struggled for stability since winning the Championship in 2010 under Chris Hughton. Later that year, with the team sitting mid-table in the Premier League, Hughton was sacked because the club wanted a manager with more experience.

His replacement, Alan Pardew, did well enough to be named Premier League Manager of the Season in 2012, guiding the club to a fifth-place finish. The next couple of years, however, saw the Magpies in decline and by 2014 supporters were calling for him to be sacked.

Pardew left a few months later, and the brief tenure of former assistant manager John Carver and then ex-England boss Steve McClaren failed to improve matters. Even Champions League winning manager, Rafa Benitez, who joined the club in March 2016, couldn’t save them from relegation.

However, his decision to stay on has inspired many to believe that Newcastle will return to the Premier League at the first time of asking. In fact, experts such as 888 Sportsbetting believe it will be difficult for anyone to stop them from winning the Championship this season. 

Guiding light

Manchester United, one of the biggest clubs in the world, have benefited hugely from stable management over the last 70 years. Sir Matt Busby managed the club from 1945 to 1969, establishing them as a European giant. The club then faltered under a succession of managers until Sir Alex Ferguson took the reins in 1986, winning 38 trophies before retiring in 2013.

Chelsea, on the other hand, are averaging a manager a year thus far this century, and have enjoyed their greatest period of success.

So in the modern game it seems the consequences of regular management changes are inconclusive. But while great clubs will always attract great managers, the clubs with the most sustained records of success in English football have usually played the long game when it comes to the man in charge.

Image: Action Images / Paul Burrows Livepic

Posted by: Kev Howland 

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