Job security and the football manager
Posted by John Beech on November 24, 2009
The sacking of Paul Hart by Portsmouth (1) has been greeted with universal sympathy in cyberspace and this will doubtless be repeated in newsprint tomorrow. Received wisdom is that he was on a hiding to nothing and made the best of a bad job in the circumstances, made all the more ironic by the number of goals scored last Saturday by former Pompey players (no, please don’t mention Ricardo Fuller’s contribution; he left Fratton Park as far back as 2005 in any case).
The sad fact is that managers have one of the most insecure jobs in the world. Yes, there are the exceptions of Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsène Wenger and Dario Gradi, but they definitely are the exceptions.
Dr Sue Bridgewater at Warwick Business School conducted a very comprehensive survey of manager employment trends including dismissals in the top four divisions over the period from 1992 to 2005 (her very readable report is downloadable here, and there is a webcast of her talking about the key findings here). She found, among a number of fascinating conclusions, that more experienced managers who have longer in post achieve higher levels of success. It also emerged that the average rate of tenure over that period, 2.19 years, was declining, and could be projected to have fallen, if the trend is maintained , to one year by 2023.
She also found that there is a significant correlation with success for managers who have followed the route of taking coaching and Management qualifications. Yet still we see good ex-players without coaching badges being given special dispensation to manage even in the Premier League.
Human Resource Management in the football sector is way, way behind the times. In other sectors it is not generally accepted that you get the best out of people by kicking boots at them or continually swearing at them. And I have yet to see any evidence that such approaches actually work in football.
To return to Paul Hart, my recent posting (2) suggests that current board-level HRM practices at Portsmouth are poor even by football’s low standards.