Is football’s managerial ‘hire & fire’ approach really the best way?

Photograph of recent Manchester United Manager, Louis Van Gaal
This is a photograph of Steve.

Posted by  Steve Morris, Head of Key Accounts, Apprenticeships,

Louis van Gaal’s recent departure from Manchester United is the latest in a long line of managerial departures within the top flight of English football over recent years. But why is this ‘hire & fire’ practice so prevalent?

Simon Kuper’s book ‘Soccernomics’ compares leading football clubs to some of the top companies across the world. He states that when a high level executive is sacked in the business world, the company is either in the process of, or forced to begin, restructuring. Essentially, something has gone wrong and a change is almost never a like-for-like replacement, but rather demonstrates a holistic philosophical alteration and a rejigging of the business strategy.

Kuper argues that part of the reason football clubs sack managers so often is because the appointment is not thought out well enough in the beginning. Knee jerk sackings are often a result of knee jerk appointments. He feels that given how vital a modern manager is to the running of a football club’s business and not just the game, then any new manager should represent a significant change, providing a long-term strategy that would safeguard the future success of the club. This compares to just short-term aims, such as saving the club from relegation’ or ‘getting us into the Champions League’.

Entrepreneur James Caan believes that the ultimate success or failure of a business, can come down to its people. It’s important to have talented and motivated people driving your business forward. You can have an amazing business, but if you hire the wrong people at the wrong time, your business can fail.

As former executive of General Electric Lawrence Bossidy said,

“Nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.”

From our experience at learndirect, the successful companies are those which have a clear long-term strategy for recruiting and investing in their staff. One important element of this are Apprenticeships.

Our client Sainsbury’s has found the benefit from developing Apprenticeships. They believe that training is very important and Apprenticeships are particularly valuable because they offer a progression route for colleagues to move into more senior roles. This has helped build capacity within their stores and allowed people to move on to become department or store managers.

It’s clear that the short-term results-orientated focus of the modern football game is at odds with mainstream business, so is it time for football to re-evaluate its approach?

It took Sir Alex Ferguson four seasons before he was successful; taking over at Old Trafford in November 1986 without winning anything until the FA Cup in 1990. History shows that the Manchester United board were proven right in sticking with him; but would any club have the nerve to show that patience today. Whoever does may well rediscover the key to success….

Find out how we can support your Apprenticeship plans and ambitions

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