There are promising signs of a downward trend in dismissals with 33 dismissals being the lowest since 2008 – 2009; in the last five years this number has only been lower in the 2007 – 08 season. The overall levels of changes of football manager remains high, with half of all league clubs changing manager during the 2011-2012 season.
When looking only at dismissals, and comparing between leagues, Premier League dismissals began the season looking as though they would be very low. By the end of October 2011, it appeared that there might be no dismissals by November for the first time in Premier League history. Sadly this did not turn out to be the case, with the departure of Steve Bruce on the last day in October, and the season ends with 7 Premier League managers having been dismissed; the highest number since 2007 – 08. As the Premier League consists of only 20 teams, it is to be hoped that this is a blip and that it will continue to be the league with the lowest level of dismissals. It would be a fitting celebration if the 20th anniversary of the formation of the Premier League was signalled by improvements in the stability of football manager appointments.
Dismissals in the Football League are also lower than in many recent seasons, with the 8 dismissals in the Championship matching the 2008-09 lowest figure (although it should be noted that this still means that a third of Championship managers are dismissed each season). League 1 dismissals also stand at 8 managers, with League 2 slightly higher at 10 managers dismissed.
Average tenure in 2010-2011 stood at 1.45, a slight increase from the all time low of 1.4 years of dismissed managers in 2009-10. The 2010-11 increase seemed to be explained by the dismissal of a few long-serving managers including Rafael Benitez (5.5 years), Steve Tilson (6.6 years) and Paul Trollope (5.23 years). So far in 2011-12, average tenure has again increased to 1.7, another positive sign that better governance in football clubs, with the adoption of UEFA’s Financial Fairplay measures in the Premier League and now the Football League together with mandatory coaching qualifications and better recruitment choices may be bearing fruit. It should be noted that this average is based on a relatively small base, and so is significantly affected by the dismissal of a small number of managers with a longer than average tenure. In 2011-2012 these have included, Andy Scott from Rotherham after 4.27 years, Sean O’Driscoll from Doncaster Rovers after 5.04 years, Mick McCarthy from Wolves after 5.57 years.
Given the extent to which the departure of a few long-serving managers raise the average tenure, greater insights can be gained from looking at the frequency distribution of managers and how many are dismissed at different time points. This immediately shows that 20 managers, up to and including Neil Warnock from QPR, so two thirds of dismissed managers went on or below average tenure. 10, one third, went at above and as shown above sometimes considerably above average tenure.
The most common time for a football manager to be dismissed is between one and one and a half years but 12 managers – over a third of those dismissed – went within a year of appointment which still indicates failings in the recruitment process.
Tenure varies, however, considerably by league and times managed. Last season, the lowest tenure of dismissed managers was seen in the Championship where the tenure of dismissed managers was less than 1 year (0.89 years). In 2009-10, tenure was lowest, less than one year in League 2. In 2011-12 to date, average tenure of dismissed managers across all leagues is higher than in the last two seasons. Average tenure in the Premier League stands at 2.15 years but this is significantly increased by the dismissal of Mick McCarthy after 5.57 years. Excluding Mick McCarthy, the PL tenure figure would stand at 1.46 years. The tenure of the last five Chelsea managers (Avram Grant to Villas Boas) is 0.85 years.
Similarly the average tenure of dismissed Championship managers also looks noticeably up on last season for 2011-12 to date at 1.96 years, but this is raised by the dismissal of Sean O’Driscoll after 5.04 years. League 1 average for the season to date is at 1.39 and League 2 at 1.46 years so no league has an average tenure of lower than a year in 2011-2012 although Leagues 1 and 2 have average tenure well below the Championship and Premier League. It is not clear why this might be, although the higher leagues may have a greater proportion of well resourced clubs and require higher coaching qualifications, but there is no clear trend relating to experience of football managers with managers going after shorter and longer periods across the Football League regardless of previous experience although there is more indication that previous experience may play a role in achieving success as a Premier League manager.
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