The Premier League Needs to Introduce a Transfer Window for Managers
The modern transfer window system was first mooted in 1991 and finally put into action in 2002-03.
The idea of creating a bi-annual period for transfer activity was to create stability. Players would no longer leave their clubs at crucial times of the year, and coaches could focus on actual coaching rather than the endless pursuit of rival players.
In the English football league system, however, there remains an overwhelming lack of stability. This is not because of a high turnover of players, but a high turnover of managers.
An end-of-season report published by the League Managers Association (LMA) shows that there were 63 managerial changes in English football last season: 43 sackings and 20 resignations.
Yes, an average of more than two thirds of the 92 professional teams changed their coach in 2012-13.
There were 10 more sackings than the previous season, and the dismissal figure hasn't been this high since 2001-02, the season in which the likes of Gerard Houllier (Liverpool), Harry Redknapp (West Ham) and Walter Smith (Everton) bowed down.
In the Premier League, the average tenure of a manager is now 2.81 years, which is actually far higher than the English league average of 1.84. (In the ruthless environment of the Championship, the average dismissed manager now lasts just 1.04 seasons!)
This Premiership tenure figure is also skewed by the 17-year reign of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. Behind the Frenchman, the longest-serving top flight manager is Alan Pardew, who has been at Newcastle for two-and-a-half years. The fifth longest-serving coach is Brendan Rodgers, who has been at Anfield for slightly over a year.
And there's bad news for the likes of Roberto Di Matteo and Martin O'Neill: Thanks to the fact that there aren't enough hot seats to go around, LMA figures reveal that a sacked manager now has to wait an average of 1.63 years to hop back on the managerial merry go round.
LMA chairman Richard Bevan is quoted by The Sun's Vikki Orvice:
"These statistics are not only worrying for the individuals themselves, but also for the staff and fans of their respective clubs."
"Sacking a manager creates instability and uncertainty."
"More worrying is that managers are being given less and less time to deliver. This goes against both the theory and the reality that clubs who give their managers time are more stable and more successful."
Sadly, the problem runs far deeper than a human resources issue.
The Premier League is quickly gaining a reputation for its lack of managerial stability, and it is making some of the world's best players think twice about coming to England.
Nowhere is this more clear than the case of Neymar. The precocious Brazilian reportedly had his pick of Chelsea or Manchester City, but according to The Express' John Richardson, he snubbed the Premier League because of the coaching issue:
"My family spoke to me about joining a club where you could not just win things but where there is stability. I don't want to play for a club that changes coach every season."
Last week, this writer lamented the Premier League's lack of ability to bring in "box office" signings. This managerial issue is surely a contributing factor.
It is a sad state of affairs, and the culture of fickle club owners expecting big short-term results does not look like it is changing any time soon.
It is for this reason that the Premier League—and English football league system as a whole—should consider a transfer window for managers.
What if coaches were not allowed to move clubs during the season?
Exceptions could be made for managers with health issues, but otherwise, a club would have to wait until a specific window in the summer to make changes.
Rather than being sacked in the heat of the moment following a disappointing match, managers would be given the chance to finish the project they had undertaken, with a reassessment of their position when tempers have cooled in the summer.
Instead of hastily resigning with the prospect of a new job elsewhere, managers would be forced into following through with their commitment.
Would a transfer window for managers work?
There would be so much more stability in the league. Managers would stand a better chance of creating a legacy at a particular club, and Chelsea would save millions every season in compensation packages!
Of course, a managerial transfer window is unlikely to be popular with English clubs. The restriction of freedom would be met with very stiff opposition. Yet, the majority of English clubs also rallied against the idea of the current player transfer window.
"The English clubs did not want it, they were very happy with the existing system, but due to no fault of our own, we have had thrust upon us a new system which makes life more difficult," said Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein in 2002, as noted in a feature written by The Guardian's John Ashdown and Rob Smythe.
A managerial transfer window might make club owners wince like a child taking a spoonful of medicine, but it would ultimately be in their best interest.
The future of the Premier League as a driving force in world football might just depend on it.
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