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IN FOOTBALL, WINNING SILVERWARE CAN STILL BE “NOT DOING THE JOB TO THE REQUIRED STANDARD”

By CHRISTOPHER DAVIES

SO HOW DOES a football club sack a manager? Any way they wish – if an employer wants to dismiss someone, there is no specific process they must go through by law, though there are restrictions covering the reasons, even if the public do not always hear them.

The tin-tack is rarely a surprise in football and at some clubs even success is no guarantee of job continuity. It would be hard for a multi-national company to sack a chief executive if record profits or sales had been posted and no explanation given for his departure, yet in the beautiful game silverware does not mean safety. Winning the Barclays Premier League, a domestic cup or even the Champions League can still be deemed “not doing their job to the required standard.” The manager leaves with the usual platitudes and thanks “for all he’s done and we wish him well for the future.”

The reasons for replacing a manager are not always explained to supporters, despite fans being cited as “so important” by clubs. Transparency is something football preaches, but too often does not practise. Fans can be kept in the dark over a sacking with the press left to speak to the people who know the people involved in an attempt to put together a jig-saw of events. The departing manager is usually tied by a confidentiality agreement which means any loose talk could see his compensation significantly reduced. Explain why you were sacked and it’ll cost you.

Spurs fans still don’t really know why Harry Redknapp was shown the door at White Hart Lane last June, while Danny Wilson (Sheffield United) and Micky Mellon (Fleetwood Town) are more recent examples of managers being sacked without explanation by clubs doing well at the time.

Some managers leave by mutual consent, though it is difficult to imagine a scenario whereby both parties sit down at a meeting and, would you believe, at the same time come up with the idea that it is best for everyone to move on. This is apparently what happened with Stoke City and Tony Pulis, Kilmarnock and Kenny Shiels, Alex McLeish after 41 days at Nottingham Forest, Ipswich Town and Paul Jewell and Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho.

We await any insight to Gustavo Poyet’s initial suspension and subsequent sacking by Brighton & Hove Albion. There have been no details made public why a manager who has done a first-class job at the club has been dismissed and replaced by Oscar Garcia, though legal issues are clouding the Uruguayan’s situation.

There are different types of dismissal: fair dismissal, unfair dismissal, constructive dismissal and wrongful dismissal. A dismissal is fair or unfair depending on the employer’s reason for it. Constructive dismissal can be when an employee resigns because his company have breached their employment contract.

Newcastle United’s appointment of Joe Kinnear as director of football had many football writers believing it could spell the end of Alan Pardew’s reign as manager because of similar problems during Kevin Keegan’s second spell in charge. When Dennis Wise was brought in as director of football it was the springboard for Keegan to quit St James’ Park. A Premier League Managers’ Arbitration Tribunal ruled that Keegan was entitled to resign and claim constructive dismissal, awarding him £2 million plus indemnity costs in his claim against NUFC after a row over the purchase of players by the club.

Keegan contended that when he was appointed manager it was a term of his contract that he would have “the final say” on transfers of players into the club. He claimed that the club breached that term by signing Ignacio Gonzalez,  a Uruguayan, against his wishes and this was a repudiation of his contract, entitling him to resign. Wise had telephoned Keegan to say he had found a good young player who the club should consider signing. He invited Keegan to view the player on YouTube. Keegan was not impressed and said Gonzalez was not good enough and he was not interested in signing him. Nevertheless, the club went ahead with the deal.

An employee can be dismissed if they are incapable of doing their job to the required standard or they have committed some form of misconduct. The former is subjective and while Poyet said he plans to appeal his sacking as he is entitled to, this is believed to be more of a legal process than believing he has a realistic chance of managing the Seagulls again, though Garcia’s position is chief coach rather than manager. On Planet Football, where compensation packages cushion the disappointment of the boot, the sack is invariably final though in law managers do have the right to appeal.

The Employment Act 2002 carries three obligations for employers when dismissing staff:

  1. If someone is disciplined or dismissed, they must be given a statement of the reasons; this statement must contain an invitation to a meeting with senior staff
  2. There must be a meeting between the employee and senior staff about the action taken
  3. The worker must be given the chance to appeal.

The League Managers Association have developed a model contract of employment for managers which includes a clause about a director of football. Important issues which frequently form the basis of disputes between managers and clubs and which should be addressed in the manager’s contract include:

o    the terms upon which a contract may be terminated early

o    the level of control which a manager will be able to exert over team matters such as team selection, player acquisition and player disposal – or whether the manager is operating under and answerable to a European-style director of football

o    the performance targets of the manager – such as promotion, European qualification or avoiding relegation

o    regular appraisals at which performance targets may be re-visited in light of changing circumstances both on and off the field

o    contingency plans in the event that the club is relegated

o    the circumstances in which the club must inform the manager of an approach by another club for the manager’s services

o    whether the manager can carry out any additional media roles to fit around his managerial duties.

Yet whatever is written in the contract, the reasons for a manager’s sacking will often remain secret because the owners of English football clubs do not feel they have to give explanations for their actions.

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