Leafing through my copy of the Sunday Times yesterday morning, I noticed an interesting article from Richard Bevan, the Head of the League Managers Association, discussing how managers have requested the Football Association to step in and assist the epidemic of sackings, by placing sanctions on clubs who undertake a summary dismissal of technical staff – i.e. a yellow card system that is aggravated should this behaviour continue, which in turn could lead to directors of offending clubs being banned from holding directorships.
The point made in the article is that most, if not all managerial sackings in football are unlawful, and what often happens is that when a manager is sacked, his lawyers threaten an unfair dismissal claim; in turn a settlement is reached and the club pays up and the manager moves on.
To suggest a sanctioning system is unlikely to stop the issue of managerial sackings and will simply aggravate the butting of heads that can occur between clubs and regulators.
Football is in its own bubble – there is no other industry like it – player contracts contain a clause in them that actually discusses the ‘specificity of football’ – and sackings are part and parcel of this. A manager goes into the job with their eyes open, knowing full well that the chairman can weald the axe as and when he chooses. The manager goes and gets a good lawyer, who makes the right noises and often a settlement is reached – very rarely does the matter go any further.
To employ a sanctioning system will have little to no effect and instead just force the club to have to deal with another layer of bureaucracy from the regulators of the game – it will not stop the chairman from sacking the manager. Furthermore, the possibility of clubs being punished by directors losing their office is entirely disproportionate and not in keeping with the manner of football. If a team is doing badly fans will demand change, will be baying for it, sometimes a chairman does not have the luxury of time to follow the statutory grievance procedure and must take immediate action – knowing full well that a lawyer’s letter will most likely follow. This is football – this is the way of the game, managers are fully aware of the situation when they get into it and there are numerous sports lawyers, such as us here at Pinder Reaux, who can help if things go awry. Installing this ‘yellow card’ system will be a useful as installing sanctions for badly dressed chairman – or lukewarm tea in the dressing room – nonsensical.