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News & Comment

LMA call for end to 'scapegoat' mentality

The chief executive of the League Managers Association has encouraged clubs to adopt standard workplace guidelines in a bid to reduce the number of managers losing their jobs.

Seven Football League managers have been dismissed in the last week, while four Premier League bosses are reported to be on the verge of the axe.

But Richard Bevan has hit out at the "short-termism" approach of clubs and wants them to start dealing with managers through a human resources department, giving regular appraisals and issuing warnings if results are not satisfactory.

In an open letter released last night, Bevan said: "No one is saying that a club should never change manager. The football context changes over time, the circumstances of individual football clubs alter, the goals of employer and employee may no longer match.

"In this unfortunate circumstance, it would seem most sensible for both sides if lessons were adopted from the broader field of human resources to handle this type of situation. Football managers might, for example, like any other type of manager, have regular appraisals.

"In these, the strengths and weaknesses of how the football side of the club is performing might be assessed against realistic expectations and previously, mutually agreed goals. Should the performance of a manager not match up to the agreed goals, or be judged unsatisfactory on appraisal, then a due process of verbal, followed by a written warning is the correct procedure, before ever reaching the final step of dismissal.

"When does this happen? How often does a manager have no warning of what is about to happen? How often does he discover news of his dismissal from the media, from his worried family who have heard the reports? How often when calling the club to check the truth of such accounts has a manager been told that this is not true, only to discover soon after that he has indeed been dismissed?

"This is no way to treat any employee, let alone those whose lives are inextricably bound up in the clubs and game they love."

Chelsea's Carlo Ancelotti, Liverpool's Roy Hodgson, Aston Villa's Gerard Houllier and West Ham's Avram Grant are all reported to be under pressure following a string of disappointing results, and some bookmakers have created special bets that predict them all to be out of work when the Premier League resumes next weekend.

Bevan feels managers are being made "scapegoats" and wants that culture to stop.

He added: "Figures actually serve to highlight the continued chronic short-termism in football manager employment.

"Statistical evidence suggests that the gains from changing football managers are marginal, if indeed there are any at all, and without doubt the sacking of managers is a costly business to football clubs.

"In recent seasons and recent weeks, a number of managers have been dismissed for losing a handful of games in what might well be short-term blips within the normal range, rather than the sustained downturn seen in the past before a managerial change.

"In football, there is an incomprehensible belief that the continued sacrificing of the football manager, the "scapegoat" and installing another will turn around a football club's performance.

"The League Managers Association will continue to protect the interests of its members when they are sacked, by ensuring that clubs agree to appropriate compensation and pay the remainder of outstanding contracts. However we will also continue to clearly state the case against the short-term 'hiring and firing' culture that is endemic in our game."