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Making sense of the sack race: the impact of managerial change in the English Football League

Rob Wilson (Department of Finance, Accounting and Business Systems, Sheffield Business School, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK)
Daniel Plumley (Academy of Sport and Physical Activity, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK)
Stuart William Flint (Leeds Beckett University, School of Events Tourism and Hospitality, Leeds, UK)

Sport, Business and Management

ISSN: 2042-678X

Article publication date: 13 August 2019

Issue publication date: 6 April 2020




The purpose of this paper is to examine the effect of managerial change in the English football industry. The authors’ theoretical discussion covers three contrasting concepts that attempt to explain the association between manager change and organizational performance (scapegoating theory, vicious circle theory and tenure and life-cycle theory).


Data were collected for the four main English Football Leagues (EFLs) between 2000/2001 and 2015/2016. A total of 2,816 football matches were included in the study and during this time 525 instances of managerial change were observed. Analysis was conducted using relevant statistical techniques to examine the impact of managerial change on performance.


The results show significant differences in all four EFLs when considering teams who make a managerial change and those who do not. Further analysis revealed that a managerial change is more beneficial for clubs in the bottom half of the league, particularly for the English Premier League.


The implications for clubs competing in English football are clear when considering the strategic direction of the club in respect of managerial change and its impact on team performance. Yet, our findings come with a warning. The findings do not infer direct cause and effect here, and any board decision should consider additional factors other than sporting performance before deciding to sack their manager.



Wilson, R., Plumley, D. and Flint, S.W. (2020), "Making sense of the sack race: the impact of managerial change in the English Football League", Sport, Business and Management, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 3-15.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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