When things go wrong for a team, sacking the coach is the usual response. By the time you read this, Stuart Lancaster may well be out of the England rugby job. Brendan Rodgers has been sacked from Liverpool this week. Jose Mourinho bravely said he was going nowhere and he’d have to be sacked from Chelsea.
The urge to sack is understandable, but often wrong. In both rugby and football, two examples of how sticking with the manager can pay off are clear: Alex Ferguson and Clive Woodward. I won’t list their achievements here – it would take too long. The point is, they both were given time after average starts.
But for club owners or international bosses, the desire to (be seen to) take action overpowers the braver decision to stick with a manager. Strangely, this is the direct opposite of the sunk cost fallacy, where projects that are clearly a bad idea are pursued because of the money already wasted on them. A similar effect is to double down after bets go wrong. Where does that instinct go when deciding a coach’s fate?
Of course, we can’t know how things would have turned out if we had acted differently. Would England still have won the 2003 World Cup without Woodward? Will Jose Mourinho turn things around at Chelsea? Impossible to say. A manager-centric view of the world would say “no” and “yes”. A player- or luck-centric view might say “yes” and “no”.
In a world where results can be influenced by luck, it seems odd to sack managers so frequently. Of course, making poor transfer deals might be reason enough, but in international sport, you can’t buy in new players, so the win-it-all-or-bust approach seems unduly harsh.
So why not act more bravely, and stick with someone? A little bit of sunk-cost thinking might help.
Meanwhile, here’s the best sports writing of the last week:
Last week I highlighted the Rugby World Cup schedule madness. This week, it’s the players excluded from internationals by their clubs, and left frozen out of the World Cup. Very sad.
Eng-Aus aftermath: Knives out for Lancaster. Australia humiliated England in the scrum. How come? An Australian media view on how good Australia were. (Hint: very). Plus, you’ve got to love David Pocock.
Did you know Brendan Rodgers has a large arty picture of himself on his wall? No, nor did I. What’s not why Rodgers was sacked, though. This is. Or maybe his over-hyped ego. Meanwhile, over at Chelsea… Has Jose got any ideas? Anything at all
Manchester United’s exposed midfield.
Weird and wonderful goal records.
And why aren’t more Premiership clubs being bought and sold?
The NFL has made itself super boring.
When it comes to pitching, what exactly is ‘stuff‘?
The slow death of city cricket.
The statistical odds of even getting to the start line of the London Marathon.
– Poor Rafa. You have to feel for him with headlines like this: Nadal struggles past former ball boy at China Open.
– Brazilian referee gets cross, pulls out
red card gun.
That’s it – see you next Tuesday