<
>

Premier League managerial turnover unparalleled in U.S. major sports

For fans in the U.S. raised on American football or baseball, the concept of the Sack Race is a foreign one -- both literally and figuratively. In two of America's favourite pastimes, there's an emphasis placed on patience, on stability. Those ideals are conspicuously absent in the Premier League, where it's never too early or late in the season for a club to make a change with their manager.

It was only a year ago that Tony Pulis, less than three months removed from saving Crystal Palace from relegation, left the club on the eve of the Premier League season because of a dispute with the board over transfers.

Such volatility doesn't happen in American sports.

In the past 20 years, there have been 215 managerial changes in the Premier League. That's 53.8 percent of managers in the league replaced, or 10.76 every season since the 1995-96 season.

Compare that to America's oldest pastime. In that same span, there have been just 131 managerial changes in Major League Baseball. When you consider that MLB consists of 30 teams (for the past 18 years) to the Premier League's 20, the gulf becomes even greater. Just 21.8 percent of Major League managers leave their positions -- that's 6.54 managerial changes per season.

It's a similar story in the National Football League. Of a league that's now up to 32 teams, only 135 coaching changes have been made: 21.3 percent of coaches, or 6.82 coaches per season.

Those numbers increase slightly when looking at basketball and hockey. The 30-team National Hockey League has seen 165 changes behind the bench (30 percent of coaches, nine per season) and the 30-team National Basketball Association 206 (34.7 percent of coaches, 10.41 per season) in the past 20 years.

The most volatile coaching environment in American pro sports, the NBA, still falls nearly 20 percent short of the turnover rate set in the Premier League since 1995.

The biggest driver of turnover in England's top flight is money. In February, the Premier League agreed a new domestic television rights program that will see the league earn £5.14 billion over the next three seasons.

A portion of that money will be allocated based on league finish and number of television appearances, but the bulk will be split equally among all 20 teams. When extrapolating this year's television payouts to the amount of money on offer beginning in 2016-17, simply surviving in the Premier League will be worth as much as £90 million to clubs every year.

And that's before the international TV rights are even considered. The current deal is worth £2.23 billion over three years, but a new deal is about to go out for bid, and some analysts predict the next contract will be worth double, or more.

When there's that sort of financial pressure on clubs, their impatience is perhaps understandable.

"It's that knee-jerk reaction," says Owen Coyle, manager of Houston Dynamo in Major League Soccer, who managed Premier League side Bolton Wanderers from 2010 to 2012. "[Clubs] always want immediate success, and that's not always possible.

"There can only be one champion, and to compete against the 20 best coaches in the world, someone is going to finish first and someone is going to finish last -- that doesn't make someone a bad coach."

Coyle says he has found management in MLS to be "refreshing," citing the diminished media exposure compared to management in the Premier League, as well as the open lines of communication he has had with the board in Houston.

"It's a different setup in the U.S. We always have a very open dialogue, and I think that's important," he says. "Certainly over here, I enjoy the openness. I probably speak on a daily basis with the club president."

The numbers back up Coyle's assessment. The rate of turnover in MLS is on par with the NBA and the NHL, at 34 percent of clubs experiencing a managerial change each season since the league's inaugural season in 1996. Considering the fluid size of the league over the past 20 years., that averages out to be 4.6 coaching changes per season based on an average of 13.75 clubs in the league during that time; in the now-20-team league, that number would rise to 6.8 managerial changes each year.

As the 2015 MLS regular season nears its three-quarter mark, there's yet to be a single in-season managerial change. In the Premier League, meanwhile, the season doesn't start for another two weeks and yet Liverpool's Brendan Rodgers is the bookies' favourite at 7-to-2 to be axed, and analysts question whether he will be in charge come Christmas.

After three full seasons in the dugout at Anfield, will Rodgers be shown the sort of patience that his club's American owners (Fenway Sports Group) have shown Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell in two miserable losing seasons since winning the World Series? The numbers suggest he won't.