Long Contracts, Big Pay-Offs: Premier League Remains a Manager's Market
Rafael Benítez’s departure from Newcastle United may not have been amicable, but it represented a relative Premier League rarity – a manager seeing out the full term of his contract.
On Sunday, Benítez’s three-year tenure on Tyneside comes to an end – on the same day David Moyes’ six-year assignment at Manchester United was due to expire. Moyes lasted nine months at Old Trafford. The end of Benítez’s reign comes a year ahead of the infamous eight-year deal Alan Pardew signed with Newcastle in September 2012.
Nine Premier League managers departed their clubs last season, including those who left after the final game. Ten will not fulfil the length of their contracts as six top-flight clubs kick off the 2019-20 season with different managers to those originally contracted for the campaign.
A further nine were signed up to the end of the 2018-19 season but did not see out their term. In total, there will be 11 collective unserved years of contracts across the 20 clubs, a couple of whom effectively have multiple managers on the books for the upcoming season.
Brendan Rodgers’ move from Celtic to Leicester City, on a deal that will take him up to 2022, made him the fourth manager the East Midlands club had offered a contract for 2019-20. The first – Claudio Ranieri – was sacked in February 2017, six months after agreeing a four-year extension.
The title-winning Italian’s successor, Craig Shakespeare, was subsequently sacked in October 2017, four months into a three-year deal. Claude Puel was removed in favour of Rodgers in February, having originally been contracted until June 2020.
Similarly, when Southampton appointed Ralph Hasenhüttl last December, he replaced Mark Hughes, who had been signed up until 2021. Hughes had replaced Mauricio Pellegrino, whose deal will run out next summer. The Welshman’s contract at Stoke City expired at the end of last season – he was sacked in January 2018.
Hughes is by no means alone in failing to see out multiple contracts. In January of last year, José Mourinho signed an extension with Manchester United that would have taken him to the end of the 2019-20 season, with an option for a further year. His previous Chelsea contract, signed in August 2015 before he was sacked four months later, expires this summer.
Paying off managers is expensive. Manchester United’s half-yearly accounts revealed it had cost £19.6m to pay off Mourinho and his assistants, who had previously received a total of more than £8m from Chelsea.
“It’s become a cost of doing business in the Premier League,” says Ray Wann, an employment lawyer with Sheridans, a specialist sports law company.
“It’s become a manager-friendly situation. You have managers who become used to being sacked and know they will be well remunerated. They will get a heavy pay-off if clubs change their minds.”
In the Premier League, multi-year contracts are the norm, while single-year, rolling contracts are more common in the Football League. Even at clubs like Manchester United, managers like Mourinho hold the balance of power in the negotiation of their employment and subsequent termination. Aspirant managers tend to be signed on lesser terms.
“The bigger the name, the better the negotiating power on the notice period,” one agent told The Guardian. “If you’re early in your management career and getting a job that’s, on the surface, a step up, the club might agree to pay you six or 12 months’ salary.
“Sometimes the notice period is linked to gardening leave. The club will pay the full amount after a sacking but as soon as the manager is working again, the amount drops or goes completely.”
Those spiralling costs have meant that six- and eight-year deals, like those signed by Moyes and Pardew are understandably scarce, although Jürgen Klopp is three years from completing a six-year deal at Liverpool, pending an extension.
The current Premier League managers with the longest time left on their tenures are Watford’s Javi Gracia, Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino, and the new Brighton manager, Graham Potter. Each are under contract until the summer of 2023.
The Guardian Sport