The effect of firing football managers

IEB Report

Recently, Jan van Ours, Professor of Applied Economics at Erasmus School of Economics, and Thomas Peeters, Associate Professor at Erasmus School of Economics, contributed to the IEB Report by elucidating on the subject of firing football managers. In their article, they explain the subject using an example: the dismissal of Ronald Koeman.


Mostly, football managers are fired after a period of poor team performance. However, team performance has an important random component to it. ‘Think of a ball hitting the bar instead of the back of the net, or a penalty given by one referee for a foul where another referee would not’, the economists say. The firing of football managers often follows after a period of bad luck.

To find the effect of firing a manager, Van Ours and Peeters found instances where the club was equally unlucky but did not fire its manager. For this, the researchers used surprise points; the difference between the actual and expected points of a team. In their article, they found that the performance improvement was stronger after a period where FC Barcelona was equally unlucky and where they did not fire their manager. In other words: FC Barcelona performed better after keeping their manager than they did after firing Koeman in another period.

Associate professor
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You can download the full IEB Report, January 2023, above.

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