ESPN contributor Austin Lindberg on Friday published a startling statistic about England’s Premier League: in the past 20 years, there have been an astonishing 215 head coaching changes. That’s 54 percent of coaches in the 20-team league replaced, or 10.76 every season since 1995-96.
When you compare that to the two most dominant sports in America, football and baseball, the turnover isn’t anywhere near as high. The 32-team National Football League has seen just 135 coaching changes over the same time period, or 6.82 changes per season, while Major League Baseball’s 30 teams have changed coaches 131 times at a per-season rate of 6.54.
Those numbers increase slightly with the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association: both 30-team leagues see about one third of their coaches leave their posts over the course of a given season, per ESPN.
But still, as Lindberg notes, the most volatile coaching market in America, the NBA, still falls nearly 20 percent short of the coaching turnover rate that has been established by the Premier League since 1995.
So, why the discrepancy?
According to Lindberg, it’s all about money: after all, the Premier League is the most lucrative soccer league in the world. Its main driver, of course, is TV rights.
In February, England’s top flight agreed a domestic TV rights program worth 5.14 billion-pounds ($8 billion) over the next three seasons. The league’s international rights, in its current three-year deal, were sold for 2.23 billion-pounds ($3.5 billion), although the new deal is expected to bring in at least double the revenue.
As Lindberg notes, the secret to the league’s collective strength is the fact that the bulk of TV revenues are split amongst the Premier League’s 20 teams, which puts a serious premium on survival. In fact, the article notes that staying in the Premier League is currently worth as much as 90 million ($140 million) pounds per year. And with the bidding for the new international TV rights set to begin soon, the importance of EPL survival will only get even bigger.
It is, indeed, all about money, as Lindberg says. After all, soccer clubs are businesses, too. But Off The Post would argue that it’s the system of relegation that is main driver behind the EPL’s coaching turnover. Because these clubs are businesses, they absolutely need that $140 million (and growing) that staying in the Premier League promises them every season. Therefore, the prospect of falling out of the league, losing out on that revenue, and quite probably, your best players and staff, too, is akin to falling off a massive cliff for a club owner. Indeed, for some, it can mean the end of the line.
Obviously, American professional sports teams, including MLS, do not have to worry about falling out of their league. They will never not be professional teams -- unless, of course, a team folds -- and thus, are more stable as businesses. The scary prospect of relegation means that owners must do absolutely everything they can to avoid falling off that cliff, which means that managers’ heads will continue to roll in the event of a really poor run of results. Because of this, the EPL Sack Race, as the British like to call it, will probably only get more intense.