In Summary

Sacking a coach isn't enough to change the attitude of fans. What matters most is who the club appoints next - not who they get rid of.

Data collected directly before and after the announcement of a coaching change was examined as part of a collaborative research study between Swinburne University of Technology and Deakin University.

“While fans often call for the coach to be sacked, what changes their attitudes and future intentions towards the team is not the removal of the coach, but who replaces them,” Professor Heath McDonald, Swinburne Business School said. 

“Changing a coach can impact on a wide range of fan attitudes, but is felt most sharply in attitudes towards the overall club administration.”

This study is unique given the ‘real time’ nature of the data collected, which tracked the impact of respondents in the days before and following the announcements.

Two distinct cases were examined: the Australian Football League, with the appointment of James Hird to Essendon Football Club; and Football Federation Australia, where no replacement coach was announced when Ernie Merrick of Melbourne Victory was terminated.

In the case of Essendon, the announcement of appointing a coach was aligned with significant positive change in regards to the attitudes of fans which in turn generated a halo effect on service quality and satisfaction.

“We found that the appointment announcement of James Hird coincided with a significant, positive increase in satisfaction and a six per cent increase in number of members intending to renew their season tickets,” Professor McDonald said.

“In contrast, the announcement around the sacking of Ernie Merrick had no impact on overall satisfaction of ticket holders.”

The data collected formed part of a larger study conducted by Professor McDonald which examines seasonal ticket holder attitudes across a range of clubs, post season.

Professor McDonald said although the results of Essendon and Melbourne Victory are case-based, they do have implications for teams managing succession events.

“Marketers have a key role is succession events through managing and communicating actions that enable the club to maximise positive impact. It is therefore highly risky to sack a coach without a replacement lined up.”

This research is titled The Immediate Impact of Coach Succession on Season Ticket Holders Attitudes and was undertaken by Professor Heath McDonald, Swinburne Business School and Dr Adam Karg, Deakin University.