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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Thesis Review: "The Sacking as a Moment of Growth for a Football Manager" by Claudio Rastelli

Photo credit: FC Sudtirol.
Claudio Rastelli.

Claudio Rastelli's UEFA Pro Master's Course thesis focused on a provocative and unique theme: The sacking of professional football managers and its aftermath. The author cited data, obtained direct quotes from sacked managers and provided a concise analysis about a fascinating topic.

Discussion Items:

1. Thesis Overview
2. Writing Style
3. Images and Graphics
4. My Ratings
5. Link to Italian Source Document

Editor's Note:

This timely article is dedicated to Claudio Ranieri and is a reminder how quickly one's fortunes can change at the highest levels of professional coaching.


"The Sacking as a Moment of Growth for a Football Manager"
by Claudio Rastelli

1. Thesis Overview: A Rarely Discussed Topic by a Coach

Claudio Rastelli was the manager until 9 November 2014 of FC Sudtirol of the Italian Lega Pro (Third Division) in the bilingual (German and Italian) region of Alto Adige. He is now the Sporting Director at  A.C.Trento. Rastelli was born in Rome and came up through the Lodigiani youth ranks. Mister Rastelli played professionally at Perugia, Siena and Venezia, respectively.

This intriguing thesis was 26 pages in length and concisely organized into three parts with nine chapters. What attracted me to this particular document was the unusual, yet common-sense theme, for a professional coach in any sport: The inevitable sack/firing. Rarely do we see this topic discussed in detail let alone in a first-person account. Rastelli also had many interviews with sacked managers which provided a provocative analysis from the other side of the coin.

I will translate a few key quotes from Mister Rastelli's thesis. Let's take a look at the contents.

Mister Rastelli interviewed in October 2014.


One day, while I was training a football team and going through a tough time, such that the certainties were always more frail and difficulties seemed to be insurmountable mountains. Then a phone call came in, from the sporting director, who explained with displeasure that, "The club has decided to change managers to see if the sporting situation would change." And he coldly communicated to me in that instant I was SACKED.

Why was I sacked?

It's from this question that I went down the road to develop this thesis. I experienced the phenomenon in the first person and then came into contact with colleagues who once, or even more often, went through similar situations.

My desire is to explain, in a direction of reasoning and along a very precise path, that sacking comprises a part, willy-nilly, of the sporting life of a manager. Then, if he analyzed and 'took it' in the proper way, can become a moment of human and professional growth.

Part One

1. What is a Sack?

To suffer a sack means to be released from something. In the case of a manager, it means being relieved of his duties to manage a team. You are not dealing with a complete dismissal because the sacked manager continues to receive his salary that was stipulated at the time of his initial contract.

Another peculiarity is that the sacked manager can't coach in another club until the end of the current sporting season. In the case of a multi-year contract, the manager must rescind his contract with the club that sacked him in order to sign a new deal elsewhere.

2. A Widespread Phenomenon: A Panorama of the Sackings from the Last Sporting Season (2011/12)

1. Italy: 50 percent.
2. Spain: 40 percent.
3. Germany: 30 percent.
4. France and England: 25 percent.

Sackings are not only an Italian phenomenon but perhaps are inherent in the essence of football itself which is understood as a system and not a game. The fact remains that our country (Italy) sacks with much more facility in neighboring realities.

Translator's Note

The author provided a precisely detailed analysis of every sacking (10 out of 20 teams) in Serie A along with average points per game and positions in the table that were attained before and after these incidents. Rastelli also documented the 14 out of 22 sackings in Serie B in a lesser fashion along with a synopsis of the other major European leagues.

Part Two

3. Why does a club decide to sack?

The data reveal it is not proven that changing managers pays off. Indeed, in many cases, the change does not produce improvements. In other cases, it makes things worse forcing clubs to return to their initial choices (cases where they must rehire the first sacked manager). It's also proper to highlight that in certain situations, the change was nailed down properly and the team will be able to change gears.

1) Because they can't change all of their players. Thus, if there are problems, it's proper to try a change with the manager.

2) Because if it's true that sporting management is the domain of the sporting director, he rarely will admit publicly to have made a mess of everything (players he has in place from the transfer market). These directors will decide to change the manager if only to show that their playing roster was adequate.

4. Analogies and Differences with the World of Work

Managing, just like farming or cooking, are human activities that deserve respect and consideration independently of their "level."

However, a fundamental difference exists that can't be overlooked: Anyone who is ready to admit he doesn't know how to cook and anyone who knows the skills of a great chef. In a footballing environment, on the other hand, it's more difficult for a person who works in other areas (journalist, fan, team president) to respect the role of a manager. And they aren't always able to recognize their talents. 

5. Interviews with Sacked Managers

In your opinion, what were the causes of your sacking?

Roberto Donadoni (Cagliari, Serie A):

Until now, I haven't yet understood the reason why my adventure at Cagliari ended. Also because I didn't have a way to speak with Cellino (team president) any further and I received communications only from the director of sport, Marroccu. It's evident that it came as a personal choice of the president.

What would you change in your behavior to prevent the sack?

In my case, it's really difficult to respond. Not having understood the sacking, it is difficult to say to what extent I would change anything. Let's say that I had an idea of the president from the outside that didn't correspond to reality once being inside of the situation.

From the interviews, it emerged that a manager wasn't always clear about the reason for his sacking. And above all, almost never made a true self-critique by looking to understand how he could have prevented the situation.

Translator's Note

The author interviewed a variety of managers from youth ranks to Serie A. He asked the same two questions to each manager.

Part Three

6. How should a manager behave to analyze the causes of a sack in the post-analysis.

A manager who intervened as a docent in the UEFA Pro Masters Course, Luciano Spalletti, said he was sacked twice in his career. And that he held himself responsible for both sackings. He maintained that whoever is sacked must feel responsible because surely he would have made mistakes.

Perhaps Spalletti wanted to impress upon us students to always be very critical in our undertakings. And also to learn how to self-critique, if not publicly (which more often than not can have a boomerang effect), at least to do so privately.

7. What can a manager do to prevent it?

a) Clarifying Initial Objectives.

e) Media and Television Relationships.

g) Capacity to Dive into Reality.

8. The Sacking as "A Travel Companion" in the Journey of a Manager.

Sackings permit an elevated number (double) of managers to work. If no club sacked a manager, half of all managers (in Italy) couldn't find a team. The majority of great managers have also experienced a sacking. This did not prevent their growth and to reach elevated levels.

This means that a sacking, analyzed as we have done already, is understood, accepted and should be seen as a travel companion for the manager. As something to prevent if possible but not to exorcise.

9. From a "Drama" to a "Stimulus."

A sacking does not place your economic earnings at risk.

You can calmly affirm that getting sacked is not a DRAMA.

2. Writing Style

FC Südtirol
Image credit: FC Sudtirol.

Rastelli wrote about a somewhat taboo topic; however, he does so with conviction, precision and objectivity. He is also very concise which makes this a quick, yet educational, read. The author cited facts and statistics to provide a very detailed analysis instead of only "Half of all Italian top-flight managers were sacked."

Rastelli also provided a rare look at how contract law affects, and in many cases stringently binds, professional football managers to their respective clubs. His descriptions in this area were great examples of technical writing. Part Five, where he interviewed "the sacked class" of fellow Italian colleagues, remains one of my favorite elements of this thesis.

3. Images and Graphics

Photographer: Armin Kübelbeck,CC-BY-SA,
Wikimedia Commons

Trafoi, South Tyrol.

There were no images or coaching diagrams contained in this thesis.

4. My Ratings

Coaching education: 9/10
Editorial organization: 8/10
Graphics: n/a
Unique theme: 10/10
Writing style: 8/10
Overall: 35/40 = Five Stars.

Claudio Rastelli has written an educational thesis about a rarely discussed topic from a coach's perspective. It was a great pleasure to review this thesis.

5. Italian source document courtesy of Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio (FIGC)

Scuola allenatori - Tesi


Tesi corso Master per allenatori di Prima categoria Uefa Pro - Corso 2011-2012
Autore/i: Claudio Rastelli

Steve Amoia is a freelance writer and translator based in Washington, D.C. He is the publisher of World Football Commentaries since 2006 and published The Soccer Translator from 2008 to 2015. 

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