Monday, 27 February 2017

When owners and fans want different things

The sacking of Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri last week came as a surprise to some. Yes, his reigning Premier League champions were hovering dangerously just above the relegation zone, but he had done the impossible last season, leading the Foxes to a title that no-one thought they'd ever achieve and that they'll probably never achieve again. Surely that would protect him from the kind of treatment other managers would get in that situation?

Unfortunately the financial cost of relegation from the Premier League, even with parachute payments, is just too great these days, especially for a club that had rewarded its title-winning players with lucrative long term deals. With Financial Fair Play now a consideration, relegation would cause Leicester serious problems. That, along with the rumoured players' revolt, is surely what led to Ranieri's sacking.

For the fans though, is relegation a price worth paying? If you asked the fans of Premier League clubs other than the big guns whether they would accept a time in the Championship in exchange for a Premier League title, I think most would go for it. Surely that's what supporting a team is all about - wanting your club to win trophies, to call themselves champions. For most of our clubs it's an impossible dream, but dream we do, and Leicester proved that maybe, just maybe, those dreams can come true.

But league position, and therefore financial stability, is what you're after if you're a businessman running a club. Arsenal is a good example. An increasing number of Gunners fans are ready for Arsene Wenger to bid farewell, even though he delivers a top four finish and Champions League football every season. For the chairman that's fantastic, but for the supporter, they want to be winning the Premier League and Champions League.

Why risk that kind of stability though? Who would replace him? Could Arsenal finish lower than fourth under a new boss? It's the kind of gamble that owners and chairmen could do without, which is why Wenger seemingly has his job as long as he wants it.

Perhaps if Ranieri had three Premier League titles behind him instead of just one he might have been given a bit more time.