The Rational Ref

When getting sacked can be a nice little earner

Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan was naive to think that Malky Mackay would ever resign

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 December, 2013, 8:11pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 December, 2013, 1:27am

Getting the boot is not such a bad thing; simply ask a host of axed managers such as Andre Villas-Boas and Fabio Capello. So it was a no-brainer when Malaysian billionaire Vincent Tan put his foot in it by threatening his club's popular manager, Malky Mackay, to either "resign or face the sack".

Tan's apparent ultimatum revealed suspect ruthlessness in the upper echelons of Cardiff City. Other club owners such as Roman Abramovich, Daniel Levy and Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan would never ask their respective managers to resign and make threats to them. Soccer managers do not need an MBA from a prestigious business school to figure out the positives when they are being intimidated by their bosses to resign.

Tan's posturing makes little sense. Why would Mackay resign when he knows that if he is sacked he would be entitled to at least £2 million (HK$25.4 million) in compensation with two-and-a-half years left on his contract? Consider Villas-Boas, who recently received a £4 million golden handshake after being sacked as Tottenham Hotspur coach. Before that, Villas-Boas walked away with £12 million when Chelsea owner Abramovich also lost patience with the young Portuguese manager and prematurely terminated his contract. Being fired has its rewards.

Abramovich started the ball rolling with his first hand-picked manager, Jose Mourinho, who was fired in 2007. Mourinho still had three years left on his £6-million-a-year contract to run. He accepted a settlement, along with a £2-million vintage Ferrari as a sweetener, and bided his time until an opening occurred at Inter Milan.

Roberto Di Matteo, who led Chelsea to their first-ever European Cup success, is still being paid his full wage at the club - £130,000 a week - because after being axed he did not agree to a settlement and will continue to be paid until June 2014 or unless he finds a job.

Chelsea also compensated Luiz Felipe Scolari and his coaching staff with a sum of £12.6 million for his eight-month reign of just 36 games. Together with payout packages to Claudio Ranieri and Avram Grant, Chelsea have paid compensation packages totalling nearly £50 million to sacked managers since 2003.

Liverpool have also coughed up huge compensation packages. Club legend Kenny Dalglish, out of management for nearly 11 years before taking over at Liverpool in 2011, was offered over £8 million after being replaced by Brendan Rodgers last season. Dalglish's predecessor, Roy Hodgson, now the England manager, received £7 million after six months in charge at Anfield. Manchester City fired Roberto Mancini last season who, fresh after winning the Premier League, was only one year into his new five-year contract. Mancini received £7 million.

The English FA is no stranger to shelling out vast compensation packages either, as Sven Goran Eriksson, now at Chinese Super League club Guangzhou R&F, and Fabio Capello will attest.

So with all this money being handed out, it is astonishing for Tan to ask Mackay to resign. Outside of soccer, we have heard about brash, proud employees who claim they would rather "resign than be fired" but I have never met such individuals.

Nevertheless, a handful of top-flight managers do resign by their own choosing. Ian Holloway resigned from Crystal Palace this season by mutual consent after a string of dismal results. But that was apparently because he had good relations with the club's owners and they privately agreed to a settlement.

Tan does not command good relations with Mackay, nor with Bluebirds supporters. Last season, he changed Cardiff's traditional home colours of blue and white to red and black, as well as their badge. Changing traditions is not the best way to curry favour with the locals, particularly if there is no good reason to do so.

Perhaps the Asian mentality in Tan gives him a tendency to avoid giving golden handshakes?

Asian businessmen have a reputation for being competitive and cunning wheeler-dealers, but in the soccer world their business-savvy credentials appear to fail spectacularly. Compared with Russian oligarchs and Middle East sheikhs who own high-profile clubs, why are Asians seemingly less successful as owners?

Other examples of Asian businessman who have so far failed to have an impact include former Hong Kong hairstylist Carson Yeung Ka-sing (Birmingham City), Hong Kong businessman Balram Chainrai (Portsmouth FC), Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes (Queens Park Rangers), and former Thailand prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who took over Manchester City in 2007 and a year later sold the club to the Abu Dhabi United Group headed by Sheikh Mansour.

To be fair Chainrai did not seriously expect to become a club owner because he only loaned £15 million to Pompey with the understanding he would be swiftly and handsomely compensated.

In general, Asian businessmen have a lot to learn about big-time soccer. The main lesson is they cannot intimidate their managers.

What about referees? There are no stories about referees being fired and receiving compensation for their dedication. But sadly there are real stories about referees being forced to quit owing to intimidation and death threats.

Swedish referee Anders Frisk retired in 2005 after sustained death threats to him and his family from Chelsea fans. This was after he sent off Didier Drogba in a Champions League match against Barcelona. Nobody who does an honest job deserves to be threatened and forced to resign. No doubt Malky Mackay would agree.

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