Yesterday, Tottenham Hotspurs sacked its manager Mauricio Pochettino after five years at the helm. Some will say that Pochettino was a victim of his own success, with the disappointing start to this season (Tottenham are currently 14th in the League) standing in stark contrast to having made it to the Champion’s League final last year.
What, you may wonder, do we have to say about this from an employment law point of view? You don’t often hear about employment rights in the context of the hire and fire of the world’s top football managers. But if they are employed by the club then they will have employment law rights like the rest of us.
So could Pochettino have any employment law claims against Tottenham? With over 5 years service he would have protection from unfair dismissal, meaning that the club would need a potentially fair reason to dismiss him, which the club might argue is capability, and to go through a fair procedure prior to dismissing. However, a series of disappointing results is unlikely to justify his dismissal being ‘within the range of reasonable responses’ especially given the club’s performance in the Champion’s League last year. Pochettino might also try and argue that while he has given his all, the results are out of his control and down to external factors such as player injurys and lack of investment into recruiting players. To satisfy a fair capability process an employer would also need to go through a performance improvement plan before saying goodbye, but this doesn’t quite gel with the culture of premier league football, the demand for top results, and indeed the egos of the managers themselves. Not a surprise then that we didn’t hear of José Mourinho being put on a performance improvement plan before being let go by Manchester United last year.
So do we expect to see Pochettino rocking up to the Employment Tribunal any time soon? Very unlikely. Unfair dismissal claims are currently capped at £86,444 or a year’s pay if lower (which will certainly not be lower in Pochettino’s case!). As such, for a managers such as Pochettino on a multi-million pound contract, favourable severance terms negotiated by his lawyers can provide for far higher compensation than he could ever achieve in a tribunal. Indeed given that Pochettino signed a new five year contract last May it has reportedly cost the club around £12.5 million to end his contract, so it sounds like his lawyers had his back. In addition, the publicity associated with an employment tribunal claim (hearings are public) would likely have a disastrous impact on reputation in the small world of Premier League football.
Tottenham have sacked manager Mauricio Pochettino after five years in charge of the Premier League club.