Marcelo Bielsa sacking raises questions over loyalty versus results and when is too long to stay at the top - Mark Casci

I was duty editor of The Yorkshire Post this past weekend.

When I awoke on Sunday morning I was made aware early that, not only was the situation in Ukraine worsening, but that also Leeds United were about to sack their manager.

I have been at the YP for 14 years this summer. During that period 15 people have been in charge of the club.

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Indeed during the Massimo Cellino era, it seemed like the manager was changed as often as a person changes his or her socks.

The end has come to Marcelo Bielsa's reign at Leeds United.

This weekend was different, however. Marcelo Bielsa was shown the door after a torrid run of results which left them perilously close to the relegation zone.

Under normal circumstances such a sacking would have been treated with little attention.

But Bielsa was different. He did what no coach had done in 15 years at Elland Road and took them back to Premier League glory.

Not only that but he did so in a way that put a spring back in the step of supporters that had not been seen since arguably the Don Revie era.

Results have not been going LUFC's way.

With their ultra-fast attacking football, Leeds United were once again being globally recognised. The world’s great coaches and commentators queued up to sing their praises.

Somehow Leeds were cool again.

Judging by the messages we received over the weekend in the newsroom, fans are devastated at Bielsa’s departure. His passion and love for the club was reciprocated in spades by the Elland Road faithful, who revere and respect him as much as is possible for any sports fan.

The whole encounter has left me to ponder just where one has to draw the line when it comes to leadership and loyalty.

Fans took to Bielsa from the moment he took over.

Business and sports have one huge area of common ground in the respect that they are results-driven areas.

Whether you are coaching a top flight football team or running a publicly listed firm, it is not your personality or integrity that will see you through – it is all about what you deliver.

One thinks of the likes of Michael Eisner at Disney.

Mr Eisner took Disney from corporate dinosaur to an internationally-recognised powerhouse business, growing its share price 27 per cent a year during his first 13 years.

When is too long in management?

However, inevitable decline set in and a shareholder revolt in 2005 saw him hand in his notice.

So when is too long officially too long?

CEO turnover hit a record high of 17 per cent in 2018, research into the world’s largest 2,500 public companies from PwC showed, with the median tenure of a CEO being circa five years, with 19 per cent of all CEOs remaining in position for 10 or more years.

The shelf life for football managers is far shorter. Bielsa, one of the world’s most revered coaches, was in the post for less than four years.

The Argentine may well have kept Leeds up. All newly-promoted teams suffer from ‘second season syndrome’ wherein they struggle to make an impact after a successful first season in the top flight.

Given the scale of Leeds, the stakes are higher.

Andrea Radrizzani, Leeds’s Italian owner, does not want to risk a return to the second tier of English football. And Bielsa had displayed that dangerous leadership characteristic of failing to change his tactics, even when faced with terrible results.

From an economic perspective, top flight football is something every business leader I spoke to over the last six years said would be the single biggest boost that Leeds could receive.

Having a mass transit service and a proper international airport are harder nuts to crack, with the latter now in limbo thanks to a needless public inquiry.

But Premier League football was helping Leeds inch towards being a proper European city.

Whether or not the club survives remains to be seen. Certainly, United fans feel like they have lost a family member with Bielsa’s departure.

What is certain is that in the high stake worlds of football and business, the price for failure is always departure – no matter how good you may think you are.