The Illusion of Loyalty in Pro Sports

Leicester City F.C. handed Claudio Ranieri his walking papers yesterday, roughly 2 weeks after declaring unwavering support for him.

The statement of support indicated, “In light of recent speculation, Leicester City Football club would like to make absolutely clear its unwavering support for first-team manager, Claudio Ranieri.”  Apparently, unwavering support lasts for only a couple of weeks.

Although this isn’t the first time a manager has been fired shortly after the owner of a team publicly stated that he fully supports the manager, the sacking of Ranieri is surprising considering that he led Leicester City to their first Premier League title.  Virtually nobody expected Leicester City to contend for the title, let alone win, but Ranieri accomplished what most people thought was impossible.

The players deserve much of the credit.  Many of them had career years and they played their hearts out but Ranieri also deserves credit for the way he transformed a club that was relegation bound to champions.

The way Leicester City disposed of Ranieri is yet another example of how there is no loyalty in pro sports.  Owners and managers often complain that players aren’t loyal.  They don’t like how players often jump to another team if they’re offered a better deal. The truth is, managers and team owners aren’t loyal either.

Managers often spew nonsense (Rainieri included) about how their team is doing so well because they’re like a family.  While it’s true that most teams achieve greater success if they all get along with each other, you can not seriously compare this type of good relationship to a family.  When a player in this “family” performs poorly, they first get banished to the bench and if their performance doesn’t improve, they will not play again and the team will try to ship the player off to another team to unload his contract.  This doesn’t happen in a real family.  When there is a problem with a family member, they are not relegated to the bench or sent away.

Managers like to manipulate players into thinking that they’re part of a family but in reality, it’s simply a psychological tool to try to keep morale up and players more obedient.  Some players will jump to another team to make more money because they’re greedy but it can be argued that some of them do this because they see through the nonsensical argument that a team is like a family and they simply don’t feel any loyalty to a manager and team that isn’t loyal to them.

In this day and age, words are often meaningless.  A manager can tell a player that he’s a valuable member of the “family” when they’re performing well.  But if their performance dips, that valued family member will be on the bench.

Antonio Conte recently said that it’s not his job to make his players happy, it’s only the results that matter.  This candid comment shows how cut throat pro sports can be but at least Conte doesn’t pretend that players on his team are like family to him.

Despite the lack of loyalty in pro sports, Leicester City’s treatment of Ranieri is classless.  After what Leicester City accomplished under Ranieri’s guidance, they owed him the chance of seeing through the season and Champions League.

Leicester City F.C.’s owners deserve a red card for their actions.


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