Next one, please! The brutal survival odds of Swiss football coaches

A survival analysis of 400 coaches shows the madness of the football business in Switzerland.

That football coaches are usually the weakest link when things go wrong is nothing new. But in Switzerland, the amount of coaches who are getting fired every season is uncharacteristcally high.

To find out how low the “life expectancy” of a football coach in Switzerland really is, we analyzed the lifespan of 400 coaches of the two highest leagues in Switzerland since 2000. Every coach that once stood beside the pitch is included, also temporary replacements.

Let’s first take a look at the distribution of the lifespans:

Histogram of lifespan distribution. X-Axis shows the amount of years a coach stayed at a club.

The chart shows that most of the coaches don’t even make it to the first year. The average time a coach is hired by a club is 364 days (mean, green line). The median (red) is even lower with just 228 days.

Record holder is Christian Gross. He stayed ten years with FC Basel an won a very impressive average points of 1.94. Also defying the odds were Jürgen Seeberger with FC Schaffhausen and Urs Wolfensberger with FC Rapperswil-Jona who both stayed almost seven years.

Now let’s take a look at the survival rate of the coaches, calculated with the Statistics Software R:

The survival odds of swiss football coaches decline drastically within the first year.

The chart shows the survival probability of a swiss football coach after a certain amount of time. After just half a year, only 55 % of all coaches are still hired. Half of them are gone within 250 days (dotted line). After one year, not even a third (!) of the coaches are still standing beside the pitch.

Only 15 percent stay more than two years with a club. Think about it! A two year contract is quite common when hiring coaches. So clubs making a bet they are going to lose with a 85 % certainty!

Dear football coaches, good look staying longer than three years. Only six percent make it… so this means from 20 coaches that get hired, only one of them is most likely to be seen at the pitch when three years have passed.

If we only include the coaches that were hired for at least 30 days to rule out most of the temporarely replacements, the rate looks like this:

Survival rate of coaches that stayed at least 30 days

As you can see, the survival rate of the coaches improves slightly. Now, 63 % make it to half a year, 37 % reach the year mark, 17 % survive two years. Bot those are still terrifying prospects for football coaches.

Of course, the prospects differ from club to club. The following chart shows the survival rate of the coaches in every current Super League team.

Survival rate of coaches, divided by team

Of course, the sample per team is too low to reach any reasonable conclusions. Still, that lime curve at the bottom stands out. Its the one from FC Sion. Lets take a closer look at it:

The survival probabiliy of an coach hired by FC Sion

With 47 coaches hired since 2000, FC Sion is the only club to provide a reasonable sample size to analyse on its own. As expected, the survival rate of an FC Sion coach drops faster than a rock thrown into water. After half a year, not even a third (!) of the coaches are still hired. Its pure insanity.

After one year, only 11 % are still hired by FC Sion. That means from ten coaches, only one reaches the one year mark. To stay two years at FC Sion is a mission impossible. Since 2000, nobody has made it. Closest came Didier Tholot, who stayed 604 days with the club.

All in all, the data shows that long term thinking rarely does exist within swiss football clubs. Panic mostly rules when decisions about the future of a couch are being made. No wonder so many football clubs in Switzerland have been so inconsistant in the past…

Leave a Reply