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Volume 10 No. 23
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Leaders: Michael Eisner Says Hire And Fire Mentality In English Football Is 'Insane'

LONDON -- Former Disney CEO and current League One side Portsmouth Owner Michael Eisner dubbed the hire and fire mentality of managers by English football clubs as "insane."

Michael Eisner, speaking at Wednesday’s Leaders Sport Business Summit, said, “If you look at the great sports teams around the world, you try and find a great manager. You stick with him through thick and thin. To have a manager that is on life support from the day he arrived, what kind of confidence can he have in leading a team?”

Eisner’s comments follow Premier League club Crystal Palace sacking Manager Frank De Boer after just five games and 77 days in charge. A recent study found that the average lifespan of a Premier League manager is just 91 games. Eisner said that he hopes that Portsmouth’s current manager, Kenny Jackett, will be managing the club for a decade. “I just think continuity, teamwork, has to exist off the pitch as well as on the pitch,” he said.

Asked about his reasons for buying Portsmouth and whether he was worried that bringing his own background in entertainment to help bolster the club’s profile would not sit well with the fans, Eisner said he was unconcerned. “I would say the fans are so similar to the Disney fans," he said. "When I went to Disney, it was about to be broken up and liquidated. The fans were so happy that somebody cared."

He added, “We were aware of that, that our relationship with the Disney fans became very real and very quick. And it was very helpful in rejuvenating the company. The fans at Portsmouth are amazingly nice, they care about the team. They know the players. They are a group of people who I really understand.”

Eisner bought Portsmouth in August for a reported £5.67M, saying he was persuaded by the history of the club and the passion of the fans. Members of the Pompey Supporters’ Trust, which held a 48.5% stake in the club, voted overwhelmingly in favor of selling their shares to Eisner. Eisner and his three sons, Breck, Eric and Anders, sit on the board at the club, which plays at Fratton Park. He said, “We decided that soccer was something we wanted to be involved in.”

Eisner said to prime himself for his move into English football he watched MLS games in Utah, followed by other games in the U.S. Watching these games, he said, football felt alien to him, but he said that NBC coverage of the Premier League is making football less alien to Americans. "Investing in U.S. sports is very expensive," he said. "American Football has physical problems that scare me. It [investing in Portsmouth] just seemed like a great thing to do for my family."

Leaders is owned and operated by American City Business Journals.
John Reynolds is a writer in London.