Nicolas Weisz
Business & Sports Lawyer / Sport Agent

Can a coach be freely fired?


Each year several head coaches are fired by their club for insufficient results. For instance, for year 2015/2016, have been fired in France:

- 11 coaches (out of 20) in football 1st league,

- 3 coaches in basketball 1st league.

  • Is it justified? 

The answer is undoubtedly no : it is taken for granted that a club cannot base the unilateral termination on bad results. 

Indeed, the head coach cannot guarantee to obtain successful results, but only to do the best for that purpose. 

In other words, the coach is subject to a best-efforts obligation rather than to a result obligation. 

French courts therefore consider that uncertainty and hazard are inherent in sports.

  • For what reasons a contract may be freely terminated by the club?

The club and the coach can only be bound by a fixed term employment contract.

It means that where the club intends to terminate his coach's contract without indemnities, only a gross misconduct may be invoked, other than bad results.

In practice, unless the coach insults or harms the reputation of the club, fights with a member of the board, or refuses to perform his job, the justification of a gross misconduct is quite difficult.

  • Can a contract stipulate an "automatic termination clause" for bad results?

It is not possible to override the aforementioned provisions, which are of public order. Thus, succeeding may not be an obligation, even if the parties agree with it.

  • What if the coach is fired anyway? 

if the club terminates anyway the contract, the fired coach shall be indemnified with the salaries he should have received until the agreed term, in addition to the prejudice suffered, notably for damaging his image and reputation.

This is the reason why clubs prefer to sign a settlement agreement with their coach, to mitigate the financial risks in case of legal action.