English Premiership

Leicester axe Ranieri to save cash jackpot

2017-02-25 09:45
Claudio Ranieri (TEAMtalk)

London - Leicester's Thai owners ruthlessly sacked Claudio Ranieri less than a year after he masterminded their Premier League title triumph because relegation would cost them over £100 million.

Ranieri was axed on Thursday as the Srivaddhanaprabha family lost patience with the Leicester manager's failure to halt the team's shocking slide towards the relegation zone.

The genial Italian's dismissal was condemned in many quarters as his fellow managers and pundits claimed Ranieri deserved to be treated with more respect and should have been given time to turn the tide.

But from a cold hearted business perspective the bold move makes sense.

Leicester sit only one point above the bottom three with 13 games remaining after losing their last five league matches without scoring a single goal.

That dismal run had raised the incredible prospect of Leicester becoming the first reigning English champions to be relegated since Manchester City in 1938.

Crashing out of the top-flight would be a huge blow to the egos of Leicester's owners, who revelled in attention of their against-the-odds title victory last May.

But far more significantly, dropping into the Championship carries such severe financial damage that they surely felt they had little choice but to dismiss Ranieri just weeks after publicly giving him their "unwavering" support.

With a new £5 billion television deal coming into force this season, the prize for staying up has never been greater.

Every Premier League club in 2016-17 will pocket at least £100 million in prize money, and that's not even taking into account additional sponsorship deals and matchday income.

LUCRATIVE

The vast global appeal of the Premier League combined with Leicester's fairytale success had made the previously unglamourous club into a household name across Asia.

That lucrative spin-offs from that increased brand recognition might soon dry up however if Leicester's fixture list next season includes clashes with Burton and Barnsley rather than Manchester United and Chelsea.

"We are duty-bound to put the Club's long-term interests above all sense of personal sentiment, no matter how strong that might be," vice-chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha said in Thursday's bombshell statement.

"Survival in the Premier League was our first and only target at the start of the campaign. But we are now faced with a fight to reach that objective and feel a change is necessary to maximise the opportunity presented by the final 13 games."

Relegated clubs are however entitled to £65 million in 'parachute payments' from the Premier League over a period of four years.

But, as many clubs relegated from the top-flight have found, if they don't bounce back with an immediate promotion, that money can quickly run out.

Ranieri had guided Leicester to the title on the cheap with an astutely assembled collection of journeyman and diamonds in the rough.

But, with several of Leicester's players said to have grown disillusioned this season, it would be no surprise if there was a mass exodus if the Foxes are relegated.

That would increase the odds of Leicester struggling for an immediate return to the Premier League.

Championship clubs earn just £3 million per year in television revenue and Leicester's owners would have to decide whether they wanted to continue funding a promotion push if the team were unable to go up in the first season after relegation.

Against that backdrop, Ranieri's fate seems more understandable and makes it crucial that Leicester's supremos make the right appointment as his successor.

Former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini, who had a short spell as a player with the Foxes, is among the favourites, along with former Leicester boss Nigel Pearson, Alan Pardew and Frank de Boer.

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