Robbo’s Column: Individual bonuses don’t work

Professional football manager Karl Robinson gives a fascinating insight into the specifics of players’ contracts in his latest exclusive column for Celebrate:MK. Karl, who lives in Milton Keynes, explains why he prefers bonuses for group success to individual incentives…

One thing that drives me mad in professional football is individual bonuses in players’ contracts.

Some clubs give thousands of pounds for a goal bonus, assist bonus and clean sheet bonus, but is it really fair?

The one that frustrates me more than any other is clean sheet bonuses. How can a goalkeeper or a defender get a clean sheet bonus when, from a corner, a striker can clear the ball off the goal-line?

And then some strikers get goal bonuses, so when they score they get paid for it but, if a centre-back scores, they don’t. You might also be a defensive midfielder who never gets an assist, and you get nothing.

When I was at MK Dons, individual incentives were something that chairman Pete Winkelman and I never wanted in the contracts – we always opted for bonuses for group success.

If we finished in the top 10 the group bonus was a certain amount, then it was higher for a top 6 finish and even bigger for a top 2 place. We had group cup bonuses as well.

So everywhere I have been as a manager I’ve tried to take away individual bonuses because I don’t think it works.

It’s the same in the business world. If you have someone who does most of the work but some fella just dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s gets the bonus, you lose motivation within a group.

I can’t tell you which club but in my career in coaching I’ve seen two players fighting over who is going to take a penalty, and one of them was on a goal bonus.

The problem for big clubs is that, at the top level, it could be the difference between signing a striker like Alvaro Morata and not getting him, as superstar strikers come with superstar demands.

Players get appearance bonuses too. Most clubs use a pro rata system where you get, for example, £90 for playing 90 minutes, but only £3 for playing 3 minutes. Other clubs will give the player 25% of the appearance fee if they come on after a certain time.

Here’s a confession… I once made a sub to put on an excellent 16-year-old kid, who was on minimum wage, because it trebled his wages. I’ve also had the chairman saying ‘why did you do that!’

This feature was published in the February 2019 issue of Celebrate:MK lifestyle magazine. Read the full magazine above or by clicking on this link.

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