Gone are the days when big football clubs were run by the “one-man band” manager. Instead, almost every club now has a huge team of people working behind the scenes trying to achieve success.
In recent years, almost all top clubs have appointed a Director of Football, to greater or lesser success, to ease the burden on the manager or head coach.
So, what is a Director of Football, what do they do and where do they operate in clubs’ hierarchy?
What is a Director of Football?
A Director of Football is an executive employed by a football club to oversee medium and long-term strategy. They work with owners and the manager to identify a club philosophy and ensure it is implemented.
The aim is to make sure that the club remains on the right path and is not forced into short-term measures, with a particular focus on player recruitment and transfers.
Director of Football Job Description
A Director of Football is often tasked with implementing a way forward for the club, which would set out what the club expects, what behaviours it looks for from players and what values best represent the club.
Depending on their experience in the game they may even have some influence over the style of football played, from the academy to the first-team players.
The Director of Football’s responsibilities generally include recruiting players, handling incoming transfer offers, negotiating player contracts, assigning scouts’ assignments, support with tactical decisions (including instructions for how to counter the opposition) and sometimes to offer touchline instructions during matches.
The Director of Football largely has no responsibility for non-football or non-player-related matters behind the scenes, responsibility for which will fall at the feet of the technical director, if a club has one, or another executive.
Director of Football Pay
Directors of Football – like players and managers – earn money based on success and experience. However, recruitment firm Glassdoor suggests the average wage in the UK is around £85,000, while the Daily Mail has reported an average wage of almost £200,000 in the English Championship.
However, the biggest clubs pay the biggest wages, and it has been reported that Chelsea owner Todd Boehly provided an annual salary budget of up to £6 million to land the right man when he bought the club in 2022.
Director of Football vs Technical Director [DIFFERENCES]
The Technical Director’s role is similar to that of a Director of Football. However, the difference between the two is that the Technical Director is responsible for staff generally, and the Director of Football is responsible for player-based issues, including recruitment, contracts, scouting and so on.
Director of Football vs Sporting Director [DIFFERENCES]
Many Sporting Directors oversee multiple disciplines and teams within a football department, and see their position as ideally operating at board level, where strategic decisions are influenced and made.
For example, Director of Football at Blackburn Rovers, Gregg Broughton, has stated that the role is different at every club and has to be context specific.
At Blackburn, his role is to oversee the sporting side of the club, including six player-based departments: First Team, Academy, Player Recruitment, Analysis, Performance and Medical.
However, the Association of Sporting Directors founder Mike Rigg sees the SD position as allowing for “long-term strategic planning and ultimately pulling together the matrix of management across all the football operations and departments, ensuring that all departments work together to create a high-performance environment and bridging the challenges of both the football and business strategies”.
How to Become a Director of Football
The Director of Football generally comes from one of two backgrounds – football or business – although obviously someone with a combination of both would be particularly suited to the role.
Some clubs have turned to former players to act as Director of Football and provide a buffer between the manager and the board. These include the likes of Edwin van der Saar at Ajax and Leonardo at Paris Saint-Germain. However, other clubs have viewed business acumen and negotiation skills as the priority for their Director of Football, such as Michael Edwards, who had great success with Liverpool between 2016 and 2022.
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