The Football Notebook
What is a Director of Football?
Football is a business.
Whether we like it or not, the main objective of most football clubs is to make money. And to effectively run a club you need jobs and people. Lots of them.
However, some of these jobs have a level of ambiguity surrounding them. The average football fan may not know the roles in their club, or even who fills them.
The Director of Football is no different.
They have started to gain in popularity in both clubs and fans, as more and more owners are deciding that they need someone to operate that role.
They generally act as a middleman between the manager and the board of directors making sure that tensions don’t occur between them, and communication is smooth.
Nonetheless, their responsibilities vary tremendously across different clubs.
The Image of the Club
Should footballing operations like transfers and squad selection be left to the manager and his staff, the Director of Football may be used as a public figurehead for the club. Their responsibilities would more be about advertising, almost being the face of the business.
Take Bobby Charlton at Manchester United as an example. Placing a well-known ex-football player at the head of the club may improve the club’s reputation and/or pull in the transfer market.
However, there may be some consequences with this type of framework within a club. As the director is a well known public figure, it may compromise the control the manager has over the players, especially during a poor run of form.
These people usually last for a long period of time, considering the negative reactions fans would have to a popular ex-player/ex-manager getting let go.
The Technical Director
These types of Directors may be sought after by members of the board or even the manager themselves. They are needed to provide advice on footballing matters that are otherwise absent in the club, usually being a very accomplished manager or director already.
It could be a case where the current manager is inexperienced in a certain area, hence the advice of the Director of Football.
They are often used in fairly new clubs who lack the knowledge to be able to progress any further through their league’s divisions. Giovanni Trapattoni at Red Bull Salzburg is an example of this when he carried Salzburg to their first Austrian Title in 10 years.
These appointments are short term, merely 1-2 years, where the director will give their advice and move on to another club.
The Middle Man
In additional circumstances, the Director may be allowed the responsibility of dealing with transfers and other things that do not include squad selection and coaching.
They are already trusted figures within the club, normally a previous manager, that has the full support of the board to oversee the current manager and transfers. Being essential that they act as the “Middle Man”, they must communicate regularly with the board and the manager.
However, this can lead to some confusion between the manager and the director regarding responsibilities causing instability within the club. A good example of these tensions is when Dennis Wise oversaw Kevin Keegan at Newcastle.
The longevity of these Directors is usually determined by the success of the manager and can vary between clubs.