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25 jul 2023

What does a director of football do?

Edited on 25 July 2023
director of football

For football clubs to be successful today, there is much more to it than what happens on the pitch. Elite football clubs are vast organisations and have network of personnel working behind the scenes to ensure goals and targets are met. One crucial figure within the organisational structure these days is the director of football, a key figure that plays a role in the strategy, planning and management of various aspects of the club.

In this post, we’ll look more in detail at the director of football role, their responsibilities and day-to-day tasks, and how the role has emerged and evolved over recent years. And if you are interested in pursuing a career as a director of football, you should consider studying a Master in Football Coaching or Master in Football Coaching Online with Real Madrid Graduate School – Universidad Europea.

What is a director of football?

A Director of Football, also known as a Sporting Director or Technical Director, is a senior executive position within a football club responsible for overseeing the club's football operations, both on and off the field. 

This role has gained increasing prominence over recent years as clubs seek to adopt a more comprehensive and long-term approach to their footballing activities. The director of football normally works closely with the manager, but has a more strategic role, overseeing the running of medical and physiotherapy departments, the scouting network, transfer dealings, and data analysis teams. The idea is that pressure is taken off the head coach or manager so that they can place more focus on first team affairs and doing what is needed for success on the pitch.

History and evolution of the director of football

Many clubs in the Premier League now have a director of football, although the history of this role can be traced to continental Europe, with clubs in Germany, Holland, Italy and Spain creating the sporting director role in the mid-1980s. The idea was that the director of football would provide a link between the manager and coaching staff and the board, providing oversight on areas such as player recruitment, youth development, and overall footballing strategy.

With the influx of TV money into football, clubs in England started adopting a similar strategy in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Today, the position is seen a one of the key pieces in a club organistion.

The role of the Director of Football has evolved considerably. Initially, some clubs struggled to strike the right balance between the director's responsibilities and the manager's authority. Conflicts often arose when managers felt their autonomy was compromised. However, as the football industry became more professional and data-driven, the role of the Director of Football has become increasingly crucial in helping clubs operate efficiently and sustainably.

With the ever-increasing financial stakes in football, the Director of Football's expertise in player recruitment and contract management has become paramount. Additionally, the role has expanded beyond the senior team to encompass overseeing youth academies and developing a cohesive footballing philosophy that permeates through all levels of the club. The Director of Football is now seen as a strategic visionary, shaping a club's footballing identity and ensuring its long-term success, rather than just a mediator between the board and coaching staff.

Main Roles and Responsibilities

As mentioned, most sporting directors today have a more strategic role in the football operations of a club. Depending on the size of the club and the agreements in place with the head coach or manager, the responsibilities may vary, but these are typically some of the tasks a director of football works on:

  • Player Recruitment and transfers: One of the primary tasks of a Director of Football is to identify and recruit players who can enhance the team's performance. They work closely with scouts and the club's management to spot potential targets, negotiate transfers, and secure player contracts.
  • Team strategy and philosophy: The Director of Football collaborates with the coaching staff to develop and implement the team's playing style and tactical philosophy. They often work with coaches within the youth setup too in order to ensure a playing style is implemented at all levels and young players making the step up to the first team are well prepared.
  • Contract negotiations: Handling player contracts, negotiations, and extensions is an essential responsibility. They also work to resolve contract disputes and manage player relations.
  • Youth development: Nurturing young talents within the club's academy system is crucial for sustainable success. The Director of Football oversees the youth development program and ensures a smooth transition of talents to the senior team.
  • Sporting infrastructure and facilities: They are involved in the development of training facilities, sports science programs, and other aspects that improve the overall sporting infrastructure of the club.
  • Budgeting and financial planning: Collaborating with the club's financial department, the Director of Football ensures that transfer activities align with the club's budget and long-term financial strategy.

How to become a director of football?

There are many routes into becoming a director of football, but one thing in common is the need to have not just a passion for the sport, but also knowledge of business management or administration. Real Madrid Graduate School – Universidad Europea offers a wide range of programmes, both online and on-campus, aimed at equipping you with the skills needed to succeed in such a key role within a football club.

With an academic model based on learning by doing, throughout your programme, you will have the chance to participate in work placements and internships at leading institutions within the sports sector, allowing you to gain a great oversight into all aspects, from coaching to marketing, law, and communications.

Our association with Real Madrid, the most successful club in world football, allows you to make connections with experts in the area of sports management, and take part in exclusive events and masterclasses.

Our portfolio of programmes includes: