No more all-powerful managers: Premier League's move toward the director of football model (2023)

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English football was considered the last bastion of managerial autonomy. Former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger summed up the resistance to change in May 2017 when confronted with reports the Gunners were planning to appoint a director of football.

"What is [a] director of football? I don't know what it means," he began. "Is it somebody who stands on the road and directs play right and left? I never could understand what it means. I am manager of Arsenal football club, and as long as I am, I will decide what happens on the technical front, and that's it."

On the one hand, Wenger's defiance was his thinly veiled frustration at the gradual erosion of his long-standing authority, justified by decision-makers above him who felt the club needed to modernise in the face of sustained decline. It was an internal tension that ended with Wenger acrimoniously leaving the club in 2018. But on a grander scale, following Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013, Wenger was also the last truly autocratic manager in remit. (There is a much-told story that Wenger's control was so absolute at one point many years ago, that any member of staff desiring a new work phone had to receive sign-off from the Frenchman himself.)

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Arsenal's story post-Wenger is a prime example of the difficulties English clubs have had in implementing this system. They transitioned away from a manager who oversaw all aspects of football operations to establishing nine department heads, reporting into a hierarchy Wenger was only one part of, only to then strengthen Mikel Arteta's grip on the club three years later. Wenger's job title was "manager." His successor, Unai Emery, was called "head coach," as was Arteta before he was later "promoted" to "manager."

The Premier League may be the most lucrative and best-watched division in world football, but there's plenty of evidence that the game in England is still adjusting to a model long since implemented in Europe and beyond. In the modern era, it's no longer just the manager who is exclusively tasked with creating a team's vision and culture. Clubs aim to create a long-standing identity based on values that are intended to be impervious to the vagaries of managerial changes.

David Webb believes clarity is the key issue in that process. Webb has occupied various roles, including head of football operations at Huddersfield, head of elite potential identification working under Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham, and technical director at Ostersunds in Sweden.

"I spoke to a big Championship club at the end of last season about a role," Webb told ESPN. "They had no idea about the role at all, what it meant, or how it intersected with their current coaching and management setup. And this was a modern-day football club. Some areas are still lacking that understanding of what a sporting director actually does.

"When I was at Huddersfield, for example, the role was 'head of football operations,' but it was basically 'sporting director' or 'technical director,' just worded differently. I said to them, 'With the fans, this is where you need to have an open communication with them so they understand who is coming in and what their role is.'"

Other clubs have their own version of these issues. Everton's director of football, Marcel Brands, left the club on Monday, with speculation rife he did not agree with the appointment of Rafael Benitez as manager and that their working relationship was strained as a result. Tottenham made a hash of bringing in head coach Nuno Espirito Santo in the summer -- eventually sacking him after just 17 games -- following confusion in their approach arising from Fabio Paratici's appointment as "managing director, football" to work alongside chairman Daniel Levy.

Manchester United named ex-Scotland midfielder Darren Fletcher as their first technical director in March, but the calamitous end to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's reign as head coach led the club to recognise they needed guidance in long-term strategy. It was telling that Ralf Rangnick was convinced to replace Solskjaer as head coach midseason in part because of the promise of a two-year consultancy role to follow; in the latter role, he'll help restructure a club whose decision-making has been heavily criticised ever since Ferguson's departure.

"If you are transparent with the fans, then it makes the sporting director accountable, you get the connection with the fans straight away. And then, when you're looking to build a philosophy, it gives the fans a longer-term view to buy into it," said Webb. "It also takes the pressure off the head coach as well. They are the face of many things -- the style, trying to win games -- but the overview is they are passing through, helping the club build in a certain way.

"If they do well, naturally, they're going to move on, and the role of the sporting director is keeping the bloodline going with a coach who can buy into those philosophies. From there, the cycle will start again."

All but five Premier League clubs list a significant role above the conventional head coach or manager on the division's official website, but the names vary from technical director, head of football administration, sporting director or, in Marina Granovskaia's case at Chelsea, member of board of directors in charge of football. In the minds of many supporters, this can create confusion over who exactly does what.

"It is just a naming convention really," Phil Giles, co-technical director of Brentford, told ESPN. "Sporting director, technical director and director of football are more are less the same role, in my opinion. Every single club will have a slightly different variation on how that works: who reports to that person, who that person reports to themselves, and how that operates in relation to the board. Really, it should be the sporting director who brings in the head coach.

"The advantage you have of something like me and Rasmus [Ankersen] bringing in a head coach is that you can build that relationship and set the expectations before they come into the role so they know exactly what they're getting themselves into."

Giles has worked alongside Ankersen for six years, helping take the club from ninth in the Championship to Premier League promotion in 2020. Last Friday, Ankersen announced he would be stepping down at the end of the month to form his own sports agency. It will leave Giles as the club's sole technical director, and although Ankersen departs amid a flurry of praise from the club, Giles describes a division of labour he's likely to miss.

Speaking before the announcement, Giles said: "We have pretty clear responsibilities. For example, Thomas looks after the day-to-day at the training ground, team selection and all the rest of it. Rasmus and I are working more on building the club up. We're also very different. Rasmus is much more out there, speaking to people, making contacts and thinking about the long term -- new coaches we could bring into the club, or whatever it might be. I'm much more doing the day-to-day management of the whole operation.

"We're really chief executives of the training ground. Outside transfer windows, we are much more focused on building the foundations of the club, making sure [Matthew Benham] the owner's ideas are integrated into the club and he is happy with the way the football side of it works.

"[The owner] has got some pretty clear concepts and we are the architects of putting that in place. For example, at the start of the season we'll put together a football strategy document outlining our aims and targets for the coming season. We'll work with our staff on that to make sure we set the targets appropriately so it is stretching enough for everyone."

One consequence of English football's slow transition has seemingly been a lack of homegrown talent entrusted to perform these roles. Paul Mitchell, formerly of Southampton and Tottenham, is now at Monaco, and Michael Edwards has enjoyed great success at Liverpool, but prominent British technical directors are still in relatively short supply, less still those with the same profile as ex-players such as Leonardo at Paris Saint-Germain or Marc Overmars, director football at Ajax. Even Dan Ashworth, something of a pioneer in England, left the Football Association in 2018, after the England team he oversaw reached a World Cup semifinal, and joined mid-table Brighton.

Edwards will be replaced by his deputy, Julian Ward, when he steps down at the end of the season, but the top Premier League clubs still favour overseas options with more experience as part of a technical director structure: Of the traditional Big Six, Arsenal employ Edu as technical director, Granovskaia is in control at Chelsea, Tottenham's transfer activity is driven heavily by Paratici, City have Txiki Begiristain and Rangnick will soon join Fletcher in moving United forward.

Webb came to prominence in 2013 as head of recruitment at Bournemouth, who accelerated through the divisions to reach the Premier League in 2015 and stay there for five seasons. "When I started, there was a stigma towards English people doing it to be fair because the European culture -- Germany, France, Holland, Spain -- they had the process in place for a number of years," Webb said. "Culturally in England, we were -- and still are in some areas -- shifting away from the manager's role having the full control over the club."

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Webb is expected to rejoin the growing British contingent. He is weighing up interest from several clubs, including Lazio, Celtic and PAOK in Greece. Another unnamed Premier League club could also be an option. "For me, is about having that clarity I mentioned earlier and the project, working where a club has a vision of where they want to be and how exciting that is," he said. "Also, my skill set needs to fit them and vice versa."

Neither Webb nor Giles had a conventional route into the sporting director world. Webb had an advertising sales job and also worked in a school, spending time off travelling Europe to learn different coaching methods. He had 15 job interviews before catching a break at Crystal Palace in 2002. Giles had an interview at a hedge fund before joining Brentford owner Matthew Benham's company, Smartodds, where he analysed sport through a data lens.

"I have years of experience outside football and I bring that," Giles said. "You hear a lot of talk about making sure clubs now have really strong processes in decision-making at the top level."

Formal qualifications are not required for the job, but some do exist. There is a two-year course run by the Football Association, a "Level 5 for Technical Directors" that invites applicants already in a technical director role or individuals who clubs or the FA identify as having the potential to take up a position within three years. The last course ended in October, with 12 graduates all holding positions at clubs ranging from Forest Green Rovers to Chelsea.

Inevitably, however, the success of technical directors, sporting directors -- or whatever title they're given -- is largely judged from the outside through the lens of the transfer window.

"Myself and Rasmus are actual directors of the club, so there is an inherent accountability that comes with that in terms of fiduciary requirements, financial requirements," Giles said. "We're the ones on the line if there is anything untoward about what we do."

Transfers are always fraught with risk in that regard. The proliferation of technical directors is grossly outweighed by the explosion in agents since FIFA deregulated the industry in 2015. It is estimated that there were around 400 to 500 agents working in England before FIFA decided that no entrance exam or formal qualification was required. Within a year, the number was estimated to have risen as high as 2,000 and last month, the FA published a list of intermediaries registered in England. It stretched to 54 pages.

Giles said: "It's fairly easy to see where it is getting complicated. What needs to happen is, you need to deal with one agent who represents a player and the players pays his agent to represent him. That's the cleanest way. It gets a lot more complicated when you get a lot of agents getting themselves in on a deal."

Webb recalls a specific incident. "There was an example at Tottenham when we were after a top French talent," he said. "I can't say the name but it came to the point where we had done all our technical, scouting and profiling work, and we thought based on the paperwork, we had the player's actual representative.

"It turned out he'd given out four different mandates. There was a family member claiming to be one, a big agency, one of his friends and then another smaller agent. In the end, all of them wanted an agency fee. We had a very strict criteria of what we'd pay as an agent fee as a percentage, and it wasn't enough split four ways. So it became too messy.

"As much as we really wanted the player, the best option for us was to walk away and go for another option. The life of a technical director is rarely straightforward."


Who is the director of football operations in the Premier League? ›

David Harrison has been appointed as director of football operations and joins from Everton after nearly 28 years working on Merseyside.

Which Premier League team has had the least managers? ›

However, the club with the lowest number of managers is Liverpool, who have had just 21 in their history, the fewest of any Premier League club.

What is the role of managing director in football? ›

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 ...

Which manager has taken charge of the most Premier League clubs? ›

Sam Allardyce has managed the most teams in the Premier League, having taken charge of nine different clubs: Bolton Wanderers, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers, West Ham United, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Everton, West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United.

How many Premier League clubs have a director of football? ›

ONCE viewed with skepticism, the Director of Football (or Sporting Director or Technical Director) role has now been embraced within the upper echelons of English football. Sixteen Premier League clubs currently have the position (or equivalent), with Newcastle and Everton expected to follow suit soon.

What is director of football in football manager? ›

The Director of Football forms part of your Recruitment Team on Football Manager which consists of the staff member responsible for player scouting and contracts.

Who is the biggest team never to play in Premier League? ›

Preston North End

Preston North End were the first team to win a league title in 1888-89 and they went back-to-back the next season. Unfortunately they're the only club to have won the top flight of English football and have never played in the Premier League.

Who is the best Premier League manager right now? ›

Ranking Every Premier League Manager From The 2022/23 Season So Far
  1. 1 - Eddie Howe. When Howe took over, Newcastle United were in the relegation zone.
  2. 2 - Mikel Arteta. Top of the league but not in top spot on our list. ...
  3. 3 - Marco Silva. ...
  4. 4 - Thomas Frank. ...
  5. 5 - Erik ten Hag. ...
  6. 6 - Pep Guardiola. ...
  7. 7 - Unai Emery. ...
  8. 8 - Roberto De Zerbi. ...
Jan 4, 2023

Who has the best manager stats in Premier League? ›

Pep Guardiola250184
Sir Alex Ferguson810528
Jürgen Klopp278174
José Mourinho363217
6 more rows
Feb 13, 2023

What is the difference between a manager and a Director of Football? ›

A director of football is very much different from a first-team manager, but they work closely with each other and occasionally situations have arisen whereby directors have temporarily taken the reins of a team. Day-to-day, they generally serve as a sort of buffer between the manager and the board of a club.

How powerful is managing director? ›

An MD can work directly under the supervision of a CEO in some companies. In other small-scale businesses, their authority may be as significant as the role of a CEO. An MD can also be a board member in such organisations and report business matters to the board of directors.

Who is above managing director? ›

A managing director is below the CEO in a corporate hierarchy. The person filling this role reports directly to the CEO and must fulfill the CEO's orders and expectations.

Has anyone won the Premier League as a player and a manager? ›

George Ramsay and Bob Paisley won six league championships as managers of Aston Villa and Liverpool respectively. Nine managers — Ted Drake, Bill Nicholson, Alf Ramsey, Joe Mercer, Dave Mackay, Bob Paisley, Howard Kendall, Kenny Dalglish and George Graham – have won the championship as a player and a manager.

Who is the most successful Premier manager? ›

1. Alex Ferguson – 13. The famous manager of Manchester United is in first place with an amazing 13 championships. The Red Devils conquered the 1990s and most of the 2000s under his leadership.

Who is the best manager in football with trophies? ›

The most successful managers in football history by trophies won: Ferguson, Guardiola, Mourinho…
  • Giovanni Trapattoni – 23.
  • Luiz Felipe Scolari – 24.
  • =7. Ottmar Hitzfeld – 26.
  • =7. Jose Mourinho – 26.
  • Carlo Ancelotti – 27.
  • Pep Guardiola – 33.
  • Valeriy Lobanovskyi – 36.
  • =2. Jock Stein – 38.
6 days ago

Who is the longest serving Premier League manager ever? ›

The Premier League's longest serving manager is Jurgen Klopp, who is in his eighth year at Liverpool.

Which football club has the most fans in Premier League? ›

Of course, the Premier League team with the largest, widest-reaching fan base is Manchester United.

Can a manager play as a player in football? ›

A player-coach (also playing coach, captain-coach, or player-manager) is a member of a sports team who simultaneously holds both playing and coaching duties. A player-coach may be a head coach or an assistant coach. They may make changes to the squad and also play on the team.

Can you be a Director of Football on Football Manager? ›

There are 2 makeshift ways to play a Director of Football save. One is for those without access to the in-game editor, while the other requires the editor.

Do you need a Director of Football in Football Manager? ›

The role of Director of Football is not an essential one in Football Manager. You could easily do your job successfully without him. However, if you are looking to delegate some of your own responsibilities, the Director of Football could be a very useful member of the backroom staff.

Who has gone the most games without losing Premier League? ›

In the 2003–04 season, Arsenal regained the Premier League without a single defeat. Over the 38 games played, their league record stood at 26 wins, 12 draws and 0 losses.

Who has gone the longest without a win in Premier League? ›

Derby County - 32 (2007-08)

Derby County not only have the worst points total in Premier League history with 11, but they hold the record for the longest run without a win, a staggering 32 games.

Who is the only undefeated Premier League team? ›

May 7, 2003 – October 16, 2004

38 of these 49 games came in a single season, as Arsenal's 'Invincibles' went an entire season without defeat – the only Premier League team to ever do so – with a record of 24 wins and 12 draws.

Who is the youngest manager to win the Premier League? ›

Here's the rundown of the youngest Premier League managers to win the title.
  • Jose Mourinho – Chelsea 2004-05. 42 years, 94 days old. ...
  • Jose Mourinho – Chelsea 2005-06. 43 years, 93 days old. ...
  • Kenny Dalglish – Blackburn Rovers 1994-95. 44 years, 71 days old.
Apr 26, 2023

Who is the best man manager in football? ›

The Best FIFA Football Coach
Last awarded2022
Currently held byMen's: Lionel Scaloni (1st award) Women's: salina Wiegman (3rd award)
Most awardsMen's: Jürgen Klopp (2 awards) Women's: Sarina Wiegman (3 awards)
1 more row

Who is currently the youngest manager in the Premier League? ›

1. Ryan Mason, debuted at 29 – Spurs (67%) W4 D0 L2. At just 29-years-old, Ryan Mason became the youngest manager in Premier League history in 2021 – being named interim head coach following the dismissal of Jose Mourinho.

Which football manager has the best win percentage? ›

1Alex Ferguson58.1
2Arsène Wenger54.0
3Graham Turner39.75
4Alec Stock41.97
26 more rows

Which player has the best stats in the Premier League? ›

All-time Premier League Player Stats
  • James Milner Liverpool. 618.
  • Frank Lampard. 609.
  • David James. 572.
  • Gary Speed. 535.
  • Emile Heskey. 516.
  • Mark Schwarzer. 514.
  • Jamie Carragher. 508.
  • Phil Neville. 505.

Who is the fastest manager to reach 20 wins in EPL? ›

1. Erik ten Hag – 27. Following Manchester United's 3-0 victory over Charlton, former Ajax manager Ten Hag became the manager to reach 20 wins in as few as 27 games.

Who is more powerful director or manager? ›

As far as their own authority, directors oversee managers and managers oversee individual teams. Directors often comprise a company's senior leadership, while managers are the rank and file of mid-level authority.

Is a director higher ranked than a manager? ›

To put it in simple terms, directors are at a higher level than managers. Managers are the ones who do the managing of lower-level employees, making sure that projects get done. Directors, on the other hand, are beholden to the shareholders or the board and manage the managers.

Is director a high position? ›

The director title implies that an individual is a senior management professional who oversees an aspect of the organization. Director is a higher rank than manager, and directors often oversee managers and may assist them in leading their teams and projects.

Who is more powerful than director? ›

The investors have the most power, more than the CEO, and more than the board of directors, in any company.

What is the role of a director vs manager? ›

Managers are more concerned with the former; their role is to manage their teams in such a way that their day-to-day activities support the company's goals. By contrast, directors actually help set those goals and develop the strategies that will be implemented to achieve them.

What makes a successful managing director? ›

An ideal MD is one that truly understands the business - that gets the financial realities, appreciates their team, acts decisively and makes challenging and quick decisions. Spending lazy days devising a single brand value for the agency are long gone, an MD's mind is always on the bottom line.

What is the role of the director? ›

They direct, conduct, manage and supervise the affairs of the Company. A Director is legally responsible for running the company. They also have other legal duties such as to file the accounts on time, safeguarding the company's assets and not to carry on trading if the company cannot pay its debts.

Who is under managing director? ›

At a large company, there are typically many directors who work under the managing director. These positions include titles such as the director of planning, director of personnel, or director of finances, all of whom report directly to the managing director.

Which player is the king of Premier League? ›

Mo Salah is the new crowned king of premier league | Salah liverpool, Mohamed salah, Mohamed salah liverpool.

Has an English coach ever won the Premier League? ›

Since the formation of the English Premier League in 1992, not a single English manager has won the title. Only nine managers have won the Premier League in its 25-year history, with Manchester United's former manager Alex Ferguson of Scotland winning it 13 times.

Does the manager get a Premier League medal? ›

The champions are also given 40 commemorative medals made of silver. They can be distributed to the manager, players and officials as the club see fit — as long as every player who has made at least five Premier League appearances during the title-winning season gets one.

Which is the best team in Premier League history? ›

Since inception in 1992 there have been 50 clubs who have played in the Premier League. Seven clubs have won the Premier League: Manchester United (13 times), Manchester City (six times), Chelsea (five times), Arsenal (three times), Blackburn Rovers (once), Leicester City (once) and Liverpool (once).

Who has the most wins in Premier League history? ›

Manchester United

Is Ferguson the greatest manager of all time? ›

Sir Alex Ferguson is widely considered as the greatest football manager of all-time, feted for his achievements in both domestic and European competition over an astonishing career spanning almost four decades.

Who is the greatest footballer in the history of football? ›

Pele, the legendary Brazilian footballer, is considered the football god of all time. No player has won more world cups (3) than him.

Who is the best coach in football history? ›

Sir Alex Ferguson is the sovereign leader of the IFFHS All Time World's Best Coach Ranking after 27 years (1996-2022). Ferguson has coached 39 years long from 1974 to 2013, exactly 2 153 games on the bench ! 26 years as Manchester United's manager made him to the most successfull coach in the History !

Who is the most decorated player in football history? ›

1. Dani Alves - 44 trophies. The most-decorated player in world football, Dani Alves is a specimen of performance, excellence and longevity.

What is director of football operations? ›

A director of football operations often works behind the scenes of a team. They help recruit and manage players as well as network and communicate with the other staff and coaches. They often spend as much time in the office coordinating with players as they do out on the field talking with coaches.

Who is the director of football operations for Manchester United? ›

David Harrison has been appointed Director of Football Operations at Manchester United, to lead all operational aspects of the club's football activities.

Who is head of football operations at Manchester City? ›

Omar Berrada – Chief Football Operations Officer

Omar Berrada is Chief Football Operations Officer at City Football Group.

Who is head of operations Manchester United? ›

Manchester United have appointed David Harrison as Director of Football Operations. Harrison, who joins United from Everton, will lead all operational aspects of the club's football activities.

What is the difference between manager and director of football? ›

A director of football is very much different from a first-team manager, but they work closely with each other and occasionally situations have arisen whereby directors have temporarily taken the reins of a team. Day-to-day, they generally serve as a sort of buffer between the manager and the board of a club.

What rank is Director of Operations? ›

A director of operations holds superiority over general managers and other employees. General managers are often right below directors in the company's ranking.

How much do NFL director of football operations make? ›

The estimated total pay for a Director of Operations at NFL is $188,529 per year. This number represents the median, which is the midpoint of the ranges from our proprietary Total Pay Estimate model and based on salaries collected from our users. The estimated base pay is $110,540 per year.

Who is the manager of football operations for the NFL? ›

Phil Bogle - Director of Game Operations - National Football League (NFL) | LinkedIn.

Who is Liverpool director of football operations? ›

Andrew Parkinson - Director Of Operations - Liverpool Football Club | LinkedIn.

Who owns Man City? ›

Since 4 August 2008, the club has been majority owned by Sheikh Mansour, one of football's wealthiest owners, with an estimated individual net worth of at least £17 billion and a family fortune of about $1 trillion.

Who owns Man City football ground? ›

The stadium is owned by Manchester City Council and leased by the football club on a 'fully repairing' basis. All operating, maintenance and future capital costs are borne by the club; who consequently receive all revenues from stadium users.

Who is man city instagram girl? ›

Georgia Hampson - Social Media Editor - Manchester City Football Club | LinkedIn.

Who is the butcher of Manchester United? ›

Lisandro Martinez has been one of Manchester United's top players this season and has an excellent nickname to match his displays. The 5ft 9 centre-back is known as 'The Butcher' and is already a fan favourite at Old Trafford having been one of the top-flight's best defenders.

Who is head to head man United vs Arsenal? ›

The Soccer Teams Manchester United and Arsenal played 31 Games up to today. Among them, Manchester United won 15 games ( 50 at Total Score, 10 at Old Trafford away), Arsenal won 9 (40 at Old Trafford, 2 at Total Score away), and drew 7 ( at Total Score, 4 at Old Trafford).

What is Alex Ferguson doing now? ›

Sir Alex Ferguson is the Director, Football Board at Manchester United Football Club Limited .

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