Sporting director

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Sporting Director[edit]

is a term describing an executive strategic leadership figure in a sports organization. Currently it is most commonly used in Europe in football but it applies to many sports and is rapidly becoming adopted in the UK. This has brought with it some issues because the definition of the role of a Sporting Director is varied from sport to sport and club to club.


Most sporting organisations were set up for purely sporting reasons – a way to take part in sport, inspire followers and generally enjoy watching or participating in sport at a competitive level. As sport has become a global business with investments, player budgets, media rights, sponsorship and so on, the whole ‘business’ of sport has become more complex and further removed from ‘the game’ If we look at football as an example, in the 1980’s when Joe Royle was managing Everton to glory, there were 7 people in ‘the back room’ managing the team, the players and the business. Nowadays it’s quite a different story. The pressure to perform, to achieve is not just linked to competitiveness and passion for the sport but to the required commercial performance too.

Why Do We Need a Sporting Director?[edit]

Sporting Director in the UK[edit]

Within the UK the role of Sporting Director is not thoroughly defined but with an increase in the use of the title within a number of sporting organisations, an agreed definition is required. This lack of clarity of definition has led to a number of debates within the sports media as to what the role is and its value to the organisations that have one or intend to have one.

Role of Sporting Director[edit]

• Main board director with ultimate responsibility for all sporting matters • Responsible for operational effectiveness across all sporting departments • SD creates the environment for the Head Coach to deliver on-field success • Skill sets required are o Management o Performance coaching o Leadership o Competencies

Setting up the foundations for success

The role of a Sporting Director acts as a strategic lead for the sporting organisations long-term sustainable success. The Sporting Director will sit as the conduit between the commercial business of the sporting club and the on-pitch performance. Critical to the role of the Sporting Director are the skills and capabilities this person possesses in order for them to navigate their way to what is akin to running a business.

The Sporting Director will drive increased levels of performance and effectiveness throughout all areas of the organisations sporting operations. Working with the head coach, they will promote a strong understanding of how each department can build the foundations and best support and implement plans accordingly. They are commercially responsible to The Board and are best placed to act when either as part of the Board or with a direct report to The Board.

The role has many elements to it including:

  • As a figurehead
  • Influencer
  • Business Planner and Developer
  • Responsible for Change Leadership

As a figurehead[edit]

Typically a Sporting Director will liaise with all the functional departments that drive performance to deliver a coherent and consistent approach to managing, leading and coaching people to achieving the organisations desired goal. For this role to add value to a sporting club its most important that the right person is appointed to the role based on their skills and competencies

MANAGEMENT COMPETENCIES Leading through the sporting organisations vision and philosophy

The sporting director keeps the organisation’s vision and philosphy at the forefront of decision making and action.

Establishing the Performance Vision and Strategic Direction[edit]

Establishes the vision and strategic direction after analysing rigorous evidence based information and assumptions; taking into consideration resources, constraints and organisational values and influences the high performance community to turn that strategy into action.

Driving for Results[edit]

Targets opportunities; establishes stretch goals; is committed to continuous improvement and innovation; takes tough decisions; achieves goals and stays focused.

Building Organisational Talent[edit]

Attracts, develops, and retains talented individuals; creates a learning environment that ensures colleagues achieve their highest potential, allowing the organisation as a whole to meet future challenges.

Team Development[edit]

An excellent people manager that uses appropriate methods and interpersonal styles to strategically align, develop, motivate, and guide a team through continuous development toward successful outcomes and attainment of ambitious business objectives.

Developing Strategic Relationships[edit]

Uses appropriate interpersonal styles and communication methods to influence and build highly collaborative and effective relationships with business partners

Influencing Others[edit]

Able to convey positive energy and gain the respect of the performance community, providing wise counsel to Performance Directors and effectively manage key relationships using appropriate interpersonal styles and techniques to gain acceptance of ideas or plans; modifying one’s own behaviour to accommodate tasks, situations and individuals involved.

Business Acumen[edit]

Understands and utilises economic, financial and industry data to accurately diagnose business strengths and weaknesses, identifying key issues, and developing strategies and plans.

Change Leadership[edit]

Continuously seeks (or encourages others to seek) opportunities for different and innovative approaches to addressing organisational challenges.

Communication with Impact[edit]

Expresses thoughts and ideas in a clear, succinct and compelling manner in both individual and group situations; adjusts language to capture the attention of the audience.

Key Responsibilities[edit]

  • To provide effective management and leadership to all football departments to ensure achievement of all objectives and KPIs
  • To help produce, maintain and update the organisations sporting philosophy
  • To ensure all sports departments uphold the organisations philosophy
  • To assist in the creation of, and to control the implementation of, strategies for all departments to maximise their effectiveness and success and to hold these departments to account against these strategies
  • To implement and monitor effective and relevant KPIs for all departments
  • Provide regular performance updates on the Club’s sporting departments to the Club’s Board of Directors

The priorities for the role are[edit]

  • The post holder will work with the Manager, Chief Executive Officer and Director colleagues to shape the strategic direction of the sports club.
  • Take the strategic performance lead and to provide strategic performance planning and management advice to the Chief Executive Officer; Board and Executive Team and head coach
  • To lead Sporting clubs performance relationship with external stakeholders.
  • To lead and develop a professional, high-performing team to ensure the effective, efficient and economic delivery of performance investment and support programmes.
  • To provide business wide leadership to the sporting department of the club working in collaboration with the club manager on day- to day- operations.
  • To provide the link between the manager and staff and the board of directors
  • To provide leadership and strategic direction of the performance programmes to achieve consistent alignment with the clubs vision, philosophy and business drivers
  • To manage provide leadership and across the clubs talent pathways and coach development.