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Football Now: How to run a football club

Football Now: How to run a football club
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By Ben Kelly
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It's not just eleven players on the pitch that contribute to a club's success.

To some on the outside, winning in football might come down to the eleven players on the pitch and the manager.

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But, on the inside, how a club is managed from a business perspective is the recipe for success, and it starts at the very top with a club's owner. It can quickly go wrong if they don't invest cash in the right areas to protect their assets.

Mohammed Hamdi is the former Director General of the Dutch team ADO Den Haag. He has first-hand experience in making critical decisions that impact the success of a club. He explained to Football Now that the most crucial decision is to select the right manager.

"The head coach is the focal point for the media. He is the person helping to get better results. And he is also an ambassador for the team. It means that the key decision is to get the right head coach, someone who fits the philosophy, vision and strategy of the club."

Mohammed Hamdi [centre] at the unveiling of former manager Alan Pardew in 2020
Mohammed Hamdi [centre] at the unveiling of former manager Alan Pardew in 2020SEM VAN DER WAL/AFP

Brighton & Hove Albion is a club known for its exceptional management style. The south-coast side were promoted to the Premier League for the first time in their history in 2017. They have continued on a steady incline since. Unlike many clubs that struggle for survival upon finally reaching the top flight, Brighton has soared under several managers. The 2023/2024 season sees them making their debut in European competition after beating four times Champions League winners Ajax in the Europa League in October.

So, how do they do it? The management team at Brighton & Hove Albion have the ability to scout 'unpolished gems' in the transfer market. The club has made five of its most significant player sales in the previous five years. They signed unknown players at the time, developed their talent, and sold them on for a considerable profit. According to TalkSeagulls founder Ryan Adsett, this has been the key to Brighton's sustained success since its promotion six years ago.

"If you've got a good team off the pitch as well as on it, and everyone is trying to do the best for the business, it's going to work."
Ryan Adsett
Founder, TalkSeagulls

"I think that situation is definitely happening at Brighton. When we do lose a player, someone's ready to step up. When you accumulate this amount of money, and you've been putting that into the academy since 2014, you're going to reap the rewards in 2023."

Brighton have been impressive since promotion in 2017
Brighton have been impressive since promotion in 2017Frank Augstein/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

Not all fans are lucky enough to see their clubs managed as well as Brighton. In fact, it's more common for most fans to be unhappy with their club owners. There are several reasons for this, but in most cases, negligence with investments is responsible for big clubs being lower down the football pyramid than they would like to be.

Take FC Schalke, for example; they are Germany's third biggest club in terms of fan members, only behind Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Just 12 years ago, they reached a Champions League semi-final. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, they regularly made it out of the group stages of that competition and finished in the top four of the Bundesliga in most seasons. Now, they occupy the 16th spot in the 18-team Bundesliga second division.

Contrary to Brighton, it's poor management of player sales that has caused them to end up in a position their 122,000+ members never imagined they would. German football writer Chris Williams told Football Now that it's due to a combination of errors made on and off the pitch.

"Schalke's fall from grace has been remarkable. Financially, they've got themselves into a bit of a mess. So many good players used to play there: Joel Matip, Max Mayer, Leon Goretzka, Alexander Nübel. That was a lot of potential income they could've made by selling those players, anywhere between €110 - €150 million. Instead, all of those players walked out of the door for free."

So what would it take to restore Schalke back to its former glory?

FC Schalke are a long way from where they want to be
FC Schalke are a long way from where they want to beMartin Meissner/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

"They've recently brought in a new coach; their 12th since 2019. They're going to have to go back to doing what they do best, which is bring players through their academy structure. It isn't an overnight fix. They need to find a new identity and a type of football that will get them out of the second division, no matter how."

These are two very contrasting case studies that show how decisions made off the pitch affect your results on it. Brighton & Hove Albion continues to go from strength to strength while the sad story of Schalke continues to decline.

Journalist • Ben Kelly

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