It is a role that is much maligned in English football, as the traditionalists out there don’t want to conform to the structure that takes the transfer power away from the football manager. It is policy that most clubs on the continent undertake with great success and it one that Fulham manager Martin Jol believes can work in English football.
The Dutchman worked under this set-up during his Tottenham days and feels that providing there is a good working relationship with the manager and the Sporting Director, then this can provide great results:
It is a long time since they said to the manager: “This is your budget, do what you like.”
I think at every club in England the manager is working with a chief executive or a managing director who is taking care of the finances. I don’t even think Sir Alex Ferguson is doing the financial side. But that is not the same as having somebody else who is responsible for choosing which players to buy. Sir Alex Ferguson chooses which players to buy, even if other people deal with the financial aspects.
I think it is a good structure to have a sporting director, but only if the manager is ultimately responsible for selecting the players. If the manager tells you not to get a player, don’t get him. There are some clubs abroad where the sporting director is getting players in and the manager has to work with them; he is held responsible even though he maybe didn’t want the players. That is wrong.
At Fulham I’ve got Alistair Mackintosh, who will always ask me: “Is he good?” So I’ve got my scouting system, and there will never be a player coming in without my permission. But the price and the wages of course have to be right, and they are doing the negotiations and I think that is right. So if they are too expensive, they won’t come.
It can be a very good combination if you work together well. I worked well with Frank Arnesen at Spurs; we got along well, he never did anything behind my back. If I said: “I like this player,” he would never say: “No, he is too expensive.” He would find out first, then tell me. In a bad structure, the sporting director can tell you a player is too expensive or doesn’t want to come without checking it out. In that case, you have got a big problem.
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