MRKT Insights are retained by clubs – from the Champions League to the National League – to help with succession planning for Head Coaches and Sporting Directors.

In football we realise that our time at clubs, whether as owners, managers, sporting directors, or consulting services is fleeting. 

We talk of being custodians of a club, being part of the history, leaving a legacy, making a positive impact.

The reality is most of us will have no lasting impact. This doesn’t mean our work wasn’t good. 

Michelangelo would still have done a great job on the Sistine Chapel even if someone had put a couple of coats of matt white on it afterwards. He just wouldn’t have had a lasting impact.

A legacy requires a long term vision.

You might call that a culture – this is what the club is, this is what we are building towards. Just as the Sistine Chapel wasn’t started with the painting on the ceiling you need the original plans, foundations, supporting walls, and plaster put in place first. 

This shared vision or mission takes generations.

And not everybody will get equal credit for the finished product

The Far Side  

Start with culture

The biggest indicator of success in clubs is the culture. A culture is “what people do when others aren’t looking”, when people understand what is important, why they are doing it, and want it to succeed.

Not every club can win the biggest trophies but they can still develop great cultures within their own niches. 

Problems start when a great culture is either changed too rapidly or resistant to any change at all.

An overachieving club build on self-sacrifice and hard work may need a bit more quality to succeed more on the pitch. However signing a star player on three times the salary of the other starters may ruin the whole team dynamic.

Likewise a culture that stops learning because “that isn’t that way things are done here” are in danger of getting left behind as others find the competitive advantages to move ahead of them.

A culture where people are open to learning, where the club as a whole is aligned around a plan, and where owners, senior leaders, coaches, and players all understand what they are working towards is ideal.

Things fall apart

The issue is that we have a Goldilocks problem in football.

Most Sporting Directors, Coaches, and Players are not going to be at the “right” level.

They will be perceived as being “too good” for where they are and have external job offers quickly, or “not good enough” and be sold/sacked by their current club. Very few are “just right” and it won’t take long, if the plan works and the clubs succeeds, for them to get job offers or be moved on.

It is like building a jigsaw but the puzzle pieces change in shape regularly.

Finding the right pieces

Let us say we have developed the plan and the culture around the club is established. If you haven’t then read our Stratetic Planning blogs and get in touch. 

We have also hired the right Head Coach and Sporting Director and the right players? If you haven’t then ask us about our Head Coach, Sporting Director, and Player recruitment services.

And we have current alignment between Sporting Directors / Coach / Players / Owners and everything is going really well, then we can just relax right?

Wrong. This is when succession planning comes in to it.

If you do everything right you will then lose your key staff. It is inevitable, people will see what you do, like it, and believe it is down to the brilliance of the individuals you have employed. They’ll then offer them so much money to leave that they will go.

Succession planning is being ready for when that happens.

How to succession plan

Head Coaches – how do we play? How do we want to evolve that style of play? How do we measure that style of play? How do we want our Head Coach to work? How many staff can they bring with them? How would they fit into our way of working? How would they represent the club in public?  How much would they cost to get out of contract? How can we do our due diligence on them?

Lots of hows. 

A lot of clubs (most) start thinking about these at the time of a change of Head Coach. 

Almost all of these can be thought about and answered well in advance. 

Our head coach recruitment process should be engaged when changing the head coach isn’t on the agenda.

We recommend that you (either yourself or ideally via MRKT):

  • Codify your game model (what should our team look like in data)
  • Look for coaches working in a model that matches your preferred way of playing
  • Look for coaches would coach in that way if circumstances were right (and have showed signs of moving teams towards that model)
  • Be aware of emerging talents in coaching working in ways that would fit your club in the future.
  • Talk to people in the industry with similar views on football about people they would recommend.
  • Meet potential future head coaches online or in person just to get to know them and find out what they are like as people. 
  • Create list of potential future candidates and review it regularly

Likewise with potential replacement Directors of Football

  • Define the role really clearly, it means so many different things to different people.
  • You may not be able to replace your current, brilliant person with an exact replica, break the functions down and consider splitting them and how that will work in terms of decision making and responsibilities. 
  • Don’t let people grab power, everyone wants to be the decision maker, don’t let a power vacuum emerge during transitions of people.
  • Regualrly meet with others in the industry and find the people who align with your project.
  • Consider internal succession, does your next Director of Football need to be external with “fresh” ideas or can someone learn from the culture you are creating and carry on the project?
  • Listen out for interesting voices and ideas from external souces, hire in talent from anywhere where value can be added. 
  • Does every function need to be carried out internally if the average length of stay is so short?

Planning your own replacement

They key question is who does this? There is something odd about planning to replace your colleagues and even yourself within a role. It feels disloyal to the current coach to be thinking about what comes next. 

But nothing ever lasts forever. 

Look at the cost of succession planning as an insurance policy on the health of the club.

You don’t want to have to claim on it because it means something is wrong, but you’ll be really glad you have it if you do need it.

The club will be in a far better place, and that is how legacies are maintained.

Categories: MRKT Insights


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