Submit a Manuscript to the Journal

Managing Sport and Leisure

For a Special Issue on

The Sporting Director: Lessons from Sport and Football

Manuscript deadline
19 January 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Dr Daniel Parnell, University of Liverpool, UK
[email protected]

Dr Mark Batey, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
[email protected]

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The Sporting Director: Lessons from Sport and Football

The Sporting Director in Football – Lessons From Within and Outside the Sport

The football (or soccer) industry has a problem with stability, helped little by Covid-19 (Parnell et al., 2020a). The approach of regularly dismissing the head coach and their entire backroom staff, may bring rapid short-term results, but is not a paradigm regularly employed in industries outside the sporting sphere. The high turnover of senior staff within a club sporting hierarchy leads to a myriad of policy changes and inconsistency of strategy and of culture (Kelly, 2017). This context has created an environment of employment instability and vulnerability, which is in turn detrimental to organizational performance and success (Relvas et al., 2010; Gibson & Groom, 2018; 2019; Roderick & Schumacker, 2017). Traditionally, this instability has created problems for club owners who have often focused on delivering success on the pitch, and a ‘win on a Saturday’, rather than strategically protecting their investment. As owners have clamoured for quick-fix solutions, entrenched in the short-term thinking and solutions, rather than the medium-to-long-term horizon, a vicious circle of decision-making, intensified by the risk and reward of success or failure, has created even greater instability and more head coach turnover (Gammelsæter, 2013; Kelly, 2017). One strategy considered and adopted by some clubs to address these issues has been the introduction of a Sporting Director (Parnell et al., 2018a).  In this special issue we call for papers that are empirical, theoretical or applied critical discussion on how best to implement the Sporting Director role.  We welcome contributions from football (soccer) and also other sports that adopt the same or similar role.

As an emerging role within the football management landscape, there exists considerable ambiguity regarding the title or definition of a Sporting Director. As we seek to examine this role in greater detail to gain further insights to positively influence our understanding whilst impacting performance, we shall use the term Sporting Director, however,  clubs seemingly using the title ‘Director of Football’, ‘Technical Director’, ‘Director of Football Operations’ and even ‘Chief Soccer Officer’ to describe individuals with strategic football management responsibilities. For the purposes of clarity using descriptions from Parnell et al., (2018a, b) we propose that a Sporting Director may be defined as the individual with strategic management responsibility for football operations.

The position taken by the Sporting Director varies from club to club and will be impacted by such factors as the size of the club, the scope and scale of the club’s administrative functions and the existence of other technical roles (e.g. Head of Recruitment) and sometimes the desires of the owner or powerful stakeholders. Given our definition above, accordingly the Sporting Director is characterised as having the direct responsibility of overseeing the core business pertaining to football operations, and in some clubs, entails the responsibility for head coach recruitment, succession-planning and dismissal (Nissen, 2014). In addition, the Sporting Director as an architect or custodian of culture, ensures the creation and maintenance of a sustainable high-performance environment (Wagstaff & Burton-Wylie, 2018) from the Academy to the first-team.

Through this special issue we seek a collection of papers to create an empirical and applied critical discussion on how best to implement the Sporting Director role. In doing so, we welcome submissions from all forms of football (soccer) and association football. Moreover, other sporting contexts such as rugby, basketball, baseball, Formula 1 and American football have similar roles and most certainly lessons to share, whether it is a Sporting Director, Performance Director, General Manager or Vice President, and we welcome submissions to inform the discussion and other recommendations to enhance  practice moving forward.

This special issue addresses the Sporting Director role within the football industry. We aim to learn from existing practices and emerging practices in other sports surrounding the leadership of sport. We are inviting full empirical or theoretical papers, short communications and commentaries on the topic and would urge all contributing authors to consider the applied implications of their research for football and sport more broadly.

Submission Instructions

All papers should be submitted via the online submission system of the journal. Manuscripts should follow the guidelines provided by the journal for article structure, referencing, and formatting. All submitted papers will be subject to a double-blind peer-review process.

Accepted manuscripts will be published online in early 2024 and in a dedicated special issue in late 2024.

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