Football CEO hosting a table at the Sporting Directors Summit

Experienced football administrator Malachy Brannigan doesn’t nurture ambitions to be a Sports Director but believes that the Visionary Sport Investment Masters Degree at the Manchester Metropolitan University’s Business School will allow him a broader insight into a role that he believes is coming more to the fore in sport and particularly in football.

The 49-year-old Brannigan has held key executive roles at Derby County, Coventry City, Hull City, Everton and Sheffield United and has witnessed, first hand, the disruption that too often follows in the wake of the First Team Manager leaving, either on a voluntary or non-voluntary basis. The short-term instability that this exit creates is increasingly necessitating the need for a person who should be the glue that holds the structure together, in effect a “Director of Football”.

The very nature of “the results business,” which is football, means there is a high turnover in the position of manager and, too many times in the past, says Brannigan, the team boss’s departure has signalled wholesale change.

“I have known situations where, with the sacking of the manager, seven or eight people have gone with him, leaving a gaping hole in the organisation overnight. Then, the club has to rebuild itself. It is expensive, disruptive and damaging for the people concerned and for the club itself. It should be that there is a system in place that ensures that the whole “football department” doesn’t fragment when the team manager leaves.”

And that system, Brannigan believes, must be built around the appointment of a Sports Director, whose responsibility is to maintain continuity in the increasingly many-faceted sporting side of the business.

Says Brannigan: “When a head of finance or commercial leaves a club, his/her department stays in place. It is only one person who goes. And that, basically, should be how it works when a manager leaves. Okay, two or three might go, simply because he brought those in, but to make wholesale changes is too disruptive.

“As the business side of football, in particular, has developed over the past 20 years we have seen big changes in the structure of clubs. Twenty years ago most clubs had a small executive team but, as the game and the industry has developed, more and more positions have been created. We now have fully fledged finance, Operational, HR, legal, and commercial departments along with a Chief Executive and a Deputy Chief Executive.

“And, on the football side, there is a growing move away from the manager running all of that side of the business because that, too, has grown immeasurably. Now, among others we have fully-staffed medical, sports science, analysis and recruitment departments and  ever-growing Academies. So, I believe there is a need for a director of the football side of the business, someone who will make sure everything on that side of the business runs smoothly and who provides continuity when a manager leaves.

“I have joined the degree course, not necessarily to become a Sports Director, but because I recognise the need to develop the relationship going forward between the Chief Executive and the Sporting Director. That relationship must be a tight one and this course will help me to better understand that. I believe that the Chief Executive not only has to understand every role in the business but also that he/she should employ people in key roles who can deliver results in those positions better than the CEO would do, while retaining overall responsibility.”

Brannigan will host a table at the Sports Director summit on 19 April, his guests including key decision makers from cricket, Formula E, sports software and independent strategy consultants. “The benefit for everyone will be the opportunity to network with each other, thus helping to deepen the understanding of the importance of the role of the Sporting Director.”