What is a sporting director in football? Role, responsibilities explained and why Man United want Dan Ashworth


What is a sporting director in football?


A sporting director, also known as a director of football or a technical director, is a key figure in the management structure of a football (soccer) club. Their primary responsibility is overseeing the club’s sporting operations, including player recruitment, player contracts, scouting, and sometimes aspects of youth development and coaching.

The role of a sporting director can vary from club to club, but generally, they work closely with the club’s manager or head coach to identify transfer targets, negotiate player contracts, and develop the overall playing style and philosophy of the team. They often collaborate with scouts to identify talented players both domestically and internationally, as well as managing relationships with agents and other clubs.

Sporting directors are also involved in long-term strategic planning for the club’s squad development, ensuring that the team maintains a balance of experienced players and promising young talent. They may also liaise with the club’s academy or youth development setup to integrate young players into the first team.

Overall, the sporting director plays a crucial role in shaping the direction and success of a football club both on and off the pitch, working alongside other key figures such as the club’s owners, CEO, and coaching staff.



The role of a sporting director in football has undergone a significant evolution over the years, transitioning from scepticism to widespread acceptance, albeit with ongoing debates about its effectiveness.

In recent years across the football industry, the focus has shifted from questioning the necessity of sporting directors to appreciating how well they execute their responsibilities.


Premier League clubs like Brighton, Liverpool and Manchester City boast exemplary and acclaimed figures in this role. However, not all sporting directors are allowed to enjoy the same level of influence, with some relegated to more functional duties.

While the acceptance of the sporting director’s importance has grown in British football, there remains a challenge regarding their accountability and decision-making authority. Ideally, the sporting director should serve as the club’s football expert, providing informed recommendations on crucial matters such as player recruitment, academy strategy, and coaching appointments.
However, there is still a tendency for some owners to assert control over such decisions, while the cult of the all-powerful managerial figurehead — rooted in the success and legacies of Sir Alex Ferguson, Brian Clough, Bill Shankly and among others — remains influential in the English game.

Why do Manchester United want Dan Ashworth?

United’s pursuit of Dan Ashworth to be their new sporting director is a clear statement of intent from incoming minority owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe.

Ashworth’s 20-year career in football operations, marked by successful stints at various clubs and the Football Association, makes him an attractive candidate.

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