Football clubs have utterly transformed in recent times, with the number of staff required to run them effectively, especially at the highest level, seemingly always increasing, especially as technology continues to improve and the biggest sides have more and more money to throw at things.
This change has created opportunities for a number of new jobs within football, ranging from the need for more data analysts, social media managers and even staff to run and create content for a club’s TikTok account! For this article, we’ve broken down the different backroom roles available into three different categories: “Football” staff, “Business” staff, and “Matchday” staff.
Aside from the perhaps the most important people of them all, the players, there are a number of other key roles on this side of things. These jobs cover a wide range of areas from making sure the players are in the best shape possible, to giving them an understanding of their tactical roles, to the very issue of uncovering new talent and nurturing that too. Many of them, but certainly not all, will have played football professionally or at least to a decent standard.
What better way to start than to look at the “traditional” backroom staff: the coaches, whose job it is to work, outside of the public scrutiny faced by the manager (which is itself of course another key role), to get players into the best shape mentally and physically possible for matchday. We’ll then take a look at the other support roles of the footballing side.
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In the modern era of football, almost every top-flight club has at least two assistant managers, who effectively serve as the right-hand men or women of the manager and carry out a variety of different tasks as part of this role. The exact job of any assistant manager varies based on how their manager likes to operate: some bosses choose to take more of a backseat role when it comes down to the actual coaching that is done down on the training pitch, and this responsibility would therefore be passed on to the assistant managers.
As a general rule, an assistant manager’s job is to carry out any tasks that the gaffer doesn’t have time for, or simply doesn’t want to do. Furthermore, they are also key to the process of picking the team and formation for matches, as they will often be given the responsibility of communicating with the club’s medical staff, in order to receive updates on the progress of injured players, which they can then report back to the number one.
Alongside these responsibilities, the assistants are also often put in charge of organising the training schedule for players, including what specific aspects of the game need to be worked on, such as set-pieces for example, with some clubs even hiring a specialist set-piece coach to handle that side of the game.
Before matches, it is also highly likely that you will see a club’s assistant managers taking the players through their pre-match warm up. During games, you may notice them whispering in the ear of the manager, showing substitutes tactical notes before they come on, or even serving as translators for post-match interviews, in the rather uncommon case of former Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa.
It is also worth noting that different managers prefer to have a different number of assistants, with Pep Guardiola having three trusty assistants in his backroom staff at Manchester City, whereas Erik Ten Hag at Manchester United only has two and some clubs operate with just one.
Fitness coaches also have a key role within a club’s backroom staff, with their fairly self-explanatory job effectively boiling down to ensuring that players are match-fit. In order to do so, especially considering the packed schedule of the modern player, these coaches will create a season-long plan for maintaining fitness, managing and monitoring the intensity of training to prevent injury or burnout, without allowing players to slack off.
In addition to this responsibility, fitness coaches also work alongside injured players, taking into account what may risk them aggravating a previous knock, as well as making sure not to rush players back into the squad too early, and managing their game-time upon their return, no matter how important the player is to the team.
Although often working in tandem with fitness staff, conditioning coaches have a slightly different area of expertise. Instead of maintaining fitness, conditioning coaches aim to improve players physically, planning workout regimes that will allow them to build muscle, core strength, power, explosiveness, jumping ability, acceleration and speed, in order to give them a competitive edge in matches.
Recently, there has been a shift within the conditioning field, with coaches moving away from the traditional gym and weight training, incorporating different forms of exercise such as Yoga and Pilates into conditioning programmes, to build up core strength, which is often seen as more important than just having huge muscles (sorry Adama Traore!).
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Goalkeeping coaches, almost always former professional keepers themselves, have a fairly obvious role: they coach the team’s goalkeepers. However, this does not mean that they have a simple job. Due to the enormous amount of data available in football, goalkeeping coaches are able to tailor their coaching towards the opposition that the team will be playing in the next match.
For example, if the opposing team have a tall target-man style striker, such as Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin, then the goalkeeper may decide they need to practice claiming crosses. As well as this, a goalkeeping coach will also analyse where the opposition’s strikers are likely to shoot, what their strongest foot is, where they normally put their penalties etc., to effectively prepare the keeper for their next game.
In recent times, largely thanks to the influence of Pep Guardiola on the game in the last decade, the role of the modern goalkeeper has changed. Instead of simply keeping the ball out of the net and hoofing it long like Peter Kay in that John Smith’s advert, keepers are now required to be good with their feet, as teams tend to build up from the back, passing it out short to defenders, even when this may seem incredibly risky. The role of the goalkeeping coach has therefore changed, as they are now required to make sure that keepers are confident playing in this way. Indeed, many goalkeepers also train at least part of the time with the main outfield players on various skills.
Within the world of football, there is perhaps no field that has grown in importance more than data analysis. This once niche aspect of the sport has been thrust into the limelight in recent years, as every single aspect of the sport can be analysed and re-analysed using current and historical data, which is amazing for the stat lovers, but not always the most popular with the purists. At the highest level, clubs are beginning to build teams of analysts, headed up by a designated chief analyst who is accompanied by a combination of several video and match experts, all of whom work together to harness the ever-increasing amount of data available to help their team get the competitive edge on the pitch.
In the build up to a game, this team of, dare we say geeks, will sift through mountains of data and footage to analyse the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as working with individual players to aid their development. All of the information gleaned from this analysis will then then passed on to the coaching staff, helping them to understand how an opponent is likely to attack, what sorts of corners they favour, what they do with their throw-ins, how a side are in transition and much more.
Analysts also have a key role in feeding back to the team after a match has ended, analysing where the team were successful, along with the areas that could be improved on, something they’re able to do using the data created by the game itself, which has become even more advanced recently with the emergence of the Expected Goals (xG) stat and lots of related metrics that rate the quality of a chance, pass or action.
Expected Goals are effectively the number of goals a team should have scored, based on the quality of chances that they have had. If a team’s Expected Goals is high, yet the team failed to score, it shows that they’re spurning important chances, ones that should lead to a goal, and they therefore need to be more clinical in those situations, something that the analysts can then pass onto the coaching staff so that it can be worked on in training. The fact that Manchester United have six full-time analysts, made up of a chief analyst, three video analysts and two match analysts, highlights just how important this aspect of football has become.
As football fans, we’re all familiar with the sight of the physios being waved onto the field by the referee. As teammates surround a stricken player, two or three men or women clutching medical bags sprint on and assess the injured footballer, giving them any immediate medical assistance that they can, before deciding if they need to go off, or whether they can carry on.
However, there are also a number of other important jobs carried out by a club’s physios, outside of matchday. For example, physios are also there to support players in their recovery from injuries, as well as aiding them with recurring problems that they may have. They will often be involved in creating training programs with the fitness coaches to ensure that an injury will not be aggravated during training and have a big role to play in prevention as well as cure/rehabilitation.
A rather specialist role within a club’s backroom staff, the masseur basically gives players massages, to ensure that the highly intense physical training that they do doesn’t have too much of a devastating impact on their bodies, with massages preventing muscles from seizing up or developing cramp.
Due to the intense schedule of the modern-day footballer, with matches, especially for those playing in European competitions, often occurring twice a week, it is more important than ever that the masseur works with the players often. They help to make sure that their muscles are rested after tough training sessions and can help prevent swelling and fatigue that could potentially hinder performance on the pitch. As an aside, Killing Eve star Jodie Comer’s father is a sports massage therapist at Everton.
Just as physical exercise and intense training sessions are key to ensuring that a footballer remains in peak condition, diet is also extremely important. Although many top flight players will have their own personal chef, the vast majority of footballers will cook their own meals, or at least someone they live with will, and it is the role of the nutritionist to ensure that these meals are not only tasty, but are also giving the players what they need to maintain their fitness.
At Tottenham, for example, ketchup and mayonnaise have been banned under Antonio Conte’s leadership, meaning players will have to tragically resort to BBQ sauce on their chips (not really, as we suspect that may be banned too). The meals given to players will also be tailored to their schedules: if a game kicks off at lunchtime, they might not fancy having an enormous roast dinner beforehand, even if it might be a Sunday. Whilst at the training ground, the players will be able to eat healthy, nutritious meals prepared by the club chef, but it is the role of the nutritionist to ensure that this diet continues away from training.
Scouting is a fundamental part of any club’s transfer business, and with a club’s activity in the transfer window having the potential to make or break a season, it is crucial that a team has good scouts, in order to make shrewd transfers and recruit the right sort of players for the team. If we take another look at Man United, they currently have a whopping 25 scouts working for the club, including four youth scouts and a specialist goalkeeping scout. And they still somehow managed to pay around £80m for Harry Maguire.
A scout’s role is clear, they will have been told by the manager and ownership to look at players who play in a certain position where the team needs to strengthen, and they will then attempt to find a suitable player who demonstrates the right attributes. To do so, they will travel to and watch matches all over the world, depending on where they have been assigned, and attempt to spot and keep tabs on any potential talents, in order to ascertain whether they fit the description of what the gaffer is looking for, which is key.
For example, no matter how good of a shot-stopper a player may be, a goalkeeper who is uncomfortable with the ball at their feet wouldn’t fit into a Guardiola team, and they therefore wouldn’t be deemed a potential candidate for a transfer. It is also important, within scouting, to build strong relationships with other clubs around the world, as some may have a habit of producing top talent, and they may be more willing to sell to a club that they trust and are friendly with.
Just as it is important for a club’s scouts to discover top-quality talent from around the country and abroad, many teams also see it as equally necessary to develop home-grown talent through their academies, which are often, but not limited to, full of players from the local area. Kids are able to join a football academy at under-nine level, which sometimes includes children as young as seven.
Although the vast majority of youth players never make it at senior level, there have definitely been a number of huge success stories involving the academies of top teams. Marcus Rashford, for example, joined Manchester United at age seven, having been raised in the Wythenshawe area of the city, and has proceeded to establish himself as a key player for the Red Devils and at international level for England. Wayne Rooney was at Everton from the age of 11 and there are countless other examples, although academies increasingly look to sign young players from other clubs and countries too.
When it comes to the youth coaches themselves, their role is to train and develop the players within the club’s academy, with the aim of producing top talents that may eventually play for the first team. These coaches also work in conjunction with the manager and first team coaches, as many managers like having their youth team trained in the same manner and discipline as the first team, ensuring that the journey from academy to senior level is a smooth one. There is therefore a high amount of pressure on the youth staff, as it is expected that they will produce the next big thing at the club, when in reality they have to constantly sift through hordes of young players, many of whom will never play in the first team, to try and tease out a special talent from amongst them. Such is the way of the sport.
The role of the kitman or woman is to ensure that the players have all the right gear ready for when they arrive at a game, as it would obviously be far too risky to ask them to remember their own kit. This includes the players’ shirts, shorts, socks, boots and even pants, as Peter Crouch revealed on his popular podcast.
In addition these members of staff are responsible for training kit and even blowing up the balls used in training and of course cleaning all this kit afterwards. This role isn’t just limited to the players’ attire, however, as the kit managers also work with the manager and his backroom staff, to ensure that the gaffer is looking suitably dashing in a suit, or suitably like he’s about to get stuck in in a full club tracksuit, or just whatever David Moyes does…
More so than ever before football is, many would argue, a business as much as, or even more than, it is a sport. As such, what happens off the pitch is hugely important and there are many different roles to be fulfilled at a club.
Social Media Managers
Over the last decade or so, social media has become a key part of the lives of almost all professional footballers, whether that’s to raise awareness of and promote their personal brand, show off flashy cars, or even to apologise for poor performances, it is just how the world of football now operates. Due to the sport’s immense popularity, and the worldwide supporter bases of the biggest clubs in Europe, it has become standard procedure for top players to boast millions of Instagram, Twitter, and if you’re a bit older than that, Facebook, followers. However, whilst it’s nice to believe that these footballers will sit at home and think of heart-warming messages to post to their adoring fans, in reality almost every top-flight player has a designated social media manager or agency who take care of that for them.
The downside of outsourcing social media posts in this way is that they are often very dry, impersonal and uninspiring, with the players’ accounts often just posting pictures of them during the game, with captions such as “nice to get the three points” and “full focus”, which don’t offer a lot. These agencies and managers will also ask the club for highlights and pictures gathered throughout a game, which they will then sometimes upload to the player’s social media before they have even left the stadium, showing that the player couldn’t possibly have posted it themselves.
As part of their role, social media managers also often have to create custom graphics for players, alongside writing posts and editing photos. They also need to be constantly on call, in case players post something that they shouldn’t, which could cause a potential PR disaster.
As well as often taking the personality out of players’ accounts, social media managers also sometimes restrict players from being able to truly express themselves, as was the case for an anonymous Premier League striker. In an interview with WIRED, he revealed that he had been racially abused after a game and wanted to speak out about it publicly on Instagram, but was told by his social media manager not to do so, as the racism allegation was being handled by the club.
Social media as a whole has a serious problem with racism, and this has added another, awful dimension to the job of social media managers who represent footballers. During the last six weeks of the 2019/20 Premier League season, some 3,000 abusive messages were aimed at players in the league, and more than half of these were racist in nature. Because of this, social media managers now have the unenviable task of sifting through swathes of racist abuse, in order to protect the player they represent from it, something made worse by the fact that social media platforms consistently fail to take action against this racism.
Social Media Administrators
Whilst players themselves have huge online presences and social media followings, this is also becoming the case for football clubs. Real Madrid, for example, have a whopping 124 million Instagram followers, with their account posting line-ups, highlights, behind-the-scenes footage and more. Someone, or even a team of people, will be tasked with running this account, and this is the role of a social media admin. These admins have a similar job to the social media manager of a player, as they choose what is appropriate and professional for the club to post, as well as making content engaging for fans, as they know that a lot of their fans use apps such as Twitter and Instagram to receive football news.
As well as this, the type of content created by a club’s social media admins varies dramatically based on the social media platform that they’re using. On TikTok, for example, which has become immensely popular over the last few years, admins are likely to post less serious content, as they often use the platform to make fun of opposition teams, something which is usually done in line with current trends on the app, in order to build up the club’s profile. Which is key to the next job role featured…
Just as everything else has changed in this strange, digital era that we now inhabit, so has marketing in football. Gone are the days in which football fans’ support for their team only consisted of turning up to their ground on a weekend, watching the match, going home, and then maybe buying a replica shirt once a season.
Now people, especially younger supporters, desire more of a constant engagement with their football club, predominately through social media. There is therefore always a demand for online football content, as fans want to get closer to their team than ever, with fan supporter groups popping up all over the internet, to the extent that some people are becoming “famous” fans of football clubs and building up their profiles through their association with the club. Digital engagement with fans has therefore become key to marketing in football, especially as it allows the club to advertise to fans all over the world, promoting tickets, merchandise, fan experiences and more, through their social media pages and official website.
When it comes to a club’s in-house marketing to team, these are generally relatively small: if we take a look at Man Utd again, they currently employ 11 people in their marketing department, as of 2022. Within this team, there are a variety of different roles available, ranging from managing domestic and international marketing campaigns, to overseeing partnerships with brands and even sister clubs around the world. Football clubs are businesses at the end of the day, and it is therefore the role of the marketing department to effectively promote this business, in order to create revenue.
Just as in any business, football clubs require a Human Resources (HR) department, which is responsible for a number of different aspects within the organisation, including finding, recruiting, training and even firing staff, alongside managing employee benefits. As the name suggests, HR is a resource for humans, and is basically there to support employees within the business.
If we once again look at Manchester United (apologies to Liverpool, City and Chelsea fans, amongst others), their head of HR is given the title of “Head of Football Communications”, and they are responsible for a team of 64 employees, showing the importance of this department within the club, especially considering how many people it employs. United currently employ 1,526 people, so they need a pretty good HR team.
The role of the finance department within a football club is rather unique, in comparison to the rest of the business world. A club’s cash flow is what you can only describe as “lumpy”, which doesn’t mean like the custard in your school dinner, but instead that money comes in at irregular points throughout the year, and it is the finance department’s responsibility to make this money last, alongside balancing ins and outs.
During the season, a club’s revenue is naturally boosted by the sale of tickets and other cash generated from matchdays. However, in the off-season, which also coincides with the financial chaos of the transfer window, clubs tend to have a lot of outs, without much coming in, and the finance department are therefore tasked with balancing this.
On the other hand, whilst ticket sales remain key to a club’s cashflow, particularly in England’s lower leagues, especially with the big boost in revenue when season tickets go on sale, which is normally in June or July, it is actually through TV rights that the really significant money is made.
Usually paid in August, prior to the start of a new season, Premier League clubs receive an enormous lump sum from domestic TV companies, such as Sky and BT, and these go a very long way in balancing the cash that may have been splurged in the transfer market. As being a Premier League side comes with this promise of TV money in August, it is common for clubs to take out a loan “against” the fee paid by Sky/BT, which will allow them to do business in the transfer market or pay the enormous wages of players during the off-season, before they are then able to pay it back in August.
By far the biggest outgoing cost for the finance department of any club to manage is the typically astronomical wages that players are paid, on a monthly basis, which can be highly confusing to work out. Not only are the salaries themselves huge, they also often come with a number of performance-related clauses and add-ons, which will be triggered when, for example, a player scores a certain number of goals, keeps so many clean sheets, or even simply makes a certain number of appearances; all of these would then be rewarded with bonuses, paid on top of the player’s wage.
Furthermore, due to the power of football agents, it is very important for the finance department to pay wages at the correct time and in full, as players and especially their agents, could kick off if they aren’t. It is therefore necessary for a club’s finance department to be efficient and highly skilled, as well as being confidential, due to the vast amount of money involved.
As it has become increasingly important for clubs to have a strong online presence, it has simultaneously become more important than ever for them to have a highly skilled and innovative IT department. Not only are clubs now needing websites, apps and other online resources created for them, they also need to ensure that they have top-notch cyber security, and this is where the IT department come in.
Alongside this need for security, there is also a need for online innovation, something highlighted by the creation of cryptocurrency “fan tokens”, which are used by PSG, Barcelona, and AC Milan, amongst others, to allow fans to electronically invest in their favourite club. Real Madrid, for example, have also begun creating their own NFTs, and in order for these to be kept secure, and whilst much of this outsourced to third-party providers, clubs still require a highly-trained IT department to integrate it.
Clubs are also now employing IT analysts, who can study the impact of different online enterprises that the club is involved in, to figure out the best way to move the club forward within the online world. For example, if a club has spent a large portion of their budget on creating a new app, and it’s hardly been downloaded by any of their fans, this will then need to be reviewed by the board.
As well as the main players on the pitch and those that directly support them, and all the crucial business staff who make sure a club works financially and commercially, there are also an army of personnel whose main, or even only role, is an ancillary, matchday one.
When we think of security at football grounds, we are most likely to picture the stewards, lining the stands in their hi-vis jackets, keeping the peace between sets of rival fans and occasionally rugby tackling drunken pitch invaders. In reality, although this is part of it, there is actually a lot more that goes into keeping stadiums safe for spectators.
To start with, all football grounds need security staff manning the gates, and these staff are usually tasked with searching fans on arrival, as well as preventing them from bringing large bags into the ground, alongside alcohol and anything else deemed unsafe. These security guards will also often be equipped with Body Worn Cameras, and there is always CCTV covering the inside of the stadium and surrounding areas, which allows the ground’s staff to then pass footage from any incidents on to the police, if needs be.
After being searched, fans will then have their tickets checked by the ground’s barriers, before they are then permitted to enter the stadium and find their seats. Upon taking their seat, fans become the responsibility of the stewards, who are there to ensure the safety of all spectators, as well as keeping vigilant in case any conflict breaks out. Three hours prior to kick off, the stewards will have met with police, to discuss the game and what to expect from it from a security point of view, which can be very necessary if the game is a local derby, or any sort of game that could potentially lead to a heightened threat of fan aggression.
Whilst there is no qualification required to become a steward, it is often expected that, whilst working in this role, stewards will go on to complete a NVQ Level 2 Spectator Control qualification. It has also become increasingly common that stewards are hired by external companies, who may supply stewards to a number of different clubs, meaning that this role isn’t necessarily tied to a singular club.
Outside of matchdays, it is also important for football stadiums to have round-the-clock security. Although there certainly won’t be anywhere near the same rush of people descending on the ground, it is not unheard of for people to try to break into football stadiums, and security staff are therefore required to ensure that this doesn’t occur. As well as this, there are also occasionally fan protests outside football stadiums, which can often be spontaneous, and it is therefore key to have security on hand to manage the situation. A prominent incident in recent football history was the proposal of the European Super League, which led to widespread outcry amongst fans, causing protests, such as this one, outside the Emirates Stadium.
In addition to controlling situations such as this, clubs also have security staff who deal with more personal, close security. Key members of the club, from the players and manager to the board and other executives, may require minders or bodyguards at different times, for example when arriving at the ground, especially away from home.
In order for football matches to run smoothly, stadiums require hordes of hospitality staff, tasked with fulfilling a number of different roles around the ground. These might include things such as staffing the stadium’s bars and food vans, and waiting on hospitality suites, where VIP guests are served drinks and a three-course meal prior to the game’s kick-off.
Whilst these staff may often work for an external organisation that often, just as with stewards, supplies them to a number of different stadiums and venues, sometimes they are part of a club’s core staff, or have the same rights and rewards. Often, however, they are hired through agencies on zero-hour contracts, on a casual basis. Whilst this may just be a part-time job for many, it is also the sole source of income for others, and it is an industry in which businesses are desperate for staff, due to the impact of the recent worldwide health plight, Brexit and various other factors. As well as needing swathes of hospitality staff, stadiums also require cleaning, and this is also a task that is generally outsourced to an external organisation, who will have staff employed on similarly casual contracts.
Perhaps the most underrated, in terms of importance, of all the many and varied roles at a football club, is the work done by a stadium’s ground staff, something we by no means aimed to emulate by placing them last in this article. Ensuring that a stadium’s pitch is as pristine as good as possible, week in week out, despite the typically unpredictable British weather, is a vital job. As with much in football and indeed life, it is one that is only really noticed when things go wrong, and that’s not to mention the work these staff do in maintaining the training pitches as well.
Alongside simply cutting the grass on the pitch, which is what they’re generally known for, the ground staff are also tasked with ensuring the turf is given the correct nutrition. This effectively involves knowing the correct fertilisers to use and when to use them, alongside applying knowledge of microbial activity, grass seeds, turf tonics, nylon fibres, aeration and more, in order to keep the pitch at a consistently high quality. This highlights the inherent complexity of a job that many might just see as a bit of lawnmower action on the weekend, with ground staff working hard throughout the week to maintain the playing surface, just for it to be torn up by 22 rampaging footballers.