Research: Academy Director in amateur football

Publication, Blogs by Nick Veenbrink

More and more amateur football clubs have started adding Head of Academy or Technical Youth Coordinator positions to their organisation structure. Previously conducted research by NMC Bright provides us with a new insight into this relatively new position. How many clubs have hired a Head of Academy and what tasks/responsibilities do they have?

This article is written based on two sources: recent outcomes of a research project related to remunerations in amateur football and NMC Bright’s experience in executing the Quality & Performance Program for youth academies. Over 50 amateur football clubs took part in the Q&P program since it has been introduced by NMC Bright in cooperation with the KNVB. In the 2014/’15 season overview report the appointment of a Head of Academy has been named one of the critical success factors by clubs. NMC Bright’s research into remunerations in amateur football points out that the majority of clubs (57%) have hired a Head of Academy. This position has recently increased in popularity in the Netherlands. However, how clubs exactly give substance to this position, is not something that is set in stone.

Is the Head of Academy position fully embraced in amateur football?
Our research shows that out of the 353 amateur football clubs that took part (clubs from 8 different leagues), 202 (57%) have introduced the Head of Academy or similar position. In general, a Head of Academy is on a part-time contract. 95% of the 202 Head of Academies employed by amateur football clubs has a contract of 20 hours or less per week. This means that only 5% has a contract for 20+ hours. Two Head of Academies included in this research (1%) have a full-time contract and earn a salary of €20.000,- or above.

What is the predominant reason to hire a Head of Academy?
Every club has their own ambitions and goals to which a Head of Academy has to contribute. However, there is one commonality between all clubs who took part in the Quality & Performance Program. The Head of Academy is expected to improve the development of youth players and their pathway to the first team.

What is the Head of Academy responsible for?
In 91.1% of the time, the Head of Academy is hired to supervise the boys/men’s selection teams. Besides that, a lot of them have complementary tasks, such as the responsibility for non-selection teams and/or girls/women teams. Just 2% of Head of Academies included in this research is responsible for non-selection teams only. Head of Academy’s focus on selection teams makes sense given the fact that it is the club’s ambition to make sure youth players make their way to the first team. At the same time this asks for a reconsideration of why non-selection team trainers are not facilitated in improving their skills. Truth be told that this group is often less qualified/able to set up quality training sessions.

Is the Head of Academy qualified for his/her position?
In most cases, the Head of Academy is hired with the purpose of developing trainers as well as developing/guarding/implementing the football technical policy. Something that stands out though is that only 11.1% has completed a Head of Academy-related education at the KNVB (Royal Dutch Football Association). There seems to be a gap between what the Head of Academy is expected to do by the club and what the Head of Academy is actually capable of. In other words: completing a Head of Academy specific education/course is an absolute necessity for Head of Academies who work at amateur football clubs. This role, when performed correctly, is a critical success factor for the improvement of a club’s youth academy, yet barely anyone has the appropriate background and education. However, new initiatives have taken off: The KNVB is currently facilitating a test-program which focuses on a new Head of Academy course for amateur football.

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