Schalke's Christian Heidel will exit the club at the end of the season, becoming the third Bundesliga sporting director to leave his position in the last two weeks. Clubs must do better, argues DW’s Felix Tamsut
Football fans around the world are already familiar with the drill: Once a club starts struggling, rumors over the head coach's future start surfacing. The coach is then the most likely to lose their job in a bid to "shock” the system and trigger a sporting change. The Bundesliga has been very much a part of that trend, with clubs like Hamburg, Cologne and Stuttgart becoming renowned for frequent coaching changes.
This season, however, it's different.
In the last two weeks alone, three struggling clubs have announced that they will be replacing their sporting directors rather than, or in addition to, their coaches. Michael Reschke was sacked at Stuttgart, with Thomas Hitzlsperger replacing him, Nuremberg's Andreas Bornemann paid the price for standing by his sacked coach Michael Köllner and Schalke's Christian Heidel is the most recent addition to the list, with the former Mainz man announcing on Saturday that he will leave his post at the end of the season.
By comparison, three sporting directors were replaced throughout the whole of the 2017/18 Bundesliga season.
Coach position strengthened?
There's also been a significant drop in coaches losing their jobs during the season. Eight coaches were sacked in the period between the beginning of last season and February 18. This season, however, the number stands at only four, a fifty percent drop.
This might sound like good news for the Bundesliga's head coaches. Previously, they had been close to the only ones paying the price when things didn't go as planned, leading to a continuous erosion in their status and security, which in turn caused a coaching merry-go-round.
But that's not necessarily the case.
Replacing instability with more instability
Football is a cruel business, and while the coaches have often been the ones to pay the price, the deterioration in the sporting directors' authority and job security demonstrates the lack of long-term planning at many of Germany's top flight clubs, which in turn creates more sporting instability and harder jobs for coaches.
The Bundesliga provides evidence that long-term planning, combined with believing in staff, pays off. The league's longest serving coaches, Freiburg's Christian Streich and Hertha's Pal Dardai, are both doing well for their respective sides, while sporting directors like Gladbach's Max Eberl, Borussia Dortmund's Michael Zorc and Mainz's Rouven Schröder have all taken the sporting lead in sides that are performing above expectations this season.
The coach's position needs strengthening, but optng for short-term fixes in the sporting director role instead should not be the solution of choice. After all, the sporting director is the one responsible for planning ahead and making sure the club has the right foundations to achieve its long-term goals. Replacing instability with more instability is bound to fail. The Bundesliga's clubs must do better, for the sake of their own sporting future.