Sports directors from clubs across Europe have come together in the first meeting of its kind organised by ECA. The association’s aim is to establish a community of sports directors and other club officials in charge of player recruitment and scouting, who will meet regularly to share knowledge about undoubtedly the most scrutinised aspect of club management.

The first meeting was held at Amsterdam’s Johan Cruyff ArenA and at the Okura Hotel on 25-26 March 2024 and featured over 120 clubs from more than 40 countries.

ECA Director of Football Diederik Dewaele said: “This workshop represents a milestone for both ECA and its member clubs. We want to build and bring together a community of sporting directors and/or club executives in charge of sporting and transfer activities, who will share knowledge and develop relationships with like-minded professionals.

We see this as just the start of a dedicated series of initiatives targeted at sports directors, which ultimately will help the whole ecosystem of European club football.”

Marijn Beuker, Director of Football at AFC Ajax and host of the brand-new event added: “In our vision, collaboration among clubs and sharing knowledge is crucial for the collective advancement of football. At Ajax, we consistently emphasise the importance of these joint efforts, so we can together overcome challenges and elevate the world of football to an even higher level. This workshop created a dynamic environment for exchanging ideas, strategies, and innovations, facilitating discussions on best practices in player development and club management. This, in turn, will significantly contribute to the further growth of our sport.”

The workshop provided clubs with a range of case studies, panel discussions and technical presentations related to sporting and transfer activities in men’s football.

Thiago Scuro, CEO at AS Monaco said: “In every field, sharing insights is welcome, especially in football where everything is moving constantly. Everyone here has the ambition to improve. ECA makes it possible by giving the opportunity to exchange with and learn from those involved in the football industry. We should definitely cherish the diversity of the profiles present here, which allow us to develop and also help football to grow."

Topics covered in Amsterdam included: Squad building and transition from youth to first team; recruitment and talent identification strategies; contractual clauses in football; dealing with agents efficiently; and the use of data to recruit coaches and players.

This initiative aligns seamlessly with the objectives outlined in the 'ECA Men's Football Vision', identified and developed by the Men's Football Working Group, chaired by ECA Vice-Chair and Working Group Lead, Aki Riihilahti.

Diederik Dewaele emphasised the goal of elevating standards both on and off the pitch, directly tying it to the ECA vision pillar 'Making clubs better' through dedicated services. “As the sports directors continue to collaborate and exchange knowledge, we hope that clubs will assess and adjust the way they are scouting, recruiting and building their first-team squad”.

The commitment to fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange in the football industry remains unwavering, as ECA continues to drive the positive development of European club football.

Tyler Heaps, Group Head of Recruitment & Insights at Right to Dream stated: “These events are fantastic to have like-minded people in the room and be able to hear and learn from their experiences. Putting experts together from different leagues and countries today showed there are many different ways to build a squad, especially highlighting the importance of a clear club strategy around recruitment and player development which are key to continue to build around in our organisation.

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