The Sporting Director of Dundee United FC shares his experiences of securing promotion to the Scottish Premiership, football during the current pandemic, and the future for Scottish football.

The Sporting Director of Dundee United FC shares his experiences of securing promotion to the Scottish Premiership, football during the current pandemic, and the future for Scottish football with members of the Association of Sporting Directors.

Tony Asghar (Sporting Director of Dundee United FC) was joined by Joel Roberts (Football and Education Consultant and member of the ASD Operations Committee), alongside members of the ASD from around the world.

From Scotland, Tony shared the following key themes:

  • How his career has helped prepare him as a Sporting Director
  • Securing promotion to the Scottish Premiership
  • The current debate surrounding the future of Scottish football
  • Leading in the current climate and how to sustain a successful culture
  • Lessons learned to inform future practice

Despite being 14 points clear at the top of the Scottish Championship, eventual promotion to the Scottish Premiership for Dundee United FC was finally confirmed off-the field, with the executive decision to end the season due to the current pandemic.

Tony opened the conversation by discussing his obvious delight at achieving success, but also spoke of the mixed emotions of being unable to share the moment with fans, staff and the wider community within which Dundee United FC plays a pivotal role, keen to recognise the work of Dundee United Community Trust.

Moving on he then offered some thoughts on the current situation which is engulfing Scottish football, namely the resolution of relegation issues, the re-structuring of the leagues and the disparity between clubs in relation to resources and influence and the concept of self-preservation overriding the potential to make the game stronger.

Turning attention his role at Dundee United FC, Tony shared a detailed background to his initial involvement in the club. This was complimented by insights into Tony’s previous experiences, including Police intelligence, a football agent, and as an advisor to investors and owners on the acquisition of football clubs.

Parallel to his practical experiences Tony discussed his commitment to self-development and spoke of his experiences in education, something he has sought to not only encourage, but needs in his staff but also something which clearly plays a role in his thoughts and ideas on how the role of a Sporting Director should be undertaken.

The creation of an appropriate culture, developing the vision and ultimately producing a winning team on the pitch were all referred to in the discussion and, in addressing the question as to how this can be sustained during the current climate, Tony gave practical examples of the communication processes within the club and the autonomy and trust given to those under his command.

He also drew on his experiences outside of football, such as utilising the skills learned in the police force, to articulate the ability to communicate to a broad range of people, making decisions under pressure and being able to understand an individual’s motives for their actions.

As the interview came to a close Tony sought to offer some lessons learned from his time in the role, how he and his senior management team had used the current break to reflect and review on their processes, and how they may seek to move forward as and when the time comes.

Tony spoke openly about their recruitment process to provide relevant practical examples to support the discussion before taking a number of further questions from members, which were again answered openly and honestly and offering genuine insight.

The ASD aims to support sporting directors in professional football. These conversations allow members to connect, share practice, develop ideas and innovate. The full conversation is available to ASD members. We are thankful to Tony Asghar and Joel Roberts for a candid and informative conversation.

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