My ‘strange role’: What does a Director of Football actually do? How Djite shaped Adelaide

Even coaches can be baffled by what a director of football does – but the most successful clubs have nailed the concept. Writing for KEEPUP, former A-League star Bruce Djite, Director of Football at Adelaide United from 2019 to July this year, takes us inside the role.

If yours is the sort of job that people understand immediately, I envy you. But tell them you’re a sporting director, or director of football, and watch the confusion appear in their eyes.

It’s a strange role. You’re not CEO, you’re not the coach; instead you’re part accountant, part talent scout, part mediator and overwhelmingly chief visionary.

I took over as Adelaide United’s director of football in June 2019, soon after retiring from being a professional footballer, and I feel like I could write a book based on what I learnt over the subsequent two years. Maybe this will be the first chapter. 

But what I learnt most of all was that this oft-misunderstood role can, if carried out effectively, be as influential as any other in making a club successful over an extended period. You look at some of the world’s most consistently successful clubs, like Liverpool, Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, and they have strong figures in this role with autonomy and influence.

That influence can be summed up for me in the four Cs – the fourth one I’ll get to shortly, but the first three are completely interlinked… Culture, Continuity and Consensus.

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It’s a routine that so many clubs have gone through down the years: a coach comes in, brings in their own staff, chooses players, sets a style… and then eventually, whether months or years later, departs and takes all that intellectual property with them. The club starts again from scratch, and the whole process is costly, short-termist and usually unsuccessful.

Bruce Djite met weekly with Adelaide coach Carl Veart (at left) and assistant Ross Aloisi

So when I came into United as an official, I wanted to put processes in place that would stop that happening. There’s a proud parochialism in South Australia and Adelaide United should reflect that. It is, however, difficult to grow that when the last four coaches had been foreign. That is in no sense a criticism of those coaches – Guillermo Amor coached us to the A-League championship – it’s just a truism.

When COVID hit our shores eight months after I became director of football, we realised that this was an opportunity to reset the entire club culture and clearly articulate what the club stood for – who were we? Nathan Kosmina, the CEO, and I sat in the club boardroom (socially distanced of course) and spent hours, days and weeks working through what the club should stand for. Marius Zanin was instrumental in surveying the members, and deciphering their answers, past players were also consulted. We then, together, wrote a template for what the club should stand for.

That meant that we had something to work from in choosing a coach, and we could design a process and grading system to mark candidates. Let’s be honest, in Australian football everyone knows each other and your phone goes crazy when you’re looking for a player, let alone a coach. You have to have an objective benchmarking system to avoid unconscious bias creeping in. That process helped us show – along with his results as caretaker boss at the end of last season – that Carl Veart was undoubtedly the right man for the job.

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The director of football should be the figure that ensures each era at the club is part of an ongoing narrative, not just a series of short stories. But you’re also part of a vital team off the pitch.

Every week, Nathan Kosmina and I would meet at the training ground with Carl and his assistant, Ross Aloisi, goalkeeping coach Eugene Galekovic and youth team coach, Airton Andrioli.

We’d go through the performances and the personalities, where every player from the youth team up sat, how they were progressing, who to re-sign, who to target from other clubs and the whole point of meeting each week was to spot trends and issues early. Frankly, if you’ve lost five in a row and then you meet, it’s a crisis meeting. It was my strong view that meetings should be held regularly, regardless of results.


In those meetings, I liked to promise full transparency, so we were all buying into what we were trying to do. We set the philosophy and took some risks, like playing a very young team, or buying Riley McGree back from FC Bruges in the belief we could improve him and sell him on for a higher sum. 

Bruce Djite won the A-League Grand Final in 2016 with Adelaide United.

Around transfer window time we’d talk over who we wanted to bring in as a group – and who we were going to let go. I’d be honest about the cap, and more importantly our limited budget and what we could afford. Then I’d talk to players about their circumstances, try to persuade them that spending time with us on a certain salary would improve them as footballers, which I legitimately believed. As a past player and having spent over 4 years on the exec of Professional Footballers Australia, I believe I have a very good understanding of the players’ mentality, and what’s important to them.

But the key thing was to have a consensus on all these big decisions, so that the group feels like progress is being made. 

And that also leads me to the fourth C that I found essential.


My demeanour is reasonably calm, but without that flow of information people can make decisions based on emotion, and decisions driven by emotion tend to be poor decisions more often than not.

As the office staff, those meetings took us to the training ground every week and into the realm of the players which is essential for them to feel like club management are on the same page.

Of course there will be conflicts. Any business like ours has budgetary constraints. I could argue for more resources with the chairman, but ultimately you have to implement what they choose. With a salary cap also in place you have to have some hard conversations with people, and with tight budgets, it is inevitable that you will lose players at times.

It’s personal for them of course, it’s their livelihood, but it was never personal for me. It’s about a bigger project than me, or Nathan as CEO, or Carl as the Head Coach, or the players. It was about the development of Adelaide United as a living, breathing centre of modern football culture. As I reflect on my time at Adelaide United, I think the team, all of us, did a pretty good job. Long may it continue.

  • Bruce Djite is now the CEO of the Committee for Adelaide.