Frankfurt / Main (dpa) – At one point Christian Gentner also wants to swap a sweater and socks for a suit and tie.
“Football has always been and always will be the center of my life,” said the 1. FC Union Berlin midfielder in an interview with the German news agency. He definitely wants to “stay in a different role later” in football. Where and which it will be and whether the path from the lawn to the office will ever be seamless is open. The 409-time Bundesliga player doesn’t think about the end of his career, but about the time after.
Gentner is one of the 14 participants in the new course “Management in professional football”, which starts on Monday. Launched by the German Football Association (DFB) and the German Football League (DFL), the course is designed to prepare future sports officials in the clubs of the top three leagues for their upcoming duties. It spans a year and a half, includes 19 days of attendance, several online stages and is divided into three main areas: Bundesliga know-how, sports knowledge and management knowledge. Topics such as sports law, licensing, scouting, team planning and leadership are on the curriculum.
Ex-national players Stefan Kießling, Marcel Schäfer and Sascha Riether also participate, Gentner is the only active professional. “I am not a student who plays football on the side, but the other way around,” explains the 35-year-old. However, he sees “this pilot project” as a “huge opportunity”. The time is “good, because my family has stayed in Stuttgart and I can then familiarize myself with the many new topics outside my work at Union”. Subjects he has only touched on so far. “As a player you may still be interested in matters like sports law or finance, but you don’t have that deep insight,” says Gentner. “It’s important to get to know the club’s perspective to understand things better.”
Fredi Bobic, sports director at Eintracht Frankfurt since 2016, has gradually made himself his own after an internship at the DFL. Michael Zorc also switched to the management of Borussia Dortmund in 1998 without any major economic knowledge. Jochen Saier, who has been in charge of SC Freiburg since 2013, studied sports economics. Oliver Kahn, appointed CEO of FC Bayern Munich, holds a master’s degree in “General Management”. So the paths to the top floors of the clubs have been and are very different so far. But the company has grown over the years into a multi-billion dollar company – and with it the demands placed on its current and future decision-makers.
“I believe that a classic sports management degree doesn’t provide what is needed, especially in professional football. It’s getting more and more complex,” says Gentner. The officials are responsible for increasing amounts and more staff. “The responsibility and public pressure are enormous,” says Gentner. “The company has many rules of the game that you as an outsider do not know.” And where it is “not enough that I have a broad address book or a certain number of international competitions”, as DFL boss Christian Seifert emphasized at the presentation of the new course in March.
The certificate, which the graduates will receive in April 2022, is of course not an obligation to work at management level in professional football, explains DFB director Oliver Bierhoff, but it must be “a seal of quality”. That is why the course was preceded by a rigorous selection process. “I never had to sign up before,” says Gentner. ‘Now I needed a resume, a motivation letter. I also got advice from my wife. ‘ Union director Oliver Ruhnert gave him the certificate that he is suitable as a manager.
Gentner was and always has been on the field – at VfB Stuttgart, VfL Wolfsburg and now in Berlin. The veteran wants to learn how to become her off the field from Monday.