EURO 2000 in Belgium and the Netherlands, the German team fails to qualify from the group stages with just one point and one goal. Failure was the spark for the German football overhaul. Staring disaster in the face, the German Football Association (DFB), the organization responsible for Germany’s national team, launched a strategy to rebuild its professional foundation. Analysis of ten years of youth development recognized throughout Europe and now champion of the 2014 World Cup.
Success depends on a long term commitment to talent development
Since 2001, the compulsory introduction of youth academies for all 36 professional clubs has been the building block which laid the way to a successful future for German football.
“Of a total of 525 players in the Bundesliga, 275 (52.4%) have been trained at the academies.”
Professional clubs in Germany have invested more than half a billion euros in their youth systems since the 2001-02 season.
Talent growth comes from a market perspective
Following the performance aspect renovation within the 36 clubs in Germany with the academies, the DFB focused on promoting talent.
“We managed to create 400 centres for promoting talent across the whole of Germany and, after the 2006 World Cup, built over 1,000 mini pitches. They were milestones. These mini pitches replace street football, which you no longer find these days. You learn football there. It was a comprehensive promotion which, after ten years, is already showing its effect.”
Youth development is never perfect, like fashion, like a season in any pro league
Benchmarking and standards are therefore tools to help reach goals and identify what are the recurrent mistakes. The German Football League (DFL) mandated in 2007 the certification of academies, a process handled by the Belgian company Double PASS.
“Top of the list of priorities was the measurement and certification of quality of the academies of all clubs to create an objectively assessable picture. To ensure this, everybody, including coaches and the medical staff, was examined. For a three-star academy, the clubs are promised additional revenues in excess of €300,000 on a yearly basis. An important incentive”
In May 2011, the DFL and DFB even published a ‘Best -Practice Handbook’ to help the academies improve their rating.
Scouting and player evaluation is an art driven by specificity as every player is different
“It is our responsibility to ensure that every player receives individual attention from the coach. It doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 34. It is key to the development of players of all ages that they receive individual attention from the coach. The needs and motives of each player should be dealt with accordingly.“
Sports + studies = success
“We have observed that success in school also results in good performances on the pitch. This is why we want to offer the boys the best possible environment in which to grow.
“Do Not Neglect School” is the law at all clubs’ academies.“
By its honesty and professionalism, this benchmark document published in 2011 is the kind of publication that would make a Fortune 500 business or a major city jealous. It is also a scary one, simply because it roars “trophy” through every page!
The Bundesliga at the time was not in an asset protection mindset. On the contrary, it believed talent was still falling in the cracks. Germany saw the 10 year anniversary as an occasion to think about how, in the ten years to come, they could still be setting the standard in youth and elite player development.
It wasn’t wrong to do so! This summer, Germany triumphed at the 2014 World Cup thanks to a team with an average age under 25.
By Jean-Philippe Gagnon