Secrets of SC Freiburg’s exemplary success story


Secrets of SC Freiburg’s exemplary success story

There is another team in the Bundesliga this season that has attracted as much attention as Union Berlin. Having finished 6th last season, SC Freiburg are currently 3rd in the Bundesliga. They were defeated only 2 times in 11 games. There is only one secret to their success: stability

Christian Streich follows in the footsteps of Volker Finke, who ran Friebug from 1991 to 2007. Although he had ups and downs in Freiburg, where he took the charge in 2011, he became the coach with the most wins in the club’s history.

Not just Streich who has served so long in Freiburg. CEO Jochen Saier has been in charge since 2014, and Klemens Hartenbach since 2013. It is true that believing in this stable structure and the circle of trust created bring long-term and balanced growth.

CEO Jochen Saier sincerely explained to Adam Bate of Sky Sports the hallmark of this structure they established in 2021:

Freiburg chief executive Jochen Saier can only smile when asked about the prospect of Champions League qualification. “The players can dream,” he tells Sky Sports. “The fans can dream and they should dream. It is important that I keep my feet on the ground.”

Saier has been at the club for two decades now and the man in charge of the team has been there even longer. Christian Streich is the longest-serving head coach of any Bundesliga club, ten years into the job and over a quarter of a century into his Freiburg journey.

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The key to the success at this football club is a level of continuity simply not seen anywhere else.

“Our DNA means that we do not get carried away in the good times. On the other hand, we do not sack the coach in difficult times either. We try to stay balanced. In football, you are the hero or the idiot. In Freiburg, we try to balance out this crazy football stuff.”

“At other clubs, the coach stays for 18 months and that is it. That is not the way at Freiburg. The club has a clear philosophy. If you sign a different coach every 18 months, one goes left and one goes right, there is no chance to develop the club step by step.

“We have an idea and good coaches that fit the club. We are not for the short term. You have to win a game once in a while, of course, but we prefer to look at the big picture, the culture of the club. That is a big difference between Freiburg and other clubs.”

When Freiburg were relegated in 2015, Streich stayed and won promotion back to the Bundesliga at the first attempt. The strength of the relationship between him and the chief executive is at the heart of the club’s story. “We know each other so well,” says Saier.

“It is not all easy if you know each other so well. Football is emotional. It is not just harmony all the time. But I think it is important that we are honest and express different views. The base of our work is stable so it is no problem. It is even good to reflect each other.”

“We are very different people, that is a secret too. You need different characters. Christian is the face of the club. In his press conference, he is not just talking about football, it is politics and everything else. He is Christian. He does it how he does it.”

“We don’t put our heads together and tell him what he is allowed to say. It just developed this way. Everyone asks him questions and he has the answers.”

Streich was the U19 coach before taking the top job, Saier was the head of the academy. It helps to explain why the club remains committed to youth. Twelve of the 26-man squad came through the academy and Saier meets with the staff there every other week.

“The philosophy is clear, the academy is at the front of everyone’s mind. We have brought six players from the academy to the first team this season. This has always been the philosophy of Freiburg. We were pretty much the earliest club to focus on that in Germany.”

When signings do need to be made, the team of Streich, Saier and sporting director Klemens Hartenbach understand what is required because they know their club.

“The coach needs players who have an open mind. If you have a black hole in the head it won’t work, they need to be able to take on information. That is how the coach works. If he does not have this then he is lost. That is our task. To find good players who fit.”

“We know precisely those players who will fit into the work of the coaching staff. We don’t need players who come here to train for one-and-a-half hours and go home. That is not how it works here. Everyone here is in the system. They stay after practice.”

“Everyone here works hard because they know that individually they are not the best players in the Bundesliga. They have to work to stay in the Bundesliga. It is a different spirit. I don’t think there are many players who do not improve at Freiburg.”

The result is a club that is on the up. Changing but staying the same. At the new stadium, they have even imported many of the same food and drink vendors rather than use one supplier, in the hope of recreating the familiar feel of the old Dreisamstadion.

“Those small things are important for the feeling,” says Saier.

“We tried to get everybody involved in the process – even the ultras. Everyone loved the old place, we had been there forever, and the new stadium will not feel like home just like that.”

“But everyone knew that the next step was necessary if we wanted to be in there fighting for the Bundesliga. We took everyone by the hand and walked there together. With every game, the feeling gets better. It will come, it will just take a while.”

“And the players are adjusting quicker than we can.”

The hope is that through results on the pitch and hard work off it, the club can continue to grow. “It is not a guarantee or anything but if you do not take the step that every other club has already taken then you will get lost in the race,” adds Saier.

“Football is small margins and there will be tough times ahead too but we are trying to do it step by step. It has to be organic. It has to be little steps. We will not sign five players and suddenly become a Champions League team. That is definitely not the way for Freiburg.”

“We have no investor here. We are a real club.”

Abbreviated from Adam Bate‘s article “Inside Freiburg’s Success Story” on Skysports on November 5, 2021.

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Our new lecturer is Rodrigo Picchioni who is the Head of Analytics at Atletico Mineiro. We trust for many reasons that Rodrigo will give a proper lecture into how the department of data/analytics needs to be structured and make an impact for the club on and off the pitch.

Rodrigo Picchioni headed a newly created analytics department at Atletico from 2021 on, they demonstrated their commitment to becoming a standard bearer in the region in the intelligent use of data to make better decisions. Prior to Atletico, Rodrigo worked as Director of Football Assistant at Red Bull Bragantino and in coaching roles in different countries.

Aloys is the technical director of elite youth teams of the Netherlands FA as the key part of the football development department. He shapes the certification of the youth training programs, and he contributes to the guidance and assessment of the KNVB coaches. Aloys gives lectures in KNVB’s academy directors educational programs.

Gianpaolo is one of top level legal experts in the intl sports business. He has vast experience in advising all range of sports stakeholders. He lectures in FIFA Diploma in Football Law, in UEFA Football Law Program and in Sports Management at the Uni. of St.Gallen. Previously, he headed the Players’ Status Department of FIFA.

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