Short history of Slovenian Football
Slovenia has participated in international football as an independent nation since 1991, when the country gained independence from SFR Yugoslavia. In Yugoslavia, the majority of Slovenian clubs played in the federal football league system. First post-war champion Nafta competed in the 1946–47 Yugoslav First League, an achievement that was later repeated only by Olimpija Ljubljana and Maribor. Olimpija was the most successful team in the period, playing 22 seasons in Yugoslav top league. The most well-known Slovenian players who managed to get into the Yugoslavia national team were Branko Oblak, Srečko Katanec and Danilo Popivoda.
After the Independence of Slovenia, national league and cup competitions were established in 1991. In the first season the Slovenian first league (Prva liga) included 21 teams while later on this number was gradually reduced to only 10 teams. Also in 1991 the Slovenian national football team was established. It played its first official match in 1992 against Estonia. Since independence, the national team has qualified for three major tournaments – UEFA Euro 2000, FIFA World Cup 2002 and FIFA World Cup 2010 – a respectful achievement for a small country with the population of only two million.
Strategy for the development of Slovenian Football till 2020
Football in Slovenia is governed by the Football Association of Slovenia (hereafter: FAS) which was established in 1920. In cooperation with the consultants from the Faculty of Economics in Ljubljana, the FAS started the process of its strategy formulation in 2015 by comprehensively analyzing Slovenian football on different levels. The SWOT analysis of the FAS in its broadest sense can be summarized as follows:
- Strengths: financial stability; strong reputation of the brand of the national team; and stable system of operations within the association.
- Weakness: poor infrastructure in local communities (even Maribor and Olimpija as the best clubs in the country are still without proper training pitches and it is almost unbelievable that in the Ljubljana and Maribor regions one playground on average is shared by seven teams).
- Opportunity: increasing global popularity of football; and Slovenia’s top geopolitical and touristic location.
- Threats: decreasing purchasing power of Slovenes in the last decade (this resulted in less money spent on tickets etc.); possible raids on or near the stadiums; and arranging the outcomes of matches in connection with illegal betting.
Following the strategic analysis, a multi-level strategy for the development of Slovenian football by 2020 was adopted at the association’s General Assembly meeting in 2015. The strategy emphasizes four key strategic directions (Nogometna zveza Slovenije, 2015):
- Increase of the cumulative income of Slovenian football. The FAS may not be the richest sport federation in the country, but it is certainly financially the most stable sport organization in Slovenia. The new global economic reality did not bypass Slovenia and its sport, and in the long run only the most interesting sport products will be successful. Consequently, although the FAS has several advantages, such as stable source of revenues from UEFA and centralized sale of TV rights for qualifying matches, greater revenues must be realized from other sources, especially from the sale of sport equipment, tickets etc.
- Improvement of football infrastructure. During the construction of the national training center Brdo (see Figure 1) the investments into local football infrastructure were more or less postponed. However, the construction of the center in Brdo is now finished and the FAS can apply for a new investment cycle with UEFA. In local communities there is a great interest for the construction and/or renovation of training facilities and the FAS plans to support these investments.
- Improvement of the status of football in the Slovenian society. The FAS cannot be satisfied with the status of football in the country. The fastest way to improve this status is through the participation of a national team in big tournaments, such as the Euro or World Cup, but it is not wise to count only on such scenarios. Through the project of national sectorial sport schools it wants to acquire funds for a greater number of coaches than in the past. Also, the FAS supports the changes of the Act on Restricting the Use of Alcohol in a way that selling beer in sport events (which can be a source of survival for many smaller clubs) can be allowed again.
- Greater impact of the football profession (educated and skilled experts) in decision-making. In order to improve the economic performance of clubs and other organizations in the country as well as to lose as little talented footballers as possible, the FAS wants to improve the management and give greater weight to the professionals. Experts in strategy, leadership, human resource management, marketing, financial management and similar business-related fields are needed at different levels.
Education for the improvement of sport management
The fourth dimension of the FAS’s strategy (as presented in previous section) is to increase the impact of football profession in decision-making. The solution for the implementation of this strategic direction is to promote studying the topics relevant for professional management of sport organizations and recruiting young students who are eager to acquire the knowledge necessary to make changes in football clubs and other sport organizations. One study program that offers top-quality knowledge in sport management is already established in Slovenia. It is a master’s level program titled “Management in Sport” carried out by one of the top 1% of business and economic schools in the world, i.e. the Faculty of Economics of the University of Ljubljana (hereafter: FELU).
The main goal of this program is to thoroughly develop skills and abilities of students in the field of sport management, thus qualifying them for further professional, developmental and research work in this field. The students reveal the art and craft of successful management of sport organizations and management in sport in general. By developing the skills to successfully coordinate and manage their team/colleagues, learning how to be a successful and socially responsible leader, how to diagnose problems and make decisions using advanced managerial approaches, and by receiving competencies for effective performance in managerial roles and processes in organizations (with the emphasis on mastering contemporary economic, social, environmental and ethical challenges) the graduates of the study program Management in Sport at the FELU will be able to successfully implement the strategy of the FAS and bring the Slovenian football to a higher professional level.
By participating in the program Management in Sport (see Figure 2) at the FELU you will receive answers to questions such as (Faculty of Economics Ljubljana, 2017): (1) What are the biggest problems of management in sport organizations and how to deal with them? (2) How to provide sources of financing for sport organizations? (3) How to properly market sport products and services? (4) In which direction is the development of Slovenian and European sport going? (5) How should sport organizations be organized to become more flexible? (6) Which are the characteristics of voluntary work in sport?
The Faculty of Economics of the University of Ljubljana (see Figure 3) was established in 1946 and is today the biggest higher education and research institution in the field of business and economics in Slovenia with the largest center for executive education within a university setting. It is the only school in the wider region to have been awarded the EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA international accreditations, thereby joining the elite group of Triple Crown schools.
Studying in Ljubljana, the capital of the Republic of Slovenia, means a unique experience. Situated between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea, the city of Ljubljana (see Figure 4) is classified as a mid-sized European city, but it has preserved its small-town friendliness and relaxed atmosphere while providing all the facilities of a modern capital. The city’s character is marked by two widely differing and yet complementary features: Ljubljana is famed for its historical heritage and tradition while being a relatively young city with a modern lifestyle. It is the political and cultural heart of the Slovenian nation, and a safe and charming place throughout the year.