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What next for Ajax, part 2

March 31, 2011
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A day after my last post, big commotion happened at Ajax culminating in last night’s resignation of the board of directors and the management. This will obviously have an impact on the football, and hopefully for the best. It seems that the internal structure of Ajax is due for a big shake-up and it is spearheaded by the club legend, Johan Cruijff.

Ajax is a publicly traded company and the structure is just like any other publicly traded company. The shareholders elect a board of directors. This board then appoint a management team to run the day-to-day business. Beside the board of directors there is the advisory board, which literally give advise to the board of directors and management but without any authority. The current board of directors at Ajax consists of Uri Coronel (chairman), Joop Krant, Cor van Eijden, Frank Eijken and Jan Haars. The management team consists of Rik van den Boog (managing director), Henri van der Aat (commercial director) and Jeroen Slop (financial director).

It all started in September 2010. After seeing Ajax play awful against Real Madrid, Cruijff wrote in his weekly column in the Dutch paper Telegraaf how awful the current Ajax is and a call for more ex-Ajax players to sit on the advisory board. He was saying that it is unbelievable that a club like Ajax is not listening to more advise from ex-players. Using his media offensive, Cruijff managed to get an additional 7 ex-Ajax players on the advisory board (Cruijff himself is a honorary member). The advisory board was then split into three task forces, one looking into football related issues, one looking into commercial aspects and the last one on legal. Cruijff headed the football task force with Rik van den Boog also a member. This task force then came up with the recommendation to change the current structure of the technical management (technical here meaning football related). Frank de Boer will head up the first team, Dennis Bergkamp will be in charge of the youth and Wim Jonk will head scouting. This also meant that there will be no place current people such as Jan Olde Riekerink and Danny Blind. Cruijff also recommended that this structure is put in place on April 1st so that Ajax is ready for the new season in July.

Here is where the board of directors and management team disagreed with Cruijff. They did not want to execute that plan immediately as they felt that they will be responsible for a plan devised by someone else. Also they claimed that this means firing Olde Riekerink and Blind on the spot. Cruijff denies the latter and set on a collision course to get his plan implemented. He is of course backed by ex-players and many fans. What Cruijff did not want to do though is take an official position at the club. He doesn’t think it’s necessary as he never had one at Barcelona yet everything he said there was followed to the dot. Current board and management want him on so that he can be held responsible.

An extra-ordinary assembly was called last night and the result was that the current board of directors and management have made their jobs available (or in other words: resigned). This means that they will stay on until the shareholders have elected a new board of directors, who in turn appoints a new management. The shareholder’s committee have announced that finding suitable replacements is of highest priority but will not announce anything before Monday the 4th. They also called for respect between all parties involved and all Ajacieden.

Is this a win for Cruijff? He said that it was clear that something needed changing but that it’s not good when the whole board resigns. Not sure if this is the change he wants though. He will still not take an official position at the club but he might push forward a couple of candidates. On one side a clean-up like this is great, as Ajax can then focus on being a football club again. On the other hand all this commotion is probably not the best thing to go through so close to the end of the season, with a Champions League qualifying spot still up for grabs (and the Championship still a mathematical possibility).

Cruijff’s goal is for Ajax to get back to what it used to be. The club hasn’t won the Dutch championship since 2004 and hasn’t made a dent in Europe for a while. He wants the club to play football like it should be, the Ajax way (or what is now known as the Barcelona way). I share all these and truly hope Ajax will get better. If this is the revolution needed then so be it.

And as Uri Coronel said “you can’t win from Cruijff, even when he is wrong.”

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