The battle for the football millions, Football | This is the club the whole of Scandinavia is looking towards. Has sold for over one billion:
In a small town a meager half-time outside Copenhagen, it produces large amounts of football talent. It also provides a huge financial return.
FARUM (Nettavisen): North Zealand has built up an extremely good reputation for talent development in European top football. Several sources Nettavisen has spoken to in recent months, the academy refers to the relatively small Danish club as a place that is not left for anyone in European football.
The Danish club has sold players for over one billion Norwegian kroner in the last ten years, and serves new great talents to European top clubs in every single transfer window.
Kamaldeen Sulemana (Rennes), Mohammed Kudus (Ajax) and Mikkel Damsgaard (Sampdoria) have disappeared in a row out of the club, for over a hundred million kroner each, the last three years.
– North Zealand sells players for huge sums on an ongoing basis, and has gained a completely unique position in Europe, says the Norwegian talent scout Stig Thorbjørnsen to Nettavisen.
See the huge million differences in Norway and Denmark: – Quite a bit
New DNA: – The talents were terribly good
From the club’s founding in 2003 until 2006, North Zealand had a great focus on the A-team and results.
In 2006, however, people came in who started thinking differently.
They put a lot of focus on the talent development in the club.
– Our current head coach Flemming Pedersen, and former head coach Kasper Hjulmand started an entire youth department, says the club’s current sports director Mikkel Hemmersam to Nettavisen.
He meets Nettavisen in the small town of Farum, just over half an hour outside the capital Copenhagen. Here, the club is holding on to something that has received a lot of attention in international football in recent years. Hemmersam puts into words the enormous development the club has gone through.
– The club has developed year after year, winning the league title in the 2011/2012 season and qualifying for the Champions League group stage.
– Then the money comes in and you get the opportunity to build on what you have managed, but you still felt that it was difficult to keep up with FC Copenhagen and FC Midtjylland, he explains.
This is how Hemmersam explains the hunt for Norwegian Andreas Schjelderup:
The club made a clear choice at the same time as they found that the philosophy of betting hard on young players worked well in practice.
– What we found out, however, was that our own talents, who came up from the younger layers, were terribly good. Then we started to focus more on the young, and it has in many ways become our DNA reach.
– It has been a natural development which means that we have managed to increase our ambitions, both in terms of performance, but also what can be created by top players internally, says the current sports manager.
– North Zealand’s squad is among Europe’s youngest, but it can still manage to keep you at the top of Danish football. Why?
– First and foremost, we must brag heavily about the people who manage the presentation in the academies in both Denmark and Ghana, which means that we constantly get new class players through our systems. At the same time, it is also connected with the fact that we both trust and believe that these young boys must be able to deliver good results, despite the fact that they have some experience, says Hemmersam to Nettavisen.
Goes really hard against Norwegian football: – Foreign clubs sit and laugh
Acquired by investment company
On 1 January 2016, the club was acquired by the British investor and talent scout Tom Vernon, who, among other things, owns a large talent academy in Ghana. By January 2021 at the latest, the “Right to Dream” academy brought in new investors in the Egyptian Mansour family, who entered North Zealand and secured an investment of about one billion the next few years.
– We have of course got a boost through Tom Vernon’s entry and purchase of the club. He is the owner of the academy scheme “Right to Dream”, which has a large academy in Ghana and has given us a greater access to great talents and only in Denmark and Scandinavia, Hammersam explains.
Unlike in Norway, the regulations in Denmark allow foreign investors to buy into and own Danish football clubs. This is a theme Norwegian Top Football (NTF) these days takes a closer look at her home.
North Zealand has been owned by the African Academy through Vernon for five years. The Academy of Africa was started by the chairman of the board 20 years ago. Since then, it has evolved further.
– Africa has become a completely natural part of our club and means a lot to us. We have gone from being a Scandinavian environment, to becoming an international environment. The combination of the African and Scandinavian women’s and men’s players has proven to be very good, says Hemmersam.
– It gives the players a sense of security that you will get the chance, if you prove good enough. We also have a clear philosophy from the A-team down to the youth teams, which makes the younger people who come up aware of what they are going for, the sports director continues.
According to them, North Zealand is very preoccupied with patience and giving players time to adapt to everyday life as a player at a high level.
– Some players want a level right away, as Andreas Schjelderup did as a 16-year-old, while others will not flourish until they turn 19-20, he says.
– Has been for how the club is run
The sports director has not finished talking about the club’s link to Africa. When Vernon came in with his experience from the special Ghana, it gradually opened up completely new opportunities for the Danish club.
VG has previously focused on the “Right to Dream” academy in a number of cases. Former players have been subjected to corporal punishment during their time at the academy in Ghana. “Right to Dream” itself believes that these accusations are either “false or exaggerated and completely out of context”.
– He has come in with knowledge about both the development of players, but also in Africa has been expelled for how the club is running well. We have been very dependent on being determined to do this properly, and not deviate from the guidelines that were set. It has proven to be sustainable.
– You have sold players for several hundred million kroner in recent years. Will it at any time be relevant to try and make a great team here, with the funds you have now earned?
– Of course, we talk all the time about how we can become more skilled at what we do, both performance on the field, but also on developing the club. We are often asked what we should spend all the money on, and then the real answer is that we invest it in the next generation. We also want to get better as clubs, but it must be our way, he says and points out that North Zealand has great respect for competitors FC Copenhagen and FC Midtjylland.
– We can not try to copy other clubs. We have to play with young players and hopefully manage to produce more so that we can be quiet and stronger for several years.
Has sold players for over 100 million. Now Berntsen warns: – People want to give flat f * ck
– Does not work with emotions
As mentioned, the Danish ownership model is based on a form of private ownership that does not exist in Norwegian football. Hemmersam believes that the Norwegian club suffers a little from the ownership model in this country.
– What is important to keep in mind for Norwegian supporters is that the structure we have here in Denmark, with investors and private ownership, provides the opportunity to professionalize the club and give the club a more visible everyday life. The Mansour family from Egypt joined Right to Dream and are also co-owners in North Zealand with Tom Vernon. It gives us stability, he says.
– That approach to resources means that we do not work with emotions, but which is also not based on a plan we have made in advance, says Hemmersam.
In Norway, the club’s member ownership is where each member has one vote, stated director of competition in the Norwegian Football Association Nils Fisketjønn, to TV 2 earlier this autumn. Norwegian clubs have the opportunity to establish a partnership with companies that can contribute income through the regular double model. Decisions will in any case be with the club and its members.
– According to the Federal Board’s provisions on commercial and / or administrative cooperation between clubs / sports clubs and companies, the cooperating company must have a business address in Norway. It is not an obstacle that you are not Norwegian citizens, but the business address must be in Norway, says Rune Nordhaug, section leader club support in NFF to the channel about the regulations in Norway.
Among managers in Norwegian clubs that Nettavisen has been in contact with lately, there are divided opinions about possible private investors in Norwegian football.
North Zealand’s leader relates to a different reality than what Norwegian club leaders do here at home.
– In sports, decisions are often made based on emotions, but with an owner who has no personal connection from the start, it will be a more operationally prioritized priority, Hemmersam adds.
– Do you often receive requests from other clubs who want to visit and find out more about the choices you make and have made so far?
– Yes, we absolutely do. It happens as you become even more skilled at what we do, and that others notice more and more what we have achieved. We are out and about visiting other clubs to get new inspiration, but there is also great interest from Norway, Sweden and other nations in Europe. We can call Norwegian clubs to hear how they do it with, among other things, their artificial turf pitches or the school projects they have going around, so we also do much the same, he says.
Divided opinions about foreign investors: – Football is not an ordinary business
– Unique position
The renowned talent scout Stig Thorbjørnsen, who someone works as chief scout in Swedish Norrköping, believes North Zealand has built up a bulletproof reputation in football Europe.
– The club sells players for large sums on an ongoing basis, including Kamaldeen Sulamana and Mohammed Kudus for 180 and 100 million Danish kroner respectively the last two years. They have been given a completely unique position in Scandinavian football, where they produce talent from both Denmark, Ghana and other countries in Scandinavia, says Thorbjørnsen to Nettavisen.
The Norwegian himself is up to date on the African market. He is clearly impressed with what the little Danish club has achieved.
– Everyone knows that the best talents produce there, so everyone looks to North Zealand first. However, not everyone who is sold from FC Nordsjælland succeeds in Europe. There are several reasons for this, but I think it is mainly because they play on artificial turf and have a very structured 4-3-3 formation, he says.
North Zealand director Hemmersam emphasizes that the club’s model has influenced other clubs in Denmark.
– You also start getting paid to use young players in several Danish top clubs. This means that there are several interesting players to look at, and this makes the league a natural destination. Well, it has gone from some clubs investing in talent development, to very many having a great focus on it, he concludes to Nettavisen.