Guilherme Decca, a businessman who lives in the United States, has owned Wakefield since November 2021 and tells us about the process of searching for a club and what are the plans for the future
While all the childhood friends celebrated goals as if they were in the crowded Maracanã and dreamed of repeating it professionally, another boy wanted something different. It is impossible to say that one of those boys managed to make the dream come true, but William Decca can proudly say yes: he brought the famous Football Manager game to real life and today he owns a football club.
The Brazilian bought, in November 2021, the Wakefield AFCamateur team from the north of England and which disputed the 11th division of the country, the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior Football League. More than six months later, the club gained access to 10th level as a champion and will play in the Northern Counties East League starting in the next few weeks.
“When I was a kid, I played ball like everyone else, but I never thought the coolest thing was to score a goal in Morumbi against palm trees at the last minute. The coolest thing was, as São Paulo, to own the Sao Paulofind player. I always liked the football business part, I’ve been studying this for a long time. The fact that I like Football Manager is part of my personality to do it and the opportunity to do it live. Scouting, discussing planning with the coaching staff after the game,” said the businessman, who now lives in the United States, in an interview with the ESPN Premier Correspondents.
Decca acquired Wakefield in partnership with André Ikeda, its partner in the finance company VO2 Capital. The idea of having a football team to call your own is a very old one, but the difficulty of investing a lot of money in the most popular sport in the world has led the two to the lowest divisions in England.a country that Guilherme had idolized since world Cup 1990 and its selection starring Paul Gascoigne.
“When I lived in England, I went to the Fulhamno Chelsea from time to time, and liked to travel at the time to watch Nottingham Forest, Derby County e Non League Football, which was what I thought was the coolest. That community thing, of everyone going even with not so much quality football. I thought: if I ever get the chance, I want to do it. And the opportunity ended up happening through VO2 Capital,” he explained.
“We had the chance to invest in a League One team [3ª divisão da Inglaterra], but in a very bad financial situation, and we thought it was not worth it. I had a lot of debt to restructure, it was going to be very difficult to change the way the club is positioned in the city. We went to look at other clubs, but all of them were accumulating a lot of debt, and then we looked at other leagues,” said the businessman.
“We went to look at the sixth division, without commitment, and one number was worse than the other. I thought it wouldn’t work, because all the teams were very broken, and then there was Wakefield AFC, which is the biggest city in England without a professional team. We saw an opportunity. There was a group of local businessmen who managed the team, but it was chaotic. It’s just one thing to fix £300,000 of debt and another to fix £30 million.. So it was a cool opportunity and we thought, let’s go up.”
Work, plucked into the title and structure of the future
The beginning was not the easiest. Guilherme himself draws a parallel to illustrate the difficulty. THE Premier Leaguetoday treated as the best in the world, is full of great players and has foreign influence, which helps in the creating a more attractive football. But the smaller divisions, especially the amateur ones, still carry a lot of root English football: kicks from defenders to attack, a lot of physical dispute and little technical ability.
Fighting this was the first challenge of the new Brazilian management at Wakefield. But, after a reformulation of the staff it’s at arrival of professionals who believed in a better played and fluid football, among them the Brazilian coach Gabriel Mozzini, the team reacted. He came out of 7th place in the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior Football League to mend a positive run of results and finish with the title.
“We have a player who played in Leeds United under-19, at Donchester under-19. Very quality player. And they (former club commanders) hated the kids, they said they were weak in the head, they didn’t have a footprint. And they always put the guys who kicked forward only. And we in 7th place, spending much more than all the teams, passing tight to play against bad semiamador. Until I brought in a Brazilian coach who was at QPR, and the previous coach became the club’s sporting director, and sent everyone else away. He put in a staff that believes in the football team that we believe in. So we proved that, if you have more quality, you have to dominate possession of the ball, apply pressure. I don’t want to sign a 28-year-old out of shapeI want someone who trains three times a week and maintains intensity”.
Creating a more attractive football, even with players who have other professions and cannot dedicate themselves fully to football, was one of the pillars of the work. The other was to create a physical structure to help Wakefield in the future. So the new management modernized the stadium, built a gym and has more plans, such as making a playing field that is rented out to rugby teams during the day, which helps in generating resources. Not to mention the purchase of cameras to follow games and analyze potential reinforcements for the future.
The plan is clear: to prepare structurally to reach higher divisions, even if it takes a long time. Today in the 10th division, Wakefield needs to go up five more steps to reach the professional level. The rise will naturally cause changes in the club. Guilherme Decca guarantees: there is no rush to make this dream come true.
“We want to be promoted. People ask how high we want to go. It depends on our competence. We have some theories, on and off the field, in which we think it is possible to have some promotions. depend on our competence. The advantage is that we are patient. If it takes 10, 15, 20 years, that’s fine. Getting to the National League in 10 years, if everything goes right, is quite doable and would be really cool. I can see us playing for 5 to 10 thousand people every weekend,” said the businessman.
Inspiration for success and tips on SAFs in Brazil
“O Forest Green Rovers [campeão da 4ª divisão] is an exceptional example, despite the fact that we are not of the same vibe. They went after people they wanted to support green, recycling, vegan affairs. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it, but what matters is that it worked. Their projection is huge and they won League Two. We really like analysis and follow teams like Liverpool e Brentford. Football is a game of minimizing mistakes in signings, so we invest in performance analysis”, said Guilherme Decca.
Based on the analysis, Wakefield hopes to increase its database for the formation of future squads. And an important point is to increase proximity to Brazil, through opportunities to import talent from the country, coming directly from universities.
“It’s important to have an English identity, but we think we have an opportunity, in one or two seasons, to bring in a Brazilian player. There are great local universities and we’re going to work, for next season, university students who play like crazy in Brazil and wanted to spend two years in Wakefield to study college and play a year or two for us. When he grows up, then bring in someone who just wants to play football.”
If you want to have more and more Brazilians in the cast, Guilherme Decca also answers the doubts of many: why not invest in a team from Brazil instead of looking for a club in England? The businessman spoke about the recent novelty of the SAF (Sociedad Anônima do Futebol), already used by Botafogo, cruise e Vascoand gave his opinion on the structural change of national football.
“Looking at it as an investor, the first ones that were made, we think that the value and the structure worry us a little. It doesn’t smell good, if I’m a Vasco fan I get worried. What is the real intention of it there? It’s very similar to Burnley. Of course, there will be good projects, like Red Bull, and good clubs to buy, which will be the second phase. There are already clubs more prepared for this type of business, in the case of Ituano, from América-MG, which are better structured, have a much more reasonable cost and, over time, if you have an investor with the patience to do serious work and wait for the structure of Brazilian football to change, whoever places a bet on such a club may be worth it. But today the first ones make me a little scared. I, for one, wouldn’t.”
“Cruzeiro is a different case, despite the controversy, but he (Ronaldo) already runs a team in Spain, he knows how to do that. I know the job, Valladolid is a profitable, well managed and competent team. I can’t talk about Botafogo and Vasco in detail, but the structure, especially Vasco’s, is worrying”.