“I’m hoping to have some time to start some exercise and spend time with my family.”
Since Jeff Berding founded FC Cincinnati in 2015, his goals have always focused on building the club for the future. He’s rarely mentioned what he wants to build for himself.
But that changed Thursday morning when Berding, the club’s president and former general manager, hired Gerard Nijkamp to take full responsibility for the club’s soccer side of the business.
It’s a win-win situation.
In hiring Nijkamp, Berding added a “soccer lifer” to his staff who understands building a club through a youth academy, transfer business and club philosophy. Now, instead of Berding trying to do the same – while also running the team, building the future West End Stadium and Mercy Health Training Center – he can continue his work off the pitch, in boardrooms and with his family. The move is a business one, but also one of faith in hiring individuals to carry out his vision.
“We’re certainly going to be smarter on the soccer side with Gerard,” Berding said in both boosting Nijkamp while teasing himself. “He’s a soccer lifer. I’ve always known that if we were promoted to the first division, (a new general manager) was going to be required.
“I was blessed to have 20 years with the Cincinnati Bengals. I didn’t have 20 years in professional soccer.”
These comments came in an afternoon conference call with national reporters. At Nijkamp’s press conference earlier in the day, Berding joked it was a move to help him return to his sanity. He also added that after working for the Bengals, he was better suited initially to find an NFL fullback rather than a soccer one.
But the reality is by moving away from managing the soccer aspects of the club, he can focus exclusively on the business and branding.
FCC’s president said the initial decision to maintain both roles stemmed from necessity. As the person who created the club’s vision on a legal pad in his kitchen, he established the soccer team in August 2015 with six employees. Now, there are almost 90.
In January, Dennis Carroll was hired as Cincinnati’s first Chief Operating Officer after a 10-season stint with the Philadelphia Union. It was a move to oversee the club’s business operations and its various departments.
Hiring Carroll was a move to add someone with experience in MLS to run the business side. Hiring Nijkamp as general manager is the chance to do the same – but with previous experience in The Netherlands – in soccer.
“It’s been four years of an enormous grind to build this club from an idea to where we are today,” Berding said. “I’m very excited to have someone like Gerard come in and be that soccer expert.”