Market Leaders Pick Their Market Leader: Which football boss is most on the ball?
Wednesday 14 July 1999
West Ham Football Club
YOU REALLY have to be a football fan to make the most of this job. However, by the same token you can't do the job properly if you aren't able to stand removed from the emotion of football. It's a very delicate balance. You need to have, and keep, strong business discipline in what is an extremely emotive sport. And the decisions you make are important ones, especially with salaries starting to accelerate in the way they are at the moment. Like Marks & Spencer, you are judged by the product you've got in the shops. But you have to balance that with what it'll cost you. You've also got to be a good communicator. Again, it's a question of balance - opinions need to be translated into language accessible to professionals and to the fans. Over the past few years Peter Robinson, vice-chairman of Liverpool, is the person who has brought the greatest amount of professionalism to the industry.
Bradford City Football Club
AS THE MD of the club, I'm involved in every aspect of what goes on apart from those 90 minutes on the pitch. As a football fan, the job is a dream come true. And I do think it's important to be a football fan in as much as your understanding of the issues is probably more thorough than if you were left cold by footie. But you mustn't look at your business, or team through rose-coloured glasses. To excel you need to make a massive time commitment and you have to have the dedication to deliver a product that both fans and shareholders will find acceptable. One side is motivated by profit and the other by results. As I'm only 29, I have been influenced by a number of people. I think that Michael Spinks, general manager of Barnsley, has particularly influenced me with his good advice and his willing ear. He has stood by his club for many years, through the good and the bad. And I think that's important in this game - loyalty.
Chief Executive and Deputy Chairman
Nottingham Forest Football Club
I'VE BEEN a fan of Nottingham Forest for 50 years. I love it when we win, but football, at the end of day, is a financial business. I have to make sure, effectively that revenue exceeds cost. What I enjoy most is the football academy where we have 160 children forming the basis of the future of football. For me, those I admire are Sam Hammam, co-owner of Wimbledon, and his former colleague at the club Ron Noades, currently at Brentford. They both did a remarkable job with a club which had little fan base and which no one was interested in. I could name a big club like Manchester United, but that would be like saying that the man who owns Coca-Cola has done really well. What's more impressive is to see someone take a problem case and turn it into a success. I'd also like to mention Karren Brady at Birmingham. She's a high-profile chief exec and very good at what she does.
Sunderland Football Club
I WAS a business man before I came into football administration but I have been a life-long Sunderland supporter. The greatest pleasure I get from this job is seeing Sunderland be successful. Throughout my working life football was something I turned to when I wanted to relax, now, it's a seven-day-a-week pleasure. I particularly enjoy the fact that football is so important to lots of people ... fans are profoundly affected by the performance of their team. It is also a great leveller - we've got the out-of-work fans, children fans and very wealthy individuals who are fans but everyone gets the same buzz out of their team winning. You do have to remember that it isn't just a business operation, it has a key social role. To succeed you have to realise the impact of football on the fans and you have to listen to them but make sure that your heart doesn't rule your head. I don't think there are really any great businessmen out there at the moment. Although, I would say that I do admire Peter Reid, our manager.
Everton Football Club
SHORT OF playing in the team, this has to be the best job in football. Early on, though, I realised that you have to be thoroughly professional - emotion cannot get in the way. You also have to be a good communicator, supporters are very demanding about receiving information. The supporters are the most important sponsors of any football club and it is important to keep them on side. Financial acumen is a prerequisite. Now that football is such big business other commercial areas are emerging for us to explore which is extremely exciting. There are a couple of people who shine for me: Ken Friar, managing director at Arsenal, and Peter Robinson at Liverpool. They are both very good and experienced. It really does take years of experience to be good at this. Their clubs' successes are down, in no small way, to their contributions and I hope my contribution will affect Everton in the same way.
Tottenham Hotspur Football Club
FOOTBALL IS really exciting at the moment and is zooming forward at a rate of knots. In particular, there's a buzz here right now as we're hoping Tottenham is going to do well next year. I think football hasn't nearly fulfilled its potential. What you do have to be able to do is keep football in perspective. Obviously I get excited about the game but at the end of the day, I've got a business to run. For every job that I need done at Tottenham I get about 20 applicants. But I have to be objective, the mad Tottenham fans tend to be of no use. You need someone who wants to do the job. It's perhaps a little sycophantic, but I do feel that Alan Sugar our chairman is a leader in his field. He is constantly looking ahead, trying to modernise the game. I also think it's important to have an outsider in charge rather than someone who was once a player. Businessmen have a different perspective on the business. I think we up the ante a little.
Chairman of Sheffield Wednesday
and the Premier League
WORKING IN this business is a great challenge and one in which you really have to love football if you want to do well. I myself enjoy the ability to build up a business and successful club and manage it. I also relish the fact that I can contribute to making life better for the fans. Within the industry people like Martin Edwards (chairman of Manchester United), Ken Bates (Chelsea's chairman) and Alan Sugar stand out as being real successes. They are shaping the business in a positive way. They have vision and focus and will listen. Really I admire every single one of the 19 chairmen because they're chairmen of the best league in the world.
Leeds United Football Club
OUR REVENUE really isn't just football, we're involved in travel, financial services, IT training, all sorts. But all our revenue streams are centred around making the club work. Obviously we're not yet Manchester United, but we are something that may come to rival them in times ahead. Obviously, a lot of your revenue will depend on your team but essentially the name of the game is to maximise revenue. To do well, you need to have a good business awareness and all round ability and, to get the most out of it, I do think you need to have a passion for the game. I thoroughly admire Martin Edwards at Manchester United and his deputy, Peter Kenyon, in part because of the sheer size of their operation. And of course I think we've got some great people.
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