“At a very high level we see ourselves as a media entertainment company, not just a football club. Obviously there’s 800 million people watching us on television, there’s 50,000 in the stadium so you really have to understand that mechanism: you’re not just about people turning up in the stadium any more, even if your [media] rights are owned by Sky."
Ian was appointed as chief brand and commercial officer in October 2010 after previously serving as head of strategy. His current role puts him at the head of a complex and wide ranging operation that goes from the club's sales and services department to international marketing and brand development and quite a few things in between.
“We’re trying to build a sustainable football club for the future. Now, within that we think along multiple axes – so what’s the infrastructure required, what’s the team, who are the people required? We run ourselves along six strategic objectives over a five-year plan period. We’re trying to double our revenues approximately by 2017."
Last season the club's annual turnover was £153.2m, up from £128.2 the previous year which in turn was up from £87m the year before that. Despite the quite obvious big steps the club has taken since Sheikh Mansour took over, doubling the current turnover is going to be no mean feat.
However, having said that, the 2011-12 turnover is looking to be around the £218m mark, and if reports are to be believed about a re-negotiation of Umbro's contract with City, it will increase to a basic £238m the season ending 2013. Increasing beyond that may be more difficult though. Thankfully, you know everything behind the scenes is being run with the same vigor and attention to detail as what the public are openly able to see.
"It’s quite a tightly run machine – five-year plans, one-year plans, 90 day objectives – so it’s probably not typically what I would say most sports entities are. Most probably have an inherited way of behaving; ours has definitely been driven by best practice in business. A lot of people have been hired from outside the sector so you get a real mix of people from across sports and across media – even outside of media and sports.”
Some have said the club sold its soul when the "oil rich Arabs" to over and we became an "Arab's play thing". When I say some, I actually mean almost every single fan of teams that either felt threatened or were jealous of the fact that City could be regularly challenging for major honours in the near future.
In reality, this couldn't be further from the truth;
“We’ve been very careful to look at what the DNA of the club actually is and we’re building that brand story step by step rather than jumping out to the world saying, ‘This is who we are’. We’re being very clear about what has been there for a very long time and how we hold on to it. At the core of that is that it is a community club. It has been by definition for an incredibly long time; it hasn’t been a club about trophies. It’s been about people turning up and participating. This club has been living on that since zero but particularly in the last 20 or 30 years."
Yes that last sentence is a polite way of saying we've been crap for a while but the point remains, Manchester City has always been a community club and hopefully always will be. The award winning City in the Community (CitC) Foundation is living proof that those who now run the club have worked very hard in keeping true to the ethics of the club they inherited.
The CitC scheme was launched in 1986 and has never been stronger than it is today in helping local Manchester businesses and organisations.
And of course the real soul of the club is found in its fans and the club has never worked harder to involve and envelope the fans within the club;
“The identity of the club in the eyes of the fans – which is the brand; the brand isn’t something I announce to them, this is their perception – is tightly aligned with the idea that they are a community club. The pillar right in the centre of it that keeps kids right through to adults understanding what this club is is the fact that it is alive in the city of Manchester. A lot of the stories that people tell make up the identity of the club. Part of the identity of the club is sharing those stories and storytelling.”
And there you have it. Not quite the club that sold its soul after all, as though any Blue honestly thought that in the first place. It just confirms again that City isn't this obscenely rich entity hell bent on ruining football, but the club is now an extremely well run, forward thinking, community based club with the opinions and feelings of the fans firmly in the foreground... hell bent on ruining the established order of an elite clique that have sat safely in their own little bubble for long enough.
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