INSIDE ISSUE 2 6
8 A WORD FROM THE CEO 10 The big picture
- Fifa Club World Cup - Brazil edges closer - European winter break
16 a life lived in football Sir Bobby Charlton, put simply, is one of the greatest figures in the history of world football. Manchester United and England’s record goalscorer talks about a landmark playing career, the future of his beloved club and the work of his landmine charity, Find A Better Way.
22 Fresh eyes Football’s historical scepticism towards statistical analysis and related disciplines is well documented but, with so much at stake at the highest level, attitudes are changing. Moreover, comprehensive coverage and technological advances are combining to create rapid advances.
28 building with the ball HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein is fast becoming a major figure in world football. Still only 38, he is the president of the Jordan Football Association and West Asian Football Confederation, a Fifa vice president and member of the executive committee, and the founder and chairman of the Asian Football Development Project. With Jordan set to host the Soccerex Asian Forum in May, he believes football can be harnessed for social good.
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34 Window cleaners 46 ACCOMMODATING Transfer spending by European clubs rose A NEW CHALLENGE in 2013 and as the FIFA TMS Global Transfer Market 2014 report showed, a range of interesting trends are emerging.
36 EACH FAN, EVERY FAN It may be fundamentally changing the way sports teams communicate with fans but in a new world of seemingly boundless possibilities, making the most of new customer relationship management technology is easier said than done. Arsenal’s head of marketing Charles Allen describes how the Premier League club are investing in order to solve the CRM riddle.
40 An old hand and a new dawn
In September, the South African Football Association welcomed the election of the hugely experienced and admired Danny Jordaan as president. The former head of the local organising committee for the 2010 Fifa World Cup hopes to usher in a new era.
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Lille OSC hoped to have joined French football’s elite when they won a league and cup double in 2011, but the arrival of billionaire backers at Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco transformed the national landscape. Now, with a stunning but costly new stadium to service, they must stay ahead of the rest of the pack.
50 Another Level Women’s football in England entered a new era in 2011 with the arrival the Women’s Super League. In 2014, a more commercially robust WSL expands to a two-tier format. The Football Association’s Kelly Simmons discusses the changes and the state of the women’s game.
53 the update
- The Score: MLS Expands - Continent-by-continent news and insights - Signings: the biggest football investments
70 Guest COLUMN
Prime Time Sports’ Esteve Calzada on the Premier League’s transfer advantage
SPREADING THE PLAY
hen I was a small boy, already longer ago than I would prefer, my dad would tell me that Sir Bobby Charlton was the one living Englishman who was known in any part of the world. I can hardly vouch for the empirical research that supported such a statement, but something about it stayed with me. It was some thought: faces I’d never see, in places I could never imagine, lighting up in recognition at the mention of a name. Today, that comment would likely not be true – the world no longer seems so remote. Matches are beamed weekly on to screens from everywhere to everywhere. Clubs like Arsenal, my own local team, build communities spanning continents. As their head of marketing Charles Allen explains elsewhere in this issue, it is no longer enough to think of one type of fan, in one type of place. It has to be one fan at a time, each one enjoying the game on his or her own terms. Football is that rare thing in life that can be many things at once. It is simple and yet endlessly beguiling.
Where some seek a tribe, others, like Prince Ali of the Jordan Football Association, see a route to unity. While so many delight in visceral spectacle, others are building patterns from numbers, changing the game and the business it sustains. This is the world’s most universal sport but there is always ground to cover. Men in England have been paid to play for well over a century but of even the most gifted women, still only a handful can expect to be professionals. As the FA Women’s Super League expands, it is it possible to see a time when talent has no gender. 2014 is a huge year for football – bigger, as ever, than any before. It will be marked by rancour and fervour, delight and discontent. The more the game is for everyone, the more it touches every aspect of experience. But I hope there will be much to cherish. It was a privilege to meet Sir Bobby Charlton, a giant and a gentleman. As a professional, it was an honour, and personally, it will give me much to smile at in the time to come.
A man can spend a life with football. He can see it from its very heights and depths and then, after everything, still regard it with unguarded awe. There must be something in that.
Eoin Connolly Editor
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A WORD FROM THE CEO
FOOTBALL’S YEAR 2014
has the potential to be a vintage year for football, just as 2012 was for athletics following the fantastic London Olympic Games. Although we are only two months into the new year, football has continued to dominate the headlines around the globe, with Libya’s ﬁrst African title at the African Nations Championships, Europe’s domestic leagues producing some of the tightest title races in their history and of course, the build-up to the one we’re all waiting for, the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil. Although Brazil promises to provide a carnival of football on the pitch, we all know that the business behind the game doesn’t stop, as demonstrated by the January transfer window, which this year highlighted a number of shifts within the industry. Although total spending in 2013 transfer windows reached a record high of €2.4 billion – an increase of 32 per cent on 2012 – it produced a quieter winter window compared to previous seasons, demonstrating the inﬂuence Financial Fair Play is having on European clubs as they look to balance the books to comply with Uefa’s regulations. This new club approach was analysed at in the Soccerex Transfer Review by Prime Time Sports, and this edition of SoccerexPro features a special contribution from their chief executive, the former FC Barcelona chief marketing ofﬁcer Esteve Calzada.
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The magazine will also offer a set of exclusive interviews with some of the biggest names in football and great friends of Soccerex, including Manchester United and England legend Sir Bobby Charlton, South African Football Association president Danny Jordaan, and the Fifa vice president for Asia, HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan. With the global football family gearing towards a non-stop 2014, it will also be an exciting and busy period for Soccerex as we continue to expand our global portfolio of events. This year we will be providing a gateway to Asia by hosting an Asian Forum in Jordan in partnership with the Asian Football Development Project (AFDP). Our Global Convention will return home to Europe in September in partnership with Marketing Manchester, which will see our iconic football festival take place at Manchester City’s new, state of the art Etihad Academy. With the likes of Fifa president Joseph Blatter and Lord Sebastian Coe in attendance, the Convention is an event not to be missed! Finally, in November, we will strengthen our presence in Africa by returning to Durban for our third African Forum with host partners the KwaZuluNatal Government and eThekwini Municipality.
From everyone at Soccerex, I wish you an enjoyable and successful 2014 and look forward to welcoming you to one of our events to help celebrate a fantastic year of football. Love & kisses.
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THE BIG PICTURE
FIFA CLUB WORLD CUP
orocco began its two-year stint as the host of the Fifa Club World Cup from 11th to 21st December, with games played in Marrakech and Agadir. The local organising committee will have drawn some encouragement from its experiences ahead of the 2014 edition, and the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in the country, after Fifa president Sepp Blatter (1) paid compliment to “a successful Club World Cup”. The tournament was well supported, though transport around the host cities and media arrangements left some room for improvement second time around. On the pitch, Moroccan champions Raja Casablanca (2) made a remarkable run to the ﬁnal of the competition. The Botola winners beat Oceanian champions Auckland City 3-1 in the quarter-ﬁnals, then stunned Copa Libertadores holders Atlético Mineiro 3-2 to book a place in the ﬁnal against Bayern Munich. The German giants were to prove too strong, however. Goals from Dante (3) and Thiago Alcântara were enough to secure them a 2-0 win at the Marrakech Stadium. The Bavarians added the Club World Cup to their Bundesliga, DFB Pokal and Uefa Champions League titles to cap an incredible year in 2013 (4).
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THE BIG PICTURE
BRAZIL EDGES CLOSER
reparations continued for the greatest show on Earth as Brazil inched closer to staging its second Fifa World Cup. The finals themselves took shape in early December at the World Cup draw (1), with the hosts set to open the tournament against Croatia at the new Arena de São Paulo on 12th June. However, demonstrations continued in Brazil’s biggest city (2) and across the country against misdirected government spending and corruption, raising fears that the World Cup might yet become a target for protestors. The city of Recife withdrew funding for its Fifa Fan Fest. Stadium construction remains a major issue for Fifa and the local organisers. In February, a worker was killed in an accident at the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus (3). An earlier tragedy, in São Paulo in November, left two men dead. Curitiba, meanwhile,was given a late reprieve by Fifa general secretary Jérôme Valcke (4) after a visit in February. The city’s host status was under threat after delays to its Arena da Baixada.
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THE BIG PICTURE
EUROPEAN WINTER BREAK
s the debate continued over the scheduling of the 2022 Fifa World Cup, Europeâ€™s top clubs served a reminder of what they stood to lose without a winter break by jetting off on mid-season tours. Paris Saint-Germain (1) went to their ownersâ€™ base in Doha for a glamour friendly with Real Madrid, while European champions Bayern Munich (2) were also in Qatar. English clubs, as ever, played on through Christmas (3), with Manchester City (4) forced to cancel a visit to Abu Dhabi after Blackburn Rovers forced a surprise FA Cup third round replay.
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a life lived in football Sir Bobby Charlton, put simply, is one of the greatest figures in the history of world football. Manchester United and Englandâ€™s record goalscorer talks over coffee to Eoin Connolly about a landmark playing career, the future of his beloved club and the work of his landmine charity, Find A Better Way.
Elland Road, September 1969: Manchester Unitedâ€™s Bobby Charlton eludes brother Jack (left) and Mick Jones of Leeds United to shoot 16 | www.soccerex.com
Few men in the history of football are in less need of introduction than Sir Bobby Charlton. A World Cup winner in 1966, he remains England’s all-time record goalscorer. He set similar marks at Manchester United, where he scored 199 times in 606 appearances over a 17-year period, winning the European Cup with a side that established the legend of one of the world’s most popular clubs. Today, he remains at Old Trafford as a director. A fixture in the stands at home and away matches, he also travels the world spreading the Manchester United message to an everexpanding community of sponsors and supporters. Always an ambassador for the sport, Charlton is now also a prominent spokesman in the campaign against landmines through his charity, Find A Better Way. He is at their offices in the peaceful Cheshire village of Knutsford, near his home, on the morning of 6th February. It is the anniversary of a tragic, pivotal day in his life and that of English football. In 1958, he escaped with minor injuries from the Munich Air Disaster, a plane crash which claimed the lives of 23 people, including eight of his youthful teammates and three coaches of the freewheeling ‘Busby Babes’ side of the 1950s. It is an episode he recalls with customary humility and grace.
Today is a very poignant date in your own life and in the history of Manchester United. What has that club come to mean to you over the years since you were a player there?
Well, it’s very difficult to quantify it, really. I mean, the club at the present time, generally speaking, is the most healthy that it’s ever been. When it comes to the 6th of February, I make a point of getting the appropriate papers and I speak to my family about one thing or another. It’s been a regular thing since Munich. It’s very difficult. Bill Foulkes, one of our players, was one of the great footballers and he was keen as mustard, and he was lucky like me and Harry Gregg and others that came out of it. I was lucky, I came out of it with a little bang on the head but it was nothing. So there’s obviously a lot of thinking that you have to do when the date is here, like it is today. It’s just the football club – and everything that the football club stands for, really – have it in mind that they couldn’t have done it without what happened in Munich, and how things eventually made Manchester United one of the great soccer clubs that’s ever been. I was lucky, and I can never understand why it happened to me. But the philosophy of the club and the way that they play football, Matt Busby always said that you were to play attractive football – you’ve got to satisfy the people that are in the stands and behind the goal. They live it for a whole week before there’s another match. It was taken away from everybody at that particular time but we always give a little thought to it, I think. Without wishing to dwell on it, did it become a question of giving that good fortune back when you played?
In a way, yeah. Matt Busby, I remember he went coaching in the United States and he came back with all sorts of stories about what they do in their stadiums and he said, ‘It’s so comfortable. We have to do it ourselves in Europe.’ We’d just started to see European football. We were drawn to play a match against the Belgians, I remember, in our first European Cup against Anderlecht. We beat them 10-0. I was in the army doing my national service and I wasn’t in the team, but somebody took me in a car. It was the first European match and it was so exciting.
It was the philosophy of Matt Busby, who used to say, “You’ve got to maintain a lot in football. Don’t be greedy, it’s a team game, and make sure that you make them happy.” Which we have done as far as we can. But it’s something that I think about, obviously. Sir Matt was obviously a huge figure in the history of the club and while you’ve not quite said goodbye to another one in Sir Alex Ferguson, he’s not in the dugout as manager any more.
Well, Alex, when he came to the club, took about two or three years before he won something. A lot of people have mentioned to me the fact that although they’re not doing so well at the present time, I think most people think that it is just a matter of time. We’ve got David Moyes, who’s a fine manager, who knows what responsibilities he’s got, and there’s nothing wrong with United, really. We are struggling a little bit just at the present time and there’s no excuse for it – maybe a couple of injuries, but everybody gets injuries – and we will be there because we have this philosophy that you have to make sure that the public enjoy what they see.
You’ve been around the club for a long time and you became a director shortly before Sir Alex Ferguson first joined.
I met him before and I’d seen him and his team, Aberdeen, play in the European Cup Winners’ Cup against Real Madrid. It was in Sweden, the final, and they weren’t supposed to win. Real Madrid were just a bit too strong – I think everybody felt that, but he didn’t. That was what he actually did for about 30 years. He was such a strong character. A lot of managers are not strong characters. He was a strong character and he liked winning, and now that he’s a director it’s only a matter of time – not that he will have anything to do with that on the football side. But he’s fantastic, unbelievable: some of his decisions where you wonder how and why he does it. The one thing that’s been fairly strange, really, is that just recently we haven’t performed like we normally perform and we’ve struggled a little bit. It’s unusual after Alex Ferguson. But he’s on the board, he will keep his eye on it like we all do and we’ll be OK. I’m not worried about the future at all with Manchester United at the present time.
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Find A Better Way
t was Sir Bobby’s prompting,” says John Edees, the Manchester businessman and chair of landmine charity Find A Better Way. “We were in a friend of our’s office one morning, all sitting there having a cup of coffee talking about the game the night before or whatever and Bobby had been on a trip to Asia, calling by Cambodia. He witnessed these children sitting under trees in a terrible state, really, and recognised that the quality of life was miserable due to the landmines that were distributed all over the area.” “I was sitting in an aeroplane coming back from functions in the Far East,” adds Charlton, speaking at the charity’s base near his home in Knutsford, Cheshire, “and I said to myself, ‘There must be a better way of doing it, because kids are being maimed daily.’ And I’m fortunate enough to have a lot of good friends and the first one I got to help was John.” From that initial conversation in 2008, inspired by Charlton’s visits to afflicted areas in Croatia as well as Cambodia, the two men set about their task. Edees reached out to professional contacts across academia and the technology sector, while Charlton recalls a “fantastic” response from friends in the football community and the city at large.
With a group of trustees on board by 2011, Find A Better Way submitted an application for registered charity status. It was approved within 24 hours. Being reluctant to “tread on any other charity’s toes”, Find A Better Way has defined three key areas for its operations. The first and most significant of these is funding research into the development of new tools for seeking and disposing of mines in the field. “It’s not changed in years,” explains Edees. “We didn’t go, in the end, to the military because they have their own ways of dealing with landmines. For humanitarians it has to be 100 per cent – 100 per cent safe – for the kids to recreate their villages, to farm and do whatever they do.” Find A Better Way established its own Scientific Users and Advisory Panel to better identify research pathways and opportunities best suited to the charity’s needs and resources. Led by Cardiff University’s Professor Peter Wells CBE, who Edees enthusiastically describes as “the man”, the panel was developed through early discussions with the University of Manchester and also helps conceive academic research competitions for new technologies. This has carried Find A Better Way’s work into a range
of leading UK science and engineering departments, including the likes of University College London, Imperial College London and Oxford University, with academic funding body EPSRC providing administrative assistance. Manchester United sponsor Aon has already sponsored one such initiative, which carried a UK£1 million prize. While it does not put any of its own volunteers on the ground, Find A Better Way is working with Laureus to create measurable, football-based educational programmes for other charities to use. “You know, they don’t know what a classroom is,” says Edees of children in some of the affected regions. “So delivering it through soccer creates interest.” The third strand of the Find A Better Way project is the ‘Pathway to Affordable Prosthetics’. As well as research into new products, this will be pursued through the development of new surgical procedures. A training programme is currently being run by The Royal College of Surgeons in London to introduce doctors based near landmine sites to amputation techniques that greatly improve the effectiveness of prosthetics. Much of the money donated comes from the corporate sector, through
When someone like that moves on, and I suppose it happens with players all the time but less so with figures like Sir Alex, does it become about remembering what Manchester United’s identity is and was before he came along?
just naturally gifted for this job. You have to have a big club. He’s had a big club and he’s now decided that physically he needs a rest and who are we to argue. Fantastic manager, and I wouldn’t know how to describe him. It would take too long. There’s a little problem just at the moment with the performance of the team but it will be gone once we get settled in. Because there is a process when you come to a club, you have to be fair to everybody that’s there. We’re doing that and sometimes it creaks a little bit. But nevertheless we’re not worried at all about it.
Absolutely. It’s a growing club. It’s still going to be one of the top clubs in the world. In the next six months, a year maybe, we’ll see the club come to the rightful place that it deserves. But it’ll be fine. I don’t doubt it at all. I’m not a director that actually goes down every day to see how things are working – I go ocassionally – but you leave it to the manager. The manager is a good manager, he will make sure that it’s right, and Alex, I’ve no doubt, will be the first to shake his hand when he wins one of the trophies.
Is there a case as well that so much happened in the time that Sir Alex was manager, that there are so many more demands, that the structure of the club has to change?
What about off the field? You’ve mentioned that it’s a growing club, and the commercial team is now doing all sorts of things in all sorts of places.
No, I think he brought what he had to bring from Scotland, from Rangers, from the coaching that he did. He was aware that he was good at what he did and to do something he would have to come to England. He came to England and even then, for a couple of years, it was very uncomfortable I suppose, but I was in no danger of thinking that he was anything other than still the best manager around. I’m saying that a bit lightly, there were some good managers around but he was 18 | www.soccerex.com
Prince Harry, Charlton and John Edees at the Royal British Legion Centre for Blast Injury Studies
partnerships with the likes of Aon and Axis Capital, and fundraising galas. Edees credits the help of Soccerex in meeting new supporters – Find A Better Way had a stand at the European Forum in Manchester in April 2013 – but admits that much of the initial backing has come through Charlton’s links in the game. “We’re all predominantly footballmad,” says Edees, “however you want to describe it, but generally speaking
around this area and this table we’re strong supporters of Manchester United. And you know, we make no secret of it that a lot of our activity spills over from there.” At this stage, notes Charlton, “not one penny has been taken” from donations to fund anything other than the cause itself. This is not something Edees expects to continue, however, and the charity is already looking at ways to continue its progress.
It’s marvellous. I have to go to various countries, I have to go to various cities, and I’m glad to do it. I enjoy doing it. I enjoy seeing what the history of Manchester United is, and the future of Manchester United, and I’m quite satisfied in that respect.
It’s a great football club and it’s a great organisation, and through that we have the biggest support of any sports club in the world. When somebody told me that I couldn’t believe it. I thought, wow; I was staggered. But at the end of the day, a few hours later, I appreciated what they were doing. The club is well supported, the management in the business section, everything to do with the club is big and it is the best. And it has to be that way because this is big business. You can’t take anything for granted. But it is the most fantastic club. I’m biased, you know, but I’m going to different parts of the world, sometimes only a few hours and then back again but, nevertheless, you never leave any stone unturned if you want to make sure that you get your message over. I do my best
When you have a project like that, how do you ensure that Manchester United remains more than just a badge on a product?
Well, you pick the right people. You pick the right staff and you pick the management. That’s the way it is, really. We have an enormous number of companies that are now right behind us in making sure that we’re performing to our very best and it’s lovely to see. I mean, it’s millions of pounds you’re talking about.
Find A Better Way USA, which Edees describes as being “in its infancy”, will establish new sources of donations and research in North and Central America. Closer to home, meanwhile, discussions have been opened with Prince Harry about the possibility of endorsing a high-profile charity match involving two amputee football teams, whose players have sustained injuries in landmine incidents. “We are working on ideas, there will certainly be a Sir Bobby’s XI,” says Edees. “He’s not going to play.” “I don’t know,” interjects Charlton, wryly. “I don’t know.” In the longer term, Find A Better Way hopes to “close the loop” in its funding by ensuring that profits from any intellectual property developed through its projects and research competitions are driven back into the charity. Edees is realistic about the scale of the challenge, and wearily notes that “war will always raise the bar”. Still, he and Charlton are hopeful the charity’s work can make a lasting, tangible difference. “We measure our success by the wins,” says Edees. “It’s not about how much money we have. To get the wins, we need the funds, but the success of the charity will be when we’ve produced our first tool in the field.”
but I can’t do it myself, and nobody can do it themselves, so we have to get the appropriate staff. If I want to maybe have a rest and have a little holiday there’s all the people in the world – the Man United world – that will take over. It’s a great club. We’ve got great people in the club, some of the old players come back to us and help us to put together good questions that are being asked by businesses all over the world. And when they said that Manchester United was the biggest sports club in the world, I thought, well that’s about right. I felt very flattered. But it means that you have to work a bit harder. There’s opposition from some of the fanbase to the ownership of the club.
The Glazer family have been fine. I can’t complain about that. We’re still a
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Manchester United’s most successful manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, has now joined Charlton as a director of the club and a spectator at their games
very stable club and it’ll continue for the foreseeable future. I see some clubs… I’d better not talk about other clubs, but I’m very grateful that I’ve got to the age now – I’m 76 now – and I’m where I’ve always wanted to be. It’s my club and if we can continue as best we can, like what has happened over the last 25 or 30 years, then we will be all right. I’m not worried about it at all. Sometimes you have to maybe back off a little bit but it’s a great club and a very efficient club. The number of staff is phenomenal, really. But what’s your take on that opposition to the ownership?
Well, the supporters want to win. They always want to win; I always want us to win. If it doesn’t happen then there must be a reason for it, but the reason is not that. They’ve got a right to argue. It’s a different world and we need to be a little bit stronger and what have you, I would agree, but I don’t think that overall we won’t be really, really important for the next few years. No question about that. But the fans have been marvellous these last five months, six months. David Moyes has come there and they have given him lots of opportunities and he is a really, really good manager. So we’ll 20 | www.soccerex.com
wait and see but the club, we don’t have to wave any flags. We’re OK. Looking away from Manchester United, there is a World Cup coming up this summer. Will you be going to Brazil?
I don’t know. I think I’m of an age where you can do without all the travelling – and there are enormous distances in Brazil – so I don’t know. I may have someone in football for some reason or another invite me down but I’m not looking for that. I thought, well, it might be nice just to sit and watch football matches. But every four years, I feel as though I have to say that England have a chance of winning the World Cup. I say it every time it comes round. I’m getting a little bit cheesed off, you know. Maybe it could have been a bit better. I’ve got to be honest, I’m not saying we’re going to win the World Cup or even get to the semifinal of the cup but the players seem to be harmonious and if that’s the case, if we go there and we have the belief, why should we not win? But I can’t explain it really. Every four years I keep saying, ‘Yes, but this year England will be right, and we’ll have the right players.’ But it doesn’t always happen.
It happened for you.
Yes, but we had really, really good players. Nowadays, there’s limitations to how many players the manager has to choose from. You know, I might not have been playing. Politically, there’s so many foreign players in our game now that we do have to make sure that we have some English players. But it’s a competition. In countries like Spain and Brazil, they have some advantages over us. But then again, I more than hope that we might have enough good players to have a decent squad, so that we can actually, maybe, think about possibly winning the World Cup. So I’ll still say the same thing, you know. Looking at what football can do off the pitch in communities, through organisations like your own Find A Better Way, what responsibilities does it have around the world?
Well, football is the greatest game in the world. It’s easily available to play a football match. I see it on television these days, you have the Premier League and it is so important, but then you have kids that are only four or five and they’re showing signs of doing something. We have to make sure that they get the opportunity to show how good they are.
Manchester is hosting the Soccerex Global Forum this year. Since the Commonwealth Games there you’ve had the development at Eastlands and money coming into Manchester City. Manchester United have been an enormous club for a very long time. What do you see as the city of Manchester’s place in world football?
Well, Manchester City have some great players, they have some great players, and the bosses have spent a lot of money and City are a really top quality side now. We have to appreciate that. But football’s a tough game; times change and football has changed and everybody seems to get the opportunity at some stage to do what they want to do best. City are there with a lot of money, Chelsea are there with a lot of money, Liverpool with a lot of money, Manchester United with a lot of money, Tottenham with a lot of money, and there are four places available at the end of the season to get into the Champions League again. So the game is so exciting, really. So exciting. One thing’s not possible and then the next minute it is possible. We’re languishing a little bit but I’m not worried. Long-term we’ll be OK. How about off the field, in terms of the city itself and the community and the local people?
Well, Manchester United, certainly, have run skills competitions, they’ve run programmes that we have encouraged the kids with and I’ve no doubt City will be the same – and Bolton and Liverpool. We have to be a bit patient, sometimes, but football is healthy in this part of the world. It’s never been more healthy, really. Maybe last year when we were up there. But you couldn’t possibly expect the games could be so easy, when you see City who have scored so many goals. What a legacy, that. You’ve got to hold your hands up, well done. Let’s finish with some of your memories of the game. Who was the player you most enjoyed sharing a pitch with?
Well, Ray Wilson at Everton, when we played for England. We were always together. Nobby Stiles, playing for United and England. He was a great player. I mean, people say, “You can’t be serious that Nobby Stiles was a great
A statue of the ‘Holy Trinity’ - Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best - looks over Old Trafford
player.” I say, “Nobby Stiles was the best at his job; he couldn’t have done more than what was asked of him.” So I would say I can say it. And he was a great player. George Best was an unbelievable talent. Denis Law. There are ones that I’ve watched but I’ve not played with, like Bryan Robson. Great players. We’re lucky to be in this part of the world, where we’ve seen so many cracking players. Who’s your favourite from your time since retirement?
Roy Keane, I would say. He had a great talent, and he is a leader which is not possible for most footballers. But he could turn a game with one tackle. And he had some fantastic players to choose from, that era when he started to play. I’ve been asked sometimes who I’d have liked to play with, and I’d have liked to have played with Roy Keane. Great quality, and brave and tough. What about away from United? Is there anybody in that time?
Well, for these last few years, they’ve been at United! Most of the gifted young players; I mean, the Neville brothers, David Beckham, Nicky Butt – that period when they came through was just phenomenal. Fantastic. I always used to ask the coaches prior to an FA Youth Cup starting what sort of chance we had of players coming into the first team, and they would say, ‘Maybe one. Maybe none.’ But then I went to Sunderland to see them play in a Youth Cup first leg, and after 20 minutes, United were four up, and it was just phenomenal. That was a pleasure. Even though I wasn’t playing
I had the pleasure of watching these great young players. On the whole, what’s been the biggest change in football in your time?
I think the biggest change has been the amounts of money, but you can’t avoid it, really. And I think behaviour on the field, really, when you see people diving and you know full well that it’s not right. I think the FAs are trying their best, but they have to be clever to beat some of the lads who dive and it looks good until you see it in slow motion. But that is something that you can’t be proud of really. Do you think those two go together – the behavior and the money – with the stakes being so high?
No, I wouldn’t put them together. It’s pretty much the same whether you’re a rich club or you’re not. What do you take from the game these days?
I do some work for Man United in different parts of the world, but I don’t look forward to them really because it means I miss matches – and I don’t like missing matches. But that’s what I do now. I have my own football-orientated lifestyle and it takes me to various parts of the world that… I couldn’t believe it really. But I’m very proud, and I want to do it for Man United. That’s my club, and I’ve always had it there that I must perform because playing for Man United you have to earn a reputation. So I’m just quite pleased that I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of the great players leading up to the present time. It’s marvellous. SOCCEREXPRO | 21
Fresh eyes Football’s historical scepticism towards statistical analysis and related disciplines is well documented but, with so much at stake at the highest level, attitudes are changing. Moreover, comprehensive coverage and technological advances are combining to create rapid advances. Executives from OptaPro and Match Analysis explain to Eoin Connolly how data can be used in service of the game.
n understanding how data and analytics might change football, it is first worth recognising what is not likely to happen. For much of the past decade, it seems, many have been waiting for the sport’s answer to ‘sabermetrics’, the statistical breakthrough that forever changed tactics and player recruitment in baseball. They could be waiting a long time. “It is very important to say from the outset that we completely realise that football is very dynamic,” concedes John Coulson, head of pro football at OptaPro. “In any invasion sport like that there are so many variables that it’s extremely difficult to control for in any statistical model; you simply can’t do it. In baseball, with a pitcher, there’s a very limited number of things that you can do.” Mark Brunkhart is the founder and president of US-based football data and video analysis firm Match Analysis, a partner of Major League Soccer and Mexico’s Liga MX as well as the American national team. He is even more frustrated with the misconceptions caused by the sabermetrics phenomenon. “The problem with Moneyball [the Michael Lewis book that popularised sabermetrics] is that the book itself is brilliant, a fantastic book that makes it seem incredibly easy and makes it seem like a panacea,” says Brunkhart. “‘We’re going to solve everything, we’re going to find the answer. We’re going to solve football!’ If one more professor calls me and says, ‘I want your data so that I can solve football like Moneyball,’ then I’m going to cry.” When it comes to data, clubs are beginning to come to terms with Goldilocks’ dilemma. On the one hand, as Coulson notes, football remains “one of the few industries where you still find
22 | www.soccerex.com
people who believe less information is better”. On the other, the very nature of the game makes it all too easy to make errors in pursuit of absolute solutions. Most infamously, the former Royal Air Force Wing Commander Charles Reep converted a generation of northern European coaches to the limited ‘long ball’ game in the late 20th century. But his simple tactic was based on a single statistic – the number of passes in a goalscoring move – to the exclusion of a wealth of other contributory factors. In a sport where, as Brunkhart says, there are “too many variables, too many parameters, too many things changing at any given time and too many ways to win a match” to take a reductive approach, it pays to know what role data should be playing. “I think that Moneyball was better at proving that baseball is barely a sport than it was at proving that statistical analysis is widely and similarly applicable to any sport,” jokes Brunkhart. “I think when you look and say, ‘Ah, we’re going to Moneyball football,’ I think it's a disaster overall. “That's not to say that statistical analysis isn’t valuable and detailed analytics is not valuable. It’s to say that you have to approach analytics not in the same way as you do with baseball. In some sense, in baseball you can say that
data answers questions. In football, it’s much better at asking questions.” The key, as far as Brunkhart is concerned, lies in creating “dialogue between the video and the data and the expert”. The American is speaking to SoccerexPro in November during a promotional visit to the UK. He is taking Match Analysis’ coaching aids to Premier League and Football League clubs to “introduce the market to what's happening in North America,” which has been “leading Europe for some time” in the discipline. “A lot of the analysis that happens in the UK starts with the assumption that the manager doesn’t really know what's occurring on the field,” he argues. “This is fundamentally wrong. Normally the manager knows exactly what the issue is and giving him 12 pieces of information that tell him that this player doesn’t run enough, that this guy is lazy, that this guy has possession issues, this doesn’t help. “The primary problem most managers face is not one of more data or lack of understanding, it’s one of: ‘How do I communicate? How do I take 11 players who all make more money than God and get them to do something they don't want to do?’” Brunkhart founded Match Analysis after experimenting with a series of personal projects as a youth football
“The data is there to augment the process, not to replace the process.”
The K2 Panorama coaching tool from Match Analysis combines video showing the entire pitch with player tracking and graphical overlay software
coach in the 1990s. He had found that getting constructive criticism across to young players was a delicate exercise. “They were both fragile and arrogant at the same time,” he recalls, “which is an amazing teenage property.” As he was later to discover, it is also a quality that is “surprisingly similar to professional players”. Just as leading coaches were realising that they could use data as “something that’s completely impartial and objective”, as Coulson puts it, in assessing performance, Match Analysis began working on ways to show, not tell. The latest evolution of this endeavour is the K2 Panorama, a three-camera installation which provides a full-pitch view of a full match. It is a remarkably
Match Analysis' K2 system makes use of three video cameras to create a panoramic image
dexterous system, suitable not only as a coaching aid but also as a means of assessing the performance of referees or even stadium security. Primarily, though, it offers “the view that’s exciting to the manager”, allowing for an overview of team shape. “You start to see the things that people diagram,” explains Brunkhart, illustrating his point by using the accompanying player tracking and graphics software to apply overlays to the defensive line and patterns in midfield. “The type of things that they can do in a broadcast for five seconds,” he says, “we can now do across an entire game.” It is a far cry from the days when Match Analysis would courier CD ROMs to clients and the state of the art in MLS was altogether more analogue. “The most technology we saw throughout the league,” Brunkhart remembers, “is that one guy had two VCRs and would copy from one to the other.” Intuitive systems, as much as intelligent thinking, are fundamental to the progress of performance analysis. It is January as Coulson is joined by OptaPro marketing coordinator Simon Farrant at the company’s London headquarters in Waterloo, in a meeting room whose walls are adorned with an in-depth statistical breakdown of the 1966 World Cup final. The editorial team is hard at work in the bullpen while in a space next door sits another room full of computers, quiet now but often crammed with threeman teams assiduously recording data from live matches – one recording incidents for each side and another running checks.
Opta’s market lead as a data provider to football media – Coulson says such operations still make up 90 per cent of the company’s business – was what provided the inspiration to create OptaPro, exploiting a niche in performance analysis and, chiefly, player recruitment tools. “One thing that Opta has that’s unique is the coverage of leagues that we do,” says Coulson. The UK£40 million takeover of the company by the Perform Group in July 2013 has only increased that breadth, with access to data from over 250 leagues added to Opta’s analysis of a core 35. “Our data has two main forms,” says Coulson. “One is the statistics that you have on the wall behind you, but the other is that we can use those statistics to index a video. So we have a timestamp on every event. We have the point at which every player’s touched the ball so if we line that up with a video, a coach can click play and watch any incident in a game – maybe a touch by a player or a particular sequence of events – so as a review process it makes things a lot faster.” This symphonic relationship between technologically advanced interfaces and growing libraries of data and video is transforming the scope of football analysis. For OptaPro’s player recruitment offerings, this has obvious benefits in terms of marshalling club resources. “We know that if you take the current situation, many scouts and coaches will lead with their gut and try and justify their decision with their head,” Coulson says. SOCCEREXPRO | 23
OptaPro's head of pro football John Coulson and its marketing coordinator, Simon Farrant
“What we’re trying to say is that our data’s not the whole story but we can tell you that these players are doing something different to everybody else in that league, in that age group, in that position. So use that as leading with your head, use that as your starting point, and then when you view those players you can lead with your gut to make that final decision.” Players from leagues covered by Opta’s huge statistical database can be ranked according to a near-exhaustive range of performance criteria, with direct links to comprehensive video footage of an identified player’s every touch. As Farrant points out, “It costs clubs money not to sign players.” Extensive scouting is expensive scouting and using OptaPro’s filters, Coulson suggests, “might take the list from 15,000 players down to 50, and you can then look at the video and at that point send your scouts. That’s the kind of process that we want to put in place.” Farrant admits that it is difficult for OptaPro to build a bottom-line business case for clubs, not least as transfer budgets are typically confidential, but the company’s confidence in its method is palpable. “It’s an additional spend,” adds Coulson, “but we would argue that used properly, there’s a bigger cost saving against the mistakes you make and the players you might sign. But it’s quite intangible; you can’t directly quantify it.” Match Analysis, whose video library comprises footage available from rights holders like Liga MX and MLS as well as that submitted by clients, uses these indexed libraries in a different way for its coaching software. Its base Mambo Studio system allows coaches to select clips according to a wide set of parameters – from simple filters, like watching every corner kick in a match, 24 | www.soccerex.com
to more particular ones, like seeing every time two specified players have exchanged possession. This has been married to Tango Online, which offers access to the software and video package over the web, and Tango ToGo, which makes it available on smartphones and tablets. This allows coaches to identify footage for players to examine and send it to them at home, and even gives players the chance to investigate future opponents and referees using their own initiative. In other words, it subverts the dynamic between playing and coaching staff. Brunkhart’s own experiences of classroom-based video analysis sessions at professional clubs have convinced him of their ineffectiveness, not least given the reactions they draw from players. “You’re defensive,” he says, “because you know that anything said is going to be an attack.” More to the point, he sees the current model as “antiquated”: a process by which a video analyst takes a “washtub” of information and gives a “glass” to the coach, who then passes an “eyedrop” to each player. In the US, he reveals, a more collegiate approach to analysis is already in vogue. “It’s a much more interactive and fluid process,” says Brunkhart. “To do that, however, you need tools that are very simple to use, because these guys aren’t computer guys. It’s got to be something they can pick up on very quickly that can be very powerful.” Both Match Analysis and OptaPro have also put together in-match analysis tools, whose recordings are instantly available to coaching staff. The uses of such products are slightly more limited, given the restricted timeframe of a live match, but they could still have a telling effect.
Brunkhart talks of “giving back those ten minutes” a manager might need to make a key decision like a substitution, while Farrant argues: “Even a thing as simple as one sentence being passed from the analyst to the assistant manager can make the difference at half-time.” Of course, not all of this is within the reach of every team. Brunkhart reveals that Match Analysis provides packages which can range in cost from “a couple of thousand dollars” for a university team to six-figure sums for top professional sides. For OptaPro, there is a similar range in the level of engagement. At the very top end, clubs will request raw data, which is then processed by their own analytics staff. At the bottom, they might submit queries to be answered by the company’s editorial team. According to Coulson, “you can cut Europe in half ” in terms of the current appeal of analytics, with southern European countries proving more “hesitant”. The influence of an Englishspeaking American market has apparently made the UK more receptive while in Germany, there is a “long tradition” of academic study of football. “The German media is a lot like the British media,” adds Farrant. “They like numbers.” Nonetheless, the culture of data analysis in football is only just beginning to evolve. Brunkhart warns that the backlash which followed the Moneyball revolution in Major League Baseball – prompted by the realisation that this was not as easy a trick as it looked – will be a part of football’s data education. Still, Coulson and Farrant see statistics becoming a more mainstream proposition. Certainly, the media is already forming a more sophisticated palette when it comes to data. “We’re starting to see that now,” says Coulson. “Some news agencies will come to us now and say, ‘Well, we’re presenting how many shots happened and how many passes, but our audience wants a bit more than that.’” As coverage of the game becomes more expansive and forensic, so media outlets look for more eloquent statistics to tell the story of a match. “The classic example is of one team having twice as many passes, twice as much possession and twice as many shots but they’ve lost the game 3-0,” adds Coulson. “Well, actually there is a data model that can explain that to
OptaPro can harness its wide array of partnerships to rank players from top leagues across a range of criteria then provide direct links to a video library
some degree. I think somebody like Gary Neville on Monday nights on Sky Sports is using that kind of data quite heavily in his presentations and is articulating it quite well. You hear people talking all the time about how they’re learning from him in the way that he uses objective analysis to get his point across.” While Coulson does not believe the challenges football analytics faces vary that greatly from those in American sport in terms of coaching culture, he does see differences in how far data use has been normalised. “If you go to the US and start talking about sport in bars,” he says, “people will use these [statistical terms] as if it’s just common language.” Football analysis, unlike baseball analysis, does not yet boast what Farrant calls “a defined set of metrics”, but it may well be that such an understanding emerges. Increasingly, clubs in Europe and OptaPro itself are following the lead of American sports teams in hiring data analysts with a background in mathematics, physics or economics, tearing the statistics away from the game to work exclusively with the numbers. “I wouldn’t ever suggest that’s what a manager or scout should be doing,” says Farrant. “The data is there to augment the process, not to replace the process. But certainly from our perspective we want to get everything out of the data that we can.” At this stage, the results of many professional investigations are shrouded
in mystery, but progressive work is appearing elsewhere as a consequence. “Obviously, from a club perspective,” says Farrant, “they’re not going to talk about what they’ve been doing, and that’s entirely understandable, so what you actually find is that the vast majority of really interesting analysis that’s been published has been by amateur guys – people who may work in data industries but obviously are football fans who want to use that knowledge to showcase their capabilities.” OptaPro has been encouraging this flourishing online community, both through an analytics blog section on its website and, in February, by inviting amateur football analysts to submit abstracts for the inaugural academia-style OptaPro Analytics Forum. A judging panel was on hand to select those good enough for presentation, with its membership serving notice of just how quickly these numerate enthusiasts are gaining respect – Liverpool director of research Ian Graham, analytics firm 21st Club’s chief executive Blake Wooster, The Numbers Game co-author Chris Anderson, and OptaPro’s own advanced data analysts Sam Green and Devin Pleuler. “We’ve increasingly started to see people getting hired by clubs from that blogging community,” reveals Farrant. Yet in order for advances in the field to have any significant effect, a gap must be bridged between the language of
research and the language of football. “The hard part from the teams’ point of view is finding someone who has that analytics and data background but also can communicate it to the environment,” says Coulson. “I mean, the club training ground is a very intense place and to be able to deal with those kind of characters and personalities and communicate that data is very important. That’s probably why it’s moving slower than we’d like it to.” Brunkhart echoes this contention. He believes context and clarity, in products and presentation, will be the route to insight. “Instead of focusing on trying to find the big all-encompassing solution,” he suggests, “we say: ‘What can data do today? What can we do to make data and video work within the expertise of the coaches?’ Because the reality is, unless you co-opt the coaches’ beliefs to begin with, unless you as a performance analyst can communicate to the coach, ‘Hey, this is what’s happening,’ you’re not going to get anywhere to begin with. “Performance analysts suffer with this all the time. ‘We have all this insight and no one listens to us.’ Well, the problem is for the performance analysts, unless you can communicate to the managers and the footballers, it doesn’t matter what you know. So even at the end of the day if Moneyball is the answer, and there are great solutions we’re going to find, if the tools for communication don’t exist, it’s not going to matter.” SOCCEREXPRO | 25
Statistical Analysis in Football: From Theoretical to Indispensable I
remember a day back in 2007 when we were having an especially tough time in the office, trying to get our heads round the correct analysis of a particular type of attack in football. Our brainstorming session had hit a wall and the frustration was rising, when all of a sudden I fell back into my chair and laughed out loud. In response to the bemused glances of my colleagues I simply said “Isn’t it great how this is what we do for a living?" Yes, I love my job. Even on those hard days when things don’t go our way. Since 2004, Sports Matrix has been analyzing, fragmenting, categorizing and reanalyzing the game of football. Ten years down the road, with solid experience behind us and databases coming out of our ears, questions still remain – can football truly be broken down in such a way? Is football what they call a “Moneyball sport"? Analyzing football certainly isn’t easy. The dynamic nature of the game means that every movement on the pitch can alter the shape of an attack, while a positive piece of running by one player can be made to look foolhardy by a teammate’s error. The game is not made up of static plays, and the actions of all the players are intricately linked together to create the events which unfold before our eyes. The dynamic flow of the game has led many to conclude that data analysis of football can only yield limited benefits.
Looking back over the last decade, there has been a major problem with the use of statistics in football: the data being pumped out is quite simply the wrong information.
" the game of football is
such that if you take a pass or a tackle or any piece of action for that matter out of its context, it becomes worthless"
Daniel Bernard - CEO Established in 2004, Sports Matrix builds complex databases for performance analysis Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org www.sportsmatrix.com
At around the same time I was struggling to analyse that particular type of attack in 2007, I met with numerous industry experts at various conferences and discussed more advanced, qualitative data with greater
subjectivity driving the findings. “That can’t be done.” I was told flatly over and over again, “Once you go for the subjective, you lose control.” I didn’t dispute that counting passes and corners was a much simpler task than qualitative analysis of each move, but while nodding along to their views I was smiling inside from the knowledge that we had already established a healthy operation and masses of statistics and expertise saying quite the opposite. The professional market wasn’t quite ready for such an approach yet, but over the next three or four years new information began flowing to the clubs, and coaching staff at many teams were delighted to acquire the latest platforms and technologies for enhanced understanding of their team and opponents. Simple static data such as Assists and Shots on/off Target gave way to Completed Pass Percentage and Distance Covered over 90 minutes. It all looked very impressive, especially cially when displayed on a user-friendly graphic phic interface. But there was a major problem. lem. As interesting as all this information is, s, the game of football is such that if you take ake a pass or a tackle or any other piece e of action out of its context, it becomes omes worthless. The context ntext may be the current score, ore, the players present on n the pitch, the location on the pitch, the significance nificance of the play within the move as a whole, ole, and much more. For example, if an attacking midfielder has over 90% pass completion, mpletion, while another has only 65%, we may easily be misled into thinking that means ans something. But more detailed d analysis might reveal that the second player’s r’s passes were mostly aimed at creating valuable one-on-one e situations in frontt of goal, while the first player’s more sideways eways passes did little more than keep possession for his team in
the middle of park. Statistics perceived as important are thus shown to be irrelevant. I once had a manager tell me that he was looking for a center back that was “big and tall”. I asked him if he meant someone who could head the ball successfully, as there is a big difference. He mused that this might be a better definition of what he was looking for. So in came the data. Rather than simply counting the air challenges performed by center backs, we studied the air challenges to examine how well they contributed to the aim of the team within its specific context. I won’t go into detail about how we do that, but I will say that such analysis takes much hard work before you obtain something of value. Sifting out the relevant from the irrelevant, and then fine-tuning it, is something we have spent years doing, because the flood of new information is unusable otherwise. What people called “statistics” have been causing more confusion than benefit. But the world is starting to change. In discussions at a global conference last year, it was quite clear from coaches and analytics staff that the decision makers in football clubs were not getting what they needed from data provided by the market. The thirst for improved data is now leading more and more
companies down the road of subjective analysis.
" I cannot think of another industry where so much money is invested on the basis of a hunch and a gut feeling without full due diligence."
And it makes total sense when you think about it. Clubs invest huge amounts of money in scouting, operations, analytical systems and staff. But much of it is still based on emotion rather than data. And when they do use data, many clubs remain unsure whether they are using the right data. Let's take player recruitment as an example. Is a club looking for the best right back in the league? Or are they really looking for the best right back for them? One that suits their style of play, formation and other teammates he will have to link up with? I cannot think of another industry where so much money is invested on the basis of a hunch and a gut feeling without full due diligence. Companies in other spheres also base their strategy on industry experts, but it would be unthinkable not to have those opinions backed up by solid research. It shouldn't be the case that research analysis is seen as competing
Overall performance valuation
Chance Conversion Rate Defensive Stability Grading
Chance Creation Index
against the view of experts, when they can instead complement one another to provide the most powerful mechanism to support big decisions. There is no reason why the football world cannot work like other big industries. A vast array of products is now available in the market. Impressive graphic front ends and huge repositories of data afford the user endless options for filtering and viewing the information, but conclusive results are still hard to come by. Why? Because it is simply very difficult to do. But it’s not impossible. It takes years to build up an understanding of how to fragment the game while keeping it whole, investing in systems which ensure precision and uniformity of data along with a high level of product integrity. And such is the game of football that there is still plenty to look at. The use and appreciation of data in football has grown exponentially over the last few years, and this trend will only continue. With the use of the right data, clubs and associations alike will constantly search for the edge the information can provide, to find the ideal combination of in-house analytical staff and supportive services. statistical tools and servic founded a decade ago Sports Matrix was founde understanding the true on the belief that underst actions taking qualitative value in the ac future, and now place on the pitch is the fu the footballing world d is on the cusp of of statistics. The great advances dvances iin its use o dynamic nature of the game dy gam means we will probably never crack it perfectly. game it is It wouldn't be the wonderful wonde decisions, big and otherwise. But can decisio small, be framed and guid guided statistically? Absolutely! And we are here he to continue enjoying what we do best. best
building with the ball HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein is fast becoming a major figure in world football. Still only 38, he is the president of the Jordan Football Association and West Asian Football Confederation, a Fifa vice president and member of the executive committee, and the founder and chairman of the Asian Football Development Project. With Jordan set to host the Soccerex Asian Forum in May, he tells Eoin Connolly how he believes football can be harnessed for social good.
What was it that drew you to football administration in the first place?
That’s a very interesting question. I mean, I have always been engaged with football in Jordan. I became president of our national association when I was about 25 years old – actually, a little bit younger. It was an interesting experience because I was the average age of our national team players at the time, so I had a little bit of a different outlook on the game than many officials had at that time. And it just went from there. I also had the idea to create the West Asian Football Confederation, which we’ve done and is in the works. Then, just going to Fifa, there was a bit of a request from the member associations who maybe liked, a little bit, the style that we were working in. I like things to be institutionalised and to be done properly, give credit where it’s due and so on – not politics, just for the game, for everyone and others and that’s it. So there was a bit of a request from Asia, from certain member associations, to say, “Look, we’d like you to work in that kind of position, as vice president representing Asia in Fifa.” So I said yes, and it was a little bit of a difficult time – I didn’t understand the politics behind everything and was a bit naïve – but I moved up and that’s where I find myself right now. Staying with Jordan, what are some of the key challenges that you face in football in the country?
I think, again, going back to the region, they have a lot of respect for the way we’ve done things because we’re not 28 | www.soccerex.com
a wealthy country. We have a lot of challenges. We have politicians who don’t put too much effort into sport because they see other things as a priority. I view the health and wellbeing of our society as one of the biggest concerns and so it’s a very challenging environment to work in. We probably have the lowest budget as a national association of anyone in our region, but we are doing well. I think that football in Jordan is a little bit like, how do I put it… the spirit is a little bit like football in the 80s. I mean, it’s about spirit, it’s about heart, more than anything else. And our players come from all corners of society, not from maybe those that are better off but really from society as a whole – from villages, from towns, and so on. They play for their own families, they play for their communities, they play for their country, and I think that kind of message has come across, in terms of our national teams, club teams, even the fans. It’s a different environment and it is those values that are the essence of football that I hold dear to myself and I like to support. You came as close as ever to qualifying for the Fifa World Cup, only missing out on Brazil after a play-off with Uruguay. What impact has that campaign had on football in Jordan?
Oh, it’s had a huge impact. I think that all the youth, they’re all about wanting to do something for themselves and we have a lot of potential. It’s challenging, in a way, but I think there’s such an eagerness to
do it. We have a school system which is not up to par. In the 1970s and 80s we were, let’s say, a bit more developed in terms of infrastructure for sports and healthy living here. We were pretty much the pioneers in our region in that respect, but it took a bit of a dip and now I think it’s coming up. And I think that it could have a huge impact on our society. What do you think of as being your major achievements in your time at the Jordan Football Association? And what are some of your targets for the years ahead?
Well, for Jordan I think that we’ll continue the way that we’re going. I mean, I think that I would like to see players from Jordan given the credit that they deserve. I think that just getting into Fifa and understanding how things work – there is a lot of, I wouldn’t say abuse, but mismanagement in terms of players going and playing for clubs abroad and what have you. But I would like to see our players do it in a proper way, and I would hope that that is possible. We’ve got some good boys and good girls, especially at the youth levels, and I would like to see them playing in Europe or South America. I would be very happy with that. And it has another benefit – you have young people who are much more popular as football players than politicians, much more well-known. They have the advantage of doing something that they love and being exposed to cultures across the world. That’s a little bit of a social responsibility issue for me, in a proper way.
HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan has become an increasingly prominent figure internationally through his work with Fifa and the AFDP
That leads nicely on to one of your other initiatives in the region, which is the Asian Football Development Project. What can you say about that and what inspired you to set that up?
Well, with the Asian Football Development Project [AFDP], I went through an election on a platform and I had decided that after looking a little bit at the way the institutions work, it’s a little bit difficult to change mentalities and ideas quickly and modernise the way of thinking. If you look at Fifa, for example, it is an organisation that is wealthy and they’re doing what they’re doing and so on, and I thought, look, I’m not in this for competition but if I can contribute, I’d like to contribute in a real way in terms of social responsibility. And I do believe that any official elected to any position should have a platform, and in that respect that was one of my promises. So as it is, we have a small operation that can do work within my continent, Asia, and do it properly. We have a very small budget but we have a great reputation. It’s a non-profit and it’s working well – whether it’s youth
development, grassroots, developing the women’s game – and I’m very pleased and happy that it will continue. Could you just explain how the AFDP functions, formally? What kinds of projects does it run?
It’s a non-profit, very small. We have agreements, obviously in cooperation with the Asian Football Confederation [AFC], Uefa under Michel Platini, who signed an agreement with us, as well as others including working with the Premier League in the UK. So we’re very happy with that. It’s a project that is a little bit… how can I put it? It’s a case study. We’ve done everything from supporting, for example, young women in Cambodia who had some issues with trafficking. We've worked with this NGO, SALT Academy, to train them in football and help these girls who are at risk and I believe some of those girls are playing at the national team of Cambodia. We’ve worked very hard through hosting roundtable discussions to tackle unresolved issues in football such as the headscarf, or the Asian Champions
League, and we also focus on charting the way forward for social responsibility in football through these forums. We unfortunately have a situation in Jordan with refugees and so on and we’ve worked with NGOs and governments as well to provide facilities for those refugees, and training and working with, for example, coaches who have come out to help these refugees rehabilitate themselves. So I’m very happy with what we’re doing. We’re not for show, we’re not looking for anything, we’re just conserving the aspirations of our continent. So are there key centres for that work or is it across the whole continent?
It’s across the whole continent, and it has its impact and it has its effects and we’re going to continue with that regardless of if I’m in this position or in the Asian Football Confederation or Fifa or whatever. This is where my heart lies and we will continue to progress in that respect. Where is the funding coming from? What kind of a role do commercial partners like Pepsi play? SOCCEREXPRO | 29
The Asian Football Development Project combines projects on the ground across the continent with seminars on key issues in football development
We have a good relationship with the commercial partners and donors. To be honest, I think PepsiCo as a company has an absolute faith in us and we are happy with that support. So we are working with commercial partners, we want to enlarge that scope. We want to work with clubs, we obviously want to have them understand the direction we’re going in but also benefit from their experience of the things that can and can’t be done. And I think the crucial element is that with a very low budget, as it is right now, we have managed to make a lot of achievements that haven’t happened before and I’m very proud of that. Being spread over such a large area you must have to cooperate with lots of local organisations on the ground. How does that work, practically?
It works perfectly. I think that there was a bit of a surprise, initially, with the AFDP because I don’t think the idea of social responsibility was given the emphasis that it should be given. With organisations around the world, it’s kind of – let me be blunt – seen as something that should be done, with all due respect to competitions and what have you. But I think it’s extremely serious and I think that that’s an angle we have to follow and to project. Even when it comes to the issues of legacies and World Cups and what have you, I think that groundwork is something that needs to be done and social responsibility is the way to do it. On the other hand I also looked at a lot of independent organisations and independent people who are doing a lot for football and using football 30 | www.soccerex.com
and utilising it, but there is maybe no connection between themselves and people in administration, within Fifa, and we need to strengthen that. We need to be a team and work together, and I’m very happy that I’ve had the opportunity to meet these people, listen to their stories – their wonderful stories – and partner up with them, from Australia to Bhutan to Taiwan to elsewhere. I’m very happy with the progress that we’ve made. You also have what you describe as your ‘friend organisations’ – the likes of One World Futbol Project and Street Football World. Did you look to organisations like that when you set up the AFDP for ideas on how to approach this project?
To be honest, the AFDP was my idea but through the work that we did over the last couple of years, these opportunities just popped up and we’ve worked very hard with all different organisations and so on. For me, I’m learning, to be honest. It’s a natural progress to identify who everyone is and to work with people all across the continent. Hopefully, we can do it worldwide. But I’m learning myself and I didn’t understand, maybe, that there are all these NGOs that are out there, not necessarily connected but who have the same ideas and vision and the same simple outlook for what is best for football and how it can be used to better the life and help in all our societies. How have the events of recent years across the Middle East – particularly the conflict in Syria which has precipitated the refugee crisis in
Jordan – affected your work and ambitions for the AFDP?
Well again, unfortunately, it’s a horrible situation to have in Syria and in our neighbourhood. We have suffered a lot with the refugee crisis. With the AFDP we proposed something to the NGOs who are working with the United Nations or what have you that, ‘Look, we can come in as football and help you out.’ Initially the reaction was that they need basic issues – politicians come in and come out and what have you – but we had a vision that you’ve got a bunch of kids, girls and boys, it’s a conflict that is going on for a long time. Therefore, let’s invest in something that’s firstly going to help their health and wellbeing and secondly use football as an educational tool on issues such as landmine risk awareness, which is a project we partnered up with Spirit of Soccer to implement in northern Jordan. Some people from Unicef and others said, ‘We have never seen a situation where you have a refugee camp where these kids were hanging around, throwing rocks at us, but now they’re playing football and they’re embracing it.’ And the fact of the matter is you cannot have kids spending all their days sitting around doing nothing. You have to give them education, sports and health and that’s what we’re doing, and football is a major power within that. It’s an international language that everybody understands. You’ll be welcoming a chunk of the international football community to Jordan in May when you host the Soccerex Asian Forum. What do you hope to achieve through that and how do you think the Middle East and Asia
can open up to the rest of the sport?
I think that Soccerex is a wonderful opportunity for the region, and we’re going to focus on Asia as a whole. They’ve established themselves at Soccerex and I’m very proud to have met minds, let me put it that way, with the leadership of Soccerex. They have a simple idea and that is to promote football in the right way, and I’m happy to be part of that. I think our focus should be on Asia and therefore that’s where we will highlight most of all and give people the opportunity to meet, to understand, and to really get together and promote the sport. We are the largest continent – well, actually, two continents including Australia who are part of the Asian confederation now – and it has the most potential ever to go forward. And it’s not just in terms of players, it’s in terms of refereeing, in terms of coaching, in terms of every aspect of the sport. So I’m very happy that we can use this forum in partnership with Duncan [Revie] and everyone to really highlight what needs to be done. Let’s move on to your role at Fifa, where you are a vice president and member of the executive committee. Was there something which drove you to seek that role or was it just an opportunity which presented itself to you?
I’m very happy to work in Fifa. In the
beginning I was a bit naïve, I didn’t understand some of the complexities but I think that, I feel I’ve slowly earned the respect of everyone within the executive committee. I’m going to try my best. All I care about is the sport and not the politics. I’m not there to show myself or to have a position, I’m all about the work. And it’s a fascinating organisation. Fifa has more members than the United Nations, and just learning how to help and to promote the youth is all I care about. I have two kids and I want them to benefit, and I want kids all over the world to benefit, from the most popular and important sport in the world. You’re quite atypical in Fifa as one of the youngest senior figures within the organisation. What do you think is your role and that of administrators of your generation within Fifa?
Apparently, I am still the youngest executive committee member in Fifa… But I think age is not an issue. It’s a matter of mentality. There are people who come in as well to Fifa from different confederations and I think that as with any organisation we need to evolve. It’s not just a matter of saying that financially we’re OK and that everything’s going fine. No. I think that there’s a lot of work that can be done and needs to be done, and I’m committed to doing it. Again, when I talk about respect and working in that
Prince Ali says a World Cup in Qatar, "if we do it right", will be a "celebration" for the region
position, I think that it’s understood that I have no other motives than just promoting the game. One of the things you’ve already been quite prominent in was the campaign to allow women and girls to wear the hijab while playing football. While football has learned from those kind of debates, do you think it is open enough to cultural differences between the regions?
I would hope so. You look at football and it’s for everyone; it’s for the world. I think what’s very little understood is the process by which we tackled this issue. I had an Olympic qualifier played in Jordan where the where the Iranian team was banned because they were wearing headscarves and we had three players who were also not allowed to participate. So under the auspices of the AFDP we had a seminar in Jordan and we talked to people from all over the world, and we looked at it safety-wise and what have you, and we presented what we found. I then approached IFAB [the International Football Association Board] and talked to them and said, ‘Look, it doesn’t matter if you have long hair, short hair, tattoos – this should not be an issue at all.’ I was very happy that IFAB overturned their previous ruling regarding the headscarf and a lot of credit goes especially to the four members from Great Britain. I think they played a very crucial role in that. And you don’t worry about politics and so on, it’s OK, people can do what they want. There was naivety and a bit of a negative reaction from some in mainland Europe, for reasons again that are more political than anything else. But you know, if you have a player who wants to play, who loves to participate, then that’s good. We don’t have to come to a situation where, let’s say, England has a woman on the national team who feels that they are not respected. And it’s not a religious symbol, it’s cultural. In addition, and I think this was not highlighted within the decision but it’s also critical to that, we have seen after that that Sikh communities for example – and there was an issue in Canada – they are therefore allowed to cover their heads. And people understand that it doesn’t change anything. The other issue, which again is not highlighted, is the issue of mutual SOCCEREXPRO | 31
do have a little bit of a concern that we need, as an executive committee, more technical input. I want to hear from coaches, I want to hear from referees, I want to hear from everybody who is a stakeholder on the ground in the game, rather than it just simply being a matter of opinion from one person to another, which unfortunately we have seen in Fifa for the past few years. And I think that that’s an important aspect. Again, you’re going back to any debate, I really want an informed analysis for making a decision like that. Going into the 2015 Fifa presidential election, where it looks increasingly likely that Sepp Blatter will stand again, what do you think Fifa needs to learn from the events of the past few years?
Jordan reached a qualification play-off for this year's World Cup but were no match for Uruguay
respect. Therefore countries like, for example, Iran, they have to abide after the decision to allow any visiting team not to have to wear a headscarf. Jordan, for example, our women’s team was allowed to play in Iran without headscarves and it was actually a monumental moment. So I think that Fifa has a role to play in that and I’m very proud that I have done that. Looking elsewhere in your region, what’s your take on events in Qatar and what role do you think the football authorities can play in protecting workers’ rights and so on as Fifa takes its biggest event to the country?
I’m not so much in the picture about that. I am obviously trying my best to look at things. I think that president Blatter has taken that on himself. There is an issue of responsibility to guarantee the right methods and I think that Qatar has taken the right steps in that respect and I hope that they have the message and that we get over this. One of the issues is the matter that any country, or any member of Fifa, no matter how large and no matter how small has the right to host the World Cup, and within our region it would be nice to have a celebration. There is a period of time 32 | www.soccerex.com
until ’22 and the important thing is that we do it right, we do it correct, and we have a wonderful celebration. What does Asian football stand to gain from having a successful World Cup in the Middle East?
I think it’s a great thing. Again, we haven’t had that kind of celebration. I had proposed that anyway before I joined the executive committee of Fifa. I was not a part of the bid and at that time my ideas were not exactly followed. But you know, the decision has been made and I think we have to focus also, first of all, on Russia, and guarantee that that’s a good one. We have Brazil coming up first. And there’s time – I think that, optimistically, if football can play a role to change the society or at the very least to have normal standards that are compatible with world standards, with a world celebration and organisation, then that’s it. Looking at the competition more generally, particularly with your experiences in the past year, do you think the balance of qualification places should be changed to reflect a more global game?
That’s an interesting debate, obviously. I’m not going to comment on that but I
Honestly, I think that when these elections happen – because we also have the elections for the Asian Football Confederation – I would like to see people running on a platform. I think that any contender needs to actually present a proper platform of ideas that they stand for. It shouldn’t be based on a personality, it should be based on a vision. That’s my idea, that’s how I think, that’s how I was brought up and I certainly hope that will be the case in the future. It’s only to the benefit of football. What about yourself? Do you harbour any ambitions for the presidency of the AFC or of Fifa in the long run?
No, for now I’m just focused on doing my job. I’ve only been around for three years at the AFC and Fifa and I would like another term, obviously, to accomplish what I have in mind. Other than that, you know… but that’s certainly the way I’m thinking right now. I would like to see more participation in Asia because again we are the largest continent and the most promising in terms of the future, and I am thinking about certain issues – we have a women’s under-17 World Cup coming up in Jordan that we have to prepare for. I would like to see the AFDP take off. And that’s it. The Soccerex Asian Forum will take place at the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre on the banks of The Dead Sea, Jordan on 13th and 14th May. Details are available at www.soccerex.com/events/asia/
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“THE SOCCEREX ASIAN FORUM IN JORDAN WILL DEFINITELY BREAK NEW GROUND, NOT ONLY FOR JORDANIAN FOOTBALL, BUT FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SPORT ACROSS ASIA. THERE ARE CERTAINLY MANY OPPORTUNITIES IN ASIAN FOOTBALL THAT WE NEED TO TAP INTOAND INVEST IN AND THE SOCCEREX ASIAN FORUM PROVIDES US WITH AN EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY TO BRING ALL STAKEHOLDERS TOGETHER IN ORDER FOR US TO REACH OUR FULL POTENTIAL.” HRH PRINCE ALI BIN AL-HUSSEIN OF JORDAN CHAIRMAN AND FOUNDER, AFDP
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Window cleaners Transfer spending by European clubs was subject to a pronounced rise in 2013. Many of the sources of this spending were predictable but beneath the surface, as the FIFA TMS Global Transfer Market 2014 report showed, a range of more interesting trends are emerging.
he value of football’s international transfer market in 2013 was US$3.7 billion, a 41 per cent increase on 2012. This is perhaps the most talked about statistic from FIFA TMS’s recently published Global Transfer Market 2014 report. Other widely reported findings are that the volume of international transfers was up four per cent to 12,309, and that English clubs led the spending with a US$913 million outlay. These headline stats are what Saverio Taverna, the head of sales and marketing at FIFA TMS, refers to as “the helicopter view on the market”. However, by focusing exclusively on these figures, one runs the risk of failing to notice some of the report’s most interesting findings. Taverna continues, “There are some really interesting statistics, not just in the tier-
one countries which a lot of the media attention is focused on, but also in the tier-two and tier-three countries which are also very much active in engaging or releasing players and who also have a local story or a local dynamic.” One example of a more surprising story to emerge from the report is that Greece, whose economy has been seriously damaged during the Eurozone crisis, recorded the highest increase in incoming players in world football (+115). It more than doubled its 2012 spend on transfer fees and ranked as Europe’s fourth biggest importer of players in 2013, behind only England, Portugal and Germany. 46 of the 316 players who transferred to Greek clubs in 2013 came from within the Spanish market, former Argentina international Javier Saviola’s move from
Málaga CF to Olympiacos FC being one of the more high-profile examples of this trend. Taverna explains that due to the financial difficulties that many Spanish clubs are currently experiencing – their combined debt reportedly exceeds US$4 billion – “foreign clubs are now able to attract players away from Spain, often with reduced salaries.” Taverna also focuses attention to “the increasing importance of conditional transfer fees, which, at 73 per cent, rose faster than any other form of compensation and now represents 14 per cent of the overall spend”. He adds,
1% US$21 million
14% US$525 million
Total transfer fees: US$3.7 billion Fixed transfer fees Conditional transfer fees Solidarity contribution Training compensation Moves like Juan Mata’s from Chelsea to Manchester United could soon be managed by FIFA DTMS 34 | www.soccerex.com
Source: FIFA TMS Global Transfer Market Report 2014
Countries with most incoming transfers
Countries with most outgoing transfers
Volume of transfers
Volume of transfers
Brazil England Portugal Germany Greece
746 488 346 345 316
Brazil England Spain Argentina Portugal
656 535 448 420 408
Source: FIFA TMS Global Transfer Market Report 2014
“This is really quite interesting. Financial performance is becoming more extreme and dependent on results. For example there is a huge gap between qualify for the Champions league and not. The rise is conditional fees may be a sign that clubs are looking for ways to manage these risks and fluctuations.” Signs of economic realities taking their toll on the transfer market are further apparent in the increase in the number of players being engaged on loan. “Loans are becoming more popular, particularly in Europe,” says Mark Goddard, the general manager of FIFA TMS. “That’s one of the key trends highlighted in another report of ours [the BIG 5 Transfer Window Analysis]. Year on year, the absolute number of international transfers for the January period continued to increase, a very high share of them being out of contract, on loan or for a very low transfer fee. “You could probably start to say that
Argentinian striker Javier Saviola was one of 46 players to move from Spain to Greece in 2013
they have been more prudent and they are using conditional fees as well. Clubs are sort of hedging their bets a little bit before going for permanent deals.” Any burgeoning signs of financial prudence within the wider transfer market do not, however, extend so far as Europe’s new breed of super-clubs. 2013’s five highest-spending clubs together amassed a total transfer bill of US$828 million, or 22 per cent of the overall market spend. “Clubs like PSG, Monaco and Man City are really influencing international football and really driving the market in terms of transfer fees,” says Taverna. “Those stories are, from an investment perspective, leading the financial side of the transfer market.” “Football is a world inside a world,” adds Goddard. “There is a very clear bubble where most of the money’s being spent and if we go outside that particular bubble, it is actually quite normal year on year.” FIFA TMS was created on 1st January 2008 as a result of a Fifa taskforce called ‘For the Good of the Game’. It has been backed by Fifa to the tune of US$15 million but is an independent legal entity. “I think the main thing is we were established to create a series of characteristics in the transfer market,” says Goddard. “That was to create some efficiency and effectiveness in how the transfer market is run and provide systems and decision-making tools to increase the effectiveness of how clubs can go about sourcing and selecting their players and how they move from club to club.” The International Transfer Matching System (ITMS), FIFA TMS’s original service, is an online platform that manages all international transfers of male professional footballers. Its use became obligatory in October 2010 and it is provided free of charge to all Fifa member associations.
Mark Goddard, general manager of FIFA TMS
Buoyed by the popularity of the ITMS and in pursuit of its long-term goal to become self-funding, FIFA TMS is in the process of launching a range of ‘premium,’ pay-for solutions. Foremost amongst these is the Domestic Transfer Matching System (DTMS). “It’s the closest project that we do in relation to the international system,” says Goddard. “It’s a very similar thing except for a domestic competition or domestic transfers for a particular member association.” In addition to bringing all of the benefits of the ITMS to the domestic market, the DTMS will enable member associations to gather data about their individual markets which can then be used to analyse market trends and feed information back to clubs. Goddard explains. “You immediately get better statistical information and therefore better reporting capabilities which means that you go from a market that’s unknown to a market that’s known.” FIFA TMS is in the process of launching a pilot programme for the DTMS and hope to soon be in a position to roll out the system to all interested member associations. To contact FIFA TMS Call: +41 (0)43 222 5400 Email: email@example.com Or visit: www.fifatms.com
SOCCEREXPRO | 35
EACH FAN, EVERY FAN It may be fundamentally changing the way sports teams communicate with fans but in a new world of seemingly boundless possibilities, making the most of new customer relationship management technology is easier said than done. Arsenal’s head of marketing Charles Allen explains to David Cushnan how the Premier League club are investing in order to solve the CRM riddle.
he ways in which a sports team can communicate and interact with and tailor messages to its fans are becoming more sophisticated almost by the month. Customer relationship management (CRM) has become something of an art form, at least at the top level of the
36 | www.soccerex.com
global sports industry; indeed, sportsrelated CRM has become an industry of its own, as capturing and managing data has begun to transform online marketing, merchandising and ticketing processes. The use of technically advanced CRM packages – and, as critically, the understanding of how to use the data the
technology collects and produces – is a relatively recent phenomenon amongst even the largest, most commercially savvy teams and clubs. AS Monaco, the Russiancontrolled Ligue 1 team, provide a stark example. The club may be challenging for the French championship this season but until billionaire Dmitry Rybylovlev’s
takeover in December 2011 they had no communication at all with their supporters. Fuelled by substantial new investment, the club are now fast-tracking their CRM infrastructure, playing catch-up against the Uefa Champions League-level sides they hope to be competing regularly with in the coming years. Even in the commercially allconquering Premier League, however, the possibilities offered by CRM are far from being maximised. “I think it’s too early to declare victory and say it’s transforming our revenue performance,” admits Charles Allen, head of marketing at title-chasing Arsenal, a club who have spent the last three years developing and refining their CRM systems. Allen says Arsenal’s work in the area can be traced back to the club’s move from Highbury to the newly built Emirates Stadium in 2006 – he refers to the construction period as Arsenal’s “cement and steel girders era”. “We then went into an area which was about filling Emirates Stadium,” he adds, “and that was when we saw a huge evolution in
our membership scheme – obviously far more season ticket holders having access to Emirates Stadium, the growth of our paid-for, subscription-based membership scheme to actually sell out Emirates Stadium on a regular basis.” Four or five years on, comfortably established at their new 60,000-capacity home, and with demand for tickets as high as ever, Allen explains that Arsenal’s horizons have broadened beyond the estimated 120,000 fans per season who might see a game inside the stadium. “While the activities inside the stadium are, of course, hugely important, as a percentage of our global fanbase, which may number more than 100 million, that’s a really tiny percentage,” he says. “So our drive into CRM is really about switching the focus a little bit on to the non-stadium attendees, and how we can actually recreate some of the magic that happens in the stadium for those fans – be it through our content, both written and video, be it through our incentives and promotions, be it through a variety of membership schemes that we’ve
started to offer both domestically and internationally. “We set a very compelling vision around that about wanting to connect and engage on a personal basis with as many of our fans, both domestically and internationally, as possible.” Quickly, however, a problem emerged. “We looked to the infrastructure that we had to perform that with and realised that actually our technological and human capability was way out of kilter,” Allen laughs. “The vision was really ambitious, really aspirational, but actually we were struggling to send emails to our existing database before we started thinking of anyone else.” The starting point for what Allen calls a “significant investment” was contracting IBM to evaluate the club’s existing systems and then to design a bespoke system. Two years on, Arsenal have a CRM system built on the Microsoft Dynamics platform and have just rolled out an intelligent marketing suite called Neolane, from the Adobe Group. Phase three, which will see upgrades to the club’s call centre
SOCCEREXPRO | 37
Arsenal have been reaching out to international fans through pre-season tours and now aim to expand those efforts through sophisticated CRM use
technology, is imminent. “What this is now allowing us to do is really benchmark ourselves against the best in class,” Allen says, referring not to Manchester United, Liverpool or Chelsea but the likes of retailers Amazon, Tesco and John Lewis. “We’ve taken what we believe to be the best learnings and insights from those organisations and developed something specifically for our fans as well. “But what that really requires is data and when you strip away everything to do with a football club, what’s powering all of that underneath is really intelligent use of data – and obviously we need a lot of data from a lot of people to make the system work as efficiently as possible. “At its core,” he adds, “what we’re trying to do here across the club is to make our fans very proud of belonging to Arsenal Football Club. CRM can help us do that by tailoring and personalising the experience, so no longer will our fans feel that they’re just receiving ‘batch and blast’ emails that are very generic and not really tailored to their needs. As we learn more about our fans and their preferences, and their browsing history, for example on Arsenal.com, or their purchasing and transaction history – be it ticketing, hospitality, retail or whatever – we will begin to use that information intelligently through the Neolane suite to actually personalise and target emails in a far more relevant way.” The most visible effect thus far is the change Arsenal have made to their membership scheme, which had previously been concentrated on ticketing and filling the stadium. Now, however, the club’s online video service, Arsenal Player, 38 | www.soccerex.com
has been incorporated; at the same time the Arsenal Player subscription wall has been removed, part of a new ‘free digital membership’ scheme. Allen says Arsenal have targeted one million registrations in the first year and that 830,000 have signed up since the August launch. Arsenal are not alone in making content previously only available behind a paywall free, in exchange for a simple registration. Many clubs are deriving, or at least banking on deriving, longer-term value and revenue possibilities from the data collected, even if they are not there yet. “As we engage and connect with those fans, some will forever just want to be on a journey which is all about the content,” Allen suggests, “and other fans will maybe want to engage more closely with the club, maybe buy a shirt, maybe buy a ticket, maybe become a member, maybe go on a season ticket waiting list.” Arsenal now have five CRM specialists on their staff, up from just one three years ago, working on their in-house system. All of the club’s communications are now channelled through that team. “If previously you were sat in another area of the organisation and were able to send a piece of communication out through our old system, we may never have known about it; there was no real imperative to work together,” says Allen. “Now my CRM team are getting requests multiple times in a day from various departments saying, ‘I want to talk about this’, and they are the gatekeepers. And based on their understanding of the fanbase they will say, ‘Actually, we’ve already got this lined up.’ So it’s forcing everyone to work together. But I also
think there’s a broad awareness around the organisation that this is the way things are moving now.” Allen foresees two ways in which the CRM infrastructure and the data it collects will have an impact on Arsenal’s financial status. “One will be in the direct revenues that we can generate for the club – obviously if you think of retail, the obvious upside of being able to communicate to our fans about our retail offering is to have people buy more merchandise through Arsenal Direct [the club’s online shop],” he explains. “That’s a key benefit. But it’s also a great offering for our partners. For our partners to be able to feel that we can now communicate to far more people as we build a database, particularly internationally, I think that’s where we’ll see some real benefit.” Allen reports that of the 830,000 to have signed up for ‘free digital membership’, some 70 per cent are international. “We’re mopping up the fans in the UK who don’t actually want stadium access – because they live too far away, perhaps – but particularly our international fans who could never really see the value in paid-for membership because, for them, the chances of coming to Emirates Stadium were few and far between,” he notes. “The prospect of becoming a member and having all of that content for free, plus everything else that we’ll add on to it like our membership rewards scheme is what will drive value through the digital members. “It’s up to us then to understand how we commercialise that in a much more efficient way.”
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AN OLD HAND AND A NEW DAWN The South African Football Association has endured a difficult few years, with Bafana Bafana producing poor performances on the pitch and a series of match-fixing allegations undermining its efforts elsewhere. In September, however, it welcomed the election of the hugely experienced and admired Danny Jordaan as president. The former head of the local organising committee for the 2010 Fifa World Cup reveals to Ian McPherson how he hopes to lead South African football into a new era.
How would you assess your ﬁrst few months as president?
It was quite hectic because there were many challenges in South African football and we had to quickly develop the plan and get almost immediately into implementing the plan. We inherited an organisation that has not qualified for any Fifa competitions. The challenges were very clear. We did not have structured competitions at a junior level. We did not have enough qualified coaches. Over the last three months we managed to arrange two sessions for coaches to do the Confederation of African Football (CAF) ‘A’ licence in one session, for coaches to do the CAF ‘B’ licence, and we managed to arrange friendly matches for Bafana Bafana and get them back on the field. Fortunately, we managed to
beat Swaziland 3-0 and then we managed to beat Spain 1-0 in Johannesburg. So it’s been quite hectic amongst all the other competitions and meetings and engagements with commercial partners. Nearly four years after the Fifa World Cup, for which you were the chief executive of the local organising committee, is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I think that I’m quite happy. The more you have time to sit and look back… But also to look forward and see what are the challenges in Brazil and how we’ll manage to overcome and deal with those challenges, and move South Africa into a state of readiness for the World Cup. I’m quite pleased with what we’ve achieved in our country.
Can you see another World Cup going to South Africa any time soon?
To South Africa? I think not soon. Africa maybe. Of course 2014 is now Brazil, 2018 Russia, 2022 Qatar, and the next batch will give Africa the opportunity to bid again. It will be South America, it will be Europe, it will be Asia, so North America, Africa and Oceania should have a good opportunity. Of course a complicating factor for Australia is that they’re a member of Asia and therefore, with Qatar being part of Asia, they may have a difficulty to convince them that they should be part of an Oceania bid rather a member of Asia. Which African countries are best placed to host a World Cup?
If you look at the global economy and you see that out of the 50 fastestgrowing economies, 11 are on the African continent. You have to take into account the tremendous progress made in Angola, in Mozambique, in Ghana, Nigeria, and of course there’s always the north: now politically troubled but Morocco has settled down, Egypt still has political problems but we are talking a bid beyond 2022 and no one can precisely say where the world will be in ten years’ time. And given the major shift in the global economy it is going to be very difficult. But African countries should have the economic muscle to compete for a World Cup. Are political problems an innate frustration in African soccer?
Despite recent struggles, Jordaan says Bafana Bafana “is by far the most popular in this country” 40 | www.soccerex.com
No, I think that African football has now moved into reasonable stability. I think
Danny Jordaan, elected president of SAFA in September, is the former political activist who successfully led the running of Africa’s ﬁrst Fifa World Cup
that if you talk about a bid beyond 2022 then there would be major changes in world football. Firstly there’s a question of who will be the next Fifa president, coming up in 2015, and then a question of who will be the next CAF president. And that means that even on the Fifa executive there will be significant changes as to who the executive would be to consider that next World Cup bid after the Qatar 2022. So for anyone to look at what would be the position after Qatar, they will need to take into account three things: one, changes in the global economy; two: changes within Fifa at the leadership level and for our own continent changes on the African continent in CAF; and then shifts in the global economy also impact on the commercial viability of the World Cup in terms of commercial partners. Then you have to look at where they will be in terms of, not just global competitiveness, but also global political stability after that. So we’re living in a changing world. The leadership positions at CAF and Fifa: can you see yourself going for either?
These leadership positions are not positions taken but positions given. For
the position at Fifa already there’s a global discussion around what happens if Sepp Blatter doesn’t make himself available; that discussion has started. Then the other one is: what if he declares himself ready to serve again? I’m sure that during the World Cup in Brazil a lot of those discussions will happen whilst we watch the World Cup, and we will of course be a part of those discussions. Do you have a preference if Sepp Blatter stays or goes?
I’ve not spoken to him about the matter, I’ve just read in the papers. We’ll have to wait and see. I’d prefer to talk directly to him on the matter and see where he is. I think there is no doubt that under his leadership… remember when we started in 1998 and in 2002 when there was a question of the ISL [International Sport and Leisure corruption scandal], the serious financial problems of Fifa, the challenges that global football faced at that time, and today Fifa is a multi-billion dollar industry. It has many billions of dollars worth in reserve, it has never had such a position, so I think that we must recognise Sepp Blatter has made a great contribution in really establishing
Fifa as a global brand, as one of the strongest federations in the world, and it’s respected by everyone. Some happily, others grudgingly, but the fact of the matter is Fifa has established itself not just in world football but in world sport. On the topic of Fifa, what was your take on the decision to stage a World Cup in Qatar?
I am in a difficult position in a sense that I was part of the evaluation team for both the 2018 and the 2022 World Cup bids and we had to look at all of the bids: Russia, England, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Holland and then Qatar, Australia, Korea, Japan and the United States. At the end of the day, like I’ve indicated on a number of occasions, the award is made based on the number of votes you get from the Fifa executive members and a majority of them, I think it was 14-8, voted in favour of Qatar. The next issue of course is the question of the climatic conditions in Qatar and that is where the debate is. I don’t think the debate is whether or not Qatar, I think that matter has been dealt with, it’s just a question of when. Is it a summer or winter World Cup? SOCCEREXPRO | 41
If the 2010 was a 40-team competition rather than 32, could South Africa still have hosted it?
Jordaan believes that another African nation may be ready to host the World Cup after Qatar 2022
But I have made two bids: the 2006 bid that we lost to Germany and the 2010 bid which we won in the end against Morocco. I made it clear then and subsequent to that that there should be a different basis of decision-making, and I was happy that Fifa finally accepted the position that the bid evaluation must carry some weight in determining which country hosts the World Cup. It cannot be that we go and inspect the capacity, the infrastructure, and the commercial plans of the bids, then, essentially, it can be discounted in the final vote. Somehow it should carry a weight. Now, secondly, it will not just be the executives that will be voting but the congress will award the World Cup to a country. And thirdly, as I’ve indicated before, many of the Fifa executive members may not be around when the next vote is taken. So I think we are moving in a completely different environment and therefore great uncertainty is not just with where the bids will come from but where the World Cup will go to. It’s going to be quite interesting. Do you support a winter World Cup?
I don’t support a winter World Cup because generally it won’t fit. We have to find a unique solution for a unique problem in Qatar and that might be a once-off. I think the whole world’s agenda has been set for the World Cup in June and July and it is now the only problem is the heat during Qatar’s summer. If it’s in the interest of the players, if there are health considerations for the players, because the World Cup is fundamentally 42 | www.soccerex.com
and firstly about the players and about the teams and so on, and their best interests must be considered because they form the World Cup in essence. The fans go there because of these players, all of the commercial revenue generated is about the teams and the players, and so the players are central and therefore their best interests must be considered. A proposal for a 40-team World Cup made headlines recently. Where do you stand on the idea?
Anyone who suggests that should make headlines. I support the idea that we should look at the allocation of numbers of slots per continent and I don’t believe that the current arrangement can be sustained, simply because of what I said earlier. There is a significant shift in the global economy, in the political landscape, in the football landscape, and that must express itself in a change in approach as to how many teams you allocate per each of the six confederations of Fifa. I don’t think that the solution to that problem is to increase the number of teams. I was the CEO of a World Cup with 32 teams, I think 40 teams will be cumbersome, I think that it would be difficult. Logistically, it would be hugely demanding and at the end of the day, if you have a 40-team tournament, you’ll have to re-look as to which countries can actually make a bid for the World Cup. I think there’s a bigger debate to take place, not a debate about numbers. The debate is a much broader one and I am just raising some of the challenges.
Yes, what we have to do is add two additional venues. In fact, we had to cut back on our venues, we had 12 and we cut it back to nine. So it means that you can go back to 12. Brazil would be able to do it because they had to cut back. Germany had to cut back on the number of venues they had. You have to understand, you have to go to the big counties. China can do it, United States can do it, but very few countries would be able to do a 40-nation World Cup unless you underpinned this with co-hosting which, of course, is more costly, more demanding, more complicated. And then certainly you would have to rule out a country like Qatar from the 40-nation World Cup. Exactly how many teams from Africa and Asia would you like to qualify?
I think eight African teams, I would think six to seven Asian teams. That would be 15. Maybe ten from Europe, that’s 25. You still have seven. Maybe four and four from North and South America, perhaps seven to eight African teams. This is something that will certainly need discussion. The numbers are not important for me at the moment, that’s something that we must debate, I think it is the principal that we all agree that the format that is now in place since the agreement in 1994 in the congress in Chicago needs to be revisited. There is very little in the world that still holds that was agreed in 1994. It’s now 20 years after. If it’s not revisited, your strategy and your plans are 20 years old and perhaps it’s time to do so. The big three in South Africa are football, rugby and cricket. Do you look to any other sports for lessons?
As the football federation we have just signed an agreement with Spain, with the Netherlands, with Germany, also with the African federation, with Nigeria, so that there are enough lessons in terms of what is it that we must do to achieve success and we are pursuing that. And it’s basically to put in the infrastructure to have structured competitions. We want more junior competitions, we’ve just launched more under-13, under-15, under-17, under-19 competitions. We
I have attended many of the global football conferences discussing the future of football and every single one has a focus on match manipulation, so it is much broader than just fixing a match. It’s in the interests of all of us – of Fifa, of world football – that this problem be addressed and the sooner the better. So we support wholeheartedly an investigation into the matter, a speedy resolution of the matter, so that whoever is found guilty must be dealt with, that’s our position. Where does the investigation stand today?
South Africa get World Cup 2010’s first goal; Jordaan wants to be “competitive” by the 2022 finals
have three million members; we don’t have enough coaches. And we don’t have enough qualified coaches. We need to recognise that and we are working to get better-qualified coaches. We have launched academies, or centres of excellence for football, and we also are looking at better training for administrators and we are adapting to the commercial market to generate a greater revenue for South African football. I have no doubt that within the next three to four years we will see a significant different product for South African football. What’s the ten-year plan?
We have said very clearly that we want our team to qualify for Morocco AFCON 2015 [Africa Cup of Nations] and 2017 AFCON and between those two teams and the [underage] teams that we want to see qualify for their tournaments we should then be able to put a team together to qualify for Russia 2018. But the team for Russia 2018 will not be the team that will go out there and compete: we’re looking at 2022. We’re looking at a ten-year plan and we hope that in 2022 we’ll have a competitive South African team that can compete with the best in the World Cup. Right now it is about structured competitions, about greater success at our junior levels and then eventually our senior team. You cannot hope for success at senior level unless you have success at junior level. You cannot hope to do well at university if you do not do well in primary school or secondary school. 44 | www.soccerex.com
What are the biggest challenges you’ll face in achieving those objectives?
To strengthen our structure, to have better human resources, in both administration and coaches and referees, and better financial resources and placing the organisation in a strong financial position. Also, working closely with the international federations. I think that in that sense the fact that I am serving as special advisor to the president of CAF and advisor to Fifa on the World Cup and sitting on the Fifa World Cup organising committee gives me access to all the international contacts. During the 2006, 2010 World Cup I interacted with almost all the leaders of world football over many, many years. South African football has been dealing for some time with allegations of corruption, with the results of friendlies involving the national team said to have been influenced by bookmakers. What it SAFA’s official stance on match-fixing?
Well, the sooner it has been dealt with the better. We have a new executive [board]; not a single one of the current executives are implicated in match-fixing. This is not a cloud that we created but a cloud that we inherited, and it is in our interests that this matter be dealt with. We’ve said so to the government, we’ve said so to Fifa. Match-fixing is a global problem, it affects almost every country throughout the world, it’s a one-trillion dollar business and it’s a threat to football.
Fifa has indicated that through their independent investigation that they are ready to initiate steps to proceed with the investigation in South Africa. Of course they’ve gone to many countries and in addition to that Fifa also has what are called ‘integrity workshops’, in Kuala Lumpur, Helsinki, some in the Netherlands, in New York and Guatemala, and in Johannesburg, to focus on what is it that we must do parallel to this investigation. We expect, any time, Fifa announcing the date of the arrival of the investigation committee or commission and, as I said, the sooner the better for us. Of course they’ve looked at this matter and engaged some of the people, because it’s a global problem – the same names emerge in many of the problems in match-fixing in many countries, including our own. And we now await for Fifa’s arrival to finalise this matter. SAFA invited the investigation. Why is that?
We believe in good governance, we believe football outcomes must be determined on the field of play. It cannot be that one team trains to whole week and the other one just sits in a corner and can secure the victory through other means. It’s a threat to football itself. The heart of football is its unpredictability. At the heart of football is shocks and surprises, and if you tamper with that you deal with the essence of the game. So no federation should be silent or be part of a conspiracy to undermine the integrity of the game. We believe in good governance, we believe in transparency, and we hope that this matter must be [broken] and the sooner the better.
A number of sponsors have pulled out or chosen not to renew with SAFA as a result of the investigation. Was that unavoidable?
One indicated that they would withdraw if the team didn’t qualify [for the 2014 World Cup]; they indicated that 16 months ago. The other one, the less I say about it the better. As I said, the problem of match-fixing has touched many countries; Italy, Germany and so on. But the sponsor’s conduct has not been consistent. I some countries they remain notwithstanding the allegations of match-fixing in those countries and where the allegations are even more serious than in South Africa. So I think I’m not convinced it is simply a one and one relationship between the matchfixing allegations, unproved at this stage, and the withdrawal in this one particular case, I’m not convinced. The other one of course did not withdraw as a result of match-fixing but indicated that they came in during the World Cup and if the team does not go to the next World Cup they will not be in. We made it clear that we want partners. We don’t want opportunistic partnerships subject to us qualifying or an event-based partnership. In both cases we’re already talking to alternatives. And we’ll make announcements soon. Our team, Bafana Bafana, is still the best value for money in South Africa in all the sports teams in this country. It is the team with the highest television audience and viewership. As an indication, on both free-to-air and satellite we had a total number of seven million viewers. The closest you come is when [Kaizer] Chiefs and [Orlando] Pirates play the derby at 1.2 million or one million. Football and Bafana Bafana is by far the most popular in this country. The sponsor you’re talking about: is it Puma?
Puma is clear, in their letter, they are withdrawing as a result of match-fixing allegations and that they said already in January, in fact the letter was sent on the 4th January 2012. The match-fixing issue came out in December, so that’s an old story. Recently there were stories around Puma in the international media. But I’m saying that is not a consistent matter, a straight line between match-fixing
Jordaan says he will “wait and see” about the futures of Fifa’s Sepp Blatter and CAF’s Issa Hayatou
in the country and the withdrawal of commercial partners. In fact, only one in our case gave that argument. How much of your early presidency will be damage control?
No, in fact, very little. I just received words of encouragement, strong support, and I’m honoured by the people that I meet and talk to have been very supportive. From commercial partners, to governments, to Fifa, to CAF; all of them happy that I won the position. I must just say that I was overwhelmed, certainly, by the number of letters from all over the world congratulating the new executive. And when Spain came here they said they were very happy and therefore want to show their support and brought their team here. Many other countries indicated that they would like to support the new executives in South African football. How do you measure success?
It’s very difficult to measure personal success when the project is really the project of a nation. I have been in many of these projects. My first project was the liberation of my own country and
when we celebrated the day that Nelson Mandela walked out of prison in 1990, we celebrated not as a personal victory but as a victory for all of us who was prepared to our lives on the line to see freedom and democracy in our country. The second challenge was the World Cup bids, in 2006 and 2010, and then the World Cup itself, with many naysayers to say, “It’s not going to happen. It’s not going to be successful, and it’s not going to happen.” Again, we celebrated the award of the World Cup as a celebration of all of us who worked hard. I happen to be the leader but that doesn’t make it a personal achievement , it’s a collective. The same for South African football. If we manage to produce a commercial environment and financial stability that ensures the financial and commercial success of South African football, and on the field of play successful junior teams, highly qualified coaches and referees, that will determine the success, not a personal success again, but a success for all of us who are working hard now to turn South African football probably from its darkest hour to stand tall among the nations on the African continent and amongst the world. SOCCEREXPRO | 45
ACCOMMODATING A NEW CHALLENGE Lille OSC hoped to have secured their place in French football’s elite when they clinched a thrilling league and cup double in 2011, but the arrival of billionaire backers at Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco transformed the national landscape. Now, with a stunning but expensive new stadium to service, they must sacrifice to stay ahead of the rest of the pack, as director general Frédéric Paquet reveals to Eoin Connolly.
here is more than one route to the top, and more than one experience to be had there. Ligue 1 club Lille OSC were formed in 1944 from two other teams in the northern French city – Olympique Lillois and SC Fives. In the decade following the Second World War, the new outfit won two league titles and five Coupes de France. But success went as quickly as it came – those would be Lille’s last major honours for 56 years. In 2011, after a little less than a decade of careful consolidation under the presidency of film producer Michel Seydoux, a hugely entertaining Lille side swept to a deserved league and cup double. They had arrived – ready, maybe, to challenge the likes of Marseille and Lyon
on a regular basis. 2011, though, was the year everything changed in French football. That summer, Qatar Sports Investments completed a takeover of perennial underachievers Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and started immediate and aggressive investment in player recruitment. In December of the same year AS Monaco, French football aristocrats temporarily slumming it in the depths of Ligue 2, were bought by the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who has also spent with unabashed abandon. Lille hit a glass ceiling, then moved under a retractable roof. In August 2012 the club took tenancy of a new home – renamed for the late Lille mayor and French prime minister Pierre Mauroy this summer after opening as the Grande
Lille’s income boost from the impressive new Stade Pierre Mauroy is offset by high running costs 46 | www.soccerex.com
Stade Lille Metropole – which has set a new standard for football stadiums in France. A key venue for Uefa Euro 2016, it boasts the greatly enhanced amenities that now come as standard in new facilities, such as improved access and sightlines, restaurants and retail outlets and conferencing facilities, but it also bears a technologically advanced signature all of its own. One half of the playing surface conceals the Boîte à Spectacles arena; it can slide away hydraulically to allow for a range of configurations for smaller events such as concerts and even indoor sport. As eye-catching as that feature is, it is of no particular concern to Lille. The club do not own the stadium outright, though they did contribute a small share of the funding alongside the city and regional governments. The venue is now owned and operated by the construction company that built it, Eiffage. “The deal is they run the stadium daily, except when we play,” explains Frédéric Paquet, Lille’s director general, at the Leaders in Football conference in London in October. “When we play we are home two days before the game, or one day before the game depending on the competition, and one day after. That’s it.” That means that Lille retain all earnings from their own matchdays, but not the various concerts, rugby matches and other spectacles the stadium may seek to attract. To some extent, this is not an issue. The club have worked for 18 years to find a better ground, and the Stade Pierre Mauroy offers their supporters “something new, something
modern, something they don’t have and they couldn’t have imagined before”. It has delivered benefits for the club’s sponsors, too, and for businesses in the local area. “In the north of France, people and partners are willing just to be together, so we have a small lounge but what is interesting for the people is just to share, to discuss,” says Paquet. “This is why, in the stadium, we have 76 closed lounges but we also have a big salon lounge just to be able to put all the people together and discuss. This is what people were looking for in the north of France.” Operationally, the move to the venue was not without its challenges. Not only did it require plans for the “complete change” of a leap in capacity from 18,154 to 50,186, it also involved a somewhat hurried entry period at the start of the 2012/13 season. The club arrived at a stadium lacking the finishing touches, and struggled to communicate with Eiffage staff in creating directives for matchday operations. Those shortterm problems aside, however, the relocation was a success. “For the first year the target was to fill it,” says Paquet. “So we went from 12,000 season tickets to 30,000 season tickets. We
succeeded in getting between 4,000 and 4,500 VIP spectators. So that was the first issue for us, just to succeed in bringing people into the stadium. There was a big amount of people waiting for the stadium because we were waiting for it for almost ten years, and at that moment the team was pretty successful. “So everything was good – we had a good attendance during the last season. And now, the issue, the key is just to be able to keep this level of attendance. It’s a big issue because we need to have a successful team, of course, and at the same time we work on giving the public a good experience in the stadium. Whatever the result is, we want them to like coming to the stadium, so this is what we are working on at the moment.” As expected, the move also delivered a substantial increase in revenues for Lille – almost two and a half times what they had been earning at the Stadium Nord Lille Métropole. Yet that is only one half of the sum. “The problem we faced is we discovered with the first year what the stadium cost,” says Paquet. “That’s the main issue.” Lille are now paying the highest stadium rental fees in Ligue 1, where
clubs generally do not own their own grounds. On top of that, they are finding out that running a modern venue is a very expensive business. “Because it’s a big stadium with a huge number of gates, of corridors, it costs a lot,” notes Paquet. “Roughly, the operational cost for us is around €10 million per year.” The effect of all those outgoings has been to all but wipe out the income bounce the club has enjoyed in making the move. “We earned only €1 million more compared to the old one,” Paquet reveals. “This means that this stadium doesn’t bring us the income or the revenue necessary to have a better team, and that’s a problem.” Paquet even goes so far as to speculate that while Lille have “a much bigger budget” than relative minnows like Ajaccio and Caen, “I’m not sure that we have more money to spend on our team than them.” What is undoubtedly true is that Lille have less to spend than the league’s nouveaux riches powers, Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco. With their ample reserves of Qatari riyals and Russian roubles, the two are threatening to colonise the top of the Ligue 1 table.
Lille have performed well in the 2013/14 Ligue 1 season and beat AS Monaco at the Stade Pierre Mauroy in November
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Paris Saint-Germain have risen above the pack in France as high spending has brought them superstar signings like Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic
The 2012/13 season could soon be looked upon as the start of a new era in French football. Before the emergence of Monaco and PSG – who became the fifth French champions in five years last time round – Ligue 1 had been widely regarded as the most competitive of Europe’s major leagues, with even Lyon’s remarkable string of seven title-winning seasons from 2002 to 2008 throwing up six different runnersup. “But it will stay the same,” argues Paquet, before offering a twist. “You will have PSG and Monaco, and for the rest it will be very tough. At that moment, you can have seven teams who can play – forget the two first – between third and sixth. So it’s very competitive.” PSG and Monaco, then, are out of sight as far as Paquet is concerned – he is particularly fatalistic about the efficacy of Financial Fair Play measures in hauling them back. For now, it will consume enough of Lille’s energies to eke out a financial advantage from the pack. The lure of staking too much on the chance of a place in continental competition – not least the sole Uefa Champions League spot that is likely to be left over each year – is one Paquet describes as “dangerous”, despite the €25 million to €30 million value he puts on a season among the European elite. But such a windfall would be the only way many French clubs could significantly enhance their budgets. Over several years, Lille have persisted with a single front-of-shirt sponsor – not a uniform practice in Ligue 1 – in the shape of casino operator Partouche. Yet while Paquet says the club always looks to 48 | www.soccerex.com
work with a select group of partners and offer them the best value and visibility, economic conditions are making matters “more and more complicated”. “What the French clubs do at this moment is just to survive, and just to take everything they can,” he admits. “Which is completely… no marketing strategy.” It is a situation which for Lille has been exacerbated by the expense of running the Stade Pierre Mauroy. “When you have high running costs… oh,” Paquet sighs. “It’s difficult. Just to understand, on the 1st of July, the beginning of the season, without doing anything, you have to write a cheque for €10 million. Wow. We also have very high accommodation facilities – that’s €5 million more, every year. So 1st of July, cheques for €15 million. “With this, you have to be very efficient just right now, and then you sacrifice the long-term strategy for the short-term strategy – except if you have a billionaire to say, ‘Just don’t worry, I pay. Just take your time, build your team, build your strategy. I pay.’ This is not the case for us, this is not the case for 98 per cent of the teams in France, so we are more in the short-term strategy than the long-term strategy.” In some respects, Lille will face these new challenges with an approach they have adopted for some time. “For us,” says Paquet, “the business model is always the same: finding good players, training them just to give them a very good level, selling them, and trying to find a balance between our cost and our income.”
Where PSG and Monaco’s billionaire owners have collected superstars like schoolchildren filling sticker albums, bringing in the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edison Cavani, Radamel Falcao and João Moutinho between them, team building has long been a more arduous process for other clubs in Ligue 1. Lille’s double-winning team of 2011 were not together for long. The undoubted star of that side, Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard, moved on to Premier League club Chelsea in 2012. The midfield heartbeat, Yohan Cabaye, was gone before the champagne bottles had emptied, joining Premier League club Newcastle United. Mercurial winger Gervinho left the same summer – he is now at Roma by way of a frustrating spell at Arsenal – while top scorer Moussa Sow is in Turkey with Fenerbahçe. Such player turnover has long been a fact of life in the French league and as Paquet puts it, “at the moment there is no other choice”. “This is not only in France,” he says, “but I think that 80 per cent of the clubs in Europe don’t earn money, because the system, the organisation is not made up to earn money. So for me you have three kinds of clubs. You have the clubs where money is not an issue. 15, 18 top clubs, where their owners are billionaires so they don’t look at the money. For the second-ranked clubs, like us, money is an issue. And the way to have a good team and to balance your budget is to compete in the Champions League and to sell players. That’s it.” Typically, the best players have tended to leave the French game altogether and
drift towards one of the other major European leagues – Germany, Spain and, in particular, England’s Premier League. One trend which would compound the new lack of competitiveness in Ligue 1 would be for PSG and Monaco to end that exodus and relieve their rivals of their key men. Paquet, however, believes foreign competitions retain a stronger appeal. “Why didn’t Eden want to go to PSG two years ago?” he asks. “Because he didn’t want to stay in the French championship. When you go to Chelsea – at that moment Chelsea was a much better team than PSG – you know that you will play against Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham. So you have a lot more of the better teams and you have a stronger championship than the French championship. So for PSG and Monaco, they have to pay much more for the best players because the championship is not as competitive.” Paquet believes it would be better for the top clubs if there were “three or four PSGs and Monacos in the championship” but is unclear about how a general improvement in the league’s fortunes might be brought about. “One thing that is sure at the moment is there is not enough money compared to the number of clubs,” he says. “That’s for sure. So for me, first we have to accept in France that professional football is a professional sport, so money is the key thing and you have to organise your championship according to the revenue you have.” The league’s collective income could be grown, Paquet believes, by around ten to 15 per cent – healthy, but not enough to address the structural issues afﬂicting the French game. Al Jazeera’s arrival in its BeIN Sport guise as a major dealer in French sports rights has raised hopes of greater broadcast revenues, but Paquet would only expect this as part of a “virtuous circle” of star recruitment and stiffer competition. The new wave of stadiums, he says, will make France “a great place to play” during Euro 2016. “But this won’t change anything for French football.” Among the corrective measures Paquet suggests, beyond being able to “recruit the billionaires who are able to spend money on our team”, is a reduction in the number of teams in the top ﬂight, “to focus the teams on the biggest area, to have a better coherence with the commercial strategy”.
A league and cup double in 2011 ended a 56-year trophy drought for Lille but huge challenges await
Such changes would no doubt require a considerable collective effort. “But for the moment,” Paquet concede, “there is no way to have this kind of agreement between the presidents, so for the moment what the French clubs are doing is just surviving – except Monaco and Paris. They’re just trying to survive, and when you are in this mood there is no very good thing you can wait for because everybody is just focused on the very, very short term, the end of the season. So this is dangerous” As it happens, at the time of writing at least, Lille are giving themselves a chance in this environment with their efforts on the pitch. New manager René Girard, whose Montpellier team defied PSG with a stunning championship win in 2012, has led his players in a spirited pursuit of the billionaire pair, beating Monaco at the Stade Pierre Mauroy and putting some distance between Lille and those outside the three Champions League qualification places. However much money there is available to invest, it is sporting performance that will determine Lille’s financial future, and it is the club’s approach to finding and producing talented players that will decide how successful they are. “We keep on working on this because for us there is no other way,” says Paquet. “We never stop doing that. We have a strong scouting team because this is one of the keys. Finding a good coach for the project and finding young players is the key for us, for a club like us, so we invest a lot in scouting the world just to be sure of finding
the good talented players before the others. Because at the moment if the player is so good, he doesn’t want to come to Lille. If he has the level to go to Manchester United, he will go to Manchester United – or Arsenal or Barcelona or Munich. That’s all.” Paquet expects that for the next few years, Lille – and Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and the rest – will depend on two groups of players. “You will have teams with players from 20 to 23,” he says, “talented players but only young, and good players at 30 to 33, and in the middle just average players, because there is no choice for us but just to find talented players, train them, and sell them.” Such is the new reality for French clubs in the shadows between Paris and the principality. Even as he meets it with resolve rather than resignation, Paquet is realistic about what to expect. “To be honest, we cannot make a business model on playing the Champions League,” he says. “It would be suicidal, because Paris and Monaco, unless they’re going mad and doing everything wrong, the difference between their teams and our teams now is so big and I think it will be bigger and bigger in future years. “So we try to reorganise ourselves with the new conditions, the coming of Monaco and Paris, and just to be able to play European competition – Europa League. And to stay in the six teams below the two, and try to play the Europa League as much as we can to try to balance the budget. This is the main focus for us and this won’t be easy. This won’t be easy.” SOCCEREXPRO | 49
Another Level Women’s football in England entered a new era in 2011 with the arrival the Women’s Super League. Now, with increased commercial backing and a new broadcast partner, the WSL is moving to an expanded two-tier format for 2014. Kelly Simmons, director of the national game and women’s football at the Football Association, explains the changes to Eoin Connolly and shares her thoughts on the state of the women’s game.
Can you explain the changes you’ve made to the Women’s Super League?
We launched the Women’s Super League [WSL] in 2011; it’s a brand new, elite league played across the summer. To start with we had eight teams in one division. It was played across the summer which we felt, through research and conversations, was the best chance to help raise the profile and develop the women’s game and to move it away from amateur football to semi-professional and professional. What we’ve done this season is create a second tier, with ten teams. There’ll be promotion and relegation for the first time in the Women’s Super League and 18 teams across two divisions in the competition. What prompted that expansion and the introduction of a second tier?
We never wanted the WSL to be a closed league. It’ll be much stronger for having promotion and relegation and strong for having ambitious clubs that want to share in the league’s vision of developing
Kelly Simmons is the director of the national game and women’s football at England’s FA 50 | www.soccerex.com
professional women’s football come in. The plan was always to develop the league and expand it after establishing it in that summer format. Also, we’ve really gone a long way in terms of our coverage and commercial partners, broadcast partners backing the game – we felt that we were ready to make that step to the second tier. What benefits can the increased support of Premier League clubs like Liverpool and Manchester City for their women’s teams bring to the WSL?
First of all, professional clubs are a hugely important part of developing the league and making it successful because they’ve got really strong brands, they work on developing the game and they’ve got professional back office infrastructure in commercial, marketing, communication, coaching, academies. It’s all there, so if women’s football can tap into and benefit from that it’s certainly going to help. Professional team sport is expensive so we need partners investing in it alongside the FA and our commercial and broadcast partners. The fact that a number of clubs are increasing their investment and support means that players can train every day – it’s why we set up the league really; obviously we wanted our elite players to be full-time athletes and playing and training full time, and making that move from what was really amateur football and training after work once or twice a week seems to be picking up strength every day. With Liverpool, Manchester City and others, that’s possible now. That can only help make the sport stronger and help England as well. Manchester City have changed the name of their team from Manchester City Ladies to Manchester City
Women – is that just a small matter of nomenclature or is it significant in how the women’s game is presented?
It’s the clubs’ choice and some are called ‘ladies’ and some are called ‘women’. We called our league the Women’s Super League. To me, it’s a personal preference but it feels more modern I think, and equal. I think the branding work Manchester City have done is fantastic, but it’s obviously up to the clubs how they want to put that across.
The added investment has generated increased arrivals from abroad into the WSL. Would you like to see it become a destination for top international talent and, if it does, what sort of effect do you see that having on the development of the England women’s team?
It’s a balance. If you talk to the coaches in the teams, and the managers, they will say that having top players from across the world can only help develop our own domestic players and help develop the league and make it as strong and as competitive as possible, so that when our players step up and play for England the jump isn’t that big. But what we’ve got to try and make sure is that there’s enough room for our young, talented English players to come through and get those games. That’s the challenge because we can’t control EU movement – there’s nothing the league can put in place to stop players from across Europe playing in WSL. We have to make sure we’re working really hard with the clubs to develop really good young English players that are coming through. With non-EU, we can restrict and there’s a maximum of two per team allowed in the league’s rules and even
forward WSL. That was a conscious decision: to find partners that wanted to embark with us on this journey of making women’s football a professional sport in this country and helping invest and activate across the women’s game. So far we have four partners signed up – BT, Vauxhall, Continental and Nike – as well as BT Sport and the BBC, as broadcast partners, so we’re really pleased. There are new revenues coming in that the women’s game didn’t have. Strong brands and partners are helping us move the game forward.
Liverpool are the reigning WSL champions and have been boosted by further investment for 2014
then there’s criteria in place that means they’re some of the best in the world. You want one of the strongest leagues in the world because you want to help develop the league and attract commercial partners, broadcast partners and interest but you don’t want to end up in a position where your young players can’t get through. Quite a lot of the signings early on – because there’s been a lot of movement this year – if you look at clubs like Manchester City, have been young English talent. That’s been their priority, which I think is great. What do you hope to get out of your relationship with BT Sport?
Not only are they our broadcast partner with exclusive live rights to WSL, they’re also our commercial partner and title sponsor for four years. They’re hugely important to us and they’re hugely committed to helping us develop WSL as a modern, dynamic league and present it professionally and build audiences. It’s important, in terms of being able to attract commercial partners and promote the game. They are a fantastic partner for us and they’re increasing their commitment this year with a weekly highlights show and a series of live games across the season. Another commercial partner, not for the WSL but for the cup competition, is Continental, which is not an FA partner in any other capacity and not a partner of men’s football at a major level in England. How significant is that, to have a major sponsor committed like
that to the women’s game?
They’re a huge global football partner but they have a deal that was done exclusively for women’s football in this country. They came in right at the start – 2014 to 2018 is our commercial cycle and they came in early because they really believe in and are committed to helping us develop women’s football. They’ve invested significantly in our girls’ football roadshows, so they’re not only helping to promote the top end of the game, they’re very much activating around getting girls into football and thousands of girls have come through our roadshows across the country. They’re a really important partner for us, right across the whole of the game. They’ve signed for another four years, for 2014 to 2018, so they’re in for the long term. Is the goal for women’s football to look for more of its own commercial partners, like Continental, or to become a bigger part of the activities of some of the FA’s other partners?
There’s been a deliberate plan to split out and separate the women’s rights, because what we were finding were the partners signing for men’s football would have got women’s football alongside that but they may not be the right partners to help us grow the women’s game or might be completely focused on activating their men’s partnership, in which they’ve obviously invested significantly. We sat down and created a new commercial programme for the women’s game as part of the new ‘Game Changer’ strategy for women’s football and it’s part of driving
Coinciding with this season is the men’s Fifa World Cup. What kind of opportunity is that to try and grow the women’s game, in that you’ll have huge exposure for the sport itself? What plans do you make for a summer like this?
I think it’s up to the FA to make sure, through all of its communications channels, that we use that huge interest in the World Cup to cross-promote WSL and the women’s game, from playing the game to watching the WSL. That’s going to be a big challenge because the World Cup is going to be absolutely massive when it comes. We have to make sure we maximise exposure through all of our channels and then obviously next year we have a different scenario with the Women’s World Cup in Canada. That will be a great opportunity – hopefully we’ll be there – to turn that interest in watching the World Cup into weekly interest in watching the WSL, as people come back to the domestic game. Do you expect the revamp the league is having this year to have an effect on England’s chances next year, or is that a little bit too soon?
I don’t think it’s just about this season and the revamp, because most of our England players will be playing in the top tier, but it’s going to be stronger and more competitive because we have relegation for the first time, which will make the bottom section much tougher and more competitive. I think that can only be good. The way we’ve designed the WSL is to try and make sure it works for England. We would have played half of our fixtures, then there will be a break and we’ll go into the major tournament not SOCCEREXPro | 51
tired and coming to the end of the season, as you do with the winter pyramid where they’ll have played from August through to May on some really muddy and terrible pitches, with a lot of cramming fixtures in at the end, and then going into a major tournament. We’re very conscious about making sure WSL works for England and that’s the sort of conversations we’ve had with Mark [Sampson], the England manager, to make sure we’re getting the right spread of fixtures and a balance across the year, to make sure we support him in making England successful. What are some of you major targets for the WSL, both this year and in the next few years?
The big one is to grow attendances. Last year we made a major gain in the WSL, getting over 1,000, and we need to keep building on that and making sure all of those games are getting at least 1,000 – that’s a target. We then have our pinnacle events, England and the FA Cup final, where we’re moving towards 10,000 to 15,000. We are still seeking a couple more commercial partners to help us develop the game, including the FA Women’s Cup. We’re finalising our commercial partners for the 2014 to 2018 period. That’s another priority. We have a huge amount of content opportunities with the BBC and BT Sport. The BBC will have a monthly women’s football show and they’re taking the England women’s team games live, including the first one in April on BBC One, which is a fantastic opportunity for us. We’re working hard with the BBC and BT Sport on content and messaging and promotion of the league, to build as big an audience as possible to get behind and follow women’s football on television. And we’re continuing to work with the clubs around creating a professional environment on and off the pitch and moving towards generating and growing revenues to move towards professional football. Are you satisfied in general with the way women’s football fits in to the FA’s for the national game and what are some of the ways it needs to progress?
Very much. We’ve had fantastic support from the FA for the women’s game and the board has backed the new women’s strategy, Game Changer, and invested in it. 52 | www.soccerex.com
The FA Women’s Super League in 2014 WSL1
Arsenal Ladies FC
Aston Villa Ladies FC
Birmingham City Ladies
Doncaster Rovers Belles
Bristol Academy Women
Durham Women FC
Chelsea Ladies FC
Everton Ladies FC
Oxford United Women
Manchester City Women
Reading FC Women
Notts County Ladies FC
Sunderland AFC Ladies Yeovil Town Ladies FC
Teams in each division will play each other home and away between 14th April and 26th October, with the bottom club in WSL 1 relegated and the top club in WSL 2 promoted at the end of the season..
The investment in the WSL is substantial but also the England team and youth team has a brand new elite performance unit at St George’s Park. We’ve just appointed a head of elite women’s development and we’ll be out shortly to recruit regional coaches to oversee the young player pathway, so a lot of investment is going into young English talent. We’ve had fantastic support in terms of the commercial programme and broadcast rights, so we’re really pleased but we need to keep growing the girls’ game, growing the base, getting more and more girls to play the game so a big part for us is being out in local communities – we have a new partnership with the Premier League and the Football League to work with their community programmes, to get more and more girls playing the game. That’s a priority area for us. There’s a lot of work to do but I’m really pleased with the support and investment and the way Game Changer is going. Is it getting any easier to promote women’s sport in the UK?
It is, definitely. I think, for me, the Olympics had a huge impact in terms of women’s sport. The female Olympians were very successful and it brought up that whole debate, from political level, into the media about the coverage of women’s sport. I think because we’d worked really hard to go to a new elite league that was professionally presented and of high quality, we were ready to take advantage of that debate about sport. From there, we’d
had some support from the BBC and the BT coverage. The Olympics were, I think, defining factor in a significant change. What are some of the obstacles that you still see as needing to be overcome?
To run a women’s professional team or a women’s professional league is expensive, because you’re looking at a significant number of players who need to be full-time professionals. The challenge still is to, through the league and the clubs, generate new revenues to enable us to do that and to move from part-time to full-time, and to get more commercial partners investing and more fans through the turnstiles. What do you see as being the commercial and competitive potential of women’s football in England?
The work we’ve done to date in attracting major brands, partners, to support the women’s game shows that there are brands out there who want to be in at the start – and we are still at the start, really, of this journey for a sport they believe can become the biggest single women’s sport in this country and become professional. I think we’re seeing more and more interest from broadcast partners, commercial partners, through the league and the commercial partners within clubs to get behind the women’s game. I think through the Olympics and with England and the WSL, they’ve seen what a quality product it is and want to get behind it and develop it.
THE UPDATE NEWS AND DEALS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Real Madrid’s Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo gets his hands on the Fifa Ballon D’Or for the second time on 13th January SOCCEREXPRO | 53
The Score: MLS Expands
he success of Major League Soccer (MLS) in recent years has largely been founded on a sense of its own limits. As domestic and international football have steadily grown more popular in the US, teams have moved out of the giant cathedrals of gridiron into modest, yet modern and bespoke home grounds. The designated player rule – by which one, then two, then three squad members could be paid outside the league’s strict salary cap – has drip-fed international star quality into the competition at a
David Beckham will again lend his worldwide profile to MLS as owner of a Miami franchise 54 | www.soccerex.com
rate which has prevented competitive imbalance and financial imprudence. Moves to incorporate USL Pro and the re-emerging North American Soccer League into a three-tier pyramid have created a coherent set of professional standards and opportunities for player and club development. Now more than ever, though, MLS is seeking to change the perception of where those limits might be. Speaking at half-time during the MLS All-Star game at Sporting Kansas City’s still boxfresh Sporting Park in July 2013, league commissioner Don Garber admitted to plans for a 24-team competition from the 2020 season, ending talk of a long-term cap at 20 and ushering in a period of “accelerated growth”. “The strength, passion and vision of the MLS ownership group is the foundation behind the success of our league,” he said. “We look forward to adding new partners with the same commitment to the sport and love of the game.” Geographical expansion is thought to be high on the list of the league’s priorities as it seeks the kind of national coverage that will appeal to mainstream broadcasters and sponsors. It will also add new elements to the competition. As well as opening up the receptive Pacific Northwest region to the game, the addition of teams in Portland and Seattle in 2011 created the closest thing MLS yet has to compare to the local rivalries that define club football in so much of the world. There will be another derby to look forward to in 2015 when New York City FC join the Red Bulls in the country’s biggest city, taking up longterm residence in one of the boroughs rather than the older team’s base in New Jersey. Also entering the league in
2015 will be Orlando City, with MLS returning to Florida for the first time since both Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny were dissolved in 2001. It will not be long before they, too, have company: in February it was confirmed that David Beckham, perhaps the pivotal figure in MLS history, would be exercising an option to buy an expansion franchise in Miami. At the end of January, according to local reports, Garber also travelled to San Antonio, Texas for exploratory discussions with the city’s mayor on the possibility of the second-tier Scorpions becoming the 22nd team in MLS. Interest is building across the country. Before then, the three new teams will be entering a league in markedly different shape from the one the Fusion and the Mutiny left 13 years ago. Average attendances in MLS now exceed those in the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association. SportsBusiness Journal reported in January that a new US$70 million a year TV deal with Fox and ESPN was imminent for 2015, more than trebling the league’s income from its current agreements with ESPN and NBC. In the meantime, NBC hopes to capitalise on the growing popularity of football on American television by screening MLS fixtures as the second half of Saturday doubleheaders with games from England’s Premier League. Opportunities abound, then, for MLS and one of modern football’s more enduring questions – that of when it would crack the US – seems to have been answered. Success is stirring a debate about whether some of the league’s more conservative financial regulations, such as its salary cap and the ‘single-entity’ ownership structure by which team owners hold a stake in MLS itself, might
Supporters and officials of USL Pro team Orlando City celebrate the confirmation of their place in Major League Soccer from the 2015 season
be relaxed in order to compete with more glamorous international rivals. That might risk losing grasp of the roots of today’s success. The reigning MLS champions are Sporting Kansas City, a team whose journey maps that of the league, including a rebrand from the less football-friendly Kansas City Wizards and a move to a suitable home in 2011. Owner Robb Heinemann, according to a possibly apocryphal story, gives new staff at the franchise a potted plant on their first day to nurture throughout their employment. Care, attention and patience have got MLS this far. The question now is how much to temper that approach. MLS Miami: Team David Beckham “I know this city is ready for soccer this time around, I know this is going to be successful. I have worked hard throughout my whole career and I am going to work hard for this city and for this league, to make this team very successful. We are going to make a soccer club that is going to be loved by millions of people. We plan on bringing a team that is not just for Miami but is a global team.” The highest profile of the three teams set to take MLS past the 20-team barrier is held by the one furthest from taking the pitch. David Beckham’s confirmation
that he would purchase an expansion franchise in Miami for a cut-price US$25 million – exercising an option written into his LA Galaxy contract in 2007 – brought inevitable global media attention in February. Beckham has stated his aim to create “my own team” in Miami, but so far details are relatively thin on the ground about an outfit also backed by the 38-year-old’s long-time manager Simon Fuller and which has attracted the interest of Bolivian billionaire Marcelo Claure. Given the stakes and the personalities involved there are few who would doubt the success of the project, but the impression lingers that some corners were skirted to get an announcement made before the 2014 season. For one thing, club Beckham lacks a name, never mind a crest or team colours. In mid-February, reports emerged from Fox News that a South Florida ethics commission was to investigate the sale of the franchise. Beckham, it is suggested, erred by dining with the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Carlos Gimenez, to discuss MLS plans without having registered as a lobbyist. At present, those behind the project have not settled on a stadium plan. There are currently at least six options on the table for Miami. The favourite is a seafront development called
PortMiami on a municipally owned 36acre site which would offer a spectacular setting as well as public transport links. Beckham and his team are not the only interested parties, however, and some city officials believe other candidates to be more commercially attractive. Other possibilities for a mooted 25,000-seater venue are said to include two sites next to the home of Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins, another close to Miami International Airport, the site of the stalled Wynwood Foreign Trade Zone development, and a two-acre plot owned by the Miami-Dade School Board. A ground share with the Hurricanes, the University of Miami’s American football team, has also been suggested but would require a 40,000 capacity. No date has been set for the team’s entry into MLS. Orlando City: From Disney World to the rest of the world Whenever Miami do enter the league, they will already have a rivalry to sustain them. The Southern Legion, a supporters’ group for the nascent franchise, have already begun taking shots online at Orlando City FC – a team they have dubbed ‘Mickey Mouse Club’ due to their proximity to the Walt Disney World resort. SOCCEREXPRO | 55
Partners: Manchester City coach talks to Patrick Vieira and New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera
Fans of Orlando City, who will in fact play on the grounds of that sprawling leisure complex at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in 2014, have responded by saying their team has been ‘bought, not built’, with a social media campaign and Twitter hashtag to that effect. City’s English chairman, Phil Rawlins, is already relishing the contest. “The sport is built around local rivalries,” Rawlins told the ESPN FC website in February. “You can see that in the Pacific Northwest. The rivalry between Vancouver, Seattle and Portland. It’s great for all of those three. It’s great for the game, it’s great for the MLS. We really welcome David into the state, and welcome Miami. We can’t wait – we’re champing at the bit to take them on on the field.” The return of MLS to Florida was confirmed in November when Orlando City were named as the league’s 21st member, set to take their place in 2015, after agreeing a reported US$70 million fee. They are a club with an international flavour. Rawlins is joined in the ownership group by Brazilian language school magnate Flávio Augusto da Silva, who will become the majority stakeholder in the MLS franchise and already has hopes of building a fanbase in his South American homeland. At the last count, the Orlando City Brasil Facebook page had close to 645,000 likes, and da Silva has already talked up the possibility of burnishing those credentials with a high-profile firstseason signing. 56 | www.soccerex.com
“This shows that the Brazilians are very, very interested in soccer in America,” he said, speaking to reporters on a conference call after the team’s November MLS ascension. “They are discovering that MLS is a great league and Orlando City has a Brazilian owner and we intend to bring a Brazilian soccer star to the team. So I believe that Brazil is going to be a very important market for us as a club but also for MLS to expand their brand and expand their business. We believe in that.” Rawlins, himself a part owner of Premier League club Stoke City, also believes the team can “help internationalise Major League Soccer, reach different marketplaces, reach communities and markets that maybe today don’t know about Major League Soccer”. For now, though, the challenge will be to establish themselves more firmly in their local community. Orlando City were formed in 2010 when Rawlins moved the Austin Aztex from Texas to play in the third-tier USL Pro competition. Champions in 2013, City have been playing at the publicly owned Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium for the past three years but midway through their debut MLS season, they expect to move to their own US$84 million, 20,000-seater venue. US$20 million of public funding from tourist taxes was approved by the Orange County Board of Commissioners in October 2013 for a ground set to be designed by the stadium veterans at British firm Populous.
New York City FC: Blue-chip in the Big Apple David Beckham, Disney and the draw of the Florida climate are no match for sheer financial heft. That, at least, is what the owners of New York City FC will be expecting when the club joins MLS in 2015. Confirmed as the 20th franchise in MLS in May 2013, the second club in America’s biggest market have been backed to the tune of US$100 million – the reported franchise fee – by Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees and the Premier League’s well-heeled Manchester City. The latter team are majority owners and are expected to provide much of the on-field expertise, with the Yankees set to offer a grounding in the US sporting marketplace and a temporary home, at Yankee Stadium, while plans progress for a footballspecific ground within the city limits. There are no players on board as yet – while entries are being solicited for a competition to design the club badge – but MLS Cup-winning Real Salt Lake boss Jason Kreis was appointed as head coach in January, bringing with him a support staff including assistant coach Miles Joseph and head of player recruitment David Lee. Kreis’ plans for 2014 include a fact-finding mission to Manchester, where he will watch the other City train. Above Kreis, the staff are more than suitably credentialed. Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano has taken the same role in New York, while the Abu Dhabi-backed English side’s director of football, Txiki Begiristain, has also had input into development. Claudio Reyna, one of US football’s greatest players, was put to work as sporting director shortly after the confirmation of the club’s place in MLS. The former Rutgers University athletic director Tim Pernetti, who left college sport after a row over the behaviour of men’s basketball coach Mike Rice, was appointed as chief business officer in September 2013. He has since made a series of front office hires. Partnership with Manchester City also offers the prospect of young players being available to the first team, while other possibilities may be created by the Blues’ January acquisition of Australia’s Melbourne Heart.
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Champagne on ice as Blatter drops hint Jérôme Champagne (above), a one-time advisor to Fifa president Sepp Blatter, has become the first person to formally announce his candidacy for the global body’s 2015 presidential election. The 55-year-old Frenchman invited media representatives to an event in London in January to launch a platform based on “a different Fifa, more democratic, more respected, which behaves better and which does more”. However, there was some consternation as the former diplomat admitted he did not expect he could beat Blatter should the 77-year-old incumbent choose to stand again. Blatter subsequently came closer than ever to confirming another run when in February he told Swiss radio station RTS: “If the member associations asked me to be a candidate, I would not say no.”
Uefa revamps qualifying process European soccer’s governing body, Uefa, made extensive changes to the qualifying process for the European Championship before February’s draw for Euro 2016. Despite qualifying automatically, host nation France were placed in one of the nine qualifying groups, although none of their games will count for points. In a January statement announcing 58 | www.soccerex.com
the restructure, Uefa said the change would allow the host nation to ‘play centralised friendlies in accordance with the ‘Week of Football’ match schedule’, a made-for-television format which spreads each double round of fixtures across a six-day period. The decision also eliminates the need for France to arrange friendly matches while other national teams are engaged in the two-year competitive qualifying campaign. Other changes have also been incorporated to protect the value of television rights, which Uefa has centralised for national team qualifiers for the first time in the current cycle. Rosell engulfed by Neymar transfer controversy FC Barcelona president Sandro Rosell (right) stood down in January as more details emerged of Brazilian star Neymar’s controversial transfer to the La Liga champions. Barça have been charged with tax fraud by the Spanish authorities after one of their members, Jordi Cases, alleged that the amount paid for the former Santos player was more than the €57 million declared last June when the transfer was confirmed. Rosell, whose resignation came before a court case was lodged against the club, was accused of a misappropriation of funds.
The 49-year-old claims the €57 million figure was correct – split between Santos, which received €17.1 million, and N&N, a company owned by Neymar’s father, which got €40 million. The latter figure is the subject of dispute, however, in what was a complex legal arrangement which is said to have included as many as 12 contracts. Josep Maria Bartomeu was announced as Rosell’s replacement until 2016 but a presidential election, which would likely include former president Joan Laporta, looks certain to be held in the summer. The controversy overshadowed the announcement that a new stadium is to be built on the site of the Nou Camp. The €600 million (US$812 million) project will be carried out between May 2017 and February 2021, raising capacity to 105,000.
Middle east Qatar 2022 releases workers’ charter but opposition remains The local organising committee for the Qatar 2022 Fifa World Cup released a 50-page ‘Workers Charter’ in February, detailing the standards expected for those involved in the construction of venues for the tournament. Fifa had put pressure on organisers to show how they would address the issue after a report by the Pravasi Nepali Coordination Committee revealed that 185 Nepalese migrant workers had died on Qatari building sites in 2013. The Qatari ministry of labour had also engaged multinational law firm DLA Piper to conduct an urgent review of contractors’ practices. The charter, however, met with opposition from the International Trade Union Conference (ITUC), which
insisted that such a proposal would be impossible to reform without changes to national laws such as the kafala visa sponsorship regulations. Footballer Zahir Belhounis had been stranded in Qatar under the system for two years after a dispute with his club, Al Jaish SC. Belounis was finally allowed to leave for France in December 2013. Also in February, a Qatar 2022 delegation travelled to England on a factfinding mission in partnership with UK Trade and Investment. Officials visited major venues, including Wembley Stadium, and training centre St George’s Park. Infront Sports & Media and Aspire launch joint venture Swiss-based agency Infront Sports & Media has launched a Doha-based joint venture with Aspire Katara Investment (AKI) to manage projects in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. AspireInfront will provide marketing support to rights holders and event organisers. Its first project was Bayern Munich’s Doha training camp in January, which was hosted and presented by sponsor Volkswagen.
Infront president and chief executive Philippe Blatter said the new company intended to “meet the emerging demand for a powerful gateway that links potential international partners with the region”. Olaroiu pays price for comments about Al Ain Cosmin Olaroiu (below), the Romanian former coach of UAE Pro League champions Al Ain Football Club, has been handed a three-month jail term for defamation, suspended for three years. He has also been told to pay the club AED21,000 in compensation. Olaroiu, who is now with Al Ahli, had implied that his former club took money from him to buy shirts for players. Last November, the 44-yearold incurred a AED100,000 fine from the UAE Football Association and was banned from coaching for six months for “violating” his contract with Al Ain and showing it “a lack of commitment”, after he had left the club in contentious circumstances. In January, the UAE Pro League renewed its sponsorship deal with Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank.
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ASIA Meanwhile, it was also confirmed that the preliminary round of qualifying for the Asian Cup and the Fifa World Cup would be merged.
AFC announces Asian Cup expansion plan The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has revealed plans to expand its flagship national team competition, the Asian Cup. Following the lead of European governing body Uefa, the AFC will invite 24 teams to the 2019 edition of the continental event, rather than the 16 who will take part in next year’s tournament in Australia. The changes are intended to provide more matches for member associations. “Competitions are the main products of AFC and I am happy that they are in good hands,” said Shaikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa, the AFC president, after the changes were ratified by the body’s Competitions Committee. “We must market our product and generate income to sustain football across the continent. I am sure that the changes that happen will have a big impact in Asian football and will benefit our member associations.”
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Landmark win for Guangzhou Evergrande Guangzhou Evergrande have given an indication of their potential to become ‘China’s first super-club’ by winning the country’s first AFC Champions League title. The club were relegated for matchfixing offences in February 2010 but have since returned to prominence in the Chinese Super League, thanks in no small part to heavy backing from the Evergrande Real Estate Group. Led by the World Cup-winning former Italy coach Marcelo Lippi (below), the side managed a fourth-place finish at the Fifa Club World Cup in December. The commercial impact of Evergrande’s success was quick to materialise, with brewer Tsingtao becoming the first Chinese sponsor of
the AFC in a three-year, US$7.5 million deal in December.
City pump money into Heart as A-League consolidates Premier League club Manchester City joined the National Rugby League’s Melbourne Storm in a takeover of Melbourne Heart in January. City led a consortium taking an 80 per cent stake in the A-League outfit, with the Storm in a group taking 20 per cent. The arrangement has echoes of the one which saw City and Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees purchase an expansion franchise in Major League Soccer, New York City FC. In February, the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) moved to secure the longterm future of the A-League by renewing the licences of its nine Australianbased clubs until 2034. The continued participation of New Zealand’s Wellington Phoenix will be addressed in separate discussions with Fifa and the AFC.
World football mourns Africa’s first great The world of football united to remember the life of Eusebio, one of the game’s greatest ever strikers, when he died of a heart attack in January. He was 71. Regarded by many as Africa’s first great player on the international stage, Eusebio was born in Mozambique in 1942 when it was still a Portuguese colony. He played 64 times for Portugal, scoring 41 times and electrifying the 1966 World Cup in England, while he was lionised by the supporters of Lisbon club Benfica, where he played for 15 years. Renowned for his skill, astonishing shot and all-round physical prowess, Eusebio was thought of as a prototype for strikers of the modern era. He was also beloved for his gentlemanly displays of sportsmanship. His death brought tributes from Benfica and across the game, while the Portuguese government declared three days of mourning and former Mozambique president Joaquim Chissano said, “His deeds will live on.” Portugal’s current captain, Fifa Ballon D’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, described Eusebio as “immortal”. CAF joins Uefa in memorandum of understanding The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has agreed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with European governing body Uefa. The document was signed on 20th February by CAF president Issa Hayatou (right) and his Uefa counterpart, Michel
Platini (centre), after a meeting between the two confederations in Cairo, Egypt. Initially valid until 31st July 2015 but with an option for renewal, the MOU provides a framework for discussion and information-sharing between the two bodies on a range of issues, and consultation on development programmes in fields including coaching, refereeing, youth football, women’s football, organisation of competitions, administration, marketing, media and social responsibilities.
youth team player from Cameroon had faked his age. Rumours circulated in February that 17-year-old Joseph Minala, who joined the Roman club last summer, was in fact 41. Lazio released an official statement, which read: ‘We reserve the right to take action against those responsible for the protection of the good name of the company and the footballer.’ Minala himself added: “They are false statements that have been attributed to me by people who do not know.” While the allegations against Minala are entirely unfounded, they have again highlighted the issue of player age fraud on the continent. Players from Congo-Brazzaville, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Somalia were found to be overage during African and Fifa under-17 tournaments in 2013.
Lazio in fierce defence of Cameroon youth player Italian club Lazio have threatened legal action against those claiming that a SOCCEREXPRO | 61
MLSE backs Toronto FC spending spree Toronto FC were the biggest movers in Major League Soccer’s (MLS) transfer window, taking advantage of the league’s salary cap-breaking designated player (DP) rule to bring in a host of major names. American Michael Bradley (right) joined from Roma, England’s Jermain Defoe (centre) from Tottenham Hotspur, and Brazil’s Julio Cesar and Gilberto from Queens Park Rangers and Internacional respectively. The Canadian side have largely struggled since joining MLS in 2007. Behind the signings is Tim Leiweke (left), who was installed as president and chief executive of the team’s ownership group, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), in June 2013. Leiweke was involved in the deal taking David Beckham to MLS in 2007, while president of LA Galaxy owner AEG. “To do one DP is a smart move, to do two DPs is not the smartest thing we’ve ever done and to do three is financial suicide,” joked Leiweke at a press conference announcing the signings of Defoe and Bradley in January, as he admitted MLSE would lose money in 2014 in a bid to improve the team’s performance. Canada World Cup bid mooted Canada may bid to host the 2026 Fifa World Cup. “We’re the only G-8 nation to not host the World Cup,” said Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) president Victor Montagliani, speaking at a press conference to launch a new strategic plan in January. “We’ve hosted almost every other event. I think it’s time for Canada to step up to the plate.” 62 | www.soccerex.com
In the shorter term, the CSA has mapped out its vision for the growth of the game in the country in ‘Leading a Soccer Nation’, which sets targets for turning high participation into better performance between 2014 and 2018. Canada is hosting the Women’s U20 World Cup this year and the senior Women’s World Cup in 2015. Central American championship heads to United States The Union of Central American Football (UNCAF) has announced that it will play the 2014 edition of its national team championship in the US.
The UNCAF Copa Centroamericana, which will feature members Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, is likely to take place in the Fifa window for international fixtures from 1st to 13th September. It will be the first time the tournament has been held outside one of the UNCAF nations, with the relocation set to allow more players based in the US and Mexico to take part. The top five finishers in the UNCAF Copa Centroamericana qualify for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
World Cup winner calls for player strike Veteran midfielder Gilberto Silva (left) has led calls for a player strike to address conditions for players across Brazilian club soccer. The 37-year-old former Arsenal midfielder, who played every minute of Brazil’s Fifa World Cup triumph in 2002 and won the Copa Libertadores with Atlético Mineiro in 2013, formed
players’ union Common Sense FC last year. The organisation is coordinating action on threats against players from ultras, poor pitches and facilities, scheduling, and low or unpaid salaries. The group initiated a series of midgame ‘stand-in’ protests during league games in November, with players complaining of fixture congestion in the lengthy Brazilian season. Gilberto expects a strike to go ahead in April after what he called a “weak response” to Common Sense FC’s concerns. Cusco pushes for beach soccer’s place at Rio Games Joan Cusco, a Fifa board member and the vice president of Beach Soccer Worldwide, has again talked up the possibility of beach soccer’s inclusion as an event at the Olympic Games.
Speaking to the Gulf News in December, Cusco said: “We’ve had some talks with the IOC [International Olympic Committee], and now with a new president, we are more hopeful this dream will come true. The selling point for us will be to focus on bringing in younger sports into the Olympic Games.” Beach soccer’s inclusion at the Rio Games looks an unlikely proposition, with the 126th IOC Session in Sochi passing without any further discussion of new sporting disciplines being added. However, the sport has the long-term support of Rio 2016 president Carlos Nuzman, Fifa president Sepp Blatter and Pelé. It will also feature at the inaugural multi-sport European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2015. Host cities confirmed for Chile’s Copa America The Chilean Football Federation (ANPF) and Conmebol have confirmed the eight host cities for the 2015 Copa America. Antofagasta, Valparaiso, La Serena, Viña del Mar, Concepción, Temuco, Rancagua and Santiago will all host games in the South American national team showpiece, which will be played from 11th June to 5th July next year. The tournament, which had been scheduled to take place in Brazil before it took on mega-event hosting commitments in the years either side, will feature the ten Conmebol members as well as guests Japan and Mexico. Reports in January also indicated that Conmebol and CONCACAF were still in discussions over a centennial edition of the Copa America in 2016, which would feature North and Central American teams and take place in the US.
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Signings A selection of the major deals agreed by the world’s leading clubs, players and competitions in the past three months. For daily updates visit www.sportspromedia.com or follow @SportsPro on Twitter. Arsenal confirm long-awaited Puma deal Arsenal have agreed a kit supply deal with Puma. The Premier League contenders have announced a five-year deal with the German brand, effective on 1st July, to confirm reports which first emerged in the spring of 2013. Puma will supply all of Arsenal’s matchday and training wear and will produce official replica merchandise for the north Londoners’ supporters. Arsenal will also help with research to develop Puma’s performance apparel lines. The deal is said to be the biggest commercial partnership in the history of both Arsenal and Puma and the most lucrative of its kind in English football, with several British outlets giving it a value of UK£150 million (US$248.6 million) in total. It brings to an end Arsenal’s 20-year association with Nike. “Arsenal have been a key strategic target for Puma for a number of years now. Through a clear commercial vision, a well-defined sports marketing strategy and a relentless enthusiasm within the
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Puma organisation, we’re proud to have signed this partnership with a truly global football club. “As we enter a new era in our company history, Arsenal represents a major commercial and marketing opportunity to reinforce Puma’s credibility as a global sports brand, and we have full confidence that the plans in place to activate this partnership will have a significant global impact.” Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis added: “We are excited to be partnering with Puma, a company whose football heritage and record of innovation have a strong affinity with our own. This represents another important step forward in Arsenal’s progression on and off the pitch.” Puma also has kit deals in place with the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and Uefa Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund, as well as endorsement deals with the likes of Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero, AS Monaco’s Radamel Falcao and Arsenal’s own leading scorer in 2013/14, Olivier Giroud.
Neymar gets huge Police pay-off Brazilian superstar Neymar has agreed a personal endorsement deal with sunglasses brand Police. The 21-year-old Barcelona striker, named SportsPro’s most marketable athlete in each of the last two years, will join the likes of David Beckham and George Clooney as a global brand ambassador for Police in 2014. He will model the company’s latest eyewear collection in a print and billboard campaign, shot by Rankin. According to the Press Association’s Martyn Ziegler, Neymar has signed a two-year deal, worth US$7 million, with the De Rigo-owned brand. Ennio De Rigo, the president of De Rigo Vision, said: “We are very proud about this new and exciting collaboration with Neymar Jr. As a young, passionate and talented star in his field; he embodies the Police DNA like no other with his maverick style.” “It’s a pleasure and an honour for me to be the new global ambassador for Police,” added Neymar. “I like very much their style and the glasses are the types that I use. The photoshoot was very nice and I hope we have success with a family-run business.” Neymar also signed a deal with motor lubricants brand Castrol in February.
Adidas to supply Poland’s Ekstraklasa Adidas has agreed a deal to supply balls to the Ekstraklasa, Poland’s top league. The agreement, which begins in 2014/15 and runs for two seasons, also includes a range of joint marketing activities aimed at promoting the league and strengthening the German brand’s position in the Polish market. Since 2008, Puma has supplied the official Ekstraklasa ball. The league’s new Adidas-made ball will be made available to purchase from 10th June 2014, with an official version, used in matches, and a replica set to go on sale. As well as supplying balls to many top domestic leagues around the world, Adidas currently supplies balls to Europe’s premier competitions thanks to a deal with Uefa, European football’s governing body.
PSg renew long-running nike deal French champions Paris Saint-Germain agreed an eight-year extension to their partnership with American sportswear giant Nike in December. The Qatari-owned club, who remain favourites to win Ligue 1 for the second successive year, will now wear Nike matchday jerseys and training wear until at least the end of the 2021/22 season. Nike, which has been a club partner since 1989, will also continue to produce official replica merchandise for PSG supporters. The financial terms of the renewal were not released but Nike is likely to have increased the €6.5 million annual commitment it made, according to Le Parisien, when agreeing its most recent deal with the club.
garuda lands two-year Liverpool contract Premier League side Liverpool FC have signed a two-year deal with Indonesian airline Garuda. The country’s national airline will become Liverpool’s official training kit partner from the 1st June this year, having previously served as the team’s official airline partner since 2012. The agreement sees the Reds tap deeper into the Asian market. The team boast more than 1.5 million Facebook fans in Indonesia alone, while the country is also home to Liverpool’s most followed international Twitter account, which has more than 90,000 followers.
The exact terms of Garuda’s contract are yet to be confirmed but it is said to include a ‘co-branding’ element. The deal could well be a similar arrangement to Manchester United’s eight-year training gear sponsorship deal with US insurer Aon. The club pre-empted January’s announcement by launching a campaign called #OneGuardianSaid. The hash tag, an anagram of Garuda Indonesia, appeared on the team’s training shirts ahead of their 2-0 FA Cup win over second-tier Bournemouth on Saturday 25th January. Liverpool also announced partnerships in January with British carmaker Vauxhall and American snackfood chain Dunkin’ Donuts. “Last year we ﬂew Liverpool FC to their tour destinations,” said Emirsyah Satar, the president and chief executive of Garuda Indonesia. “We saw firsthand the following that this club has, not only in Indonesia but in Thailand and Australia too. We knew then that this football club would be the perfect partner for Garuda Indonesia as we grow our airline across the world. “As a global player and the ﬂag carrier of Indonesia, Garuda Indonesia is committed to bringing the beauty of Indonesia and its rich culture to the world. With a co-branding partnership with LFC, we are confident Indonesia will be increasingly recognised by the world and especially by Liverpool fans worldwide.”
“We are very proud that Nike, a highly demanding and selective partner and the number one sport company in the world, has chose to continue the adventure with us,” said PSG president Nasser Al Khelaifi. “This proves they believe in our ambitions. Paris SaintGermain has now clearly become a member of the very exclusive club of major world teams.” Nike brand president Trevor Edwards added: “We’re delighted to confirm the continuation of our partnership with Paris Saint-Germain. We began working with the club almost 23 years ago and there has never been a greater potential for the partnership than there is today. Paris Saint-Germain is one of the most ambitious, forward-thinking and innovative sports teams in sport and we are looking forward to the future.” SOCCEREXPRO | 65
The FA agrees media training deal England’s Football Association (FA) has agreed a partnership with media training firm Brightness Media. The contract, the financial terms of which were not released, will see Brightness provide guidance and media training to the FA’s personnel, administrators, coaches and players at all levels, as well as training for specific FA courses such as the Uefa Pro Licence. Brightness will also collaborate closely with the commercial team at the new National Football Centre at St George’s Park in Burton-Upon-Trent to provide education on The FA’s media policies and develop social media training for the governing body and its clients. David Sheepshanks, the chairman of St George’s Park, said: “We have been through a vigorous tender process to identify the ideal partner for our media training, and we are delighted that Brightness Media, with their excellent stable of professional journalists and trainers, have come to the fore. “As well as training our own people, we have worked with Brightness Media to develop an exciting offering for corporate clients and executives.” Brightness Media’s spokesman Gavin Scovell added: “It’s a great honour for Brightness Media to be chosen to work as official media trainers to The Football Association. Having worked closely with hundreds of sportsmen and women and improved their media skills, both on screen, in print and in social media circles, we are looking forward to this challenge.”
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Fifa and Visa renew until 2022 World football’s governing body, Fifa, has extended its top-level sponsorship deal with global electronic payments provider Visa. The new deal, which runs until 2022, secures Visa’s global marketing rights and product category exclusivity for the Russia 2018 World Cup, the following edition in Qatar four years later, and over 40 other Fifa events scheduled until then, such as the Women’s World Cup and the under-20 tournament. Visa, which replaced MasterCard as Fifa’s credit card partner in 2007, becomes the fifth company to sign up to support the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, following Adidas, Coca-Cola, HyundaiKia and Anheuser-Busch InBev. Financial terms of the new agreement have not been disclosed, although the previous deal between the two parties was valued at around US$170 million. “We’re delighted to have reached this agreement with our valued partner, Visa,” said Fifa president Sepp Blatter.
“Visa’s huge global network and engaging consumer programmes play a significant role in bringing the Fifa World Cup to all corners of the globe, and we’re delighted to have such a strong global brand by our side until at least 2022.” The new deal means Visa has marketing rights relating to the two largest sports events on the planet - the Olympics and the Fifa World Cup - for the rest of the decade, with its IOC deal running until 2020. Ricardo Fort, the senior vice president of global sponsorship marketing at Visa Inc, added: “With football’s unique power to inspire people everywhere, Visa couldn’t be more excited to extend its relationship with Fifa. “Our association with the Fifa World Cup and the entire portfolio of Fifa events differentiates our brand and allows us to offer unique opportunities to our clients around the world.” In November 2013, Fifa confirmed it had renewed with official ball and uniform supplier Adidas until 2030.
nike steps in to replace Puma as SAFA partner The South African Football Association (SAFA) has agreed a wide-ranging fiveyear technical sponsorship deal with Nike. The agreement will see Nike design and develop kits for all men’s and women’s South African national teams as of 1st February 2014. The deal covers all playing and training kit, as well as official match balls for all nine of SAFA’s national teams. Nike replaces former kit supplier Puma, which publicly dropped its association with the federation in October 2013 after SAFA became embroiled in a match-fixing scandal surrounding a series of warm-up games ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup. The new partnership, whose financial terms were not released, also saw Nike produce a limited edition kit for the men’s senior team, Bafana Bafana, for their international friendly against Brazil in Johannesburg on 5th March, along with all senior teams competing until the end of 2014. The nation’s 2015/16 kit will be Dentsu seals J. League marketing rights Japanese advertising and media group Dentsu has signed a five-year deal to become the official marketing partner of the J. League from 2014. The deal will see Dentsu, the largest advertising agency in the world, sell marketing and sponsorship rights on an exclusive basis for J. League matches and tournaments. The agency has a similar long-term arrangement with the Japanese Football Association (JFA). The J. League, Japan’s top domestic league, was founded in 1992. Its 18 teams also participate in the league’s three sanctioned cup competitions, the
officially launched in November this year. SAFA will also be granted access to the Nike Football Training Centre, built in the Soweto district of Johannesburg in 2010. The deal comes after South Africa played in Puma-branded kits at the 2014 African Nations Championship, despite the kit manufacturer ending its deal months before. In the wake of South Africa’s elimination from the tournament at the hands of Nigeria’s Super Eagles, newly elected SAFA president Danny Jordaan told The Guardian newspaper that the federation is considering dropping the Bafana Bafana nickname due to a trademark dispute in South Africa which has cost the organisation millions in lost marketing income. “This partnership signifies Nike’s deep commitment to support and advance South African football at all levels of the game, from the national team to grassroots football,” said Laurent Payre, the general manager of Nike Africa. “We look forward to providing innovative product technology to help players reach their full potential, and to helping shape the future success of South African football.” “We are excited to partner with Nike and look forward to this comprehensive partnership enabling us to focus on the progression of football. This is a significant time for South African football as we embark on strengthening our structures especially across development and grassroots,” added Jordaan. Emperor’s Cup, the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup, and the Japanese Super Cup. Sanfrecce Hiroshima are the reigning J. League champions. The league currently has a portfolio of seven top-tier partners and nine secondary sponsors. Calbee, Canon, Konami, Aidem, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Japan Credit Bureau make up the top tier.
Sony Six wins rights to Fifa 2014 World Cup Indian sports television channel Sony Six has reached an agreement with Fifa for the exclusive domestic broadcast rights to the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil. The deal also gives the MSM Indiaowned channel the exclusive rights to the 2018 World Cup and 2017 Confederations Cup, both to be hosted by Russia, and the 2017 U-17 World Cup in India. This latest acquisition further strengthens Sony Six’s catalogue of highprofile sports properties. It already holds the rights to both the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket competition and Uefa Euro 2016. NP Singh, the chief executive of MSM India, said: “We are extremely happy to build on our partnership with Fifa. It has been our constant endeavour to bring high quality sports content to our viewers. Considering the rise of youth interest in the sport, football fans in India can look forward to the best international football experience on Six.” “Fifa believes that Sony Six and its commitment to high quality sport entertainment will deliver first-class coverage of Fifa U17 World Cups, the 2014 Fifa World Cup, the 2018 Fifa World Cup and other Fifa competitions to this crucial audience,” added Fifa’s director of TV Niclas Ericson. In December, India was chosen as the host of the 2017 Fifa U17 World Cup. It will be the first time the country has staged a global football tournament. SOCCEREXPRO | 67
Fox renews Uefa Champions League rights deal Fox Sports has reached an agreement with Uefa to retain its exclusive US and Caribbean media rights to the Uefa Champions League and Uefa Europa League for a further three years. The new agreement will run from 2015/2016, when the current deal expires, up until the conclusion of the 2017/2018 season. It covers both the English and Spanish-language rights. It is believed Fox, NBC Sports Group, Univision and BeIN Sport all submitted bids for the highly prized rights, although it has been suggested that after a second round of bidding none of the broadcasters met Uefa’s desired price of US$100 million per year. Indeed, US reports indicated that Fox’s successful bid fell significantly short of the US$83 million per year NBC is paying for Premier League rights until 2015. Guy-Laurent Epstein, the marketing director of Uefa Events SA, said: “Fox Sports prevailed to win the rights in a competitive tender process, in part thanks to its impressive commitment to market and promote the competitions. Fox Sports has demonstrated its ability to provide a home that is worthy of the club competitions and Uefa is delighted to continue this partnership until 2018.” Fox intends to screen all 146 Champions 68 | www.soccerex.com
League matches on either a live or delayed basis across Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, Fox Deportes, Fox Soccer Plus and its Fox Sports Regional Networks. It will supplement this coverage by broadcasting all 146 Champions League matches live online and on mobile via Fox Sports GO and FoxSoccer2Go. It will broadcast the tournament’s final live on Fox - its ﬂagship US channel. Additionally, the network will air two weekly Europa League fixtures on Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2 and Fox Soccer Plus. As with the Champions League, all Europa League matches will be available to watch live via the Fox Sports Go mobile app. “The combination of Uefa Champions and Europa leagues provides viewers with the complete club competition experience at the highest level,” said David Nathanson, the general manager and chief operating officer of Fox Sports 1 and 2. “The fact that all the leading European teams and players continue to be seen on one destination speaks to Fox Sports’ commitment to showcase the world’s best. No other sports television franchise has an elite international soccer schedule that even comes close.” The agreement shores up Fox’s football portfolio after the broadcaster and rival ESPN lost the US rights to the Premier League to NBC earlier this year.
TCC scores Pelé merchandise deal Retail marketing firm TCC has signed an exclusive deal with Pelé to use the football legend’s image in a range of limited edition merchandise. Under the terms of the deal TCC gains the rights to distribute Pelé-branded soccer balls, which it will use to reward shoppers and drive customer loyalty with retailers internationally. The programme will launch in retail outlets such as Tesco stores across central and Eastern Europe, including Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic and Turkey, from early April 2014. “I am very excited about this partnership, which will give children around the world a chance to play football and share in my passion,” Pelé said in a statement. “These programmes will reward customers with Pelé products giving many children the opportunity to learn and play, something all kids should have the opportunity to do.” TCC partnered with 1966 Entertainment, in collaboration with Legends 10, the official global representatives of Pelé, to broker the deal. TCC’s global marketing director Neil Macgeorge added: “We are tremendously honoured to be partnering with Pelé and thrilled to offer this exclusive license to our retail customers. As a football idol Pelé commands mass customer appeal, particularly with children and families. “To drive shopper loyalty retailers need to offer shoppers special experiences and this exclusive partnership not only provides this, but also gives children around the world the chance to practice their football skills.”
Dortmund striker Lewandowski scores Scondoo deal Polish star Robert Lewandowski has invested in the German internet startup Scondoo. The Borussia Dortmund striker, who is set to complete a move to Bundesliga and European champions Bayern Munich in the summer, has put money into the company via Protos Venture Capital. Created in Berlin by Nikolaus Hilgenfeldt, David Keuler and Sebastian Kurt in October 2012, Scondoo is an online scheme giving users discounts on food and toiletries available at German supermarkets through the use of a mobile and smartphone app. The likes of Nestlé, Garnier , Johnson & Johnson and Ratiopharm are already participating in the project, which allows them direct marketing access to consumers. Cezary Kucharski, one of Lewandowski’s advisers, told the Berliner Morgenpost: “I have advised Robert to
consider his long-term investment opportunities. New technologies and the Internet are certainly risky, but are also industries with a good perspective. Robert liked the idea.” Lewandowski joins Point Nine Capital, Heilemann Ventures and car hire firm Sixt among Scondoo’s investors.
Broadcaster TV Azteca buys Liga MX club Atlas Mexican television network TV Azteca has reportedly acquired Guadalajarabased soccer club Atlas. Local media reports of the acquisition price on 26th November varied from US$38 million to US$50 million. There was no official confirmation of the fee, but club president Eugenio Ruiz Orozco confirmed the deal had been agreed. “It was a tough decision,” said Ruiz, “but we feel sure of what we’ve done because we’re thinking of Atlas’s future and a company like this guarantees that Atlas will continue to be a first division team with championship aspirations.”
Previously owned by over 100 members, Atlas, founded in 1916, has only won a single Mexican title but has become renowned for its youth system. Atlas will be the second football team in TV Azteca’s stable, following the company’s previous acquisition of Monarcas Morelia. The Atlas deal is likely to come under scrutiny after Liga MX authorities promised to tighten up regulations around multiple club ownerships. TV Azteca is the second-largest broadcaster in Mexico. The rules revision, announced by Liga MX president Decio de Maria earlier in the year, called on those who own more than one club to conform to the new regulation prohibiting multiple ownership within five years. The change was interpreted by many as an attempt to curb the inﬂuence of major Mexican companies, most notably Carlos Slim’s Telmex corporation, on the league. Unlike many other major leagues around the world, Liga MX, formed in 2012 when Mexico’s top clubs broke away from the Mexican Football Federation in order to have a greater commercial voice, has no centralised television rights policy. This arrangement gives several media companies - the likes of Televisa, Fox Sports and TV Azteca amongst them - unusual inﬂuence on the sport in the country.
nASL looking to Perform digitally The North American Soccer League (NASL) has struck a partnership with digital specialists Perform that will see the league and its teams launch new-look digital platforms. Working on behalf of the NASL, Perform will provide live streaming of matches as part of a monthly US$4.99 subscription package that will also include games on demand, live stats, a ticket and merchandise sales function, and social elements. All of the NASL sites, meanwhile, will feature news, special features, video content, official stores and more. The relaunched NASL.com site went live on Thursday, while individual team sites will be launched throughout the coming weeks. “We are excited to enhance our digital presence through Perform and believe the league and club websites will become an essential destination for soccer fans around the world by becoming part of a larger online entity,” said NASL commissioner Bill Peterson. “We have an opportunity to become a market leader in content and style while also driving revenues through digital platforms for the NASL and our clubs.” Perform currently has contracts covering more than 200 sports and their associated leagues, tournaments and events. Juan Delgado, the company’s managing director, added: “In the US, soccer is continuing to gain in popularity. The audience is growing and like most sports fans today, they’re demanding rich digital content and experiences. “Our partnership with the NASL will bring the best of their content together with our deep digital expertise to provide fans with greater access to NASL’s live games and digital content.”
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SPENDING MONEY TO MAKE MONEY
he latest Soccerex Transfer Review by Prime Time Sport has again put England’s Premier League in the spotlight, with the news that in the winter transfer window it monopolised 52 per cent of total investment by the top ﬁve European leagues. The report, which has provided analysis of European transfer activity since 2009, showed that spending by English sides in the summer and winter transfer windows grew 15 per cent to €881 million in 2013/14. It is the highest amount in history, double that of Italy’s Serie A, Ligue 1 in France and Spain’s La Liga, and quadruple the investment by Germany’s Bundesliga. In ten editions of the twice-annual Prime Time Sport report, the Barclays Premier League has topped the investment in new players every time. Premier League Chelsea have been Europe’s most active side over the last ﬁve winter transfer windows, spending €181 million on new players and recouping €82 million from those sold. English investment is also more evenly spread. The top two spenders, Chelsea and Tottenham, accounted for 29 per cent of all 2013/14 expenditure, with the top four, including both Manchester clubs, accounting for 50 per cent. Real Madrid and FC Barcelona shared 62 per cent of investment in La Liga, and PSG and Monaco 73 per cent in Ligue 1. A revenue generation machine The strength of Premier League investment is driven by its capacity to consistently generate more revenues globally. According to Deloitte’s latest Annual Review of Football Finance, English top-ﬂight sides made €2.9 billion in total in 2011/12, 53 per cent more than the Bundesliga and 61 per cent more than La Liga. There are six Premier League clubs in the top 14 in Europe in terms of income, as shown by the Deloitte 2014 Money League report. But what drives this unparalleled success?
70 | www.soccerex.com
Obviously it is not about magic, and neither is it about the size of the country or a better overall economic situation. It can be explained by six factors which cycle to provoke an amazing multiplier effect: 1. TV value and reach As a result of having a high-value product, the Premier League has the most lucrative TV rights contracts, which have in total reached an astonishing €2.1 billion for 2013-2016, more than 50 per cent above previous cycles. None of the other top European leagues even reaches €1 billion per season. Furthermore, Premier League games have the widest global distribution, facilitating brand development and fan acquisition. 2. TV revenues fair distribution England’s top division has the most generous TV revenue distribution model in Europe, with the ratio between the teams that make the most and the least just 1.5 to 1. It is 10 to 1 in La Liga, the only league where clubs sell TV rights individually, it is 4.2 to 1 in Serie A, 3.6 to 1 in Ligue 1 and 2.2 to 1 in the Bundesliga. 3. The best game The distribution model gives even the smallest teams more resources to buy new players. The three teams promoted to the Premier League for 2013/14 spent an average of €37 million on transfer fees. In La Liga, Villarreal – who bought 16 players – Elche and Almeria spent €16.6 million between them. This makes matches in England more even and less predictable, with one of the highest rotations of winners among Europe’s top leagues and the lowest points ratio among the top three teams. 4. Stadium attendance and fan engagement: The high number of thrilling games results in full stadiums of passionate fans cheering for their teams week after week. Premier League grounds are 92 per cent full, the highest rate in Europe alongside the Bundesliga. Away
support in England is also remarkable, with many fans travelling huge distances, even on winter weekdays. 5. Sponsorship deals: A league producing recurrent advertising impacts all over the world, with stadiums full of cheering fans, is a very attractive proposition for sponsors globally. All 20 Premier League sides carry a shirt sponsor and 15 of those are global brands or companies headquartered overseas. 6. Higher value product: These factors combine to create a better product to sell. Cycle after cycle, this brings in more and more lucrative deals, and more and more cash to keep spending on new players. The Premier League has thus become the most successful domestic club football competition and the place all players aspire to be. And it will continue like this for a long time. One thing is for sure: when the next Soccerex Transfer Review by Prime Time Sport is launched at September’s Global Convention in Manchester, the Premier League will once again be the highest-spending in the game. Esteve Calzada is the CEO of Prime Time Sport and the author of sports marketing book Show Me The Money.
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