With Manchester City’s Chief Operating Officer, Omar Berrada on the top table the Alliance Manchester Business School’s Vital Topics event ‘Football, Finance and Society’ was always going to be a fascinating 90 minutes.
But what I hadn’t probably bargained for was how much his focus would be financials rather than 4-4-2 (That’s my fault not his by the way). Berrada cantered through City’s global structure — it owns clubs in New York and Melbourne as well as having investments in others in Japan, Uruguay and Spain — and he talked effortlessly about values and reach, branding and relationships.
He described City as an organisation that was constantly pushing boundaries and developing something completely new. For the record, the numbers look good. City’s fanbase metrics are growing when you measure it in terms of followers across a range of channels in different continents.
Closer to home City have invested in their community in lots of different ways and give Cityzens the chance to say which charities they are going to support. So the CSR box is properly ticked.
He talked of engagement and innovation — he seemed particularly proud of the Tunnel Club (which offers fans a view of the players’ tunnel prior to a game). He discussed partners — like Nissan or Hays the recruitment people — and he even used the acronym KPI.
What he never really talked was football. Except in the context of explaining another City brand USP the concept of playing ‘beautiful’ football, which to a die-hard Bolton fan like me doesn’t compute. Beautiful football simply means those rare days when your team ends up winning, no?
“Our number one KPI is fan satisfaction,” he said. “We discuss it every time in our leadership meetings. We look at surveys and multiple metrics that help us understand whether our fans are happy or not.”
Guess what — City fans want to see a team that is successful, competing for trophies, that’s dedicated and working hard. But City fans also want something more…
“We have added an element to this called ‘beautiful football’ and that is why we have invested so much in a specific type of player and manager, because our fans really want to see beautiful football.”
I seem to remember football being described as the beautiful game a long time before the men in pin stripes started to develop brand values. Eddie Davies who bankrolled Bolton for a decade was in the audience. I’d have loved to hear his perspective on all this.
Full time and chance to reflect. Vital Topics wasn’t exactly a six-goal thriller. More a highly polished, uncritical look at the globalisation at the once beautiful game. Fascinating…now back to Jeff in the studio.