"...this is the most articulate and accurate piece written about the club for years!" - Tales from the Front, http://www.otib.co.uk/

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

EXCLUSIVE interview with new Bristol City Chief Executive, Guy Price

The Exiled Robin recently cheekily asked incoming Bristol City Chief Executive Guy Price for an interview…..and he agreed!

Guy talks openly and frankly about the financial situation at the club, the possibility of having Nicky Maynard and Stephen Caulker in the same line-up again next season, the Academy and the importance of the new stadium for the local community.

Before we start I’d like to place on record my sincere thanks to Guy for his time in answering these questions – it must have been an incredibly busy couple of months for him yet he’s taken time out to answer these questions for you, the fans, to read.

What was your first involvement with City, as a fan or as an employer? When was your first match?
I'm from the West Country, so I've always kept an eye on City. I completed Panini's Football '79 sticker album, and although I was very excited about Liverpool's success in Europe at the time, I couldn't help but notice that Bristol City were in the First Division. I've still got the album, and I have to admit that I've been checking out the Bristol City page of late!

My first professional involvement with City was early in 2009. I was so determined to come and work here full-time that I actually worked for free for three months. As well as being the tea-boy, I also did some early work on the stadium plans! My first match was an FA Cup 3rd round replay home defeat to Portsmouth.

What are your top three aims/objectives when you take over your new role?
Good question. The most exciting thing about this football club is its potential. It's my job to run the business, to take it to the next level (and then the next level after that), and to realise that potential.

My first aim is to make sure that everything that happens off the pitch is geared towards success on the pitch. What happens behind the scenes has a massive impact on how well we perform in front of the fans. That means making sure that our commercial work, our sales and marketing teams, our community team and our operations team are all pulling in the same direction.

I want to bring everyone together, I want to get the best out of everyone who works here, and I want to make sure that we have the right people, with the right talents, doing the right jobs. It'll be my job to make sure that everyone who works here is fully equipped and empowered to do a great job for the football club.

Community is very important for me. Whether that is the local community, the business community or the wider Bristol community - I want this club to bring people together. We’ve been at the heart of the community in South Bristol for over 100 years and with the new stadium, City’s community can grow even bigger.

What are you most looking forward to in the new role?
The personal satisfaction and accolades that we will all get when we get things right. It won't always be easy, but I am really just looking forward to getting things done.

Most importantly of all, I am looking forward to coming into work each and every day. What a privilege to be working for Bristol City Football Club!

One question, and one question only on the new stadium. Will it happen?

Based on Steve Lansdown's comments on announcing the new board, it is clear the club will have a different approach to spending money in the near future. What immediate impact will that have, and how do you balance that with ensuring the club continues to drive forward and be ambitious?

The announcement of the new board is all about driving forward and being ambitious. The most important thing is getting value for money. That's what everyone looks for when they spend their money, and it's no different in this business. We cannot ignore the level of losses that have been incurred in the last couple of years. Firstly, it's not sustainable to keep on making these levels of loss, but secondly, it's not right that a business should operate in this way.

So yes, there will be a different approach to investing in new players and investing in the growth of the business, but if we can make the business case, if we can be confident about the returns that the football club will gain, and if it is in line with our long-terms plans and ambitions, then we will spend the money.

Will the club's short-term cash flow not be affected whichever way the new stadium decision goes? If we get the go-ahead we'll be spending all our spare cash on building it, if we don't get it then we won't have the hoped-for future revenue streams. How can we avoid the problems other clubs have faced?
Yes, there are financial challenges and decisions whichever way we turn. Football is an expensive business to be in and there is certainly no "spare cash" here at the moment. A new stadium does not guarantee success on the pitch. What it does is greatly increase your chance of success, and gives you a better chance of sustaining that success going forward. Whatever happens, there is an awful lot that we can do to strengthen the financial position of the club over the next few years. As a business, it has not yet got anywhere near achieving its potential and it will be my job to make sure that we do achieve just that.

The business of football is still changing. Money, sponsorship, non-match day commercial activity all play such a large part in the running of a club. Of course, if we don’t get the new stadium, we and the city will miss out on an incredible opportunity. But one of the fundamental jobs of the new board will be to ensure this club is increasingly self sufficient financially in the long-term.

Who will be responsible for negotiating player's fees and contracts, is that you or Colin Sexstone?
Colin has a great deal of experience with this. I have never been CEO of a football club before and so matters of player negotiation is one element I’m looking forward to learning. For the time being however, Colin will take this role. Importantly, however, we have a new Finance Director in the form of Martin Mulligan, who will also have an important say in this area.

We've been in the top quarter of Championship clubs paying transfer fees for last couple of seasons - have we stretched beyond our means with the reliance on Steve Lansdown's money?
We are a very ambitious football club. In recent years, that ambition has been fuelled by Steve's support. To reach our full potential, we need to attract the top talent, whether that's on the playing side or behind the scenes. The investment that has come into the club recently has put the club in a very strong position. A hungrier, leaner football club is quite often the one challenging for honours come the end of the season. That's what I hope we can achieve, with a little extra hunger and desire pushing us on to greater success.

Some questions on the playing side:
A couple of first-team regulars in ten years is not a great return on investment in our academy. Many fans would like to see the likes of James Wilson, Joe Edwards & Marlon Jackson in the side as opposed to not-good-enough senior pro's, yet successive managers haven't seemed to rate them highly enough. Are we just not producing good enough players, and if so, how are you planning on changing that in the future?

Bristol City FC has one of the best academies in the country, nurturing and producing some very good talent indeed. We would of course love all of our academy players go onto vie for a place in the first team. Keith Millen is a fantastic coach who knows the players and the club like the back of his hand and does everything I’m sure to encourage home grown talent to flourish.

The academy is incredibly important to this club. Not just for producing future players but also to engage with hundreds of boys and girls every season, getting them involved in sport and this great club. Part of our long term plan to be self sufficient includes improvements to our academy and training facilities so that we continue to invest in people that will one day be playing here, that’s definitely a focus for us.

Can we, and will we, keep hold of Nicky Maynard this summer? Have we had any enquiries, even if there hasn't been a bid?
Yes, Nicky is a Bristol City player and as long as he’s contracted to us, he’ll be playing here. He loves this club and we love watching him chase defenders into errors and scoring great goals. And no, there have been no enquiries and nor do we welcome any.

Have we had any discussions with Spurs about re-signing Stephen Caulker next season?
Stephen is a wonderful talent and I know all the players, coaching staff and fans have loved having him here. It is unfortunate that he picked up an injury before the end of the season. We'd love to have him here next season, but we don't know if that will be possible or not. I'm not sure what Spurs’ plans are for him, and we'll just have to see if we are a part of those plans or not.

Back on non-football matters for one question, does the new board feel under pressure filling the shoes they have to fill? We've had a tremendously positive and successful period in the past ten years - is it a bit like following Sir Alex Ferguson into the Man. Utd manager's post?
That's right, the club has come a long way in recent years, and there is a lot for myself and the new board to live up to. But we've got plans to move the club forward even more over the next few years. The experience that has got us to this point will be invaluable. But the 'fresh legs' that have been brought on are there to do a job. So yes, there's plenty of pressure, but it's all positive, and it's mostly pressure that we are putting on ourselves to get on and make Bristol City the force it can be at the highest level.

And finally, will you be 'tweeting' regularly in your new post?
To be honest, I’m not a massive Tweeter, nor I am too sure people would want to know my thoughts every 20 minutes, but you never know. The keenest of online City fans out there will know we’ve got Adam Baker (www.twitter.com/#!/bean_head) taking on that role! I might be tempted every now and again, but my job is to get this business achieving its potential. But if supporters want me to tweet, then maybe I'll tweet! (ER: If you want to follow Guy then here's the link: www.twitter.com/#!/GuyRPrice

In summary we appear to have a sensible, pragmatic but ambitious newcomer, someone determined to drive the club on and pick up the challenge left by Steve Lansdown's graceful exit. The hard work put into the new stadium over the past three years can hopefully be replicated on the football side, and we should contine to see a club moving forward, slowly but surely, both on and off the pitch.

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