Saturday, February 10, 2007

Is City Missing Out On Golden (US) Opportunities?

Earlier this week Arsenal Football Club announced that they had entered into an exclusive agreement with Kroenke Sports Enterprises (a leading live sports and entertainment group based in Denver) with the primary aim of building the Arsenal brand in the US, helping to improve the quality of football at MLS team Colorado Rapids (which is owned by Kroenke Sports Enterprises) and supporting grassroots football in the US.

Arsenal announced that the strategic relationship would combine an exchange of best practices together with commercial and marketing efforts which included the inception of a Centre of Excellence and the transfer of coaching ‘know how’. Arsenal Football Club's Managing Director Keith Edelman said "We are delighted to be able to announce our partnership with Kroenke Sports Enterprises and the Colorado Rapids. This is a very important step for Arsenal Football Club as this becomes our first venture into the United States marketplace. We are approaching this as a long term development partnership that will benefit both clubs significantly."

Few would question that Arsène Wenger has had a significant and successful influence on Arsenal behind the scenes during his tenure as manager. Only recently I was reading about how he goes about picking/ nurturing his stars of the future and changed comprehensively the training regime when he took over as manager. It is clear that he knows more than a thing or two when looking at on and off field activities.

Wenger described the new relationship as “technical co-operation” and denied it is the prelude to a takeover similar to the acquisition of Liverpool earlier this week, commenting that “We have developed a few partnerships, sometimes with football schools, sometimes with clubs. We just try to extend our brand. We are trying to extend our technical co-operation as well because the Americans might produce some players at some stage. That's why we have done it.”

So why mention this on the MCFC Supporters Trust blog? Well two months ago, we published two articles on how Premiership Clubs were developing ties with other clubs for numerous on and off field reasons, raising the question why City aren’t doing the same. In those articles we also mentioned that in the Academy we had a very successful model which could be used by other “non-UK” clubs for mutual benefit and talked about the "Northern" Premiership clubs and their current partnerships with other football clubs worldwide. You can read both articles here and here

There is of course much more to football club partnerships then exchanging ideas, exchanging players and hopefully picking up a talented player or two. There can be huge advantages from a commercial aspect to be gained be it developing brands, attracting wider support and additional sponsorship etc. There is also much to be gained from the communities and wider areas in which the Clubs concerned are located/ serve.

Arsenal’s move into the US market is undoubtedly a strategic one which they would not enter into unless they saw it bearing fruit either on or off the field at some stage in the future. The majority of experts feel that Major League Soccer is due to grow and grow over the coming years especially now that David Beckham has signed for LA Galaxy.

In the 2006 annual accounts our Club did mention that “we have developed an International Television Programming Block for the overseas TV market as well as a web-based video lounge for the USA”. It proves that our Club are thinking further afield however, with the exception of an apparently failed foray into China our Club has not ventured outside of the United Kingdom in any great shape or form.

Despite our current on field frailities, there is much that our Club does do right like the Academy and our off field activities; perhaps our "know how" in these areas may help a team in the MLS and with it we might gain from the US market in the form of additional major sponsors, a wider fanbase, increased income and maybe an emerging American talent or two! And with football (or should I say soccer) due for a boom in the US, perhaps our Club is in real danger of missing out on these golden opportunities?

Best wishes



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